On average, we catch the dreaded common cold about two or three times per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Colds are more prevalent in the winter and spring because viruses tend to thrive in cooler, dryer air. Plus, that’s when we’re typically inside with each other. But the cruel, cruel summer cold is totally a thing too. Really, you can get one of these buggers in any season.
There’s no cure for the common cold, which is usually caused by rhinoviruses, but it can be brought on by other germs as well. You’ve just got to let a cold run its runny-nose, scratchy-throat course. But you can find ways to ease your symptoms with some natural remedies, some of which you might already have on hand.
Here’s how to build a holistic arsenal against your next common cold.
Elderberry, often taken as a syrup, has long been used as a medicinal plant. And although more research is needed, an analysis of studies showed that elderberry may reduce cold symptom severity.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that raw, unripe elderberries and other parts of the elder tree contain toxic substances. But cooking eliminates these toxins.
Still, unless you are in an apocalyptic situation akin to The Walking Dead, and are as skilled as suspender-wearing Hershel is at homeopathy, you may just want to ask your local pharmacist to recommend a safe preparation to store in your pantry. You can also find gummies and drink powders if you prefer.
Remember to check with your healthcare professional before adding elderberry, especially if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or if you have any underlying health conditions.
An analysis of studies showed that zinc may cut a cold short by as much as 33 percent. The NIH recommends sucking on zinc lozenges within 24 hours of when cold symptoms begin. Follow product directions, and do not use for longer than 2 weeks. Too much zinc can lead to toxicity.
By far, your schnoz is the most afflicted body part when you have a cold. Your honker can be stuffy, runny, itchy, sneezy — you name it. But essential oils may come to the rescue. You can add a few drops to a diffuser or to a cloth or tissue and sniff it periodically. Or you can create a safe steam inhalation.
According to a 2010 research review, eucalyptus has antimicrobial and antiviral properties. And while it’s not going to cure your cold, it may help unstuff your nasal passages, ease a sinus headache, or chill out a cough. Frankincense is another EO that’s been shown to ease sinus or lung congestion, according to a research review. (Certainly much more comfortably than SNL’s lung brush.)
One of the oldest treatments out there for the common cold is chicken soup. It could be that your family’s age-old recipe is just soothing, but this remedy is also rooted in science.
An old 2000 in vitro study, meaning not tested in humans, found that chicken soup may reduce an inflammatory process that’s part of the common cold. So, it’s worth having some chicken soup on hand. Freeze that family recipe, or we’ve got 31 options for you to try.
If you’re strictly a plant-based eater, consider this raved-about garlic broth from Bon Appétit. Although more research is needed, garlic has also been shown to reduce the severity of the common cold, according to a 2011 study. If nothing else, it will at least keep any 80s vampire cults at bay.
Not to be gross, but when snot slides down your throat, the tender tissue back there can become irritated. Honey, added to hot water or tea, can soothe those aching airways or tickled tonsils or ease a cough that’s keeping you — or your bedfellow — awake.
Although research doesn’t show clinical evidence for hot drinks as a treatment for the common cold, one small 2008 study did show that people respond well to the remedy. In other words, a hot drink might produce the placebo effect.
Plus, the inhaled steam from a steaming mug, may simply ease congestion. If hot herbal tea does it for you, have your favorites on hand for when the common cold creeps up, or try these suggestions.
Likely you already have table salt on hand. But it may be worth keeping a small shaker in your medicine cabinet for convenience. In fact, one study showed that gargling with warm salt water can ease the pain of a scratchy or sore gullet.
Remember, there is no cure for the common cold, but you might be able to show it who’s boss by easing symptoms or shortening their duration.
Sure, you can totally keep that combo pack of DayQuil and NyQuil and alternate between the two when a cold creeps up. But the list above will help you amass some holistic options if that’s more your style.
And when all else fails, wrap yourself in a cozy bathrobe and feel free to whine. Colds are just plain unfair.