We’ve all heard the old adage regarding a cold: it’s three days coming, three days with you, and three days to leave. Luckily, that doesn’t have to be true.
The following are my favorite 7 ways to treat a cold or flu and best of all, they’re all natural without significant side effects.
You know that terrible feeling you get when you have a cold? It’s actually not the bacteria or viral infection; it’s your body’s immune system in action. The muscle aches and pains are actually a result of muscle breakdown so that proteins can be utilized in building the antibodies you need to fight infection. That exhaustion? It’s a sign that you should REST! Listen to your body and take a few days off.
Let’s face it, fevers are no fun. But they do serve a very important purpose. Not only does the higher temperature kill bacteria and viruses sensitive to temperature changes, it also helps stimulate the immune system to produce more white blood cells, which also attack those foreign invaders. You may suffer for a day or so, but resist the urge to chug down the Tylenol and the duration of your cold should shorten.
3. Warming Socks
This is one of my favorite remedies. The theory behind warming socks is that circulation is increased, fever supported, and heat and congestion drawn down from the head and chest toward the feet. I don’t know that any studies have supported these theories, but warming socks just make me feel good and help me sleep better.
Soak a pair of thin cotton socks in the coldest water you can stand, wring them out and put them on your feet. Cover with thick, dry cotton or wool socks and head to bed. Admittedly it’s a little shocking a first but your feet will begin to warm and by morning they should be dry. You can repeat this for as many days as needed. This can also be done around the throat with scarves.
The active component of garlic, allicin, is also what makes this potent antimicrobial smell so… well, garlicky. Your friends may want to avoid you for a few days if you use this remedy, but they should probably be avoiding you anyway during this time. (After all, you’re contagious!)
I love crushed, raw garlic and this form contains the most allicin but if you want to tone it down a little, roasting or lightly sautéing it can still help. For those true garlic lovers, try garlic tea: crushed garlic cloves, a tiny bit of honey and hot water. Steep and sip throughout the day (this is also great for bladder or kidney infections).
Studies are conflicting regarding zinc and its effects on cold symptoms. However most of these studies looked at the effects of topical zinc (like nasal sprays) and zinc lozenges. Further analysis of 15 different clinical trials suggest that zinc, when taken within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms, can reduce the duration of cold symptoms. So if you start taking it immediately when symptoms begin, chances are it can help. Remember, large doses of zinc should never be taken long term.
Before you head for the candy aisle, opt for the herbalist instead. Or at least the herbal section of your local Whole Foods. Glycyrrhiza or licorice is a sweet tasting root with potent antimicrobial properties. You can find it in many herbal teas as a way to add sweetness without utilizing sugar. The flavor isn’t for everyone (I intensely dislike it but force myself to use it) but if you enjoy it, look for an herbal tea with licorice as one of the main ingredients and drink as 1-3 cups a day. Those with liver or kidney problems and pregnant or breast feeding women should avoid this herb.
Andrographis is my absolute favorite herb. It’s used to treat infections, including HIV, inflammation and cancer. It’s easily absorbed when taken orally and has never failed to shorten the duration and relieve the symptoms of a cold whenever I’ve used it. And what’s even better, several studies support its use. Look for capsules that contain whole herb which can be found readily at stores like New Seasons or Whole Foods.