How to Reduce Your Cold's Duration With D.I.Y. Natural Remedies
It is funny how I look back on my childhood and have warm memories of being sick with a cold. I remember being bundled up in warm fuzzy all-encompassing blankets slathered with Vicks and having the vaporizer slowly lower a blanket of mist over my body. My mother would be busy daunting over me and the smell of homemade chicken noodle soup would be floating into my room from the kitchen. I choose to only remember my favorite parts of being sick with a cold as a child.
Now as an adult, my experiences with a cold seem to be much different. No more blankets of love. Now, I’m masked and gloved to make sure I don’t pass the cold along to my family while going on with my everyday life. I still have to muster through the day of work until I can collapse in bed at night. Hoping tomorrow that I will feel better. We all live busy lives. I know you understand. Who has time to be sick?
So Is It A Cold Or Something Else?
I’m sure you are very familiar with a cold. Did you know that as an adult you have about two to three colds a year? If you have kids, the odds of getting a cold increase. You try as you may not to go to work when you have a cold so you don’t infect others, but there is always someone that comes to work sick. You can just see the imaginary cloud of virus float over the wall of your office cube. You wish you could live in an imaginary clear bubble until the cold season ends. If only you didn’t have to touch anything or breathe.
Colds are usually spread by an infected person that has their own fluids on their hands. You can get infected if you touch them or a surface (aka door handle, pen, table surface, etc.) they touched and then you rub your eyes or nose transferring their infection.
Cold viruses can also be transferred through the air. If someone sneezes or coughs, then it can be transferred to you if you inhale. Each year, there are about 200 cold-related viruses causing close to a billion colds annually in the United States of America. The most common cold virus is called the “Rhiovirus;” which causes about thirty (30) to fifty (50) percent of all colds. Interestingly, there are about twenty (20) percent of cold viruses that are unknown and cannot be classified. Viruses are microbes that invade healthy cells and wreak havoc on your system causing a whole host of awful symptoms while your body is trying to fight off the virus.
I’m sure you are fully aware of cold symptoms because not only do you have them at least twice a year; but, you also feel sick up to fourteen days each time. But, let’s go through the common list of symptoms anyway:
Drainage (aka mucus running down your throat)
I think there is a cold medicine jingle that goes something like that.
Gone are the good ol’ days when you went to the doctor to get an antibiotic for a cold. With antibiotic resistance where bacteria is developing the ability to defeat the antibiotics designed to kill them, doctors are less likely to prescribe an antibiotic to cover any or all infections that may involve viruses. Since colds are caused by viruses, antibiotics do not work against these viruses and ultimately do not speed up the healing process. In my crazy mind of denial, I totally disagree because I still believe there has to be a “get well now” pill.
The Good Ol’ “Over The Counter” Medicines
For years, the cold medicine industry has been growing to help ease your cold symptoms. Of course, they can’t cure the cold; just make you feel better during the process of your body fighting the cold virus. There are a variety of cold medicines available and if you are like me, you’ve tried them all. Available at your local retailer or pharmacy, commonly used conventional cold medicines include:
Antihistamines: Antihistamines reduce or block histamines, which is caused by a substance that irritates your body. Typically taken for relief of allergy-type symptoms, their purposes are to help alleviate conditions like congestion, runny nose, sneezing, itching, nasal swelling, hives, skin rashes, and itchy or watery eyes. When looking at the active ingredients, you tend to find words like chlorpheniramine, clemastine, and diphenhydramine in the listing. Overall, its stops running noses and sneezing.
Anti-inflammatory: Anti-inflammatory medicine has the substance to reduce inflammation or swelling in the body along with reducing pain. Your home medicine cabinet may have a variety of common non-steroid anti-inflammatory medicines including aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Overall, it relieves fever, headaches, and pains.
Decongestants: A decongestant is used to relieve nasal congestion in your body’s upper respiratory tract. You will typically see the active ingredients in decongestant be either pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine. Either way, the goal is to help alleviate runny nose, nasal itch, and sneezing. It’s the stuffy nose fixer.
