There’s no ‘magic pill’ that can cure the common cold. That’s because the symptoms we associate with this—cough, cold, fever, chills—can be triggered by thousands of viruses, which can mutate and resist any medication.
However, there are ways to relieve the most uncomfortable symptoms or boost your immune system so your body beats the virus faster. Best of all, these methods are completely natural and organic, and so you don’t flood your body with any artificial compounds. Try some of these the next time you feel under the weather.
1. Blow, baby, blow
When you’ve got the sniffles, don’t sniffle the mucus back into your head. Get the mucus out of your system, but don’t blow so hard that you develop an ear ache! Clear your nose the right, gentle way: cover one nostril and then, very gently, blow.
And here’s the most important thing: wash your hands after you blow your nose. Colds rarely spreads through air (that’s a common myth about colds) it’s transmittedby physical contact. You sneeze on your hand, and then touch another object that somebody else picks up. If he then touches his eyes or mouth, he’ll ‘catch’ the virus. Washing your hands can help prevent your co-workers and family members from getting sick.
2. Sleep is the best medicine
Colds aren’t debilitating; you can still go to work or do errands (albeit sniffling and coughing at every step). However, you’ll just prolong your cold—your body will have to work twice as hard to finish ordinary tasks, and will have little energy left to actually fighting the virus.
So do yourself (and everybody else who might catch the cold) a favor. Stay in bed and rest. If you have trouble sleeping (because you’re congested and have difficulty breathing) try propping your head on a pillow. And drink lots of tea and take lots of soup. Not only do these help prevent dehydration, these can temporarily relieve nasal congestion and ease throat discomfort.
One of the most annoying symptoms of a cold is a dry, itchy throat. Gargling can help. You can use commercial astringents, or a natural (and cheap) homemade solution of 1 teaspoon of salt dissolved in hot water. Some people recommend mixing honey and lemon juice into hot water; this thicker gargle solution can ‘coat’ the throat. Another gargle mixture is sage (which has antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties), apple cider vinegar and honey.
4. Apply a compress.
Hot or cold compresses can help relieve sinus discomfort. If you don’t have a hot water bag or ice bag, you can heat a damp washcloth in the microwave for about 1 minute, or wrap a towel around ice cubes.
5. Drink ginger tea.
Ginger contains almost 12 anti-viral compounds, and can help relieve the pain of sore throats and inflamed mucus membranes. It’s also been known to lower fever, and it has a slightly calming effect that can help ease you into restful sleep.
You can buy ready-prepared ginger tea or just make your own by boiling fresh ginger in hot water.
6. Add garlic and onions to your food.
Garlic and onions are often used in recipes to add flavor to a dish. When you’ve got a cold, double the amount! Not only do you need the extra flavor (since you can barely taste anything) they’re known to have healing properties.
Garlic has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties and can help fight infection and strengthen your immune system. It also is a natural antibiotic, thanks to a compound called allicin. Onions (and its cousin, leeks) have similar compounds.
7. Load up on fruits and vegetables
Oranges, pineapples, grapes, bananas, grapefruits and cantaloupes are all rich in vitamin C. Try mixing all of these into a delicious fruit shake. If you have no appetite keep a fruit platter by your bed and nibble periodically. (And while we’re on the topic of nibbling, stay away from any junk food or processed food, or foods that are oily and heavy to digest like steaks. Light, healthy food like fruits and vegetables, or soups and salads, are best. The idea is to avoid ‘stressing’ out the body processes or introducing new toxins into your system—your body should focus all its energy on flushing out the virus.)
8. Consider herbal remedies.
American Indians have been using echinachea for medicine for centuries—and researchers have verified the healing properties. Apparently it’s rich in properdin, a compound that helps strengthen the immune system and boost its defense against bacteria and viruses. It also increases your white blood cells (your body’s ‘soldiers’) so you get well faster.
Another herbal remedy is goldenseal, which also increases your while blood cells. Studies also show that goldenseal increases the flow of blood to your spleen, the ‘battle central’ that dispatches your body’s fighting cells.
Some herbal remedies combine goldenseal with echinachea, garlic, ginger and other immune system boosters like gingko biloba and astragalus.
However, do get doctor’s clearance before trying any herbal remedy if you are pregnant, are suffering from heart conditions and high blood pressure, or are taking any maintenance medication that can have contraindications against these compounds.
9. Suck on licorice.
Licorice candy is delicious, and its been used for generations as a way of treating throat problems, colds, coughs and even asthma and bronchitis. It has high amounts of interferon, which can help your body expel mucus and minimizes inflammation of the mucus membranes.
10. Try aromatherapy
Peppermint oils and juniper oils can help clear congestion and are very soothing. Just add a few drops of these oils into boiled water, and either place in an aromatherapy burner or inhale directly (place in a bowl near your face, cover your head with a towel, and inhale the steam).
11. Sweat it out.
If you’re experiencing chills or have a fever, try to ‘sweat out’ your cold. Try wearing extra layers of clothing, or take herbs that help promote sweating. These include lemon balm, borage, catnip, and yarrow.
12. Use a nebulizer.
Nebulizers are machines that help administer medicine in the form of mist. They can also be used with simple saline (or salt and water) solutions, which can help with congestion.