The common cold is supposedly to be one of the most trivial of ailments, and yet is responsible for significant absences from work and school, both for adults as well as children. While it is common for adults to be affected about 2 – 4 times a year, and for children, about 5 – 10 times a year, there are many who have recurrent common cold, almost daily or every few weeks. Depending upon the severity of symptoms, this affliction may make life miserable for such people.
The common cold is termed as "Pratishyaya" in Ayurveda. I will now discuss the different types of common cold, and their Ayurvedic treatment. The first type of cold is called as "Vataj Pratishyaya", or simply put, the common cold resulting from the disturbed "Vata" Dosha. Common symptoms are: sudden, severe bouts of sneezing; thin watery discharge, severe bodyache and headache. These symptoms are similar to the symptoms of "allergic rhinitis", or common cold caused due to any allergy. Local application of medicated oils, eg Vacha (Acorus calamus) oil, may help some patients and give dramatic relief. However, all patients do not respond to this treatment, in fact, this may cause an aggravation in a few patients. Medicated ghee and milk prepared from Pippali (Piper longum), Sunthi (Zinziber officinale) and Dashmool are useful for internal use.
The second type of common cold is "Pittaj Pratishyaya", or common cold resulting from the disturbed "Pitta" Dosha. Symptoms include fever, redness of nose, burning sensation in the nose and head, and yellow or green nasal discharge. These symptoms are more indicative of infection as a cause. The third type is "Raktaj Pratishyaya", in which the symptoms are the same as those for Pittaj Pratishyaya, only more pronounced, and accompanied by nasal bleeding. Medicated oils and ghee prepared from Manuka (Vitis vinifera – dried grapes), Vasa (Adathoda vasika), Durva (Cynodon dactylon) and Yashtimadhu (Glycerrhiza glabra) are useful in these types, both for local application and internal use.
The fourth type of common cold is "Kaphaj Pratishyaya", or common cold resulting from the disturbed "Kapha" Dosha. Common symptoms are: heaviness in the head; overall drowsiness; thick, white or yellowish discharge from the nose, and prolonged duration of symptoms. These symptoms point to a chronic infection, or sinus inflammation. Local use of Vacha powder as (inhaled) snuff is very useful in this type of common cold.
The fifth type of common cold is "Sannipataj Pratishyaya" and is caused by a combination of all the three Doshas. The symptoms too, are a combination of the vataj, pittaj and kaphaj types and indicate severity of disease. Treatment has to be done according to the predominance of doshas and resulting symptoms.
Oral use of Tribhuvankirti, Sanjivani vati, Sitopaladi powder and several single and combination herbs are useful in all types of common cold. However, a detailed history for the symptoms, and in recurrent cases, a detailed study of the constitutional framework of the patient is essential in determining the ideal combination of medicines for each patient, so as to get maximum results.
To prevent or reduce the frequency of recurrence, herbal medicines and compounds containing Haldi (Curcuma longa) and Amla (Emblica officinalis) are useful, mainly to increase immunity. In addition, avoidance of known allergens, breathing exercises like Yogic Pranayam, and special procedures like the Yogic Neti, are also very useful.
"Nasya" is a special procedure, a part of the Ayurvedic Panchkarma, which is useful in treating the common cold and preventing recurrence. The simplest form of nasya is called "Pratimarsha Nasya" and consist of just daily use of 1 – 2 drops (even local application will) of mild medicated oils like Anu Tel or Panchendriya Vardhan Tel. This nasya is more suitable for preventive purpose. This strengthens the nasal mucosa, and is also reported to improve the capacity of all the sense orans. "Marsha Nasya" is a more elaborate procedure, involving higher dosage of drops, and consists of first giving local fomentation in the area surrounding the nose, placing the drops in the patient in a reclining position, again followed by fomentation, and ending with gargles with warm, medicated water. This type of nasya is used more for curative purpose.
This is, that, in short, a description of the different types of common cold according to Ayurveda, and the Ayurvedic treatment, both for the acute stage and for recurrence.