Paavo Airola - Let's Live - January 1976Index

Colds: The Biological Approach

Although few people have heard of coryza or acute rhinitis, almost everyone has suffered from them - they are simply medical terms for the common cold. And common it is, indeed! Some people suffer as many as six per year, some seem to have one that never disappears. One medical journal noted: "Colds, in one form or another, probably cause more ill health and disability than any group of diseases. 1 Virtually everyone is afflicted with the syndrome of sneezing, coughing, mucus discharge from the nose, sore throat, fever, headache, stuffy feeling in the sinuses, and fatigue. The symptoms occur most commonly during cold weather, hence the name. Basically an inflammation of the nasal mucous. membrane, the cold is related influenza, grippe, sinusitis, bronchial catarrh, and other acute or chronic virus-type infections. It can even lead to more serious problems such as heart failure and asthma. 2 If you forgive my pun, colds are nothing to sneeze at!

Susceptibility to Colds

The failure of modern orthodox medicine to come up with a means of preventing the common cold, or a biologically-sound cure, is an indictment of the medical establishment's understanding of the body's functions. At one time tonsils were routinely removed, supposedly to prevent colds - but this was later recognized as useless, and in fact, possibly detrimental to cold prevention. Various powerful antihistamines and antibiotics have been used to suppress the symptoms - but this shows a basic misunderstanding of what a cold is. We always treat disease symptoms as if they were something entirely bad, when, in fact, they actually are the evidence of the body's healing mechanism at work. The cold is a detoxification process - the attempt of the body to throw off a virus or to relieve itself of the toxins resulting from unnatural living habits. Generally, colds attack a weak body - one subject to stress, such as cold weather. Lowered vitality makes one more susceptible to all disease processes.

Not only can severe physical stresses lower the body's resistance to colds, but emotional and psychological stresses can do the same. Adelle Davis found that when she "caught a cold" it was due to psychological problems. 3 A team of researchers reported swelling of the nasal passages and other physiological predispositions to colds, in psychiatric patients. They interpreted these reactions as an "attempt on the part of the organism to protect itself by shutting out, neutralizing, and washing away an environment that is literally or symbolically noxious." 4 Emotional and psychological upsets, apprehension and worry, all cause bodily wear and tear.

Chilling alone will not necessarily bring on a cold. Those living in arctic regions do not get them frequently - in fact, regular exposure to cold and drafts seems to build one's immunity. 2 However, severe cold can cause physiological stress. Rapid temperature changes can also result in colds in those whose resistance is low. Individual tolerance of temperature varies widely. Susceptibility is also dependent on the immediate presence of cold germs. 2

Humidity plays a major role in setting the stage for colds. Central heating in most American homes causes the air to become excessively dry. Moisture in the air is necessary to keep the nose and throat moist and protected. A humidifier, lots of well-watered plants, or pots of water placed on the stove or around the house and by heaters help keep the proper moisture balance in the air. 5

Fresh air is also vital to cold prevention. Stuffy rooms, where carbon dioxide, dust, and germs accumulate, were the main environments in which colds were caught, according to a study at the University of California. 6 Exercise in fresh air is important in keeping the circulation and physical health at an optimum level, thus preventing colds.

Plenty of rest and avoidance of fatigue is also important in keeping resistance strong. When the body is enervated, it is unable to mobilize strength to fight off attacks of unfriendly environmental factors.

Nutrition in Prevention and Treatment of Colds

Optimum nutrition has given many once-chronic cold sufferers nearly permanent resistance. While certain foods and nutrients are particularly important in preventing colds and defeating them in the early stages, other foods and eating habits may actually contribute to cold development. Overeating is one way to break down the resistance of the body. Systematic undereating is one of the greatest secrets of health. When the body becomes overloaded, especially with excess protein, it may initiate a cold or other cleansing process. Overeating can also make circulation sluggish. Cayenne, pepper, ginger, niacin, lecithin, vitamin I E, and rutin (along with exercise), will help keep the circulatory system in good form.