Cough suppressants: Cough suppressants usually have the term, “Cough medicines.” They are medications used if you have a cough or related condition. Not much more to these medicines except overall it is supposed to calm down coughing.
Expectorants: The purpose of an expectorant is to loosen mucus so your body can cough the mucus up. It increases the water of the mucus, thinning the mucus, and making your cough more productive. Overall, if you need to loosen mucus so you can cough it up expectorants are for you.
If you are lucky, you can find one cold medicine that does it all. The dilemma with having a cold is that you have to wait the ten (10) to fourteen (14) days duration and that you just take cold medicines to help you feel a little better to function in your everyday life. Antihistamines, anti-inflammatory, decongestants, cough suppressants, and expectorants will ease your symptoms so you can function, but they will not cure your cold virus.
Natural Remedies To The Rescue
Even though your body is going to take its sweet time recovering from the cold, you don’t have the time. You would like to take some additional natural remedies to not only alleviate your symptoms, but also reduce the severity of the infection. You are in luck. There are quite a few herb, spices, vitamins, minerals, and food solutions available. My favorites are derived by plants because viruses tend not to create resistances to them.
So where do we begin? Since there are literally thousands of combinations of plant medicines that can be created or used to treat viral infections, I’m going to list many of my favorites. I encourage you to review the list to see what is right for you and your symptoms. But, please do not take all of them at once and make sure to check over if these plants have any reactions to conventional medicines that you are taking.
There are two main areas that I’m going to focus on for natural remedies. One area is supporting your body’s immunity; while the second area is how to help fight the cold virus.
Immunology For Colds
Whether or not, you had a healthy immunity level before you were infected with the cold virus, you would like to try to build up your immunity levels during your cold duration. The thought is that the higher the immunity level you have, the easier it will be for your body to fight off the infection. In theory, this would shorten the duration of your cold. Ultimately, many people turn to natural products to "boost" or "support" the immune system.
Herbs, Spices, & Healing Foods For Immunity
American Ginseng: Known for being native to the eastern part of the United States and Canada, it has been highly valued for its medicinal purposes and sweet taste. Although there is a few research studies to back American Ginseng up as a cold deterrent, tradition has speculated that American Ginseng can decrease the development and the severity of cold symptoms if taken over a three month period of time. Preliminary research shows that American Ginseng reduces the chances of getting repeat colds. The research available has been focused around an American Ginseng extract instead of powder, capsule, or in its natural form.
Andrographis (or Indian Echinacea): A flowering plant from India, it is known to prevent colds and flus because of its immune-stimulant properties. In alternative medicine folklore, taking Andrographis can reduce catching a cold by half if taken for two to three months. There is some emerging research that shows taking Andrographis along with Siberian Ginseng significantly improves cold symptoms if started within the first few days of a cold and continued throughout the cold.
Cat’s Claw: Cat Claw is a climbing vine native to tropical rain forest. Its stem bark is typically used. Like Echinacea, Cat Claw has been used for centuries to treat a weakened immune system and stimulates the immune system.
Echinacea: If you are new to the world of medicinal herbs and spices, I bet you have still heard of using Echinacea. It has been used for hundreds of years to help build up the immune system and keep people healthy. Tradition has used Echinacea to thwart upper respiratory infections including colds. Research has shown Echinacea stimulates the immune system by triggering macrophages to produce tumor necrosis factor, interleukin-1, and beta-interferon.
Garlic: In the movies and books, Garlic was supposed to ward off Vampires. Maybe the villain should have been a virus epidemic. Something so smelly actually has the ability to ward off a cold using its immune-stimulant activity. Alternative medicine folklore and some beginning research shows that it might also have an anti-viral impact. Taken regularly, a garlic supplement might also help deter getting a cold and getting fewer colds throughout the season.
Goldenseal: Originating from the Native American tribes, Goldenseal was used as a dominant immune system enhancer. Because of its berberine and canadine, this perennial herb has mild immune-stimulating effects. Goldenseal is great for sore throats that are a result of irritated mucous membranes.
