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Lightening the wintry gloom

MagazineNovember 2014 (Vol. 25 Issue 8)Lightening the wintry gloom

The colder weather can bring on a host of ailments, but natural treatments can keep them at bay, says Dr Harald Gaier

The colder weather can bring on a host of ailments, but natural treatments can keep them at bay, says Dr Harald Gaier

Q I am dreading winter coming on. I suffer from seasonal affective disorder-suitably called SAD. My husband has Raynaud's symptoms, which get markedly worse during the winter. My two older children seem to get colds and flus repeatedly. My mother gets all sorts of aches and pains that last till springtime. My baby gets chilblains and I-seemingly every single year-also get a bronchitis that just never seems to end. Can you sort out winter for our family, please? D.E., via email

A It was Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) who very fittingly commented on why some people don't suffer from winter ills, while others always do, when he jokingly said, "Some are
weather-wise, some are otherwise." I am sorry to hear that your entire family seems to fall into the second category.

Seasonal affective disorder
To help you overcome the dire SAD-related depression that overtakes you each winter, what you need to do is increase the amount of full-spectrum light you are exposed to (or, more accurately, that enter your eyes). Whether you work or are a stay-at-home mum, you probably spend most of your time indoors. So you could, for instance, introduce full-spectrum fluorescent 'Vita-Lite' (or something similar) lighting at about 2,500 lux into your kitchen and other areas where you habitually spend a lot of time. This ought to have the desired effect on your pineal gland and should keep you acceptably cheerful throughout the winter. 1 [Note: a lux is a standardized unit of emitted light, measured as the light intensity (lumens) per square metre.] Also, the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association (www.sada.org.uk) can recommend a properly manufactured light box that you can sit in front of as therapy although, in rare cases, side-effects may include headaches, irritability and sleep problems.

Colds and influenzas
To ward off these infections (both viral and bacterial) or, at least, assist in overcoming them, your whole family needs to eat copious amounts of garlic (Allium sativum) and often. It has long been known that garlic is an effective antibiotic agent against staphylococci, streptococci and mycobacteria, while having no negative effects on your normal bacterial bowel flora (your gut microbiota). 2 Garlic's antiviral effects have also long been fully demonstrated and analyzed. 3

Chilblains
This is a condition that can arise due to exposure to both cold and damp (humidity) conditions, so causing damage to the capillary beds within and under the skin of the extremities (fingers, toes, ears, nose). It presents as ruddiness, itching and inflammation-and sometimes with blisters. It shouldn't be confused with frostbite, or 'trench foot'. A history of recurring chilblains may be indicative of a connective tissue disorder like lupus erythematosus. But how old is your baby and are there other recurring symptoms? In infants, an early onset of chilblains together
with severe neurological symptoms and unexplained fevers could, albeit rarely, be signs of Aicardi-Gouti`eres syndrome, an inherited condition affecting the brain, immune system and skin.
Chilblains can be prevented by keeping the hands and feet warm in cold weather. Also, the only use to which homeopaths put Tamus communis (in a remedy using the root of Black Bryony, the only part of the plant that isn't toxic) is as a mother tincture or a low-potency cream to treat chilblains. 4 This is available online from Nelson's Homeopathic Pharmacy and Lloyd's Pharmacy, as well as other sources. It should be applied thinly, twice daily, on the affected parts. This remedy has been found to be extremely effective against chilblains in homeopathic proving trials.

Raynaud's phenomenon
This term describes the capillary, arteriolar and arterial constriction brought about by cold, which is then followed-especially in those so predisposed, like your husband-by cyanosis (a dark purplish-blue skin discoloration), indicating insufficient oxygenation of the blood and/ or poor circulation. Extracts of Ginkgo biloba (the maidenhair tree) have improved blood flow in studies of sufferers of Raynaud's. These investigations followed a strict protocol and included sufficient patients to allow reliable evaluation. What's more, there is evidence from these and other studies that Ginkgo biloba extract is also beneficial for other peripheral vascular disorders, such as diabetes, acrocyanosis (slow circulation in the hands and feet) and post-phlebitis syndrome (chronic venous insufficiency following deep vein thrombosis, or clots). 5 Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) oil (EPO) was also tested for eight weeks in a study comparing two matching groups of Raynaud's sufferers: one group received EPO, the other a placebo. In the placebo group, no one experienced any benefit whereas, in those who took EPO, 55 per cent reported significant benefits, 18 per cent claimed moderate improvement and 27 per cent reported no benefit at all. 6 Admittedly, though, the total number of study participants was very small.

Bronchitis
There are very few things more annoying than a cold that quickly turns into a bronchitis, which then appears to take up permanent residence in your chest and simply will not leave. You're then stuck with an interminable irritating cough. But there is a naturopathic answer. In a recent double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicentre study of 242 bronchitis patients taking 200 mg of cineole (the main constituent in Eucalyptus) as a capsule orally (three times a day) for 10 days, symptom improvement was notable after just four days. 7 Several types of products containing cineole are available online.

Rheumatic aches and pains
Turmeric (Curcuma longa), one of the principal ingredients in curry powder and some prepared mustards, has long been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine both topically, as turmeric poultices, and internally for the treatment of sprains and inflammation. In a variety of experimental studies, the volatile oil found in turmeric has been shown to have anti-inflammatory actions
comparable to the effects of cortisone and phenylbutazone. 8 Even more potent for acute (but less so for chronic) inflammation is the turmeric constituent curcumin-which again has proved as effective as cortisone and phenylbutazone. 9 But while the two drugs come with significant toxicity problems, curcumin displays no such toxicity at the standard dosage levels, which are between
400 mg and 600 mg three times a day. Because the absorption of orally consumed curcumin is very limited (up to 85 per cent of an oral dose may pass through the gut unchanged), it is
often formulated together with bromelain-a natural enzyme derived from pineapple and itself also an anti-inflammatory-to enhance its uptake and effectiveness. Supplements of the
two agents as a combination are readily available online. Let me know in spring how your family got on this winter.

References
1 Am J Psychiatry, 1985; 142: 163-70
2 Indian J Exp Biol, 1977; 15: 466-8;
Pharmazie, 1983; 38: 747-8
3 Jpn J Infect Dis, 1973; 47: 321-5;
Planta Med, 1992; 58: 417-23
4 The Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia
of the United States, online at www.
hpus.com; Clarke JH. A Dictionary
of Practical Materia Medica, vol 3.
Bradford, UK: Health Science Press,
1977; Clarke JH. The Prescriber: A
Dictionary of the New Therapeutics.
Rustington, Sussex: Health Science
Press, 1972
5 Arzneimittelforschung, 1984; 34:
716-20; F"unfgeld EW, ed. 'R"okan
(Ginkgo biloba)', in Recent Results
in Pharmacology and Clinic. Berlin:
Springer-Verlag, 1988: 212-20
6 Thromb Haemost, 1985; 54: 490-4
7 Cough, 2013; 9: 25
8 Indian J Med Res, 1972; 60: 138-42
9 J Nat Sci Biol Med, 2013; 4: 3-7; Free
Radic Biol Med, 2000; 28: 1303-12


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