Allergies can also bring on cold-like symptoms (though the nasal discharge is usually much more watery). Milk and wheat are the most common allergens. J.I. Rodale attributed the overcoming of his own chronic colds to leaving wheat out of his diet.

High consumption of refined carbohydrates has been shown to be related to upper respiratory infections. Thus, sugar and white flour products can contribute to colds and should be avoided. Water retention results from a high intake of these foods, creating a milieu conducive to the rhinovirus believed to initiate the cold. 7

Dr. Egon Ullman, M.D., recommends elimination of salt from the diet of chronic cold sufferers, noting that excess sodium negates the effect of calcium - which plays a vital role in cold prevention, as we will discuss in a moment. 8

Pollen and garlic are potent anti-toxins or natural antibiotics - without side effects - and, in the case of garlic, often more potent than synthetic drugs. Both pollen and garlic can be used in fresh, whole form or in tablets or capsules.

Brewer's yeast is another food specific for colds. Its high quality protein and B vitamins are the main anti-cold nutrients. This can be supplemented with high-potency, natural B-complex tablets and, perhaps, up to 100 mg. of B5, which is a natural antihistamine. A number of the B vitamins aid the body's white blood cell production to fight infection, and the B-complex aids the adrenal glands which produce hormones that strengthen the body's resistance.

Nobel Prize winner Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi found wheat germ to be effective in combatting colds when taken with vitamin C, due to a complex chemical interaction. 9 Unfortunately, much wheat germ is rancid long before it reaches the consumer. It should be dated at the time of milling and eaten within ten days. Rancidity can cause disorders in the body much more serious than colds including cancer.

Calcium is an important mineral in cold prevention. The mucous membrane of the inside of the nose is lined with microscopic hair-like structures called cilia. These are constantly in motion, sweeping foreign matter and germs towards the throat so they can be expelled from the body by expectoration or through the digestive tract by swallowing. Calcium gives the cilia the necessary firmness to accomplish their job. Of course, adequate amounts of vitamin D4, magnesium, and phosphorus are necessary, in proper balance, for calcium assimilation.

Vitamin A, along with vitamin C, is perhaps one of the two most important nutrients for preventing and remedying the common cold. Vitamin A deficiency can result from inadequate intake, faulty assimilation and digestive disorders (such as liver trouble or diarrhea), or because of infection, when large amounts of vitamin A are used up. Vitamin A's effectiveness against colds is due to its role in keeping the mucous membrane and cilia normal. The membranes also secrete an antiseptic-like substance called lysozyme, that can ward off harmful invaders - but isn't produced if vitamin A is undersupplied. Although 25,000 units would be a normal amount of vitamin A to take for cold resistance, from 50,000 to 150,000 I.U. (in natural form) can be administered under a doctor's supervision for up to a month in acute states of disease.

Vitamin C and Colds

Vitamin C is the best-known nutrient for resistance to colds. Although it was considered a home remedy for years, scientific attention was minimal until Dr. Linus Pauling published his book, Vitamin C and the Common Cold. Pauling, a two-time Nobel laureate and chemist, was the immediate center of controversy. When some "official" experiments failed to confirm Dr. Pauling's research, it was dismissed as unscientific. Most of these experiments, however, used doses of ascorbic acid that were too low or were not administered in a way that would afford maximum effectiveness. Some of these experiments were mis-interpreted. Others failed to take into account the multiple deficiencies and factors that vitamin C could not alter. Other experiments by independent researchers have validated Pauling's assertions. A recent extended study, conducted at Toronto University, confirmed Dr. Pauling's conclusion that taking vitamin C regularly will indeed drastically reduce the incidence of colds. However, the evidence is still not conclusive enough for the establishment to accept. Nevertheless, when one examines the functions of vitamin C in the body, there seem to be numerous sound reasons to believe it is, indeed, the best cold preventative and remedy around.

