No matter how young or old you might be, there’s none among us who hasn’t been afflicted with a fever at some point. A sure sign of illness, a fever can leave you feeling drained and weak, but it isn’t all bad. Elevation of body temperature, aka fever, is a part of your body’s immune response and it means that your body is working to fight off or overcome an infection. Of course, this doesn’t make you feel much better and your only wish is that the bloody fever would just end! Fortunately, there are plenty of natural fever remedies that you can turn to, but how many of these really work and should you even be trying to bring down a fever?
So before you get ahead of yourself and try learning how to reduce a fever, here’s what you should know.
What’s Causing Your Fever?
The causes of fever can be pretty varied, as fever is simply a symptom of an underlying condition. In most cases however, you can assume that a fever is the result of an immune response to infection or toxins in the body. Ear, nose, and throat infections are the most pervasive and are therefore the most common causes of fever. Of course, fever can also develop as a response to UTIs or viral gastroenteritis, as well as in the case of more serious infections like malaria or kidney infections.
Infectious organisms are not the only causes of fever. Although not as common, fever causes can also include autoimmune or inflammatory conditions like ulcerative colitis and arthritis. Certain medications, including antibiotics and antihistamines can also cause a rise in body temperature, resulting in mild fever.
Should You Reduce a Fever (when it is and isn’t dangerous)
Breaking a fever that is mild (below 100.4° F/38° C) can be counterproductive, impairing what is a healthy immune response. However, high fevers exceeding 102° F (39° C) may be controlled with natural remedies to lower the fever.
A rise in body temperature that does not exceed 100.4° F (38° C) is typically classified as a mild or low grade fever. In such cases, you should simply wait it out, monitoring the symptoms closely to see if there is really any need for concern. This makes sense as breaking a fever early is counterproductive. Lowering your body temperature in such situations actually sabotages what is a healthy immune response; this will increase the likelihood of an infection taking hold or will extend the duration of illness and recovery.
However, a fever exceeding 102° F (39° C) can cause significant discomfort and may be controlled using natural fever reducers. Fevers within this range, even reaching 105° F (40° C), are regarded as high fevers. Although prolonged exposure to such a high fever can increase the risk of dehydration, hallucination, and seizures, they are usually non-threatening and will resolve naturally. This is why home remedies for fever are most appropriate for situations wherein the fever is high enough to cause discomfort, but not high enough to be threatening.
Keep in mind that if your fever crosses 105° F (40° C) or lasts for several days and does not respond to home treatment it would be best to seek medical attention. Aside from the fact that uncontrolled high fever above 106° F (41° C) makes you susceptible to brain damage and complications, it can also be indicative of an infection that is very serious. When dealing with children or expectant mothers, the fever threshold is significantly lower.
Natural Fever Remedies in Ayurveda
Ayurveda has been around for millennia and so have infections that cause fever. So it’s no surprise that Ayurveda has a huge arsenal of fever home remedies. In fact, Ayurvedic texts have dealt extensively with fever – what they describe as Jwara Roga. Treatment can vary as there are different types of fever, associated with specific dosha imbalances. We won’t get into the nitty gritties here, but will instead focus on the proven fever remedies that have a broad spectrum approach. They are quite effective in most situations and will help to reign in a fever, without causing other complications or significant side effects.
1. Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum/Ocimum sanctum Linn)
Better known in most parts of the world as Basil or Holy Basil, tulsi is one of the most important herbs in India for its therapeutic value and for its divine connotations. The herb is used in a variety of forms, including herbal teas, extracts like powder and capsules, as well as in tonics. With its heating energy and pungent taste, tulsi is regarded as vatta and kapha pacifying. This makes it ideal for fever reduction, with the risk of pitta aggravation being significant only when consumed in excess. This helps alleviate the detrimental effect of dosha aggravations that block ojas or the life sap. Tulsi is also said to have a purifying effect on the body, helping lower ama levels and boosting immunity.
Although modern scientific research does not validate every claim regarding tulsi, there is adequate evidence to support its use as a natural fever reducer. Tests on tulsi leaf extracts have shown that the herb contains eugenol, a natural compound that has a positive influence on immunity, as well as digestion and blood biochemistry. A review of various studies by researchers from Australia’s School of Health Sciences, RMIT University, also revealed wide-ranging therapeutic benefits of tulsi including antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, and anti-pyretic activities.
2. Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Ayurvedic physicians have long regarded ginger as one of the best fever reducing foods because of the ability of ginger to pacify kapha. It is highly recommended for the treatment of fevers, especially when congestion is an accompanying symptom, as this is most likely to be linked with kapha buildup. Ginger also has an agni strengthening effect, which helps when dealing with fever. Like tulsi, ginger can be consumed in various forms including herbal teas, raw juice, powdered extract, or in combination with other herbs like tulsi. Individuals who have a dominant pitta dosha should moderate their intake of ginger to avoid pitta aggravation.
Although there are many uncertainties with regard to dosage and specific therapeutic applications, most research so far shows that ginger contains a variety of bioactive compounds – the most notable are gingerols and shogaols. A study that appeared in the journal, Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials highlights the antimicrobial activity of phytochemicals in ginger, even suggesting that the herb may have a role to play in fighting antibiotic resistance. Other studies also point to the analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory properties of ginger, all factors that can help in the management of fever.
3. Giloy (Tinospora cordifolia)
Known as Giloy, Guduchi, and Amrita, the herb is primarily used to support the circulatory and digestive systems. Like many herbs and foods, it has a variety of therapeutic applications however, and is helpful in the management of fever. Its bitter, sweet, and hot qualities make it excellent for balancing all three doshas, helping deal with most of the common varieties of fever. In classical texts, giloy is classified as “amrit”, which is best interpreted as nectar of the gods. The herb is known to be rejuvenative, detoxifying, and nourishing for all the dhatus. In the Charaka Samhita, giloy is specifically mentioned as a jwaraghna, which means that it helps reduce fever.
Although giloy was relatively unknown outside of the Ayurvedic community, it has attracted increased global interest because of significant potential in therapeutic applications and drug development. In the context of fever caused by infectious agents, which is usually the case, giloy can be particularly effective as several studies have reported anti-microbial activity of the herb extract against various strains of bacteria and viruses. Researchers have also found that the herbal extract can boost phagocytic activity. This refers to the immune process in which phagocytes attack, surround, and destroy pathogens in the body. In addition, there is plenty of evidence to show that it reduces toxicity levels in the body.
4. Neem (Azadirachta indica)
Neem has been used in traditional medicine for millennia and has a variety of uses. It is most widely used as a tonic or oil that promotes healthy clear skin and eases respiration. The herb is regarded as both cooling and drying, which is why it is most effective at relieving fever associated with pitta or kapha aggravations. Vata type individuals should try to use it in combination with vata pacifying herbs to avoid vata aggravation. While all parts of the neem tree are used in Ayurvedic medicine, the bark is said to be most useful when treating fever.
Although there is inadequate evidence and more research is needed in the context of neem for fever reduction, the medicinal value of the herb has been recognized by researchers worldwide. In 1992, the US National Academy of Sciences published a book outlining the potential of neem in developing not just inexpensive medications, but also in applications for natural pest control and anti-desertification. The World Health Organization also alluded to the therapeutic value of neem in a report on medicinal plants.
5. Black Pepper (Piper nigrum L)
Black pepper is a popular culinary ingredient on the Indian subcontinent and many parts of the world, but it was long recognized as a healing agent in Ayurveda. A powerful cleansing and healing spice, black pepper is commonly referred to as gulmirch or kalimirch. With its heating energy and pungent taste, the spice is particularly effective at pacifying kapha and also helps pacify vata. It should be used in moderation to minimize the risk of pitta aggravation. The spice is highly recommended in the treatment of fever, which is why it is a common ingredient in most Ayurvedic fever medications. It is one of the main ingredients in trikatu and is often combined with herbs like adulsa or vasaka, dried ginger, and cinnamon.
Because of the wide use of black pepper in cuisine across the world today, there have been several studies to investigate its phytochemistry. Findings so far point to piperine, the main bioactive component of black pepper as the source of its health benefits. Based on findings of some studies it would appear that black pepper can offer significant relief from fever, possibly reducing inflammation and helping resist infection.
While these fever remedies may offer some of the best ways to break a fever without recourse to medication, they are just a few of the natural solutions available along with popular fever reducing foods and herbs like cilantro, basil, and garlic. However, its important to keep in mind that your overall diet should be light and easy on your system, while providing much needed nourishment. Most importantly, maintain good fluid intake to avert the risk of dehydration. If your fever does not respond to home treatment or continues to rise beyond 103° F, visit your doctor as soon as possible.
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