The 3 downsides to using cough and cold medicines and what to do instead

Happy New Year my dear readers!

To kick off the year holistically, I'd like to begin challenging the hard stuff. 

Using easily available medications might seem innocuous and harmless once in a while, but think again.  What are we really doing here?  Are we working with or against your body?

As a holistically minded physician, I'm a believer in working with, not against the body.

Here's my take on such drugs whose main purpose is merely to suppress symptoms that are too troublesome for us to accept.

Photo by FotografiaBasica/iStock / Getty Images

The problem lies with our lifestyle expectations, and life on the fast pace.  We no longer have the community's patience towards our own needs.  We also treat ourselves harshly, as a result of others' (and our own) expectations of our bodies and minds.  

Lets get down to the three downsides.

Suppressing symptoms jeopardises recovery

Stopping mucus, and sneezing with antihistamines and decongestants, we impede the body’s natural mechanism to physically wash out germs.  While this is convenient and we can get through the day not even realising we have a cold when we actually have one, this brings in the risk of chronic infection.

Drugs that stop us from washing germs out with mucus fights against the body’s own mechanisms for self cleaning.  The body has to work harder and in more imaginative ways to clear infections.  

In the case of infants and young children, cough medicines can impair their ability to clear phlegm and lead to a worse congestion

The body requires a fever to fight infection

Yes, a certain level of fever is actually good for you.  It has been shown that an important type of immune calls, the T-cells that fight viruses and cancer, require a higher temperature to be effective.  

It is only dangerously high temperatures that need controlling, with a health professional.  

Drugs are foreign substances that may not be removed efficiently from the body.

Yes, this is a reminder that nothing about drugs are natural, and while there is a role for them in a spectrum of care that is offered to the patient, we must know its limitations.  

Drugs invariable tax the liver to metabolise and clear them out of the body.  Many a time, metabolites do not clear out completely.  This is in the case of synthetic hormones, and certainly for paracetamol (acetaminophen).

There have been cases of fatal liver failure associated with ingesting as little as 10 paracetamol pills.

There you have it!

The three reasons why we should think twice before reaching to drugs in order not to face the consequences of being ill.

Being ill is a part of life, especially for children, where it is normal to catch a virus or cold once a month, in order to build up their immune system towards better resistance.  Lack of this natural immune stimulation leads to a skew of the immune cells towards autoimmunity, which is another topic altogether.

The holistic approach to illnesses

While a balanced viewpoint must be kept, and drugs may need to be used in certain situations, having a holistic approach has the long term effect of working with your body not against it, in the long run. 

Herbs or nutrients may be used, complimentary therapies that address the Qi and energy systems, and healing touch, sound, art, and access to the spirit and soul.

What is the meaning of this illness for you? 

Simply waving it off with over the counter medications and "Keeping calm and carrying on" may miss an opportunity to investigate a nutrient deficiency, or even a lifestyle habit which may be causing the low immunity. 

If there is an immunity issue, we must address the reasons underlying that.  

This generation is so used to numbing and carrying on, and it is to the detriment of our spirits that we approach life this way.

To discuss your needs in greater depth do book a consult today!

My top 4 Adaptogens For Stress and Burn Out

Fatigue is one of the most common complaints I see in patients today. 

Technology has made our lives easier and efficient.  However, this seems to be backfiring and we no longer know how to live a life more natural to our biology. 

We need nature, but nature is "too dirty", or too inconvenient.  

We lack sunshine, social connection, sleep, and may have stunted our spirituality in the hustle of modern living.  

Stress is big, and while willpower and deadlines may give us enough adrenalin boost to keep us going for a while, too much of this can lead to a burn out and we get sick easily, often, and feel like we need a coffee to even get out of bed in the morning.

How can we help once this point has been reached?

While the root cause is to exert changes in the lifestyle and philosophies with which we lead our lives, we often need a safe temporary measure til we get our act together.  

Besides ensuring your nutrients are adequately topped up, what else can you do? 



Adaptogens are a unique class of healing plants that helps human body to adapt, particularly to stress.  Apart from relieving stress and burn out, adaptogens are involved in boosting immune system, managing healthy weight, increasing mental focus and encouraging a balanced mood.

Traditional chinese medicine physicians have a good understanding of these, and their particular usages, and western herbalists are now realising the value of them.

How do Adaptogens Work?

Adaptogens work by regulating certain important hormones especially cortisol and cortisone that help balance, restore and protect the body. They are great equalizers with anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant nature. These healing plants respond to stress in a way that they can recharge our adrenal glands and normalize the levels of stress hormones. 

My favourite herbs are...

Withania somnifera

Common name: Ashwagandha (literal meaning “smell of horse”)
Properties: Immune tonic, fertility tonic, nervine relaxant, antispasmodic
Role of Ashwagandha: it is one of the most important ayurvedic herbs with the greatest ability to reduce cortisol.  This healing herb is famous for being a nervine relaxant, relieving human body from anxiety, insomnia and depression. Its is an iron rich adaptogens and helps women during their heavy menstruation. It also serves as a uterine tonic for ladies in Africa.

Ocimum sanctum

Common name: Holy basil or Tulsi (meaning “the incomparable one”)
Properties: Nervine, immune system tonic, antioxidant, antiviral, carminative (gas reliever), diuretic, expectorant

Role of Holy Basil: Studies suggest that basil helps you fight fatigue, anxiety and stress. As well as boost your immune system, stabilize blood glucose level, blood pressure and hormone levels. In India, it is commonly consumed as a tea known as “tulsi tea” and is famous as an elixir of anti-aging. It is also recommended as an expectorant for bronchitis and to ease stomach upset and vomiting.

Panax ginseng

Common name: Asian Ginseng (meaning “panacea” or “cure-all”)
Properties: Nervine, immune system tonic, antioxidant, antidepressant, increase cognitive performance, sleep tonic

Role of Asian Ginseng: Being the most popular herbal adaptogen, ginseng is considered as the king of ayurvedic herbs. According to research, Asian ginseng is use for improving mental health and the ability to cope with stress. Apart from dealing with stress, it can help in improving mood, fight insomnia, lowering the blood pressure and sugar levels etc.

Rhodiola rosea

Common name: Arctic root or Golden root (means, it is found mainly in cold regions of the world)

Properties: Antiviral, nervine, immune stimulant, heart tonic, neuroprotectant, weight loss agent
Role of Arctic Root: Arctic root contains a phytochemical known as “salidroside” which helps relieve anxiety and combat aging. It is known to suppresses the production of stress hormone, cortisol and provides a buffer to stress-related mental and physical fatigue. Furthermore, this healing herb restores normal patterns of eating and sleeping after stress and protects against oxidative stress.


Book a consult to start healing from stress and fatigue!