Ayurveda defines the common cold as a disease originating in the nasal cavity marked by a watery discharge from the nose. The main doshas involved in the common cold are Vata and Kapha. Ayurveda believes that, due to various causative factors, there is a vitiation of the ‘rasa‘ (body fluids/plasma) tissue and blood tissue which makes the body prone to attacks by precipitating causes, leading to a bout of common cold.
Ayurveda believes that if the body’s physiology is working properly, then the body resists the attack by external pathogens (viruses) and allergens – the two factors considered to be responsible for common cold by modern medicine.
Causes of common cold as explained by Ayurveda
The causative factors are divided into four categories.
Factors that cause derangement in the digestive fire, namely:
excessive intake of food articles which take a prolonged time to get digested. For example, fried food, or food made from concentrated milk
excessive intake of food that are dry like popcorns and other roasted grains
Factors which make the respiratory system more vulnerable to disease:
repeated exposure to a dusty and smoky environment
abnormal season, for example too much rain in the summer season
change of place of residence, or travel – climate change e.g. moving from the mainland to the sea shore
Factors aggravating Kapha and Vata doshas:
exposure to dew/snow
exposure to a draft of air
remaining awake at night
remaining in a swimming pool for too long
bathing in a state of indigestion
Factors that affect the fluid (rasa) and blood (rakta) tissue systems:
eating at wrong times
eating even when not hungry.
too much exposure to heat, for example, working in the sun or in front of a furnace
Ayurvedic ways of fighting common cold
The Ayurvedic approach to common colds focuses on correcting the digestive fire and pacifying the Vata and Kapha doshas.
Make a herbal tea made from equal parts raisins, black pepper, basil leaves, cinnamon bark and licorice roots. Boil in 2 cups of water until it’s reduced by half and then drink it warm with 1 tsp of sugar.
Wrap your head and neck with a scarf when you go outside (and inside, if it’s cold!)
Dry roast 1 tablespoon of caraway seeds and wrap them in gauze. Use this pack to pat your forehead and around your nose by gentle dabbing strokes. Inhale the aroma emanating out of the pack, as this will dry up the nasal secretions, open up the nasal passages and relieve your headache. Avoid exposure to outside air for half an hour after applying the pack.
If your cold is accompanied by a fever, boil 10-15 crushed mint leaves in a cup of water and add a pinch of rock salt and regularly sip on this. Do this for 4-5 times in a day at regular intervals, and your fever will subside.
If you can’t stop shivering, boil 10 crushed black peppers in a cup of water. Reduce to half and sip slowly. Lie down, covering your head and body. Make sure there is no source of cold air flowing to you. This heat cocoon will induce sweating and will take care of body pain, chilliness, watery discharge and that ‘heavy head feeling’.
Take 7-11 fresh basil leaves, ½ teaspoon of ginger, and 7 coarsely ground black peppers. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add the ingredients and boil the mixture for two minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and keep it covered for 2 more minutes. Strain the mixture and add 1 cup of pre-boiled milk and 1-2 teaspoons of sugar. Drink in small sips and lie down, covering yourself from head to toe. This remedy is very effective in taking care of all symptoms related to common cold.