Panax Ginseng: Native to northeastern China and Russia, this perennial herb is very famous for its extraordinary therapeutic benefits including its immune stimulant effects. Some evidence suggests that it might protect against colds by taking 100 mg a day before the cold season begins. Typically, Panax Ginseng comes in capsule and pill format for colds.
Anti-Virals For Colds
When you hear “Anti-Viral,” you instantly think of Tamiflu. But, you know that Tami-flu is not given for the common cold. There hasn’t been a huge amount of research completed on anti-virals sourced from plant medicine. But, there has been centuries of plant medicine tradition that paves the way for these anti-viral herbs, spices, and healing foods without a prescription.
Herbs, Spices, & Healing Foods With Anti-Viral Abilities
Astragalus: In folklore, Astragalus is sometimes considered a “miracle herb.” It comes from the root of a perennial plant family that typically grows in parts of China. There's some evidence Astragalus can stimulate white blood cell production (aka lymphocyte) for immunity boosting activity. Although research is emerging on its anti-viral ability, Astragalus may prevent the replication of viruses like Coxsackie B-3. Coxsackie B-3 is a virus that triggers illnesses ranging from mild stomach issues to the common cold. Depending on your preference, Astragalus can be taken as a decoction, dried root, tincture, or capsule. If taken by mouth, Astragalus is used for common cold, upper respiratory infections, and to strengthen the immune system.
Chinese Skullcap: Not often talked about as an anti-viral herb because it is hard to find plant medicines made with Chinese Skullcap’s root in the United States, Chinese Skullcap is considered a broad-spectrum anti-viral worldwide. It inhibits virus replication and reduces virus infected cells. Many times, it is found in tinctures and powdered root.
Elderberry: Elderberries are from the Elder plant; which is known as nature’s medicine chest. Its berries were made famous by an Israeli researcher in 1995. The extract from Elderberries is now relatively available at your local pharmacy and is used as the natural “go to” anti-viral. Elderberries can strengthen the immune system also. You can find this in stores in syrup and even dissolving tablets. You can also use it as an infusion, tincture, and cream.
Licorice Root: Although used in food for its ability to be sweet, Licorice Root is valued for its medicinal benefits. Licorice root raises interferon levels; an anti-viral component which, along with glycyrrhizinic acid, fuels the action of immune cells and aids in combating the infectious viruses and bacteria such as influenza A. Licorice Root is available in tablets, capsules, tea, and powder.
Olive Leaf: Known for its unique tangy taste, Olive Leaf has the ability to eradicate viruses by breaking down infected cells. Research studies reveal that olive leaf can subdue a number of viruses including colds. Its extract, Oleuropein, reduces viral loads in colds, flus, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, and herpes patients. Most studies revolve around its extract; thus, Olive Leaf extract probably should be your first choice at cold defense.
Oregano: Known for its potent flavor, this is one of the top most used herbs in the kitchen. Orally, oregano is used for respiratory tract infections. Oregano has an active component called, carvacrol, which was found in a 2014 research study to effectively have an anti-viral impact. Oregano also has two components of rosmarinic acid and thymol. They are powerful antioxidants. In a research study, Oregano killed 99% of Streptococcus. To get its benefits, drink a cup of Oregano tea, take a capsule, use it in your favorite culinary meal, take a bath, or try aromatherapy with it. To help your body fight off a virus, 200 mg of Oregano three times daily is a great starting point. If your body has problems digesting food for nutrition, Oregano comes in a great extract also. It is also valuable in the treatment of colds, flu, and virus infections.
Rosemary: Known for its memory evoking capabilities, students have used its invigorating piney fragrance when studying. But, Rosemary has much more far reaching benefits including anti-septic, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, disinfectant, and expectorant. It is celebrated for enhancing the immune system, combating bacterial and viral infections, and relieving respiratory ailments. Oh Rosemary. Folklore says Rosemary is great for combating bacterial and viral infections along with its antioxidant and immune boosting capabilities. Add to your culinary dishes or even take as a capsule. Take one capsule of 500 mg up to two times daily.