Several facts tipped researchers off to the possibility of vitamin C's role in cold resistance. Viral diseases deplete the body of vitamin C. Individuals who contract pneumonia often develop scurvy. Most animals who manufacture their own vitamin C (increased during cold weather) do not catch colds. Men, monkeys, and guinea pigs, however, must obtain their vitamin C from food - and they are susceptible to colds. Thus, there seems to be an empirical connection between lack of vitamin C in the body and the development of colds.

This is easily understood when one considers the biochemical action of vitamin C in the body. It is involved in the effectiveness of leukocytes or white blood cells, which fight infection. 11 It must be adequately supplied for the formation of collagen - the "cement" of connective tissue. When collagen is lacking there is general weakness, susceptibility to infection, and decreased white blood cell effectiveness. 11 Vitamin C is also well-known as a major factor in the body's ability to withstand stress. 9 The antioxidant function of vitamin C also helps in the defeat and avoidance of colds by protecting the chemical processes of the body. 9 Dr. Fred Klenner, M.D., of Reidsville, North Carolina, has used more vitamin C in treating disease than any other doctor in the world. He has used it for a vast array of ailments, including colds, and attributes its potency to its natural, harmless antibiotic effects. 12 The late vitamin C authority, W. J. McCormick, M.D., of Toronto, Canada, stated that vitamin C is one of the strongest anti-toxins known. As an anti-toxin it neutralizes poisons in the blood, building immunity to infectious diseases. 2 The vitamin also has antihistamine qualities. And interferon, a protein manufactured by the body to fight viruses, is more effective when vitamin C is in plentiful supply.

The human need for vitamin C varies greatly. Some doctors estimate the optimum daily requirement for many as high as 5,000 to 10,000 mg. per day. Drugs, smoking, air pollution, stress, and disease all deplete the body's supply of Vitamin C. About 1,000 mg. every day is considered a reasonable dose for prophylactic purposes. Up to 5,000 mg. per day can be taken at the onset of a cold. In acute conditions, 1,000 mg. should be taken every second hour. In severe cases, 1.500 mg. of ascorbic acid has been used intravenously every second hour. It has been shown that small, frequent doses are more effective than one large one. Some find it more effective if the tablets are kept in the mouth until dissolved - with often immediate results. Bioflavonoids (200 to 600 mg.) should also be taken with ascorbic acid to enhance its potency.

Juices and Fasting

Orange and lemon juices are used by nearly everyone when a cold starts to develop. What is not as well known is that there are many other juices that can and should be taken, including pomegranate, cherry, pineapple, black currant, elderberry, carrot, beet, tomato, green pepper, and watercress. Juices should be raw and freshly made. All sweet fruit juices should be diluted with water about 50-50. Onion and garlic juices are, perhaps, the most potent of all - but don't try to drink them straight! Add a little to other juices or to water.

In the acute stage, when fever is present, one should abstain from all solid foods and drink diluted fruit and vegetable juices, plus herb teas from the herbs recommended below. A low calorie raw fruit and vegetable diet with plenty of raw juices and teas may be followed when fever subsides. Some raw seeds, nuts, and sprouted grains may be added later. In persistent, chronic conditions, repeated short juice fasts - one week to ten days each are recommended. Fasting should only be done in the manner outlined in my book, How to Keep Slim, Healthy and. Young with Juice Fasting (available at health food stores). 14


The following herbs have been found to be specific for colds: hyssop, yarrow, golden seal, sarsaparilla, sweet flag, white pine bark. wild cherry bark, licorice, sage, comfrey, chamomile, cinchona bark, rosehips, lemon grass, desert tea (Ephedra Viridis), slippery elm, elder flowers, and peppermint. 15 16 21 Elder and peppermint combined seem especially effective. 17 The herbs generally are made into "infusions" or herb teas by taking 1 tsp. of the herb to a cup of water, or 1 oz. of the herb to 1 pint of water. Place the herbs in a cup or container and pour boiling water over them. Cover and let steep for 15 minutes. Then stir, let it settle, strain and let it cool down to drinkable temperature never drink tea boiling hot! Also note that infusions should never be boiled. However, harder materials such as roots, barks, and seeds, are prepared as "decoctions." One ounce of the herb is boiled in a covered pot of 1 1/2 pints of water for 1/2 hour, then steeped for another 1/2 hour. Then it is strained and cooled. Decoctions can be stored for a week - but infusions should be made fresh each time. Sweeten teas with honey - itself a well-tested natural cold remedy with antiseptic qualities.

