10 Natural Remedies for the Common Cold

September 06, 2019

"Doing these things are sure to help you feel better and get you back to your normal routine in no time!"

Cold season has already started, but not to worry! On today’s live show, Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD, shares the 10 best ways to treat a cold naturally. She’ll also dispel some of the major cold-related myths out there, including when we’re contagious (and when we’re not), when it’s necessary to steer clear of work, school, or the gym, and the best strategy for a quick recovery. Be prepared for cooler temperatures and ready to have a healthy fall!

Video Highlights

  • 03:28: Did You Know?
  • 12:28: Ginger
  • 15:24: Chicken Soup
  • 17:31: Vitamin C
  • 19:07: Echinacea
  • 20:53: Aromatherapy
  • 23:47: Garlic
  • 36:42: Honey
  • 38:42: Probiotics
  • 39:54: Water
  • 41:23: Get More Sleep
  • 42:02: Saltwater
  • 42:55: Should you skip work, school, and the gym if you have a cold? 
  • 47:08: Wrap-Up

Did You Know?

  • A sneeze can reach speeds of 100 miles per hour!
  • Over 200 different viruses can cause the common cold, and they are different from the viruses that cause the flu.
  • Viruses and germs can live in your sink and on surfaces like doorknobs and kitchen counters for up to 3 hours. So, if someone in your house has a cold, wipe down surfaces with an all-natural disinfectant or antibacterial spray. 
  • You are most contagious a few days before your cold symptoms even start and then for 2 to 4 days after your cold hits. Be diligent about washing your hands and avoiding touching your nose and mouth. When you cough, cough into your elbow or use a tissue rather than coughing into your hand. 
  • Also, contrary to popular belief, going outside with wet hair and sleeping with bare feet will not cause you to catch a cold. Holding your breath after someone coughs or sneezes, wearing gloves, wearing surgical masks, using paper towels to open doors, kicking the toilet seat closed when you flush, and other common precautions don’t actually prevent colds.
  • It is true, however, that stress can compromise your immune system and make you more susceptible to catching a cold, as can eating a poor diet that’s loaded with unhealthy carbs, refined sugars, and saturated fats. It’s important to manage your stress properly through exercise, yoga, and deep breathing techniques, and eat a diet rich in high-fiber and nutrient-dense fruits, veggies, lean proteins and healthy carbs like quinoa and brown rice. These are vital steps in preventing illness both minor like the common cold and even serious illnesses like heart disease and stroke. 

Even with precautions, adults average 2 to 3 colds a year while kids average 6 to 10. Chances are good, then, that you’re going to get at least one cold this year, no matter how healthy you are. That’s why we’re going to share some things you can do to alleviate symptoms and get over your cold more quickly.

10 Natural Cold Treatments 

Ginger 

This is #1 on our list of home remedies that can help treat the common cold. Come to think of it, ginger is pretty high up on a lot of health lists. That’s because it’s a superfood, meaning it contains tons of vitamins, antioxidants, and other nutrients that benefit your health and reduce your risk of disease. Ginger is great for alleviating symptoms associated with a cold, namely cough, mucus build-up, headache, and general muscle aches. 

As soon as you feel a cold coming on, place a tablespoon or two of fresh grated ginger in a mug of hot water and add ½ teaspoon of cinnamon and half a lemon. Cinnamon also contains tons of antioxidants and lemon contains lots of vitamin C. Placing the lemon directly in the warm water (as opposed to squeezing in just the juice) can have extra health benefits since the rind contains calcium, potassium, vitamin C, and has antifungal and antimicrobial properties, which can help kill bacteria causing your cold. 

Chicken Soup

How many of you crave a nice warm bowl of chicken soup when you’re sick? Studies suggest that there is actually some science behind eating chicken soup to reduce cold symptoms. When you get a cold, your body initiates its natural inflammatory response to fight it. As a result, white blood cells flock to your upper respiratory tract, where the inflammatory response typically engages during a cold. This migration of white blood cells is what leads to symptoms associated with a cold like a stuffy, runny nose and sneezing. One study found that there were fewer white blood cells after chicken soup was consumed. While it is unclear which ingredient in particular is responsible for this phenomena, chicken does contain something called carnosine which works like an anti-inflammatory and can alleviate and even help prevent getting a cold. 

