Published On: Mon, Jan 20th, 2020

Folklore-based Remedy for the Cold and Flu

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Old sayings, adages, and proverbs can be very interesting, especially their origins and validities. Some are unquestionably true such as “a stitch in time saves nine” and “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” These two examples tend to illustrate a major theme in health care today; namely, preventive medicine. The common cold and flu are two illnesses everyone would certainly like to prevent or treat more effectively.

Flu Pandemics

Every few decades or so, a new virulent strain of the influenza A virus appears that causes a severe pandemic. In the last 120 years alone, millions of people have died from the Russian (1889-90), Spanish (1918-20), Asian (1957-8), and Hong Kong (1968-9) flu pandemics. The swine flu (H1N1) is the latest of an endless variety of new viral strains that could circumvent people’s immune systems by acquiring new structures that existing antibodies cannot neutralize.

Preventive Medicine for the Flu

Specific Vaccines

The current primary means of preventive medicine for the flu is to engineer vaccines that elicit new antibodies to the new virulent strains. However, this approach requires a certain amount of guesswork about what strains will be around during the next flu season. Companies have had to rush to provide the latest H1N1 vaccine for the current flu season. A specific vaccine usually needs to be produced for every new strain of virus that appears.

Universal Vaccine

Folklore-based Remedy for the Cold and Flu

However, a new area of research seems very promising for the possibility of creating a universal flu vaccine. Drs. Damien Ekiert and Ian Wilson and a team of scientists from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA and Crucell in the Netherlands plan to make a vaccine that will elicit antibodies to a part of the flu virus that doesn’t change. So, regardless of what new mutations occur on other parts of the virus, if such antibodies can still neutralize the virus, the vaccine should be effective against all new strains. The structural and functional basis for such a vaccine was determined by scientists from the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in La Jolla, CA, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA, and National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases in Atlanta, GA. This clever approach is very exciting not only for the flu, but for some other diseases as well.


But what about those old proverbs? Here’s another interesting one: “When you’re sick, go spend a night in the barn.” How could sleeping in the barn possibly improve one’s health? Indeed, current preventive medicine would suggest that a warm, dry bed is a much better place to spend the night than a cold, damp barn especially for a sick person. But perhaps not.

Scientific Evidence Supports the Folklore

Virus Entry is a Low-pH-dependent Process

Research shows that the membrane fusion and cellular entry of some viruses including some cold and flu viruses, requires a low (acidic) pH (H+ ion concentration) of the cellular compartment involved. The successful cellular internalization of viruses is important for their infectivity. If the pH around the cells becomes slightly less acidic (higher), these viruses may not bind, enter, and infect their host cells.

Barns with Animals Contain Ammonia Vapors

Most barns with animals contain ammonia (NH3) vapors in the range of 1-200 parts per million (ppm). When NH3 reacts with water (H2O), NH4+ and OH- are produced which increases the pH (more basic). So, if a person sleeps in the barn and inhales ammonia vapors all night long, the ammonia can react with the moist lining of the cells in the upper respiratory tract and increase the pH around these cells. This could inhibit the cellular binding and entry of viruses dependent on a low-pH step for infectivity. Thus, there is scientific evidence to support the old proverb, “when you’re sick, go spend a night in the barn.”

Ammonia Applications


Although historically, the inhalation of ammonia douches has been effective for various medical treatments, they are generally frowned upon today by the medical community because of adverse ammonia effects such as eye and respiratory tract irritation, coughing, edema, and other symptoms. But based on the old proverb and what is known about ammonia levels in barns, perhaps the trick is simply to keep the ammonia concentration between 1- 200 ppm.


These basic facts suggest that a simple device to produce and maintain typical barn levels of ammonia in the atmosphere could be tested for safety and efficacy against infections caused by respiratory agents requiring a low-pH-dependent process for infectivity. Such a therapeutic alternative to ‘spending a night in the barn’ would even allow a sick person to spend the night in a warm, dry bed by using such a therapeutic device in the bedroom. For the time being, please don’t try this at home because ammonia can be harmful, but rest assured that there are some pretty good reasons from both scientists and folklore to be optimistic about the future of preventive medicine for the cold and flu.

About the Author

- I am an internet marketing expert with an experience of 8 years.My hobbies are SEO,Content services and reading ebooks.I am founder of SRJ News andTech Preview.

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