Special Preparations for Coughs and Sore Throats

There are many ways one can ease a sore throat and coughing. Honey is the base of "loquat syrup," an Oriental throat soother made from loquat berries, that is often effective (sold in health food stores).

Mullein simmered with equal parts of molasses and water was used by the Mohegan Indians as sore throat remedy.

The Greeks use figs, honey, and lemons stewed together until soft.

Golden seal root tea makes an excellent sore throat gargle. Dried pomegranate rind can be simmered (2 tbsp. to 3 cups of water) and strained for an effective gargle. 15

Chaparral leaves, also called creosote or greasewood, were chewed or made into a decoction for a gargle by Southwest Indians.

Black currants or cherries can be simmered and combined with honey for a delicious sore throat and cough remedy.

A garlic clove or vitamin C tablet kept in the mouth also relieves sore throats.

Other Biological Therapies

Cabasil, a biological medicine pioneered by Dr. Stuart Kabnick of Philadelphia, has been used with considerable success in relieving colds. The nose-and-throat powder, or oral powder or tablets, can be used according to instructions on the bottles. Cabasil can be purchased at health food stores or from physicians.

Proper breathing seems to be essential in preventing and relieving colds. Inhaling in the mouth and exhaling strongly through the nose will often clear a stuffed-up nose. Relaxed, deep, and regular breathing relieves tension which can bring on nasal congestion. Dr. Emanuel Josephson stated that "Nine out of ten colds can be prevented, or can be cleared up in their early stages, by simple breathing exercises. 18

Exercise is important not only for keeping the body in optimum shape, but also for actually remedying colds. J.I. Rodale once found himself recovered from a cold after a dancing spree. 2 Walking is one of the best exercises, and is specifically valuable for colds if done in bare feet on sand or wet grass (contrary to all the old wive's tales about keeping feet away from wet grass).

An Eskimo remedy for colds, that would seem to be more likely to bring them on, is to stick one's nose in a handful of snow! Icelanders dip the nose repeatedly in cold water. This works by contracting the mucous membrane of the nose which expels mucus. Lelord Kordel suggests two techniques that work on the same biological principle. One is to put the big toes in ice water. Another is to dip a cloth in 2 cups of ice water mixed with one tsp. of bicarbonate of soda and one tbsp. of Epsom salts and place it over the nose and sinuses. 16

Dr. Alfred Vogel of Switzerland recommends an onion poultice on the back of the neck as an excellent treatment. 19

Dr. Vogel also recommends the sniffing into the nose of calcium powder, lemon juice, or seawater to clear nasal congestion. 19 In Africa the same is done with cayenne pepper, to provoke cleansing sneezes. 16 "Dilute zinc solution" put into the nose was found by researchers at DuPont in Wilmington, Delaware, to inhibit the multiplication of the rhinoviruses.

Inhalants are a time-honored remedy for nasal congestion and chest colds. Two tablespoons of cloves to a pint of boiling water is one version. Equal parts of vinegar and water can also be boiled and inhaled. An ounce of fresh or two teaspoons of powdered ginger boiled in a teapot with one pint of milk is effective if the cold sufferer stands directly over the pot and inhales the steam through the mouth. 15

Dry brush massage, as outlined in my book, How to Get Well 21 (available at health food stores), will stimulate the circulation and is beneficial both for the prevention and treatment of colds.

