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Mahes Visvalingam
Post-retirement postings

Please note that this site is under construction.


Some Experiences with Natural Medicine
and related observations



Chest and Head Congestion

In July 2013, I had another one of my severe allergic reactions to aerosol sprays used in the plane before landing at Heathrow airport.  I did not have access to the Traditional Chinese Medicine I had used before.  Also, I had difficulty getting hold of  the Homeopathic Kali Bich for catarrh after flu - moreover, the phlegm on this occasion was not thick, yellow and ropy.  Instead it was just thick and yellow and it was not caused by an infection.


I am allergic to many over the counter medications, such as decongestants However, I can tolerate some products like Olbas Oil and Vicks. Allopathic Expectorants and Mucolytes make the phlegm less sticky to ease expectoration.  But, they can cause gastric bleeding.  


I usually take the slow and steady approach  and do not go for quick fixes.  I hope that my approach gives the body an opportunity to correct itself.  Here are the home cures I used to clear the chest and head.  Although it was several weeks before I could breathe freely without pain, I now feel fitter and more energetic than I have felt for a long time.


Internal Treatments - these helped to soften and bring up the phlegm.  The coughing will cause chest pain, breathlessness and dizziness.  But, the external treatments listed below will ease the symptoms.  I did not take any anti-inflammatory pain killers, even paracetamol, since I did not want to compromise the body's ability to produce its own pain killers. 

  • The page on Ginger tea - gives a traditional Indian recipe provided by my cousin's wife.  I used a simple recipe, which includes many natural and commonly available expectorants.  In a dry pan, toast a tablespoon each of fennel and coriander seeds until aromatic (not burnt) cool and crush.  Put in a pan with a thumb size piece of fresh ginger grated or chopped into small pieces, a tablet of DGL liquorice  (optional from health food stores), a few black seeds of cardamom crushed, and a couple of crushed seeds of black pepper.  Add 15 oz  of water and boil on a low heat for half an hour.  I sometimes add chopped Sage or Thyme.  Strain about a third of the decoction into a cup and sweeten to taste with honey.  Then sip this potion while it is still warm.  Re-heat the remainder when you want the next dose.  Since the decoction is quite strong, you can add a little more water and re-boil.  You can add other spices like turmeric.  I make a batch of fennel and coriander seeds to last me for about 3 brews and keep it in an airtight bottle.  Please note that herbs and spices have contraindications and drug interactions.  For example, see my notes on ginger and liquorice. Also, you can take too much of a good thing - so don't overdose yourself.  I used the spices in my cooking but only took the above amounts per day as ginger and spice tea.

  • Linseed tea - I have tried linseed in the past.  The linseed oil from health food shops tended to be rancid and detrimental to my health.  I tried crushed linseed with breakfast cereals, and soaked them overnight in hot water to drink on an empty stomach.  However, I did not really see any other noticeable effects.    When I was looking up information on linseed while I was ill, I came across an interesting article at http://butterflywings.hubpages.com/hub/How-to-Make-Flax-Seed-Oil  You boil the linseed for 8 minutes and let it cool.  The result is a gloopy gum, which is like raw egg white.  I did not have the recommended dose - in fact I only made 1 teaspoon of linseed in half a mug of water at a time since linseed goes rancid quite quickly.  On the first day, I had only one tablespoon in all, i.e. 3 doses.  The next morning and through the day I coughed up a lot of phlegm, which was also being expelled through the bowels.  The coughing becomes worse before it gets better.  After that I only took just 1 teaspoon of linseed per day on 2 days, alternating with the ginger tea.  It could just be a coincidence but I am now fully recovered. 

    On the 18th Jan 2014, I read in my old Harmsworths Home Doctor (undated, p 2498) said that an infusion was good for catarrh of the throat and bronchial tubes, for gastritis and acute inflammation of the kidneys and bladder.  For respiratory complaints, it recommends the addition of licorice, honey or ring and juice of lemon.

  • Alkalising drink -  This is very similar to Andrews Salts as it was - the new recipe seems to be different.  Bicarbonate of soda was widely used in cooking and as a medicine by people until the advent of proprietary medicines.  My undated leather-bound pre-WW1 copy of Harmworths Home Doctor Volume 1 advises its use in acid conditions,  including as an external treatment for insect bites and burns and scalds.  It also states (page 556) "A mixture of equal parts of hot milk and soda water with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda will often prove very comforting to the air passages and remove a troublesome cough".   Since my chest muscles were strained by coughing, I decided to do the follwoing for maximum benefit and it worked for me. 

    Put a tiny bit of Epsom Salts (just a few grains) with 1/2 tsp sugar in a mug.  Add about 2 oz hot (not boiling) water to dissolve the salt and sugar.  Then add about half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and a slice of lemon to taste, squeezing it.  Add more water to make it up to about a third of a cup.  The drink will fizz.  Stir and drink it.  I only took this drink about once a week.

