Ayurveda for Common Colds

The common cold is an infection of the airways, lungs, and respiratory muscles that control the movement of air into and out of the body. It is the most common short-term illness in the United States, and some estimates suggest Americans suffer from over one-billon colds each year. Symptoms of the common cold include coughing, sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, sore throat, headaches, and/or fatigue. Most over-the-counter cold treatments focus on temporarily reliving the symptoms of the illness. Ayurvedic treatment of the common cold is a whole body approach focused on restoring the body’s internal and external balance in order to reduce the length of the infection and prevent future colds.

Why Use Ayurveda for Common Colds?

There is no known medical cure for the common cold. Most cold remedies may relieve some cold symptoms but will not prevent or shorten the length of the illness. Ayurvedic therapies decrease the number of times individuals are affected by colds and shorten the length of the illness by increasing the individual’s overall health and wellbeing.

Although scientific studies of Ayurvedic principles tend to focus on the effect of taking one type of treatment or herbal supplement rather than the combined effect of the numerous Ayurvedic therapies, available studies do find positive health effects when Ayurvedic principles are followed. One 1989 study from the Netherlands found that a combination of Ayurvedic treatments brought about a substantial improvement in many patients’ chronic disease symptoms. Other studies from groups led by Drs. Ryoichi Inaba and Kottarappat N. Dileepan in the 1990s found that use of two Ayurvedic food supplements, Maharishi Amrit Kalash 4 and 5, increased the effectiveness of the immune system in mice.

How Can Ayurveda Help the Common Cold?

Although Ayurveda does not provide an exact scientific explanation for its effectiveness, the goal of Ayurveda is to prevent or cure disease by addressing the root cause of a person’s illness. Ayurveda focuses on an individual’s lack of mental peace and inner joy and helps balance the body, mind, and spirit, thus increasing overall health.

Ayurveda treatment for the common cold involves an evaluation by an Ayurvedic medicine practitioner who determines what is out of balance and causing the individual’s illness. The approach to illness is holistic: all areas of your life are examined to see if they are in harmony. On a first visit, a practitioner takes a detailed medical history and conducts a physical exam. In addition, the Ayurvedic medicine practitioner then discusses all areas of your life including family, career, life-purpose, diet, exercise, general health, and spiritual life to create an integrated and well-rounded life assessment. Based on this assessment, the practitioner would then draw from over 20 types of treatment to recommend a combination of natural therapies for your condition, possibly including massage, herbs, balanced food suggestions, soothing, healing oils, and simple lifestyle adjustments to restore health.

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is a system of medicine that originated in India 5,000 to 10,000 years ago. The goal of Ayurveda therapy is to teach individuals to balance their body, mind and spirit, including the emotions and psychology. Ayurvedic principles are designed to help keep people healthy, happy, and in harmony with their soul, life purpose, families, communities, planet, and universe.  Ayurvedic therapies are numerous and include herbs, diet, exercise, yoga, massage, aromas, healing oils, and meditation. By aiming to balance the body, mind and spirit, practitioners believe Ayurveda helps prevent illness, including the common cold.

What Causes the Common Cold?

The common cold is caused by a virus that is easily passed from one affected individual to another through saliva, mucus, and other bodily fluids. Ayurvedic practitioners find that individuals whose bodies are out of balance with their environment are more frequently ill and have longer duration of illnesses. Your body’s balance can be influenced by everything from pollution to stress and diet.

High fever, significantly swollen glands, and severe sinus pain may indicate a complication or more serious illness requiring a visit to your primary healthcare provider.

Finding an Ayurvedic Practitioner

When searching for a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner, it is important to consider their quality of education and membership in professional organizations. Although none of the 50 states offers a license to practice Ayurveda, there are several institutions across the United States that offers educational programs in Ayurvedic Medicine, such as The California College of Ayurveda and the Ayurvedic Institute. Several professional organizations exist that serve to unify the quality and practice of Ayurvedic Medicine in the United States, such as the National Ayurvedic Medical Association. These resources do not list every qualified practitioner, but may provide guidance in locating a Ayurvedic Medicine practitioner in your area.

Additional Resources

Krishan, Shubhra. “Essential Ayurveda: What It Is and What It Can Do for You,” New World Library, Novaro, CA, 2003.

Lad, Vasant. “Ayurveda:  A Brief Introduction and Guide,” The Ayurvedic Institute, 2003.

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