Echinacea spp. (Purple coneflower)
A much debated and studied remedy that is said to decrease the duration of a cold as well as symptoms. Look for a high quality preparation that is a blend of both Echinacea purpurea, and Echincaea angustifolia. These two varieties contain high amounts of the immune modulating constituents. High quality preparations (the ones worth spending money on) should make your tongue tingle slightly on contact. Take Echinacea in tincture or tea form 3-4x daily as soon as you notice a cold coming on. (Avoid if you have a ragweed allergy, Echinacea may exacerbate symptoms).
Elderberries are rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and contain antiviral compounds that stimulate the immune system. Great for both cold and flus, it is a tasty herb that can be taken in syrup form (great for kids!) tinctures, or teas.
Allium Sativum and Allium Cepa (fancy talk for garlic and onions)
Antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal, garlic and onions are cheap, easy, and effective ways to fight that cold. While garlic is the more potent cold killer, onions contain many of the same immune boosting properties. Use both in the homemade cough syrup recipe below!
Homemade Cough syrup with Honey and Onions
An easy and natural homemade cough syrup. Slice an onion and layer with good quality organic honey in container or jar. Let stand for a few hours and voila! The onions soften and honey liquefies, producing a delicious and soothing throat and cough syrup with the antibacterial greatness of honey with the immune boosting properties of onion. You can also add garlic to your mixture to really give it a boost!
A great anti-oxidant that can help to reduce the duration of cold symptoms. You can typically find Vitamin C at any health food store or grocery store, but avoid the chewables that have added sugar. Chewables can also be hard on your teeth and enamel due to their high acid content.
An important modulator of our immune responses. Deficiency of vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity and increased susceptibility to infection. Pick a liquid emulsified vitamin D3 for proper absorption.
An essential mineral required for wound healing, reproductive health, vision, and you guessed it – immune function. Studies show that zinc supplementation can reduce the severity and duration of the common cold. You can also find zinc gluconate lozenges that can be helpful. Long term zinc supplementation can lead to a deficiency of copper in the body, so if you plan on taking zinc long term consult your healthcare provider.
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)
Has been used for bronchitis and COPD for decades and is great for lung health, congestion, and mucus formation. NAC is also a potent anti-oxidant and can reduce the intensity of the common cold as well as the flu.
Hydrotherapy is GREAT for stimulating the immune system as well as symptom relief.
A great way to ease congestion. If you don’t know what a Neti Pot is or how to use one, you can watch this video here from WebMD http://www.webmd.com/allergies/video/truth-about-neti-pots. Adding probiotics to your neti pot is another great way to clear congestion and introduce healthy bacteria into the nasal cavity.
A very easy at home practice that introduces warm moist air into the nose, throat and lungs. Great for clearing congestion, loosening mucus, relieving coughs, and adding moisture to dry mucus membranes. Boil a few cups of water and pour into a bowl. You can also add a few drops of essential oil to the water (I like eucalyptus during a cold). Place head over bowl and cover with a towel, while inhaling deeply for 10-15 minutes. Repeat as often as necessary.
Hot and Cold showers
Therapeutic hot/cold showers can increase metabolic rate and activate the immune system. The contrasting temperature also increased blood flow and increasing lymph drainage. Follow a 3:1 hot:cold ratio (1.5 min hot, then 30 seconds cold) and repeat at least 3 times, ending on cold. This can be stimulating for some so I wouldn’t recommend it before bed. If it’s your first time trying hot/cold showers use moderate temperatures, and work your way up to increase the contrast in temperatures. Avoid if you have high blood pressure or are experiencing a high fever.
Avoid sugar which can depress your immune system, and foods like dairy products and bananas that can encourage mucus to form and thicken. Increase your fluid intake by drinking lots of water and herbal teas. Ginger root, lemon and honey makes a great tea when feeling under the weather. Enjoy light healthy meals like homemade soup (bone broth would be great), fresh or lightly steamed veggies, and frozen berries which can feel wonderful on a sore throat.
Light exercise can be a great way to fight a cold IF you are feeling well enough. No cross fit or marathons please, but perhaps a short walk or gentle stretching. It's a great way to get your body temperature up, activate your immune system, and get your blood and lymph moving. Be sure to listen to your body and rest accordingly. Speaking of which…
Rest and listen to your body
Sometimes illness is our body’s way of saying ‘slow down’. So, it’s important to listen and take the time to rest and recuperate. Sleep is likely the most important thing you can do to bounce back quickly from a cold! Give yourself permission to take a day or two off of work if possible. Have naps, go to bed early, and cancel any plans that aren’t crucial. Your friends will forgive you and your body will thank you.
Take good care during this cold and flu season!
Dr. Katie Rothwell, ND