herbal remedies colds

Herbs, Minerals and Vitamines:

  • Andrographis:  Seems to be an up-and-coming cold season herb. A 2004 research review of seven double-blind, controlled studies concluded that andrographis “may be a safe and efficacious treatment for the relief of symptoms of uncomplicated upper respiratory tract infection,” though the authors called for further research. A Russian study in children found that Kan Jang (andrographis leaf extract and eleuthero root, i.e., Siberian ginseng) was more effective than an echinacea extract in reducing the severity and duration of common cold symptoms
  • Bishop’s Weed: Bishop’s weed has the power to open up clogged nasal passages. Its seeds are tied in a cloth and inhaled directly to clear congestions. It is very effective in treating nasal blockages in children.
  • Cassia: Cassia roots are effective in treating cold. The roots are burnt and the smoke from them is inhaled. The mucus discharge will increase after such a treatment, but within a while it will stop completely.
  • Cinnamon  Cinnamon is boiled in a glass of water with a pinch of pepper and honey. This reduces the sore throat problems and also prevents the cold from becoming chronic, or developing into something serious like pneumonia or influenza.
  • Cumin seeds  Cumin seeds are antiseptic. So they have beneficial effects if the cold is accompanied with fever. It is also helpful in treating the throat irritations.
  • Echinacea: While echinacea was once a very popular cold remedy, the latest science indicates that it does not appear to prevent colds and is not an effective treatment. Researchers are continuing to study echinacea’s effects on respiratory infections to determine if there is some benefit.
  • Elderberry: A time-honored European cold and flu remedy is a tea of elder flowers and peppermint leaves. Scientific research however, has focused on the berry from the black elderberry tree (Sambucus nigra). (Red elderberries [S. racemosa] are toxic when taken internally. American elderberries [S. canadensis], which are dark purple, are OK to consume if cooked first.)An extract of the black elderberries produces beneficial immune actions and helps fight influenza and other respiratory viruses. Two small studies have demonstrated rapid recovery from influenza with a proprietary elderberry extract called Sambucol, which is available in many natural food stores. You also can make your own elderberry syrup.
  • Ginger: Ginger extract taken several times a day is an excellent remedy for treating coughs that accompany common colds. Ginger tea is also very effective in treating colds.
  • Ginseng and Eleuthero: Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), American ginseng (P. quinquefolius) and eleuthero (aka Siberian ginseng or Eleutherococcus senticosus) all have been reported useful in fighting respiratory viruses. Such immune enhancing herbs may be particularly helpful for the elderly.
  • Holy Basil: Chewing a few leaves of tulsi (holy basil) will remedy sore throat problems. An extract of the leaves boiled in water can be used as a drink for the same benefits.
  • Licorice root : has many properties that can relieve cold and flu symptoms. It’s an anti-inflammatory, demulcent (soothing to sore throats), antispasmodic (to relax tight coughs) and expectorant (expels respiratory mucus).
  • Onion:Onion has the power to liquefy the phlegm. This makes the sticky mucus runny and it is discharged out of the nose.
  • Vitamin C:does indeed promote a healthy immune system, as do vitamin A, carotenes, zinc and selenium.A 2004 review of vitamin C research concluded that the cumulative scientific data doesn’t justify mega-dosing vitamin C to prevent or treat the common cold. Even hefty doses (4 grams) at the onset of a cold didn’t seem to alter the course appreciably. A subgroup of people though — those undergoing brief periods of intense physical exertion or exposure to cold — did seem to catch fewer colds while taking vitamin C. Further, some vitamin C users do report a reduced duration and severity of cold symptoms, indicating that it may play some role in respiratory defense mechanisms. Typical daily doses are 200 to 500 milligrams a day. Eating vitamin C-rich foods, such as peppers, guava, citrus fruits, strawberries and leafy greens, is always a great idea.
  • Zinc: While early studies showed that zinc could help fight off a cold more quickly, the latest consensus seems to be that zinc has a minimal benefit at best. Now for zinc. In the winter, you can scarcely walk the aisles of your local grocery or drug store without bumping into the bags of zinc lozenges. But the research on zinc supplements is hard to sort.There have been about a dozen studies on zinc lozenges and nasal gels, with mixed results. Lozenges are supposed to be sucked every two to three hours for the first couple days of a cold. The typical dosage for zinc gluconate lozenges is 9 to 24 milligrams of elemental zinc taken every two hours while awake and symptomatic. Side effects with the lozenges include nausea and weird taste. And there have been reports of people permanently losing their sense of smell after using the nasal gels — a good reason to choose lozenges instead.

Blow your nose correctly:

Blow your nose often, but do it the proper way. It’s important to blow your nose regularly when you have a cold rather than sniffling mucus back into your head. But when you blow hard, pressure can carry germ-carrying phlegm back into your ear passages, causing earache. The best way to blow your nose is to press a finger over one nostril while you blow gently to clear the other.

Drink plenty of fluids:

Fluids may help thin the mucus, thus keeping it flowing freely and making it easier for the body to expel, along with the viral particles trapped within it. Water and other liquids also combat dehydration. So drink at least eight ounces of fluid every two hours.   Drinking water or juice will prevent dehydration and keep your throat moist. Include fluids such as water, sports drinks, herbal teas, fruit drinks, or ginger ale. Your mother’s chicken soup might help too! Avoid cola, coffee, and other drinks with caffeine because it acts like a diuretic and may dehydrate you.