In so-called "intestinal flu", in addition to the dietary restrictions for colds mentioned in this article, Betaine Hydrochloride (2 tablets after each meal) helps in intestinal detoxification; pepsin is also beneficial.

Sauna and Hot Bath

Taken regularly (once or twice a week), saunas and Schlenz baths 21 will increase the body's resistance to colds. They also will nip a cold in the bud if taken when the first symptoms appear. However, they should not be taken if fever is present.

The sauna, or Finnish steam bath, is a method of inducing the healing properties of fever and sweating. The skin is our largest eliminative organ but is rarely subjected to sweating due to our sedentary life. The therapeutic properties of the sauna are due to the following facts:

If you do not have easy access to a sauna, you can make a do-it-yourself sauna in your own bedroom, as follows:

First, take a hot bath, as hot as you can stand. Dry yourself and wrap a heavy bath towel around you. Put a plastic or rubber sheet on your bed to protect it from perspiration. Lie down with a couple of hot water bottles and cover yourself with an electric blanket, turned on high, leaving just a crack for breathing. Remain in bed about a half hour or more. Let your body slowly, cool down by turning the electric blanket off and removing the hot water bottles. Finish with a lukewarm shower.


There are no drugs which prevent colds. Medical cold remedies are relatively ineffective and merely suppress symptoms. Viruses cannot be killed with antibiotics. This is why the common cold is still common, to the embarrassment of the medical profession. However, once we understand that colds are basically a cleansing process and will not afflict a body which is not toxic and is kept in optimum health, we can avoid them completely. If, however, some unexpected stress brings one on, the biological therapies such as fasting, overheating baths, and specific vitamins, herbs, juices, and other dietary considerations outlined in this article will effectively combat the cold. An optimum diet, plenty of vitamins and supplements - especially vitamin C - a health promoting mode of living with lots of outdoor exercise, sufficient rest, and avoidance of undue emotional and physical stresses, will help make the common cold much less common.


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  3. Davis, Adelle, Let's Get Well, New American Library Signet paperback, New York, N.Y., 1972
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  5. Bricklin, Mark, "The Cold Facts About Vitamin C," Prevention, November, 1973.
  6. Cheney, Marshall, M.D., Practitioner, December, 1952
  7. British Medical Journal, April 19, 1933.
  8. Ullmann, Egon, M.D., Diet in Sinus Infections and Colds; MacmillanCompany, New York, 1942.
  9. Szent-Gyorgyi, Albert, MD, The Living State, Academic Press, New York, NY, 1972.
  10. Pauling, Linus, Vitamin C and the Common Cold, W.H. Freeman & COL, San Francisco, 1970
  11. Taub, Harold, "Total Cold Prevention - Vitamin C and Wheat Germ," Prevention, Feb. 1973
  12. Klenner, Fred. M.D., The Key to Good Health: Vitamin C, Graphic Aids Research. Foundation, Chicago, IL, 1969.
  13. Rinse, J., "Is Vitamin C Useful Against Colds?", Prevention June, 1975, p. 14.
  14. Airola, Paavo. How to Keep Slim, Healthy and Young With Juice Fasting, Health Plus Publishers, PO. Box 22001, Phoenix, AZ., 1974.
  15. Dominion Herbal College, Master Herbology, Vancouver Canada tnam and Sons, New York, 1974.
  16. Kordel, Lelord, Natural Folk Remedies, Josephson, New Scientist, May 2, 1974.
  17. Toomes, Virginia, "The Herb Box," Let's LIVE, Sept, 1975.
  18. Josephson, Emanuel, M.D., Breathe Deeply and Avoid Colds, Chedney Press, New York.
  19. Vogel Alfred, M.D., The Nature Doctor, Bioforce-Verlag, Switzerland, 1952
  20. New Scientist, May 2 1974
  21. Airola, Paavo, How to Get Well, Health Plus Publishers, Po. Box 22001, Phoenix, AZ., 1974.