Since I’ve noticed a significant increase in my tissue usage over the past couple days, I thought this would be a perfect time for a blog on natural cold and flu remedies!
While allopathic medications, such as NyQuil and Robitussin, can effectively mask the symptoms of a cold, they really aren’t helpful at eliminating the root cause of the discomfort. In addition, there are numerous side effects associated with cold and flu medicine consumption, such as drowsiness, nausea, and blurred vision. Some extreme side effects include severe allergic reactions, hallucinations, seizures, and irregular heart beat. These side effects can be even more problematic for small children. While there are still contraindications with some herbs and other natural remedies, they are not as pervasive or debilitating. However, the downfall of all of these methods is that none of them are completely effective. They are all just essentially putting a band-aid on the problem, but not fixing it. There is no real “cure” for the common cold, except not catching it!
Here’s a little secret: keep the body happy and healthy by feeding it nourishing food and you’ll have less need for both allopathic and alternative sources of cold and flu remedies.
Natural Cold Remedies
Ginger Tea: While ginger is well-known for its digestive benefits, it is touted as an impressive immune booster as well. This is because of ginger’s ability to promote the production of sweat, which helps with detoxification. Also, sweat contains a powerful germ-fighting compound that may help ward off infections. It can help with reduction of high fevers and affiliated headaches as well. Grate an inch or two of fresh ginger and squeeze the pulp into a cup of boiling water for delicious ginger tea! Add lemon for a vitamin C boost as well.
Oil of Oregano: This potent herb has powerful antimicrobial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties, making it nature’s antibiotic! Whenever I feel like I’m coming down with a cold (like right now), I put 3-4 drops under my tongue and swallow. I’ve been “dosing” for the last couple days and I already feel over my cold, before it even started. It’s amazing. In terms of its intense, oregano-y taste, I LOVE the feeling I get from taking it and, therefore, enjoy it. For those that don’t like watery eyes and burning sensations in their mouth, put 3-6 drops in a small glass of water and gargle to heal a sore throat, or drink to stop infections. This herb is not meant to be taken long term due to its strong antibiotic properties, which can negatively alter the gut flora balance. Only take while you are sick.
Epsom Salt Baths: This is a super cheap and effective way to both prevent and shorten the duration of a cold or flu. As a result of its high magnesium content, these detoxifying baths can ease muscle pain and tension associated with colds, or life in general. After 15 minutes or so in the tub, I’m so relaxed I can barely get out! Trouble sleeping? Not with these serene soaks. Add 1 or 2 cups to bath, along with a cup of baking soda for its alkalizing and detoxifying properties, and chill out until the water is chilly.
Warm Water with Lemon and Honey: Simply sipping on warm water is, you got it, warming to the body and therefore stimulating to the immune system. Lemon water with honey can also help clear up congestion, calm a sore throat, and help re-hydrate if you’ve lost fluids. It encourages movement of the virus from your body as well.
Vitamin C: It’s almost as if vitamin C supplementation and the common cold are synonymous with each other; they go together like sunshine and good times … or do they? According to a review of the scientific research, the findings are mixed in regards to using vitamin C for prevention and/or treatment of colds. However, some research suggests that mega doses of vitamin C at the onset of a cold or flu can prevent symptoms from occurring. Overall, its main effect is improvement in resistance to viruses. Try it out for yourself and see if it works for YOU.
Zinc Lozenges: This is another controversial cold remedy. Though its been used for decades to prevent and reduce the duration of the common cold, the scientific evidence is conflicting. Some trials showed a significant decrease in the number and duration of colds per year in individuals taking zinc lozenges and supplements, but others show no difference between zinc and control groups. At the very least, these lozenges appear to be effective at treating symptoms, and, therefore, the discomforts that come with a cold. This isn’t to say that zinc isn’t ridiculously important for your body’s overall health. I’m just saying it may not stop a cold in its tracks.
Vitamin B12: While supplementing with B12 hasn’t been shown to alleviate cold symptoms, being DEFICIENT in B12 could be a reason behind why you’re getting so many colds. Do you eat lots of fish, seafood, meat, eggs, and dairy products? As long as you’re absorbing the B12 out of these foods (this can be really difficult for people with low stomach acid), then I wouldn’t worry about it. However, if you are vegetarian or vegan, you MUST take a sublingual B12 supplement, period.
Medicinal Mushrooms: Not to be confused with medical marijuana or magical mushrooms, these special shrooms contain anti-viral properties, as well as compounds called polysaccharides, that may help stimulate the immune system. However, not all mushrooms are created equal; only certain kinds contain these immune enhancing properties. Take a combination of maitake, shiitake, reishi, cordyceps, and/or gypsy mushrooms in liquid extract form throughout cold and flu season for immune system support.
Raw Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar has been used for centuries as a traditional home remedy for, well, just about everything, from household cleaner to wart remover. This universal panacea can also be used to relieve a sore throat and has been shown to possibly help shorten the length of a cold. Put a tablespoon of ACV in a small glass of water and drink over the course of a half hour. It is very important to make sure your ACV is RAW in order to obtain maximum benefit. I like Bragg’s Raw, Unfiltered, Organic Apple Cider Vinegar; it comes in a large bottle and is under $5.
Vitamin D: This important “sunshine” vitamin is essential to the activation of our immune system and without sufficient intake, our immunity cells will not be able to ward off infections in the body. Unfortunately, most people are deficient in this hormone (yes, vitamin D is actually a hormone), and if you live in San Francisco like I do, then you are definitely deficient due to the lack of regular sunshine. But have no fear, there is a simple solution to this problem! Eat foods rich in vitamin D, such as eggs, fatty fish, and pastured butter, and/or take a 1/2- 1 teaspoon/day of fermented cod liver oil, which is high in bioavailable forms of vitamins A, D, and K. The only brand I recommend is Green Pastures, due to their superior processing methods.
Eleuthero: Also known as Siberian Ginseng, this adaptogenic herb has shown potential in alleviating upper respiratory infections, including colds, flu, and sinusitis. I drink this herb in tea-form regularly for general health purposes, but taking it in a standardized extract may be more effective for respiratory pain relief.
Echinacea: Despite its popularity as a cold and flu prevention aid, the scientific evidence is, in fact, mixed. While some studies report a positive effect of echinacea on the duration and severity of a cold, others show a total lack of impact. Because of these conflicting studies, its difficult to claim that echinacea has consistent, beneficial effects on cold and flu prevention. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer!
These are just a few of the many different natural remedies that can be used to help prevent and alleviate common cold symptoms. In my personal opinion and experience, these alternative remedies are both more effective and have less side effects than allopathic medications. Next time you feel a cold coming, try a couple of these antidotes and see if any of them work for YOU. Because that’s what really matters, right?
To avoid getting sick all together, try utilizing stress reduction techniques, engage in positive thinking, and eat a balanced, whole foods diet. Oh, and wash your dirty hands! It really can be that simple.