Vitamin C 

Here is another one that can help you recover from a cold more quickly. Whether you consume it in supplement form or by eating foods like citrus fruits, cantaloupe, papaya, pineapple, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, upping your vitamin C intake to 200 milligrams or more per day can lessen the symptoms of your cold, as well as also shorten its duration and act as a preventative. 

Echinacea 

Echinacea is another great preventative against the common cold, and it can also work to lessen the duration of your cold if taken two to three times daily at the first sign of symptoms. Naturopaths and scientists are a bit divided on the efficacy of echinacea as a cold preventative and symptom reducer, but many people swear by it. It can be taken as a supplement or you can drink it as a tea. We recommend it as a symptom reducer taken when you first suspect you are getting a cold, not as something to be taken daily. So, in our opinion it’s better for situational use.

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy can work wonders on loosening mucus and opening up your sinuses, as can taking the steamiest shower you can tolerate. When you put these two together, you have a heavenly, soothing combo that’s sure to help you feel better. Essential oils like peppermint and camphor are great for alleviating congestion, but a eucalyptus steam is really where it’s at. Place a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil on the floor of your shower and turn the water on as hot as you can stand it. 

Eucalyptus has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties and will help promote drainage in congested sinuses, as well as reduce muscle spasms associated with coughing. 

You can also place a few drops of eucalyptus in a bowl of hot water and place a towel over your head and the bowl so you can breathe in the steam that way. 

Garlic 

This is another superfood that makes its way onto a lot of our lists. Garlic is not only a flavorful addition to so many delicious recipes, but it helps improve cognitive function, blood sugar levels, reduces your risk of heart disease, and gives your immune system a boost. That’s why it’s on this list — garlic can help fight the common cold.  

It’s sulfur in garlic that gives it its pungent smell. Garlic contains a compound called alliin — if you saw our recent Kitchen Cures show, then you know a little about this. When you chew garlic, that alliin turns into something called allicin and allicin contains sulfur. This is also what gives garlic its immune-boosting properties. Garlic’s sulfur-containing compounds target white blood cells in the body and work with them to fight certain viruses like the common cold. Studies have shown that garlic can greatly reduce the duration and severity of the cold and flu. Not only that, but eating garlic or taking a garlic supplement has been proven to help prevent getting a cold in the first place. 

Some ways of preparing garlic are better than others when it comes to preserving its health benefits. You should slice or crush your garlic prior to eating it. This boosts its allicin content. It’s also a good idea to let your garlic “rest” for about 10 minutes or so after you crush it and prior to cooking with it. This also helps boost its health benefits.  

The last thing you can do to maximize its immune-boost properties is eat lots of it. The only downside to this, of course, is bad breath and even the body odor that could result, especially if you make this great recipe, that works wonders on reducing the duration of and preventing colds.

40 Garlic Clove Soup Recipe 

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 40 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • ¼ cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cups organic chicken broth
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan and set aside. In an oven-proof casserole dish, place 30 of the garlic cloves and the rest of the olive oil. Cover and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the garlic is soft and brown. 

While the garlic is roasting, coarsely chop the remaining garlic and let rest for 10 minutes. Then, add them to the saucepan alongside the onions. Cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to soften and brown, about 5 minutes. 

Add the chicken broth, thyme, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes. 

Once the roasted garlic is done, add to the saucepan using a slotted spoon. You can use the garlic oil for later use FYI. 

The last step is to puree the soup either using an immersion blender or transferring it to a blender in batches. Return to the saucepan, add the lemon juice, and serve!

Honey

Honey is another excellent natural cold remedy. Raw, organic honey is great to have on-hand for its antibacterial and antioxidant properties. It’s especially great if you’ve got the sore throat and cough that often accompanies a cold. Honey soothes and coats the throat, providing sore throat relief, and one study found that it relieved the symptoms associated with acute coughs, leading to improved sleep and a shorter duration of infection. 