Star Anise: Star anise is a commanding culinary and medicinal spice that has been used for centuries to treat anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal sicknesses. The shikimic acid in Star Anise is also used as the compound in the anti-viral drug called Tamiflu. Take note of this little powerhouse because it is much cheaper than Tamiflu and you don’t need a prescription. Alternative medicine folklore also has used Star Anise to decrease mucus and congestion because of its strong expectorant properties. Star Anise typically comes in its natural form where you can add it to your dishes or smoothies. It also comes in essential oil form also.
Thyme: Native to Asia and the Mediterranean, this warm somewhat sweet herb has been used for centuries to cure a wide range of illnesses due to its Thymol properties. The Greeks and Romans must have known what they were doing using Thyme for anti-septic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and expectorant abilities. It makes a great herbal supplement to take if one has the flu. You can add this to your culinary meals, digest capsules, drink in a tea, or use in aromatherapy. An adult dose for medicinal purposes is about 500 to 1000 mg taken three times a day.
Vitamins, Minerals, & Healthy Foods With Immunity & Anti-Viral Abilities:
As I said in my article called, “Nine Natural Remedies to Fight a Viral Infection,” there are many virus interventions and immunity assisting plant medicines out there. Even better news is there are also great vitamins and minerals that help with natural treatments for colds. Please remember, there are thousands of combinations of plant medicines, vitamins, and minerals that can be created or used to treat infections. Let’s start with some great vitamins and minerals that you can take while you are fighting off a viral infection:
Ester-C (Vitamin C): Tradition has suggested that Vitamin C may prevent colds and flu. The majority of research shows that taking high doses of vitamin C orally might decrease the duration of cold symptoms by one to one and half days in some. There is no research promise that Vitamin C can cure a person from the common cold; yet, Vitamin C can increase the T-lymphocyte activity, phagocyte function, leukocyte mobility, and possibly antibody and interferon production which all have a role in your immunity levels. To prevent a cold or flu or to help assist during a case of the cold or flu, one can take up to 1,000 milligrams three times a day.
Monolaurin: Monolaurin is a monoglyceride derivative of lauric acid, which is found in coconut and human milk. Preliminary research suggests Monolaurin may have anti-viral activity and immune system stimulus. When taking for a viral infection, adults can take one to two capsules of Monolaurin three times a day. Monolaurin is prescribed by many Naturopathic physicians to combat a variety of viruses. Seek out a Naturopathic expert or follow dosing instructions on supplements.
Silver or Colloidal Hydrosol: According to alternative medicine folklore, Colloidal Silver is used as an anti-viral and a germicide. Research is controversial on the effectiveness of Colloidal Silver. Silver binds to the reactive groups of proteins, causing denaturation and precipitation. Silver can also inactivate enzymes by binding to sulfhydryl, amino, carboxyl, phosphate, and imidazole groups. In 2013, a Boston University in Massachusetts research team found that silver makes antibiotics more effective when used at the same time. For adults, hold under the tongue for 30 seconds 1 teaspoon then swallow. During a virus infection, do these seven times a day. For immune support, decrease to five times a day. For maintenance, try one time a day.
Zinc: Using Zinc has been shown in research to show a significant decrease in the duration of symptoms of the common cold. Although the delivery mechanism of Zinc (aka capsules, liquid, lozenges, etc.) may vary the effectiveness; overall, Zinc may be beneficial for modestly reducing the duration of symptoms of the common cold in adults by about one and half days. I prefer Zinc in liquid form because my system doesn’t seem to process the capsules as well. No matter what form you take of Zinc, please follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
With the cold season approaching soon, it is great for you to start thinking about natural remedies that you can either stock up in your herbal medicine pantry or start taking to help your immune levels. Either way, make sure you search to see if any of the above items may affect any medicine you are taking or any illnesses you may have.
Blessings, Herbal Farmwife
DISCLAIMER: This information should not be considered to be healthcare advice, medical diagnosis, or treatment. This information is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other healthcare professionals. Always consult a healthcare professional first before trying any herbs, spices, vitamins, or minerals mentioned in this posting. This information is merely a discussion of “thoughts” among friends. Please note that none of these statements have been evaluated by the USA’s Food and Drug Administration.
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