Here in Maastricht we enjoyed the last few days of summer last week, but now fall is coming at us full throttle, and that means so are the latest nasty bugs. You did your best by eating my recommended 7 Immune-Boosting Superfoods, but despite your best efforts you are sniffly, achy, coughing and tired. And you have looming deadlines at work/school - you don’t have time to be sick right now! What to do? Here are a few of my favorite natural remedies to help kick that nasty cold to the curb and get back to feeling great in no time.
Disclaimer: Please remember that all of these are general recommendations. Herbs and supplements can interact with medications. Please discuss with your Naturopathic doctor or your general practitioner before beginning any treatments.
1. Raw Garlic & Honey
You have been cooking with garlic daily and drinking your hot lemon water with honey, but now it’s time to take it up a notch! These potent antimicrobials can be used therapeutically by upping the dosage. When you start to feel a cold coming on, press some fresh garlic onto a teaspoon, then drizzle it with honey and, you guessed it, down the hatch! It sounds awful, but the honey really cuts the potency of the garlic, and even better, it coats your throat on the way down. Great if you have an itchy, sore throat. Aim to do this 2-3 times per day.
2. Nasal Lavage
An Ayurvedic tradition, the Neti Pot uses a gentle saline (salt) solution to rinse the bugs and junk out of your nasal passages before they unleash their harmful effects. If you’ve got a cold it’s a great way to flush out the mucous build-up in the nose and sinuses, especially before bed-time when we tend to be most clogged up! To use this device, create the brine solution (the main salt solution), and add 1 teaspoon of the brine to the pot with warm water. Bend your head over the sink and breathing through your mouth (critical point here, otherwise water will go down the wrong way!), put the spout in one other nostril and pour. The water will go up your sinuses and out the other nostril. It feels really odd, but once you see the snot come out and you are breathing easier, you will be glad you did it. Aim to rinse before bed and in the morning, or whenever you feel really stuffed up.
3. Homemade Chicken Soup
Grandmas and moms know best with this traditional favorite! Chicken soup offers a slew of illness-fighting properties: it is easy to digest, allowing resources to go to fighting off the cold; it replaces lost electrolytes, critical if you are sweating it out with fever; and provides vitamins, minerals and protein to help nourish your white blood cells and make them bug-blasting machines. Aim for at least 1 big bowl per day of illness.
4. Essential Oil Steam Inhalation
If you can’t get your hands on a Neti pot, this is a great alternative to opening up the nasal passages, getting the mucous moving, and promoting a better night’s sleep, also crucial for fighting off that cold. Essential oils are potent antimicrobials, relatively cheap, and come in a variety of pleasant scents. I really like eucalyptus, tea tree (also good for topical fungal infections), and cedarwood. To do the steam inhalation, pour hot water into a bowl and 3 drops of the essential oil that you have selected, place your head about 12 inches (30 cm) above the bowl (careful not to burn yourself!) and cover your head with a towel in such a way that the sides are totally closed. Keep your eyes shut and breathe deeply through your nose for 1 to 2 minutes. You can do this before bed-time or routinely throughout the day if you are particularly congested.
5. Andrographis Tincture
Herbs are one of my favorite ways to treat acute infections, as they have many active ingredients that work synergistically within the body (a property lacking in pharma meds). Andrographis is a great antiviral remedy, and is effective for any upper respiratory tract infection. The Andrographis tincture by St. Francis Herb Farm offers a quality extract of this herb, and to boot it has been harvested in a sustainable manner. Dosing will vary based on brand and % active ingredient – just remember to dose frequently throughout the day and away from food as herbs work best on an empty stomach.
Caution if you are taking any blood thinners or blood pressure medications, and it should not be used by pregnant/breastfeeding women.
6. Contrast Showers
As the name suggests, these showers will be contrasting between hot and cold. Cold water when you’re sick? You’ve got to be kidding right? Nope! Contrast showers are effective at vasodilating and vasoconstricting blood vessels, essentially opening and closing them and creating a pumping action, which helps circulate blood & your immune cells and to flush out toxins & microbes faster. While you think the cold will be the unbearable part, trust me you will crave it by then end. To try this, keep the following in mind: the ratio of time between hot and cold is 3:1, whatever time you pick (eg 45 seconds hot: 15 seconds cold). The “hot” is as hot as you can handle and the “cold” is as cold as you can handle. Aim for at least 3 cycles of hot:cold, with each cycle getting hotter and colder extremes. Always start hot, and end cold. You will walk out of the shower feeling toasty, I promise!
7. Oil of Oregano
Another antimicrobial herb, oil of oregano comes from, you guessed it, the oregano herb. However, in its extracted form it is extremely potent! Oil of oregano has numerous benefits and has been found to be effective for respiratory infections, gastrointestinal infections, and can even be used as a natural insect repellent. To treat a cold, dilute a few drops of oil with a cup of water, and have a few times per day away from food. Look for a brand that has at least 80% carvacrol (the active ingredient), such as Wild Oil of Oregano by Hedd Wynn Essentials.
While natural remedies can certainly help to move a cold along faster and support the body in the healing process, if you notice that symptoms get progressively worse and or symptoms are not going away after 10+ days, the illness may have gone deeper into the respiratory tract, so make sure to see your health care provider and rule out more serious infections like bronchitis or pneumonia.
Here’s to your speedy recovery!
- Dr. Crystal
Here’s to your speedy recovery!
- Dr. Crystal