THE middle of winter with its bitter cold snaps, long dark nights, festive fretfulness, nasty bugs and seasonal over-indulgence is not a healthy time of year for many of us.
But if you find your spirits flagging, feel ill or have a desire to enter an indefinite period of hibernation, there are ways to beat the seasonal blues and tackle the colds and flu which besiege us at this time of year.
Some of the remedies may be closer to home than you think if you decide to be a bit more adventurous and look for some unexpected answers a little off the beaten track from conventional medicine.
Liz Norman of Sunnyside Close, Kempsey, near Worcester, learned first hand the power of homeopathic remedies on our winter aches and ailments when her son Alex had recurrent ear infections as a baby 15 years ago.
Like most concerned mothers she took him to a doctor and he was prescribed a course of antibiotics but conventional treatments did not seem to work.
It was only then that she delved into the world of complementary medicine and the constitutional remedies associated with homeopathy that her son was able to fully recover, she said.
The 43-year-old mother-of-three, who has always had a burning scientific curiosity about complementary medicine, said: “Consecutive courses of antibiotics didn’t work so I started looking for other ways to treat it. In this instance conventional medicine failed.
“I became fascinated by homeopathy and I started using remedies on my other two children and we all have seen dramatic health improvements.”
The method worked and it sparked an interest which led to her training for four years at the School of Homeopathy in Devon. She qualified in June and now helps people both at her Kempsey home and at the Healing Touch in Bath Road, Worcester, where she holds clinics.
She is also the UK clinical assistant to the internationally renowned homeopath Dr Jeremy Sherr, helping to run his post graduate course for Advanced Homeopathic Studies.
“During the winter we’re exposed to lots more viruses and bacteria.
We’re feeling stressed because it’s Christmas and when you’re stressed your immunity suffers and you’re more likely to be affected by those viruses and bacteria.
“The weather isn’t good and life seems to deliver a series of knocks.
“But by using homeopathy you get back up quicker. You can’t stop the knocks but it will make you better able to bounce back.
“You’re not going to avoid getting sick but you can bounce back more quickly.”
Aconite, she said, may be perfect for helping you beat the effects of a chilly walk in the Malvern Hills, especially if you sense you are about to develop a cold.
If you are lucky enough to avoid illnesses over the festive period but over-indulge on beer, wine or whisky, there is also a remedy for hangovers, which you can find on the list later in this article.
To work effectively a homeopath needs to understand you and your illness by talking to you in more depth.
WHAT IS HOMEOPATHY?
Homeopathy was developed more than 250 years ago by Samuel Hahnemann. The basic principle of homeopathy is that if a substance can produce symptoms in a healthy person then it can also work (once specially prepared and diluted) and relieve the symptoms of someone who is sick. This is based on the idea of ‘like cures like’. For example, when you chop an onion you may get a runny nose and streaming eyes. The homeopathic remedy is Allium Cepia which is derived from onions and would be used to treat these symptoms.
It is often prescribed for hayfever or colds. Homeopaths say more people are choosing homeopathy because they are worried about the side effects of conventional drugs.
Homeopathic remedies are drawn from the plant, mineral and animal worlds. Homeopathy treats the whole person, not just a symptom or disease. Homeopaths say it therefore has the potential to help people with a wide range of physical, psychological and emotional problems.
COLD AND FLU REMEDIES
ACONITE: Used to nip colds in the bud and is considered useful in the early stages of colds, flus, fevers and sore throats.
ALLIUM CEPIA: The symptoms of the Allium Cepia cold will be similar to those you get when chopping an onion, typically with streaming red eyes and nose, watery fluid from the nose with a burning sensation on the upper lip.
GELSENIUM: This is considered to be the best remedy for flu when the symptoms include a dull and sluggish feeling with a dull ache at the back of the neck. These symptoms tend to come on gradually and will include a feeling of chills up and down the spine and aching muscles.
PULSATILLA: For use on a cold where there is a green or yellowish discharge from the nose, changeable symptoms or if a person feels tearful.
OTHER HOMEOPATHIC REMEDIES
APIS: Used to treat bee stings and bites where there is hot swelling, redness and burning pain.
ARSENICUM: Used for vomiting and diarrhoea typical of food poisoning.
ARNICA: Used after physical accidents to reduce swelling and bruising. It is considered to be ideal after dental work or surgery to speed healing.
BELLADONNA: Used for fevers when a patient is red hot but often has cold hands and feet. Belladonna is also used for inflammatory responses where there is throbbing and heat or for throbbing headaches.
CALENDULA: Used for healing cuts and wounds after teeth extraction and labour. Homeopaths say it helps promote the formation of healthy scar tissue.
HYPERICUM: Used for treating injuries to parts of the body rich in nerve-endings such as the fingertips.
NUX VOMICA: The main remedy for hangovers or any over-indulgence in food and drink. This is considered a good remedy for people who work hard and play hard.
RHUS TOX: Used for strains and sprains.
SILICA: Used to force splinters or other foreign bodies out and is considered effective at clearing the end stages of a lingering cough.