According to the National Center For Health Statistics, approximately 62 million cases of the common cold required medical attention, caused 45 million days of restricted activity and 22 million days lost from school. The cold remains the most common reason for visiting the doctor. However, make no mistake; you do not have to get the common cold just because you are exposed to the virus.
In the 19th century, there was a great debate between Louis Pasteur, founder of medical microbiology and Claude Bernard, widely recognized as the “Father of Physiology”, regarding the concept of the “seed or the soil”. Pasteur believed that the seed (germ) was responsible for illness, meaning that simple exposure was the cause of disease. Bernard believed that the seed could not take root unless the soil (body) was conducive to its growth. Furthermore, he believed that illness only occurred when the internal environment of the body was favorable to the germ.
On Pasteur’s deathbed he conceded, “It is the soil, not the seed.” The first defense against the common cold or any germ is to make sure that your internal environment is not conducive to a germ taking hold and causing illness in the first place. That being said, the first defense is to take charge of your health; eat a nutrient dense diet, honor your sleep patterns, and exercise regularly.
Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try, the common cold happens! There the are many things you can do to help minimize your colds symptoms and duration and offer relief until it has run its course.
Below are my Top Ten approaches that I have found extremely helpful in minimizing the strength and duration of the common cold once you are exposed or feel the beginnings of the virus taking hold.
1. Drink some ginger, cardamom and cinnamon tea.
This tea has warming, decongestant, expectorant, cough suppressing and anti-inflammatory properties. I always make this the second I feel a cold coming on and I have found it to be a powerful aid when trying “to fight off a cold”
- 1 tablespoon of sliced ginger
- 3 cups water
- ¼ tsp. of cinnamon
- Pinch of cardamom
Bring water to a boil. Lower heat and add 1 tablespoon of sliced or grated ginger, ¼ tsp of cinnamon and a pinch of cardamom. Simmer slowly for 15 minutes. Strain if desired and add a little honey and lemon.
Here is one more you may want to explore. I’m not promising you’ll like that taste but it delivers!
Coriander & Ginger root tea
Brown 4 tablespoons of coriander seeds in a frying pan then boil with 4 cups of water and 4 large slices of ginger root. Reduce to two cups of liquid, strain and drink up. I don’t remember where I picked this one up but it is magical. If you have a big affair coming up and you start to sniffle, put on your big girl pants and make this tea!
2. Make a pot of soup.
Grandma was right! There are studies that show that it really does work. The steam from a nice hot bowl of Chicken soup will thin mucous, temporarily clear sinus passages; a little cayenne pepper sprinkled in the soup also helps. You can also make a nutrient dense vegetable soup with plenty of garlic and onions which will also help to relieve symptoms, boost the immune system and decrease inflammation.
3. Learn to use a neti pot
The gentle cleansing of your sinuses is very therapeutic. Dr. Oz and Oprah did a piece on neti’s and they started flying off the shelves; Oprah claims she doesn’t travel without her neti pot! The first time I was introduced to a neti I cringed; I’ll admit it is a bit strange to tilt your head and pour a slow steady stream of salt water into your nose. However, it really isn’t as scary as it seems, trust me. The minute I feel a cold coming on I use it and it seems to reduce the severity and duration of a cold.
You must do it properly and always use distilled water – never tap or spring water. If you just can’t bring yourself to use a neti, try an over-the-counter saline nasal spray. Nasal saline sprays can help relieve stuffiness and congestion. As another added bonus, they won’t lead to the rebound congestion that sometimes follows the use of nasal decongestants.
4. Remedies from my childhood
Gargle with salt water
As soon as my throat would start to bother me, my mom would take out the salt and have me gargle a salt and warm water mixture. This helps reduce your symptoms, offering temporary relief from a dry and scratchy throat. Add 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of salt into 8 ounces of warm water and gargle for a few seconds; repeat until you have used all of the mixture.
