According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on average, the typical adult comes down with a cold two to three times each year.
As most parents know, children tend to contract them much more.
Prevention is the best line of defense and can potentially be achieved via thorough hand washing, staying away from others who are sick and keeping your hands away from places on your body where viruses can easily enter (namely your eyes, nose and mouth).
But what can you do if, despite your best efforts, you find yourself infected with the latest bug?
To find the answer to that question, we reached out to Rebecca Lee, a registered nurse and creator of RemediesForMe. This is what she had to say.
Natural Remedies Are Best
“I am a huge advocate for health and staying healthy begins with what we put into our bodies,” says Lee. Yet, if a cold is able to set in, Lee says that she prefers natural remedies because “medications are never free from the risks of severe side effects, even if they are over-the-counter (OTC).”
Lee’s cold-remedy response plan involves using a variety of herbs, vitamins and minerals. Many have been used for centuries to alleviate the symptoms of the common cold, she says. So which ones does she recommend?
Echinacea is a major go-to during cold season, says Lee, as it has known anti-viral, antibacterial and blood cleansing properties. Studies have even found that taking this one herb can help shorten the duration of colds and lessen their severity.
Echinacea comes in many different forms, ranging from tinctures to capsules or teas. “I personally find that the pure tincture forms work the best,” says Lee.
To take it yourself, at the very first sign of a cold, mix two dropperfuls of the tincture into a cup of water to prevent further onset, says Lee. Do this three times a day.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
Though some find the taste off-putting, apple cider vinegar (ACV) can help improve health by balancing the body’s pH levels, making it harder for bacteria to grow. Another benefit of organic ACV is its ability to destroy the microbes that cause sore throats. It can also help to loosen up and expel excess mucous from the chest, says Lee.
To consume ACV, Lee recommends mixing two teaspoons with one cup of pure filtered warm water and drinking this up to three times a day.
You can also add other ingredients to the beverage if you want to make it healthier or more palatable. For instance, a wedge of lemon will add some vitamin C and a dash of ceylon cinnamon powder will increase its antiseptic properties. Adding raw organic honey can help you ease a sore throat too.
3. Cayenne pepper
Cayenne pepper (and the capsaicin it contains) is another option as, in addition to containing high levels of vitamin C and having anti-inflammatory properties, it is also known to open nasal passageways for congestion, says Lee.
One easy way to consume more cayenne pepper is to simply add it to your food. You can also buy cayenne pepper supplements if your taste buds don’t like or can’t handle that much spice
“Due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, turmeric has been widely used to treat the common cold, coughs, headaches, sore throats, and congestion,” says Lee. It’s also a remedy that has been used for centuries, with some research indicating that it was utilized for medicinal practices as many as 4,000 years ago.
If you like curry, that is a great way to get more turmeric in your diet. If not, the University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that you consult with your doctor before taking a supplement so you find the proper dosage for you. Additionally, if you’re having surgery, you shouldn’t take turmeric for two weeks prior because it thins your blood.
Lee explains that the flower elderberry is both an antioxidant and an anti-microbial that some studies have found to help fight influenza viruses and various types of streptococcus. She has also found that it is a great remedy for upper respiratory infections related to the common cold.
For the most effective response, Lee recommends that you “use elderberry within the first 48 hours of any symptoms.” If you are currently on any antidiabetic drugs, diuretics, or laxatives, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center advises that you skip this herb as it may interact with these drugs.
“The benefits from eucalyptus’s essential oils or tea leaves are endless,” says Lee, adding that they are often used to treat infections, upper respiratory infections and sore throats due to the common cold.
In extract form, you can use it topically, add it to a humidifier, or use it as a spray.
If you’re consuming eucalyptus via a tea, one recipe can potentially help you ease a head cold involves mixing ½ ounce dried eucalyptus leaves with ½ ounce dried chamomile flowers and 1 ounce dried peppermint leaves and adding one teaspoon of this mixture to one cup of boiling water.
In addition to boosting the immune system, Lee advises that “ginger has the ability to treat respiratory illnesses such as coughs, upper respiratory infections, and asthma.” This is largely due to its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and pain-relieving properties.
Add it to your soups and stews, or you can take it in supplement form. If you choose the latter due to feeling nauseous or vomiting, Medscape indicates that taking 500 to 1,000 mg should help ease your stomach troubles.
8. Garlic and onion
Both of these foods contain antioxidants, serving as “a powerful antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal weapon against the common cold,” says Lee. It is the allicin within them that is believed to provide the most benefit.
When it comes to garlic specifically, “If you cannot handle eating the entire clove raw, you can hold a slice of garlic in your mouth and suck on the juices for 15 minutes,” says Lee. “You can also finely mince 1-2 cloves of garlic, mix it into a glass of water, and drink it.”
For the onions, one option is to steep raw slices in honey, let them rest overnight, and take them by the spoonful the next day, much as you would a cough syrup. And if you’re not an onion fan, Lee says that you can place sliced onions around your house, especially right next to your bed, as this “is believed to attract bacteria towards it while ‘cleansing the air.’”
9. Oregano Oil
Lee refers to oregano as “one of nature’s most powerful antibiotics,” with its terpene and carvacrol acting as natural chemicals that actively fight off bacteria, fungus, yeasts, parasites, and viruses. In fact, one S. Department of Agriculturestudy even found that oregano oil can efficiently kill salmonella and E. coli infections.
To make the most of this natural cold remedy, Lee recommends that you “take 2-3 drops, three time a day during the duration of your cold.” However, as it’s not the best-tasting oil, she also adds that you’ll likely want to have a glass of water on had to “wash it down.”
Additional natural cold remedies
In addition to taking these herbs and other natural ingredients, Lee says that there is even more you can do to help you naturally overcome the common cold faster and more effectively.
One option is to use a nasal rinse to clear and unclog nasal passageways. Do this three times a day and Lee says it “removes debris and irritants while moisturizing and soothing inflamed mucous linings.”
It also helps to alter your diet, says Lee, indicating that you should aim for one that is lower in sugar, fatty foods and foods that are heavily processed as all of these can contribute to inflammation or are hard to digest. Dairy products should be avoided when you have a cold as well, says Lee, primarily because they can increase the amount of mucous your body produces.
Finally, smokers are more susceptible at developing infections and are known to catch more colds than non-smokers, says Lee, even making the colds last longer and feel worse.
Therefore, if you do currently smoke, abstaining when you’re sick may provide some additional relief.
As always, you should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise, supplementation or medication program.
About the Author
Christina DeBusk is a freelance writer dedicated to providing readers relevant, research-backed content related to health and wellness, personal development, safety, and small business ownership.
If you enjoyed reading this MASSAGE Magazine online article, subscribe to the monthly print magazine for more articles about massage news, techniques, self-care, research, business and more, delivered monthly. Subscribe to our e-newsletter for additional unique content, including product announcements and special offers.