How to skip the cold and flu this season (sans all those medicines!)

Teary eyes, a red nose, swollen cheeks, dry and patchy skin… a cold and the flu definitely do not make for a good beauty ‘do. And as anyone who’s ever been laid up with a box of tissues knows, conventional cold and flu treatments leave much to be desired. So, try these tips to avoid going under the weather!

prevent-flu-1Munch on mushrooms

Whether tossed raw into a salad or lightly sautéd in olive oil and served as a standalone snack, white button mushrooms have powerful immunity-boosting effects, according to the Human Nutrition Research Center on Ageing at Tufts University, USA. These fabulous fungi increase the production of antiviral proteins, which can destroy the foreign invaders that make you sick. I will have mine spread over a pizza, please!

The Ayurvedic arsenal

The Indian equivalent of ginseng – ashwagandha – has long been considered a valuable tonic that benefits the entire body. It is often used in traditional medicine to reduce fevers and inflammation as well as provide a good night’s sleep. More recently, medical studies have identified chemicals in ashwagandha known as withanolides, which are lethal to viruses and bacteria.

Say ‘Om’

The Sanskrit word ‘Om’, which is usually chanted at the beginning and end of yoga or meditation sessions, can do more than calm your nerves. According to Timothy McCall, MD and author of Yoga As Medicine, it can also help you breathe easier as the physical vibration loosens phlegm and can help open up the pathways from which sinuses drain. When chanting, extend the mmmmm sound longer than usual to increase resonance. Continue for a couple of minutes and repeat as often as needed for it to feel good.

The chicken soup theory

Chicken soup has been used to ward off soothe colds and flu as far back as the 12th century and now its healing reputation is firmly backed by science. This potent broth inhibits the production of inflammatory compounds that are released in a viral infection. Vegetable-based soups such as minestrone also seem to reduce inflammation but their effects are not quite as strong as chicken soup’s. And homemade is best but canned ones will work in a pinch.

prevent-flu-2Switch to copper

The Egyptians used copper to sterilise drinking water, Hippocrates used it to treat skin irritations and the Aztecs used it on sore throats. Now, studies being conducted at the University of Southampton, UK, are proving that copper and its alloys (brass and bronze) effectively eliminate bacteria and viruses. Once contaminated, a stainless steel doorknob, faucet or handrail can harbour germs until it is disinfected with chemicals. However, uncoated copper is antimicrobial and begins destroying bacteria and virus on contact. Switch to copper, brass or bronze doorknobs, handles, push plates, countertops, sinks and other frequently touched hardware to help cut down on the spread of infection.

Get steamy in the shower

According to Neil Schachter, MD and author of The Good Doctor’s Guide to Colds and Flu, steam acts as a natural decongestant to open up nasal passages. So, turn up the faucet on full heat for a few minutes before you get into the shower – that way, the room will be full of steam while you wash up. For added effect, pour a few drops of eucalyptus oil, which has antimicrobial effects when inhaled, on the shower floor. But skip the gym’s steam room: damp public places are loaded with germs like mold spores and bacteria.

Zzzzzzzzzz

Getting a good 8 hours of sleep can do more than just keep you awake at work. Studies have that sleep-deprived adults have less than half the normal immune response to the flu virus.

prevent-flu-3Sweat it off

Studies show that you can cut flu and other upper-respiratory illnesses by more than a third with regular moderate exercise.

Wash your hands

Every single doctor would agree that simply washing your hands provides the best defence against colds and flu, reducing chances of illness by 30-40%. Soap and water lifts the germs off the hands and washes them away. But you do need to wash for 20 seconds to be really effective.

Have any secret flu and cold prevention techniques? Spill!

Beauty DIY: The Thai road to gorgeous skin (try this at home!)

Long and silky hair, gorgeous skin and perfect nails… what is there not to envy about Thai women? Sitting in Phuket, I am realising the secret to their exotic beauty lies not just in genes but also the fact that most Thai women continue to delve into their traditional beauty secrets to this day. After much poking, prodding and begging, I got some of them to divulge their heritage beauty recipes, all of which can be easily made at home across the world.