Don’t forget the honey & lemon
I loved this yummy home remedy when I was a child. My mom would put honey and a squirt of lemon on a tablespoon every couple of hours to help ease the cough symptoms before I went to sleep. A study, carried out by pediatricians at Pennsylvania State University medical school concluded that honey actually produced better results in reducing cough than dextromethorphan, a commonly prescribed cough suppressant. Note: Children under the age of one should never be given honey because it can cause infantile botulism.
Get in bed
Rest is the natural healer. We cannot heal if we are running on empty. Once you feel the onset sneaking up on you, respect your body’s desire to stop. Stop doing and relax. Give in. Clear your calendar and allow yourself time to heal.
5. Herbal Steam tent
When I was a kid my mom would boil a pot of water, put it on the table and have me sit under a towel breathing in the steam. I still love to do this when I am congested. Boil 4 cups of water and pour into a heavy, sturdy ceramic bowl that will not tip over easily. Add two tablespoons of fresh herbs to the water. I like a thyme/rosemary combination; you can also use peppermint, sage, or rosemary. Substitute 2 tablespoons of dried herbs if you don’t have fresh herbs available. I have a table-top personal steamer that I used when the kids were small because the bowl of boiling water made me a little nervous; you can buy one on Amazon.
6. Do a little yoga
The following poses will help by bringing energy to the head and chest area, help clear the sinuses, open the chest area and increase circulation to the upper torso: Standing or seated forward bend, supported bridge pose, and legs up the wall pose.
7. Drink plenty of water and tea
It is best to drink water with some orange and lemon slices and some green tea; stay away from processed fruit juices which are often high in sugar and low in fiber. Drinking a nice warm cup of green tea with some honey will help reduce the duration of your cold. A study by researchers at University of Florida and the Nutritional Science Research has now clinically proven that Camellia Sinensis (the plant used to make green tea) can enhance the body’s immune system, resulting in a decreased incidence and duration of cold and flu symptoms. The findings appear in the October 2007 issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Licorice tea will help relieve a sore throat and a few drops of sage extract in a cup of hot water will act as an expectorant and help calm an annoying cough.
8. Minimize sugar
According to a study at Loma Linda University, people who consumed 6 tablespoons of sugar experienced a decrease in the ability of their infection-fighting blood cells to fight off bacteria and viruses. Your immune system will remain compromised for several hours after sugar consumption, giving your body a decreased ability to heal itself.
9. Take some elderberry extract
There is a bit of controversy on the effects of elderberry on the common cold and flu, but some experts say they can be helpful. Elderberry has been used for centuries and is reported to have antiviral activity against influenza and the common cold. Some studies demonstrate that Sambucol (formulation of black elderberry extract) may have a measurable effect in treating the flu, alleviating allergies, and boosting overall respiratory health.
Here is an excerpt from the study conducted and reported in the Journal of International Medical Research: “In view of its in vitro and in vivo efficacy on influenza A and B viruses, elderberry extract offers an efficient, safe and cost-effective supplement to the present armamentarium of medications for the prophylaxis and treatment of influenza.” That’s good enough for me!
10. Meditate to improve your immune system
Your mind can cut your chances of catching a cold by 40 to 50 percent, according to a 2012 University of Wisconsin, Madison, study. Fifty-one people who used mindfulness techniques logged 13 fewer illnesses and 51 fewer sick days than a control group during one cold-and-flu season. These results do indicate that meditation can play a role in reducing physical effects of stress that weaken the immune system. Missed days due to the flu or common cold were the lowest in the meditating group at 16, followed by the exercise group at 32. Those in the control group missed 67 days.
“Some of the interesting things was that some people were infected the same amount yet they had less severe symptoms in terms of global severity and days of illness,” said Shapiro, who was not part of the study. “It’s pretty striking for (the) meditation group in terms of the decreased number of days of illness.”
Do you have any natural cold/flu remedies you would like to share?
We would love to hear from you!
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Thank you so much! Great advice and perfect timing! I swear by homemade hot chicken soup also.
Judy Banks says
Nothing like some chicken soup to chase the bug away! The Coriander tea is powerful- I promise- it’s magic!
Cee Strickland says
Thanks for the tips. I never used a neti pot but will be purchasing one this year. We live by the chicken soup in our home as well. Will try the Coriander tea too.