Either take 2 teaspoons straight, or mix a little honey in your tea or in a mug of hot lemon water. 

Probiotics

Taking probiotics daily is another natural remedy that can help prevent colds, as well as work to lessen the severity of symptoms and shorten the amount of time you’re suffering from those symptoms. We recommend our own Smarter Gut Health pro and prebiotic supplement to help improve your gut health, which will, in turn help boost immunity. This type of probiotic uses 3 well-studied top bacteria strains, in addition to flaxseed and MCT oils to bring balance to your digestive system, and when your gut flora is in balance, the rest of your health will be, too. 

Water

We’ve often talked about the importance of drinking enough water — you should be drinking half your bodyweight in ounces per day to stay properly hydrated. Making sure you’re properly hydrated is always important, and especially crucial to helping you recover quickly if you catch a cold. Drinking enough water or even staying properly hydrated by drinking tea or broth when you have a cold can help keep your nasal passages and your airways moist and loosen mucus as a result. Getting lots of liquids will also help prevent dehydration and flush your system, essentially washing away the germs. 

Get Extra Sleep

Make sure to get plenty of sleep. Also, consider sleeping with an extra pillow under your head so your sinuses have an opportunity to drain, which will also help you get more sleep since it’s often that mucus drainage that keeps you up coughing all night when you’re sick. 

Saltwater Gargle

One more thing you can do to ease a sore throat is gargle warm saltwater. Simply dissolve ½ a teaspoon of salt in a mug of warm water and gargle the pain away. Gargling with salt water can also prevent your cold from turning into an upper respiratory infection because it loosens mucus containing bacteria and allergens, which you then spit out. 

Should you skip work, school, and the gym if you have a cold? 

You might be surprised to hear that it is, in fact, okay to go to work or send your kid to school if there are mild symptoms associated with a cold, like sneezing or the sniffles or even a mild cough. Just make sure the cold sufferer is diligent about washing their hands and avoids touching nose, eyes, and mouth, which can further spread the illness or lead to something else like pink eye. 

If you’ve got a fever or if your cough is loud and excessive, it’s a good idea to call in sick. Also stay home if your job depends on you being physically active or alert. You don’t want to put yourself at extra risk of injury or put others at risk, either. 

The same rule of thumb applies to working out when you have a cold: it’s okay to work out as long as you don’t have a fever. You may have heard the term “above the neck” when determining whether working out is okay when you’re sick. If your symptoms are located in the throat or above, then it’s typically okay. Again, as long as you’re good about washing your hands and not coughing all over the exercise equipment, you should be good to hit the gym. Be sure to wipe down the equipment after you use it, which is something you should be doing whether your sick or not. 

Keep the workout intensity light to moderate, though. You want to give your body time to heal, not fight so hard to combat the cold and the strain of your workout that you come down with something more serious like bronchitis or pneumonia. And get plenty of rest after you exercise.

Wrap-Up 

Today, we gave you our 10 favorite cold remedies to help you get over the common cold when it hits, and chances are good that it will hit you at least one time this year, since adults average about 2 to 3 colds every year. 

Some remedies we talked about include:

  • Eat chicken soup
  • Take vitamin C and echinacea
  • Eat lots of ginger and garlic
  • Add honey to your tea or take 2 teaspoons straight to alleviate cough and sore throat
  • Take Smarter Nutrition’s Gut Health daily for balanced gut flora and a better immune system

Doing these things are sure to help you feel better and get you back to your normal routine in no time!

Also, make sure you drink plenty of water and get plenty of sleep. Only go to work or workout at the gym if your symptoms are “above the neck.” If you have a fever or a persistent cough, it’s probably wise to stay home until your symptoms subside. 

That’s all we have for you today! I hope you found today’s show helpful, and if you did, like it and share it on your page. Thanks again for joining me! See you next time!

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