thai beauty secrets

  • The highly acidic tamarind has a wealth of AHAs, making it an excellent skin brightener. Do like Thai women and combine one cup each of honey and tamarind paste with four cups of yoghurt. Rub thoroughly into your body, using circular motions, before showering. It’s perfect for deep cleansing, busting dead skin cells and stimulating circulation.
  • Thai women revere the humble papaya, which contains the miracle papain enzyme to banish dulling dead skin cells. Peel, mash into a pulp, and massage onto your entire body. Rinse off in the shower for a hefty beauty dose.
  • Lemongrass is not just for cooking – Thai women also use it for a potent beauty and wellness detox. And it’s simple: Chop equal amounts of lemongrass, ginger and basil, add double the quantity of water and let everything boil for 10 minutes. Cool the concoction and add some lemon juice for taste. Perfect for getting flawlessly beautiful skin from the inside out.
  • A 17th century royal ritual blends together turmeric (2 tablespoons), sandalwood oil (one cup), jasmine oil(one cup) and rice powder (2 tablespoons) into a paste, massaging into dry skin and rubbing off in light, circular motions after 30 minutes. Rinse off the remainder to reveal softer, smoother, more translucent and blemish-free skin.

Been to Thailand? Had a Thai spa treatment? Let’s share our stories (and secrets) in the comments section!

Beauty DIY: 6 beauty-ful uses for Epsom salts (no bathtub necessary!)

As winter continues its cold and dreary trudge, celebrity skincare expert Ole Henriksen says you should pick up some Epsom salts to help brighten and soften the skin after all those sun-soaked afternoons.

But what exactly are Epsom salts?

Named after a bitter saline spring at Epsom in Surrey, England, this inexpensive and easily available ingredient is actually not a “salt” at all. Rather, it’s a pure mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate – both of which are readily absorbed through the skin. This gives Epsom salts a huge variety of health and beauty benefits, including regulating the activity of over 325 enzymes, reducing inflammation, helping muscle and nerve function, preventing hardening of arteries, improving the absorption of nutrients and flushing out toxins.

epsom salts beauty benefitsEpsom salts recipe #1: Ole Henriksen’s DIY shower smoothie

However, most of us simply associate Epsom salts with long, leisurely baths. So, what’s someone without a bathtub to do? Plenty, says Henriksen, who believes this versatile ingredient can be used in a number of other ways as well. For instance, his DIY Epsom treatment exfoliates the skin, leaving it luminous, soft and smooth. It also helps removes dead skin, flushes out toxins, and allows for better absorption of skincare products.

Ingredients: 1 cup Epsom salts, 1 cup coffee grounds, 2 teaspoons eucalyptus oil, enough sesame oil to form a smooth paste

  1. Mix the Epsom salts and coffee grounds in a bowl
  2. Add the oils and stir thoroughly to create a smooth paste
  3. When in the shower, vigorously scrub your body with this paste for several minutes, from neck to feet
  4. Rinse and glow!

Looking for more non-bathtub centric uses of Epsom salts? Try these.

Epsom salts recipe #2: Facial scrub

Boost the magnesium in your skin (which increases energy levels, relieves stress, increasing serotonin levels and lowers blood pressure) while exfoliating and deep cleansing by mixing 1/2 teaspoon of Epsom salts with a cleansing cream. Massage, rinse with cool water and pat dry.

Epsom salts recipe #3: Splinter remover

Epsom salts increase osmotic pressure on the skin, which draws foreign bodies toward the surface. Dissolve one cup of Epsom salts in a tub of water and soak the affected area for 15-20 minutes; repeat as often as necessary.

Epsom salts recipe #4: Foot soak

Soothe aches, remove odours and soften rough skin with this foot soak: Add 1/2 cup of Epsom salts to a pan of warm water. Soak feet for as long as it feels right. Rinse and dry.

epsom salts skincareEpsom salts recipe #5: Fade bruises

Make a compress by soaking a washcloth in cold water mixed with Epsom salt (two tablespoons per cup) and apply to the skin.

Epsom salts recipe #5: Hair volumiser

For big, bouncy hair, mix one part hair conditioner to one part Epsom salts and work the mixture through your locks. Leave on for 20 minutes, then rinse and style as usual.

Have you ever used Epsom salts? What’s your favourite Epsom salt recipe?

The no-water SOS hair cleanser for those who hate dry shampoo (Time: 5 minutes!)

dry-shampooLast minute dinner plans and hair that looks like crows could be breeding inside its murky depths? This happens to me at least once a month and since I hate dry shampoo (how does one ever get the gritty, dandruff-like stuff out of the strands?) it’s revival time for grandmom’s 5-minute hair-pick-me-up. And it’s simple!

Take a sturdy hairbrush and force the bristles through an old stocking or panty hose. Brush your hair normally and watch all the icky stuff transfer from your scalp and strands on the fabric. When the cloth becomes dirty, remove it and replace with another piece and continue till hair is presentable. This is a true life saver!