Prone to Change of Season Coughs and Colds? “Weather-Proof” Your Immunity

I was just musing over a keynote presentation given by Dr. Kerry Bone at the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors’ Annual November 2011 Convention, “Emerging Trends and Treatments in Naturopathic Medicine”. Every year this conference invites leading physicians and field-experts to share their knowledge on an array of hot topics.

To give you some background information on Dr. Bone, he is a highly experienced researcher and industrial chemist turned well-respected, leading phytotherapy (or herbal medicine) expert. He has maintained an active practice over the last 28 years in Australia and is a prolific author on herbal texts used world-wide and over 30 peer-reviewed scientific journals.

He spoke about how immunity is the “new” priority in the modern day patient. With every new epidemic that arises, be it severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), avian flu, swine flu or an outbreak of an antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as clostridium difficile (C. diff), methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a popular question becomes, what can Naturopathic Medicine offer?

Though winter is almost over, from an immune system stand point, we aren’t quite out of the woods just yet. As a Naturopathic Doctor, based on the character of, say your cough (is it dry, wet, spasmodic?) we can make recommendations on the botanical herbs most appropriate for you.

Some dry cough remedies may include glycerrhiza glabra, tussilago farfara, verbascum thapsus or althea officinalis. If you have a wet cough we may recommend sanguinaria canadensis, lobelia inflata or aspidosperma quebracho. If you present with more of a spasmodic cough, grindelia robustica, foeniculum officinale, hyoscyamus niger, actea racemosa, or prunus serotina may be most appropriate.  These botanical medicines are not only fantastic but they are also safe when used appropriately and while under supervision of your Naturopathic Doctor who is aware of your medical history [this point cannot be emphasized enough].

To illustrate my point, there are upper dose recommendations that should not be exceeded when using glycerrhiza glabra (you may know it as licorice) in patients with high blood pressure or hypokalemia (low potassium levels).  Tussilago (colt’s foot) is best used short term only because its medicinal constituent, pyrrolizidine alkaloids can be toxic to your liver when used for an extended period of time much like many other over-the-counter pharmaceuticals.  Additional considerations include a discussion about which part of the botanical herb is best (is it the roots, flowers, leaves)?  Is this better as a hot liquid extraction (ie. tea) or better as a cold infusion, or does it require alcohol extraction (ie. tincture)?  What is the appropriate dose?  What will inhibit its absorption?  What vitamins can enhance its delivery and efficacy?  What can it interact with?  Are you a woman of child-bearing age, who may require an alternative botanical?  Do you have an autoimmune disorder that must be taken into consideration?

There are many herbal medicines that may be used to strengthen your immune system so you are able to cut down the duration of your cold and flu, and the latest antibiotic epidemic.  The great thing is, as a Naturopathic Doctor, this is only one of several other modalities, or tools, at our disposal to help address your concerns.

We encourage you to come, chat with us about your concerns, so together we can investigate the most appropriate treatments for you and your family.

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