The weather may be getting more spring like but the winter colds are still refusing to go away.

Health reporter Siobhan Ryan speaks to someone who can offer something a little bit different to help The routine of work, study and socialising can all take so much more effort when a person is about to come down with a cold or is trying to shake one off.

However, there are many people who are not happy about having to constantly take paracetamol or other painkillers or remedies to give them a boost.

Medicinal herbalist Helen Rawlinson from Brighton believes she has the answer and has drawn up a list of various herbs that can help.

One of the treatments involves taking a high dose of the herb echinacea (25ml a day) for at least a week at the first sign of cold. Then reduce the dose to 15-20ml a day for a month to give your immune system a boost.

Other herbs for colds that drag on include milkvetch and ashwagandha. Both herbs have many actions including stimulating the immune system.

Thyme and elecampane are both good herbs for clearing chest infections while marshmallow is an excellent soothing expectorant for chesty coughs.

Plantain will help to dry mucus once the infection has cleared and, for a sore throat, add sage to a mix and gargle for a minute before swallowing it.

A tea of peppermint, yarrow and elderflowers taken at least three times a day will support the body as it battles to reduce cold and flu symptoms.

Reaching for the paracetamol may seem to help, and it will ease symptoms, but will only prolong the infection.

The body raises its own temperature in an effort to fight infection but the drug reduces the temperature thus slowing the body's attempts to heal itself.

Helen said: "If herbs are not your cup of tea, help yourself by doing all those things you know will help but you never quite manage to do. A hot bath and an early night will give your body the rest it needs. Increase the amount of water you usually drink to help flush out toxins and speed recovery.

"A few dietary changes will also help. Warm your body by heating a good-quality apple juice in a pan with slices of ginger.

"This will also naturally increase the levels of zinc and vitamin C in your diet as both are needed for a healthy immune system.

"If your lifestyle compromises your diet, take a good-quality multi-vitamin. Finally, eat as much garlic as your social life allows. Crushed, fresh garlic is best.

"Renowned for its natural antibiotic and anti-infective properties, it really will help although, it may lose you a few friends along the way."

Helen, who has been qualified as a medical herbalist for two years, says the main aim of her approach is to get the full picture.

She said: "When I talk to someone, I need to get information about their medical history and their family's medical history.

"Their stress levels, lifestyle and work are also important factors to be taken into account.

"It is not just about giving someone something to cure a headache or pain, you need to take a closer look at what might be causing that pain.

"Herbal medicine can stimulate a person's own body to heal itself and help to rebalance it."

Helen says people are becoming more and more interested in taking a different approach to medicine.

She said: "I know of some who have been going to their GP for years but nothing has really helped them. However, when they try an alternative, it can make all the difference."

Although over-the-counter purchases may be suitable for most people, if you take other medication, are pregnant or have a serious or long-standing health problem, it may be safer to consult a qualified practitioner.

Helen can be contacted at the Preston Park Clinic in Brighton on 01273 504488 or at the Heeler Centre in Hassocks on 01273 843780.