Gargle with warm salt water. Gargling can moisten a sore or scratchy throat and bring temporary relief. Try a half teaspoon of salt dissolved in 8 ounces of warm water four times daily. To reduce the tickle in your throat, try an astringent gargle — such as tea that contains tannin — to tighten the membranes. Or use a thick, viscous gargle made with honey, popular in folk medicine. Steep one tablespoon of raspberry leaves or lemon juice in two cups of hot water; mix with one teaspoon of honey. Let the mixture cool to room temperature before gargling.

Hot toddies:

If you’re so congested you can’t sleep at night, try a hot toddy, an age-old remedy. Make a cup of hot herbal tea. Add one teaspoon of honey and one small shot (about 1 ounce) of whiskey or bourbon if you wish. Limit yourself to one. Too much alcohol inflames those membranes and is counterproductive. Hot liquids relieve nasal congestion, prevent dehydration, and soothe the uncomfortably inflamed membranes that line your nose and throat.

Irrigate your nose:

Use saline nasal sprays or make your own salt water rinse to irrigate your nose. Salt-water rinsing helps break nasal congestion while also removing virus particles and bacteria from your nose. Here’s a popular recipe:

Mix 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda in 8 ounces of warm water. Fill a bulb syringe with this mixture (or use a Neti pot, available at most health foods stores). Lean your head over a basin, and using the bulb syringe, gently squirt the salt water into your nose. Hold one nostril closed by applying light finger pressure while squirting the salt mixture into the other nostril. Let it drain. Repeat two to three times, and then treat the other nostril.

It’s important to note that, according to the CDC, if you are irrigating, flushing, or rinsing your sinuses, use distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water to make up the irrigation solution. It’s also important to rinse the irrigation device after each use and leave open to air dry.

Maintain a positive attitude

Although mind-body science is in its infancy, some researchers suggest that a positive “I-can-beat-this-cold” attitude may bolster the immune system while you fight a cold. On the other hand, a negative attitude could cause your body’s defenses to fall down on the job. Not all doctors are convinced there is a connection between the mind and the immune system, but staying upbeat certainly won’t make your cold worse.

Mentholated salve:

Try a small dab of mentholated salve under your nose to help open breathing passages and help restore the irritated skin at the base of the nose. Menthol, eucalyptus, and camphor all have mild numbing ingredients that may help relieve the pain of a nose rubbed raw.


Doctors disagree about whether or not you should take a day or two off from work when you come down with a cold. However, they do agree that extra rest helps. Staying away from work may be a good idea from a prevention standpoint, too; your coworkers will probably appreciate your not spreading your cold virus around the office. If you do decide to stay home, forego those chores and take it easy, read a good book, watch television, take naps.

You should probably also skip your normal exercise routine when you’ve got a cold, at least during the days when you’re feeling the worst. Again, let your body be your guide. If you’re feeling miserable, the best advice is probably to just stay in bed.

Stay warm. While cold air doesn’t cause colds, you’re likely to feel more comfortable if you stay indoors and keep covered, especially if you have a fever. There’s no sense in stressing your body any further.

Before going to bed, apply eucalyptus oil on the forehead, chest and the nostrils in the night. Then wrap yourself in a warm blanket and go to sleep. You will sweat profusely in the night, but let that happen. In the morning, the common cold will disappear, and so will any fever if present.

Steamy Shower:

Take a steamy shower. Steamy showers moisturize your nasal passages and relax you. If you’re dizzy from the flu, run a steamy shower while you sit on a chair nearby and take a sponge bath.

Stop smoking:

You’ll feel better sooner and cut your risk of getting even sicker. Doctors say smokers have a tougher time shaking off a cold than nonsmokers do. Worse, smoking while you have a cold irritates the bronchial tubes, which increases the risk of developing pneumonia and other complications.

In addition to irritating the throat and bronchial tubes, smoking has been shown to depress the immune system. Since you have to depend on your own immune system rather than medicine to cure a cold, you’ll want it to be in the best condition possible to wage the “cold” war.

Vaporize it:

Inhale steam to ease your congestion and drippy nose.

A humidifier will add moisture to your immediate environment, which may make you feel more comfortable and will keep your nasal tissues moist. That’s helpful because dry nasal membranes provide poor protection against viral invasion.Hold your head over a pot of boiling water and breathe through your nose. Be careful. If the steam burns your nose, breathe in more slowly. You can buy a humidifier, but the steam will be the same as the water on the stove. Moisture from a hot shower with the door closed, saline nasal spray, or a room humidifier is just as helpful to ease congestion. You can also ass eucalyptus, thyme, rosemary or peppermint leaves to your steam.

Over-the-counter Cold Medications

According to a recent review of studies on children and adults published by the American Academy of Family Physicians, research (and there isn’t much of it) has failed to demonstrate that over-the-counter cold medications do much good; in fact, they can do harm. For instance, first-generation antihistamines (characterized by greater drowsiness) were designed to reduce nasal secretions, but this dehydrating effect makes them harder to expel and more likely to collect in the sinuses and cause infection.

Other over-the-counter products, such as decongestants, shrink swollen respiratory linings, thus relieving stuffiness. But they also cause jitteriness, insomnia and elevated heart rate and blood pressure. Plus, they’ve been linked to heart attacks and strokes. In 2000, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began taking steps to remove the decongestant phenylpropanolamine (PPA) from the market because it increases the risk of hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding into the brain). If you still have any PPA-containing cough and cold remedies in your medicine chest, toss them.

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