Use natural remedies to fight winter’s chill

With the winter season and final exams fast approaching, students will begin to become more vulnerable to the usual winter illnesses. While our Miami winter season is far milder than the rest of the East coast, that doesn’t mean we can completely avoid the winter sniffles, flu and possibly even depression that can be caused by the stress of finals.

Many students will immediately turn to pills or run to the health center, hoping to receive something to make them feel better. But, in many situations, taking a pill may not be your best remedy. The only real benefit will be for those working for the drug companies.

Whether it is a holiday cold, the flu, or even a more severe mental or physical disease, the number of doctors prescribing pills to “fix” the problem is staggering. Forbes Magazine reports, based on a national survey taken in July 2012, that 34 percent of American adults take at least one prescription drug, 11.5 percent take three or more, and 6.5 percent take four or more. This statistic does not even include over-the-counter remedies that students can use for a number of winter diseases.

There are marketing representatives whose sole purpose is to make up diseases to sell these pills. Carl Elliot, a professor at the University of Michigan, explains that “drug company scientists develop a drug with a range of physiological effects, none of which are terribly helpful, so the marketers must identify and promote a disease for the drug to treat.”

A doctor can easily write a prescription, but it may not be the best first step. This is especially true for antidepressants. According to Steven Hollon, a psychology professor at Vanderbilt University, “…at least half the folks who are being treated with antidepressants aren’t benefiting from the active pharmacological effects of the drugs themselves but from a placebo effect.”

Natural stress relievers are a better first option to combat disease and finals stress. For those sniffling or with a sore throat, try some lemon water to soothe your throat and receive an added bonus of the calming warmth as you study for finals. Also, never underestimate the benefits of preventative vitamin C. Some of your favorite foods may pack a punch, like red bell peppers, strawberries and sweet potatoes.

For those overwhelmed by tests, having sleeping troubles, difficulty concentrating, or feeling more irritable than usual, a visit to the counseling center is a preferable first step. You may even find that the endorphins from a workout help relieve symptoms. Professor Jasper Smits, a psychologist at the Southern Methodist University, notes that “exercise appears to affect, like an antidepressant, particular neurotransmitter systems in the brain, and it helps patients with depression re-establish positive behaviors.”

While you may fall victim to one of these common winter diseases, don’t let yourself also fall prey to the money-hungry medical companies looking to appeal to your desire for instant relief.

Alyssa Jacobson is a junior majoring in advertising and political science.