WPHL offers a list of ways to fight a cold that are more natural and more affordable than pricey, over-the-counter medicines. They include:
The inner bark of the Slippery Elm, when mixed with water, it becomes a slick gel. This gel is rich with antioxidants and coats your throat, stomach lining and intestines.
Making a tea from the herb echinacea may help fight the common cold. Goldenseal tea helps treat respiratory tract infections, eye infections and even yeast infections. Hot ginger or elderberry tea can help soothe a sore throat.
If you have a sore throat, try gargling with a honey mixture.
Nasal Saline Rinse
A natural nasal saline irrigates your nose and helps clear thick mucus and relieve pressure from your sinuses.
Steam can moisturize your nasal passages and will help the pressure from your sinuses.
White and Cider Vinegar
Wearing a pair of cotton socks soaked in white vinegar is an old, natural remedy that is still used today to reduce a fever.
White willow is a natural anti-inflammatory and fever reducing remedy.
Chicken Noodle Soup
Chicken noodle soup has been medically proven to help cure a cold or fever. It is most effective if the soup is made with actual chicken bones in the broth.
Here's one folk remedy to cure a cough or chest cold -- chop raw pieces of garlic and mix it with olive oil. Let the mixture sit for a half hour, and then rub the mixture on the bottoms of your feet and cover with socks. The garlic will be absorbed by your skin.
Ginseng can help cure a cold or the flu, as well as prevent future colds if taken as a daily supplement.
Americans catch more than one billion colds a year, making it the most common infectious disease in the US. It's also the number one reason for doctor's office visits, despite the fact that conventional medicine has little to offer in the form of treatment.
One of the reasons for this is because colds are caused by viruses (and there are more than 300 cold-causing viruses), not bacteria. So taking an antibiotic for your cold will NOT do you any good whatsoever. Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections, such as sinus, ear and lung infections, including bronchitis and pneumonia.
Generally speaking, you do not need to seek medical care for a simple cold. However, if you have symptoms indicative of a bacterial infection you may want to consider visiting your doctor. For signs and symptoms to look out for, please see this article.
The Case Against OTC Cold and Cough Remedies
Most uncomplicated colds last between eight and nine days, but about 25 percent last two weeks, and 5-10 percent last three weeks. How quickly your cold is resolved has a lot to do with your general lifestyle habits and the state of your immune system.
More often than not, over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold remedies will NOT cause a speedier recovery. In fact, some may simply prolong your agony by working against your body's natural defense- and healing mechanisms.
For example, one previous study showed that people who take aspirin and Tylenol (acetaminophen) simply suppress their body's ability to produce antibodies to destroy the cold virus. This is the complete opposite of what you're looking for…
The natural remedies listed above can help reduce your worst symptoms, which is all OTC drugs can do as well, but without the potentially dangerous side effects.
However, an even better option would be to implement certain lifestyle strategies that can help you avoid ever getting a cold in the first place.
The Importance of Maintaining a Robust Immune System
It's important to understand that the primary underlying reason for why you keep catching colds is an impaired immune system.
Just being exposed to a cold virus does not mean you will automatically catch a cold. If your immune system is operating at its peak, it should actually be quite easy for you to fend off the virus without ever getting sick.
If your immune system is impaired however, viruses can easily overwhelm your natural defenses and take hold.
A robust immune system is dependent on a number of lifestyle and environmental factors, but the most common factors are:
- Optimized vitamin D levels -- Research has confirmed that "catching" colds and flu may actually be a symptom of an underlying vitamin D deficiency. Less than optimal vitamin D levels will significantly impair your immune response and make you far more susceptible to contracting colds, influenza, and other respiratory infections.
In the largest and most nationally representative study of its kind to date, people with the lowest vitamin D levels reported having significantly more recent colds or cases of the flu -- and the risk was even greater for those with chronic respiratory disorders like asthma.
I strongly believe you could avoid colds and influenza entirely by maintaining your vitamin D level in the optimal range. Vitamin D is an amazingly effective antimicrobial agent, producing 200 to 300 different antimicrobial peptides in your body that kill both bacteria and viruses.
- Avoiding sugar and grains -- If you feel yourself coming down with a cold or flu, this is NOT the time to eat sugar, grains, artificial sweeteners or processed foods. Sugar is particularly damaging to your immune system -- which needs to be ramped up, not suppressed, in order to combat an emerging infection.
- Getting proper rest -- If you aren't getting enough sleep, or enough restorative sleep, you'll be at increased risk for a hostile viral takeover. Your immune system is also the most effective when you're not sleep-deprived, so the more rested you are the quicker you'll recover. You can find 33 secrets for a good night's sleep here.
