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Winter Health – Some Common Winter Health Myths
Here in Glasgow the winter has set in, with cold, wet days becoming more frequent. It is worth being aware that when winter colds set in you can take steps to help prevent them and also to make the infections last for a shorter time. Here are a few common myths that sometimes put people off taking steps to fight a cold:
MYTH: It isn’t safe to take Echinacea throughout the winter so why take it at all?
TRUTH: This myth has been around a long time but there is no evidence to support it. Many people take Echinacea throughout the winter, and stop once summer returns. It is generally regarded as the best supplement to take to support your own immune system, and to prevent and reduce the duration of colds.
MYTH: Vitamin C does nothing to help with colds and ‘flus.
TRUTH: It is now accepted that Vitamin C reduces how long a cold lasts and also reduces how severe the symptoms will be, so definitely consider taking vitamin C once you have caught a cold.
MYTH: The only way to help a blocked nose is to blow it more often and inhale some eucalyptus (or peppermint oil).
TRUTH: There are whole groups of herbs which may be taken internally for their expectorant action (herbs which help thin mucus allowing it to drain away). Classic herbs include elderflower (Sambuccus nigra), thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and garlic (Allium sativa). Take internally as a tea, tincture, juice, capsule or in food.
MYTH: A good sleep and plenty rest doesn’t make a cold disappear faster!
TRUTH: Nothing could be further from the truth. Your immune system works best when you are asleep as the body uses this resting phase to create cells for your immune system. There is probably nothing more important than sufficient rest, with adequate food to support your body.
We hope these myth busting ideas give you a good basis to stay healthy this winter and to minimise any infections.
NOTE: Please be aware that the UK Government guidance for the elderly and others at risk includes a flu vaccine. See NHS Direct for the government guidance.
Featured Natural Remedies – Vitamin C
Vitamin C, or Ascorbic Acid as it is also known, has been the most controversial vitamin, especially when it comes to winter health. It has now been recognised that although Vitamin C may not prevent you catching a cold, it is likely to reduce how bad it is and how long it lasts – definitely a worthwhile benefit. It also has a host of other useful properties:
Antioxidant – Vitamin C is one of the best known anti-oxidant vitamins; one of the key roles of anti-oxidants is to prevent damage and ageing in your body! You do need a mix of antioxidants in your diet which normally come from foods we eat, but by taking vitamin C you can help allow the other antioxidants to work more efficiently. It is thought that 60 milligrams of vitamin C is required as an anti-oxidant for every cigarette that is smoked.
Heart health –
Vitamin C is known to help raise HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) which helps reduce the risk of clot formation in arteries. It also has a blood pressure lowering action.
Some specific applications – Vitamin C is recognised as an important supplement in protecting the eye, if you are at risk, including people who have cataracts or have diabetes, consider supplementing. Post operation recovery can benefit from Vitamin C, as it helps support formation of collagen.
Dosage, Safety and Contraindications; Many authors recommend 1000mg a day of tablets or capsules
Vitamin C. High doses of vitamin C may irritate the stomach or cause loose stools. If this occurs reduce the level taken and build up slowly or take a non-acidic version of vitamin C. Seek advice if taking medication or being treated for kidney disease.
Herb of the Month, Valerian
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
is a herb with a long historical tradition. The root of the plant has been known to have health promoting benefits since the times of the New Testament and its calming effects were recorded in Ancient Greece.
Valerian is perhaps best known for its ability to help with people who are having difficulty sleeping. It has been shown to both help people fall asleep and also to promote a deeper sleep. It is normally taken up to an hour before bed. Valerian is also appropriate for general anxiety and can be used during the day for nervousness, excitability and similar states.
Valerian can be taken as a tincture, tea or capsules/tablets, with the choice being a personal preference. Some herbalists/rehab clinics use valerian as a supportive herb for clients who are withdrawing from some drugs.
Some Useful Things to Know about Valerian:
Cautions: We always recommend seeking advice from your Doctor, Herbalist or other health professional if taking prescription medicines and thinking about self-treating with herbs.
- There is no evidence of anyone becoming “addicted” to valerian, which is one of its advantages over some modern sleeping tablets.
- When using valerian to help with sleep it is important to remember that getting the dose correct is important. It is possible to get both too little or too much. Why not consider lowering the does if you feel it is not working.
- In some instances there may be better herbs to try for insomnia. For example in the case of an overactive mind at night then a herb such as passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) may be more appropriate.
- A small number of people may find that when taking valerian their dreams become too vivid and may need to find an alternative herb.
- Cats love the smell of Valerian and will try to find it to play with. Store it safely away if you have cats, or use a small cloth bag to make a new toy for your cat!