We’re in the midst of the dreaded cold and flu season. There is nothing worse – runny nose, throbbing head, sore throat, coughing and chills….but this year don’t let it get the best of you. I found 10 natural ways to cure my cold here, and they are sure to help the symptoms associated with the common cold. Here are a few of my favorites:
This essential mineral boosts the immune system and has been linked to a decrease in viral activity. In fact, a landmark 1996 study of 100 adults at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, found that people who sucked 6-8 zinc lozenges a day felt relief from their colds in 4.4 days, compared with 7.6 days for those taking a placebo.
How to use it: Take 15-30 milligrams in lozenge form at the first sign of a tickly throat, runny nose or fatigue, says Fred Pescatore, M.D., an integrative physician and president of the International and American Associations of Clinical Nutritionists. “The lozenge works better than a pill form because it’s at the site of the viral action,” he says. “Suck on one every couple of hours until you feel better.” Stay away from zinc-based nasal sprays, which could damage sensitive olfactory nerves and cause a loss in your sense of smell.
Derived from the purple coneflower family, this herb is a powerful cold fighter, according to a 2007 University of Connecticut study. In a review of 14 clinical trials involving about 3,000 people, researchers found that echinacea cut the risk of catching a cold by 58% and reduced the cold’s stay by almost 1-1/2 days. However, you should only use it for prevention because once you have the cold or flu, you’re out of luck.
3. Vitamin C
Found in many fruits and vegetables (such as oranges, red peppers and broccoli), vitamin C has long been thought to reduce risk of illness.
A 2007 review by the Cochrane Collaboration, a nonprofit organization that analyzes health care studies, found that vitamin C taken after a cold had started didn’t make a difference: The cold lasted as long and was as severe. But if taken both before and during a cold, it shortened the viral illness’s duration in adults by 8%.
The powdered drink Emergen-C is a great choice. Each packet has 1,000 mg of vitamin C, plus electrolytes. Drink it daily over the course of the cold or flu.
Honey, made from flower pollen and enzymes in bee saliva, has antioxidants and antiviral and antibacterial properties – all of which make it a top cold-fighter. Antioxidants in honey – all kinds – may also boost the immune system.
A 2007 Pennsylvania State University study found that in 105 children with upper respiratory infections, those taking honey had a 40% improvement in their coughs and restless sleep compared to untreated children.
Try adding two tablespoons of honey to a cup of warm, boiled water or green tea, Klimenko says. Add a squirt or two of lemon for a boost of vitamin C.
5. Chicken soup
It’s soup the way your grandmother made it: golden broth, chicken, carrots and onions. Its effectiveness isn’t just an old wives’ tale. Both the chicken and vegetables inhibit inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which causes coughs and congestion, according to a 2000 study at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.
Also, chicken soup contains an amino acid that acts like the drug acetylcysteine, which is used to treat bronchitis and other lung ailments.
6. Ginger tea
The gnarly root of the ginger plant contains compounds called gingerols that attack pain, inflammation, germs and viruses. When you have a cold or flu, you need fluids, and ginger tea is a nice way of getting them without a lot of added sugar.
How to use it: To soothe a sore throat, steep two teaspoons of shredded ginger in a cup of hot water (if you prefer something cool, use a cup of sparkling water). Drink 2-3 cups a day.
7. Steam and Eucalyptus Oil
Ever drain a pot of pasta and feel your nose drip? Steam is a surefire way to clear a stuffy nose. Although it doesn’t kill cold or flu viruses, “steam opens the sinuses and airways so you can breathe better,” Klimenko says. For an added bonus, add 4-5 drops of eucalyptus oil to the steaming water, make a tent over your head with a towel and inhale the steam for 5 minutes. A 2009 study by the University of Heidelberg in Germany found that eucalyptus oil reduced viral infection — the source of colds and flu — in a test tube by 96% by deactivating virus particles.
You can also set up a humidifier in your bedroom, which may help you sleep better, or fill your bathroom with steam by running a hot shower or bath, she says.
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