- Effectively addressing emotional stressors -- Emotional stressors can predispose you to an infection and make cold symptoms worse.
Finding ways to manage daily stress as well as your reactions to circumstances beyond your control will contribute to a strong and resilient immune system. My favorite tool for this is the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), a system that helps balance your body's subtle energies and repair emotional "short-circuits." EFT may even help you overcome cold symptoms.
- Regular exercise – Regular exercise is a crucial strategy for increasing your resistance to illness. There is evidence that regular, moderate exercise can reduce your risk for respiratory illness by boosting your immune system.
In fact, one study found that people who exercised regularly (five or more days a week) cut their risk of having a cold by close to 50 percent. Exercise likely cuts your risk of colds so significantly because it triggers a rise in immune system cells that can attack any potential invaders.
Ideally, establish a regular fitness program, such as Peak Fitness, now, to help you ward off colds and other illness.
However, if you're already feeling sick don't overdo it. Over-exercising can actually place more stress on your body, which can suppress your immune system -- and you don't want that either. You might just go for a walk if you are coming down with a cold, or simply tone down your regular workout. Any rise in body temperature will be an unwelcome climate for a viral invader, though, so some exercise during a bout of cold is likely to be beneficial.
If you address these five primary factors that can make or break your immune system, you'll be well on your way to never having to suffer another cold again.
However, should you come down with one, then what?
Safe and Natural Cold Remedies
The list created by WPHL contains several of my recommended home remedies. Here are several more suggestions that they missed, including vitamins and other supplements that can help treat your cold symptoms.
- Hydrogen peroxide: I don't advise over-the-counter medications, but one simple treatment you can try that is surprisingly effective against upper respiratory infections is hydrogen peroxide.
Many patients at my Natural Health Center have had remarkable results in curing colds and flu within 12 to 14 hours when administering a few drops of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) into each ear. You will hear some bubbling, which is completely normal, and possibly feel a slight stinging sensation.
Wait until the bubbling and stinging subside (usually 5 to 10 minutes), then drain onto a tissue and repeat with the other ear. A bottle of hydrogen peroxide in 3 percent solution is available at any drug store for a couple of dollars or less. It is simply amazing how many people respond to this simple, inexpensive treatment.
- Herbs and spices with high ORAC scores, such as turmeric, oregano, cinnamon, and cloves (for more on ORAC, visit www.oracvalues.com). You can simply add these liberally to your food.
- Vitamin C: A very potent antioxidant; use a natural form such as acerola, which contains associated micronutrients. You can take several grams every hour till you are better unless you start developing loose stools
- Oregano Oil: The higher the carvacrol concentration, the more effective it is. Carvacrol is the most active antimicrobial agent in oregano oil.
- Propolis: A bee resin and one of the most broad-spectrum antimicrobial compounds in the world; propolis is also the richest source of caffeic acid and apigenin, two very important compounds that aid in immune response and even fight cancer.
- Elder flower extract: Rich in vitamin C and a wide range of valuable flavinoids, including anthocyanins and quercetin, elder flower has been traditionally used as a tonic to boost immunity. It is also widely known to promote lung and bronchial tract health.
- Elderberry: In one study, published in the Journal of International Medical Research, elderberry syrup reduced the severity of flu symptoms and shortened their duration by about four days. Elderberry extract is also known for inducing sweating, and helps relieve congestion.
- A tea made from a combination of elder flower, yarrow, boneset, linden, peppermint and ginger; drink it hot and often for combating a cold or flu. It causes you to sweat, which is helpful for eradicating a virus from your system.
- Olive leaf extract: Ancient Egyptians and Mediterranean cultures used it for a variety of health-promoting uses and it is widely known as a natural, non-toxic immune system builder.
Also make sure to drink plenty of fresh, pure water. Water is essential for the optimal function of every system in your body and will help loosen secretions. Drink enough water to turn your urine a light, pale yellow.
Homemade Cough Remedy
As mentioned by WPHL, honey can help relieve a sore throat or bothersome cough. However, it's important to make sure you're using raw honey for optimal health benefits.
That said, it's quite easy to make your own homemade cough and cold remedy. The Organic Consumers Association has published several great recipes, including this simple honey lemon cough syrup:
Honey Lemon Cough Syrup
Lemon helps promote health by quickly alkalinizing your body, and honey will kill any bacteria. This is a perfect choice for a quick cough remedy.
For even more great recipes for dry cough, wet cough, antiviral syrup, plus several soothing tea recipes, please see the Organic Consumers Association article.