Even though there’s a lot we can do to keep our bodies healthy and strong, sometimes a few sleepless nights, a rushed plane trip, or a sugar binge can be just the thing to get our immune system off track.
Then, BAM! We have a cold.
It happens. Now the priority shifts from prevention to how to shorten the cold’s duration so we don’t miss too much work or school, to prevent secondary infections like sinusitis & bronchitis, and to make sure it doesn’t spread throughout the entire family.
What are the first things you should try? I’m glad you asked because I have a huge list of many natural remedies that work for my family and clients that I’d like to share with you…
Natural Home Remedies For The Common Cold
1. Rinse Your Nose With Warm Salt Water
If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I’m a yogini and a huge fan of the practice Jala Neti. In Western terms, it’s nasal lavage, or simply rinsing the nasal passages with warm salt water. It removes allergens & impurities from your nostrils, and keeps rhinovirus from setting up shop in your nose (thereby helping to prevent sinus and ear infections if you’re prone to them).
So at the first inkling of a cold, this is my primary treatment. You can use a neti pot with clean, warm salt water or use one of the many saline nose sprays that you can find at health food stores (easiest for very young kids).
Please watch my video here for simple instructions on how to use a neti pot:
2. Boost Your Immune Response With Supplements
This is the time to supplement if you can’t get enough good quality food into your family’s diet.
Vitamin C can reduce symptoms of the common cold and flu by 85%, but the source and dose of this vitamin are both important. Please revisit our post Is Extra Vitamin C A Reliable Key To Good Health? to learn why increasing your daily intake is wise, how much you should take, and in what form.
Zinc has also been proven to reduce the duration of colds if used immediately. Studies show that 75mg of zinc, the equivalent of 3-4 lozenges per day while sick, is needed to get over colds quicker. Lozenges are more effective and safer than sprays. You’ll just want to choose some natural varieties that are very low in sugar.
Echinacea & Goldenseal
Echinacea and goldenseal are Western herbs that many people find useful to help squash out colds. A friend was just telling me that her 7 yr old son took a highly concentrated echinacea tincture on the first day of a viral infection. His fever dropped immediately and he barely had any symptoms the next day.
We keep tinctures of both herbs in our house (and I’m currently growing echinacea in our garden!) However, I tend to use Chinese herbs more for my family and clients, simply because I have more experience with them.
3. TCM Home Remedies For The Common Cold
In our last post, The Wise Agree: Bundling Up Is Necessary To Prevent Colds, we talked about the common cold from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
In TCM, Wind-Cold is the term for the initial signs of a cold. What I haven’t mentioned yet is that there is another condition called Wind-Heat that is sometimes a progression of the common cold, or the manifestation of a cold in someone who has a warmer constitution, or even the same viral infection but in warmer weather.
To be treated with TCM, it’s VERY important to know which type of illness you have since the symptoms are quite different and therefore so is the treatment. Of course going to a TCM practitioner for a diagnosis is best. In addition to acupuncture & herbs, practitioners can do cupping and gua sha treatments which can significantly shorten a cold and provide immediate relief for body aches.
Once you have experience in this system though, working with home remedies may get you by just fine if you’re not able to make it into the clinic.
When we catch Wind-Cold we experience a combination of:
- aversion to cold
- stiff neck & body
- runny nose
- clear or white phlegm
The goal is to warm the body and open the pores to “release the cold exterior”, which basically means to induce sweating. We can do this by:
- Taking a hot bath
- Massage your neck and upper back with warming oils (see essential oil section below)
- Eat warm, simple soups like miso with ginger & scallions
- Drink warming teas with ginger and cinnamon
Be sure that once you start sweating you cover up quickly and stay warm until you’re well. Avoid cold, raw, or greasy foods (definitely NO dairy).
The approach above is NOT appropriate if you have symptoms of Wind-Heat. How does heat manifest in the body?
- Feeling hot (whether or not there is a fever)
- Sore or scratchy throat
- Dry cough
- Yellow phlegm
- Congested nose
The goal is to “clear heat to release exterior” and it’s done by:
- Massaging with cooling oils (see essential oil section below)
- Drinking plenty of water and cooling peppermint tea
- Eating only when hungry and then simple foods like miso soup, steamed pears, kelp & seaweed
- Taking Yin Qiao – herbal formula available at Whole Foods and other health food stores (only appropriate for Wind-Heat since it contains many cooling herbs)
Continue to stay bundled up and avoid cold, raw, greasy foods as well as hot foods like ginger, cinnamon, onion, and garlic.
4. Essential Oils
Aromatherapy is always a first-line treatment in my family. I also use essential oils in combination with TCM treatments in the clinic.
To dilate the nasal passages and improve respiration for family members and clients alike, I diffuse dōTERRA’s Breathe blend. I typically combine this with Frankincense to give the immune system an extra boost.
Combined with TCM treatments, I use Wild Orange plus a few warming oils like Clove Bud, Ginger, or Cinnamon diluted in plenty of Fractionated Coconut carrier oil for Wind-Cold. For Wind-Heat, the Breathe blend mentioned above or anything with a base of cooling peppermint is appropriate.
I hope this information helps prepare you for any colds that you or a family member come down with!
What is your first course of action when you get a cold? Do you have any remedies that we should know about? Let’s help each other out by discussing in the comments!