    Most bacteria and fungi (like Candida Albicans) thrive in an acidic environment.  The body should be slightly alkaline, but if you take these salts too often, you can become infected by bacteria which thrive in an alkaline environment.   The advice is confusing - you need to be aware of side effects and drug interactions.

The above internal treatments also eased stomach and digestive complaints which I occasionally had after a bout of gastritis..  Please remember that some herbs and spices have contraindications and drug interactions.  I will find out what I can about linseed and provide a summary with links. There is already a lot of articles about baking soda on the internet.  See side-effect and warnings at: http://drsircus.com/medicine/sodium-bicarbonate-baking-soda/side-effects-contraindicationsSimoncini (http://www.curenaturalicancro.com/) advocates fairly strong doses of bicarbonate for treating Candida strains, and says that in his experience cancer tends to co-exist with candida, a pre-disposing factor.  Bicarbonate of soda has also been used with molasses or maple syrup as a cure for cancer.  http://drsircus.com/medicine/sodium-bicarbonate-baking-soda/cancer-studies-ph-medicine.  Also, research suggests that daily doses of bicarbonate and help those with advanced kidney disease http://www.kidneyresearchuk.org/news/kidney-research-news-articles.php?id=694. Use the search engines.


External Treatments - the following treatments made the symptoms more bearable while the internal treatments helped to disperse the congestion.

  • Olbas Oil on chest, throat, around ears, forehead and on handkerchief.  It is possible to use other warming oils or rubs, like Vicks Vapor rub.   These help to open up the nasal and bronchial passages so that it is easier to breathe and cough up the phlegm.  It is possible to put a few drops of Olbas oil in hot (but not boiling water) and inhale the steam.  I was too exhausted to do this, but it is highly recommended.

  • Warm linseed packs or hot water bottles.  I filled some old cotton socks with linseed which was past its use-by date and tied a knot to hold them in.  I then microwaved the packs until they were quite hot to warm the bed while  cleaned my teeth and doused myself with Olbas oil.  When I got into bed, I placed the warm packs initially on the chest.  To avoid burns, I kept moving the pack over different areas of the chest.  When the pack had cooled a bit, I put it under my upper back to ease the muscles just above the waist.  Although, the summer nights were quite warm and humid, I found the packs very relaxing and comforting. I was able to sleep without pain.  You will find all sorts of suggestions on the internet.  I found that rice charred quite quickly in the microwave and grains can feel quite hard.  The packs will make your sheets and bed clothes smell initially.  But, the smell does wash out.  I have continued to use these packs every night, since they are helping me improve my posture by relaxing muscles which had become habitually tensed by cold, hayfever and gastritis etc.  Caution: Not suitable for babies and elderly who are unable to move the packs to avoid burns - Copy and paste the next line for an article, which has been archived and no longer online.  It is written by a nurse and includes warnings. http://web.archive.org/web/20080531122731/http://www.diamondthreadworks.com/microwave_heating_bags.htm

  • Lymphatic drainage - I used the packs while following Heather Wibbels demos on lymph drainage. 
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QA-wi0d7-Ro  She has a series of demos working from the throat area, down to the legs.  I was using the libnseed packs to perform the gentle massage she suggested to promote blood and lymph circulation and drainage.

  • Rest and Elevate the legs during recuperation - when you are feeling breathless and dizzy, you tend to spend a lot of time in bed or in a chair.  To help lymphatic and blood circulation back to the heart, do raise your feet.  I used 2 thick pillows - one across the bed, and another sloping up to it from the knee towards the ankle.  The ankles and feet are suspended in the air to avoid pressure on them.  You can buy sloping leg rests - but the two pillow arrangement is much more versatile. 

  • Deep breathing - this was very painful initially and triggered coughing fits.  I took it gently but the gently forced breath did loosed the phlegm.  Initially, I could feel no breath in my lungs, which felt dead.  Every day, with the above therapies, I could feel the breath a bit more.  A long time ago, when I was mentally reciting the 23rd psalm (which is very comforting), I found that the phrase Restoreth my Soul, and in particular the word Soul, caused a sudden change in the body.  The shoulders and rib cage dropped, the chest muscles relaxed and the back straightened.  So, I used this while exhaling to get as much stale air out as possible and then tried to take a deep a breath as was comfortable but with the intention of filling my belly with breath.  I have recently come across this page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soham_(Sanskrit).  It looks like variants of So, such as Sa, have also been used in breathing meditations.  So, without having consciously recollecting it, I had spent my waking hours during illness, meditating on my breath to good effect - it, along with the therapies above, helped me regain my energy.

I am now wondering if these treatments will help me mitigate the severe allergic reactions I have suffered all these years.  This would be wonderful since it would make my old age much more enjoyable.  Being able to go out in the garden and countryside in the hayfever season will be a real treat.



Mahes Visvalingam, 4 october 2013
Last updated on 19/01/14