The common cold is an infection of the nose or throat. It’s almost always caused by a virus. According to CDC, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nothing can cure the common cold.
But there are some remedies that might help ease your symptoms and some that might also make your cold go away faster!
Colds are the main reason that children miss school and adults miss work.
If you’re tired and generally affected by fever and pain in your body, it’s entirely right to call in sick for a few days.
You have to get your rest and you also don´t infect your classmates or colleagues. (source)
Table of Contents
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1:st Line Of Defense Against The Common Cold: Wash Your Hands Regularly
The common cold is very contagious. That’s why it's called common!
There's not much you can do to protect yourself from it but one thing that we've personally experienced works quite well is to wash your hands frequently with water and soap, especially before eating.
Humans touch their face from 15 to 23 times per hour, mostly without even thinking about it. Many say that you should refrain from touching your face but as most do it unconsciously, we believe it’s better to focus on washing your hands frequently instead. (source), (source)
Washing your hands frequently is a good way to not only fight of the common cold but other contagions as well.
For instance, in our family we always wash our hands when we come home. We believe this has saved our family from numerous sick days.
Besides, our experience tells us that it’s far more easier to get children to wash their hands regularly than to stop them from touching their face!
Symptoms Of The Common Cold
When you have a cold, it’s common for you to feel tired and unwell.
It‘s also common to have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Runny nose or nasal congestion
- Sore throat
Colds can also cause fever, but it’s usually not high.
It’s more common for children than adults, to have fever during a cold. (source)
Vitamins and minerals for battling the common cold
Vitamins and minerals keeps our bodies strong and without them we aren’t giving our bodies the edge it needs to, for instance, ward off infections.
Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and is needed for a lot of things in your body. For example, to build up the body's cartilage and bone tissue. It also facilitates the absorption of iron from the food we eat.
Eating vitamin C in large quantities is believed by many to be a cure for the common cold. But there is no scientific support for this claim. However, people with adequate levels of vitamin C are thought to be better able to fight off infections compared to people with a vitamin C deficiency. Taking vitamin C before the onset of cold symptoms may shorten the duration of symptoms. (source)
You can try blueberry juice or some other fruit drink with lots of vitamin C and antioxidants, just to stay on the safe side. You cant eat to much of Vitamin C. But remember if you buy a juice to check the sugar content. Stay away from drinks that contain added sugar, it’ll do you more harm than the benefits you can get from them. So read the label on the bottle, it’s the vitamin C you want, not the sugar.
Many tend to think about juices as a delicious way to get your vitamin C but we recommend you instead eat the actual fruit instead of the juice. When you eat the fruit instead of drinking the juice you’ll also get fiber that will help your body to deal with the sugar. (source)
One fruit that has a lot of vitamin C is the Indian gooseberry Amla. If you are interested in reading more about gooseberries, I recommend our article What are the benefits of eating gooseberries?
Vitamin D is an important nutrient that’s needed for your health and for the strength of your bones. It does so by helping the body absorb calcium.
A review made in 2017 of existing data of Vitamin D estimates that supplementing food with vitamin D would prevent millions of cold and flu cases.
The study was carried out by researchers from a number of institutions, including Queen Mary University, Winthrop University Hospital in the US, and the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.
The results of the review suggests that daily or weekly vitamin D supplementation would be useful in preventing respiratory tract infections. (source)
Zinc plays an important role in your immune function. Zinc is found in many cold lozenges and some over-the-counter drugs sold as cold remedies.
But you can also get zinc from your food. For instance, oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food. In the American diet, like many other it’s red meat and poultry that provide the majority of zinc.
Other good food sources for zinc is sesame seeds and pine nuts. Zinc is quite effective in combating runny noses and coughs. (source)
Research show that a proper supplement of zinc within the first 24 hours of a cold, can reduce the duration and severity of cold symptoms of the cold by several days. (source)
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Herbs for battling the common cold
Herbs have long been used as the basis of traditional medicine in many countries. Consuming certain herbs may help to prevent and manage the common cold.
We recommend you use fresh herbs as they often contain higher antioxidant levels compared to processed or dried herbs.
Thyme is herb that’s antibacterial, antifungal and spasmolytic. The flowers, leaves, and oil are used as medicine.
Thyme has been used ever since the time of the ancient Greek and the Roman empire. It´s believed to fight agents that cause bronchitis and helps to quell a spasmodic cough. aiding the body to eliminate accumulated mucus. (source)
In herbal cough syrups and cough drops, you’ll typically find natural thyme extract.
Two ways of using thyme to combat your cold
Breathing in thyme
- Pour boiling water into a sturdy large bowl (or why not the pot you used to boil the water?)
- Season with plenty of thyme in the hot water.
- Put a towel over your head and hold your head over the bowl.
- Breathe slowly
- Be prepared to blow your nose often
Making a nice cup of thyme tea
- Pour boiled water over a teaspoon of dried thyme leaves or 2 teaspoons of fresh leaves. If you’re using fresh thyme, bruise the leaves a bit first to release those precious oils.
- Put on a lid and set aside for 5 minutes for the tea to brew properly
Combining these two is a favorite of ours. You feel the effects quickly from breathing in the thyme and as you were boiling water and have the thyme ready you’ll might as well pour some in a cup and finish your thyme treatment with a cup of delicious tea.
If you’re not serving the tea to a child less than 1 year of age you can also add some honey for some sweetness and other benefits that the honey can provide. Be sure to add the honey after the tea has cooled down some (around 70 degrees Celsius or 160 degrees Fahrenheit).
Echinacea is a herb that’s also known by the name, red sun hat. Echinacea has been used as herbal medicine for colds since ancient times.
When it come to research, echinacea is quite popular. Every couple of years a new study is published showing that echinacea either does or doesn’t reduce your risk of contracting a cold, and this often gets published in mainstream media confusing even larger groups of people.
So which is it? Is echinacea good against the common cold or isn’t?
One answer to the different results could be that research studies use different preparations, some preparations use the root, others the flower, the leaves or the whole plant. If that won’t confuse you enough they also vary the way it’s prepared and in which form it’s ingested. For instance, some make juice of it, some look at it in the form of a tincture and some dry it, make it into tablet form. All of this combined make comparing them a difficult task indeed. No wonder this can lead to different results.
2014 there was a review done to assess whether there is evidence that Echinacea preparations are effective and safe compared to placebo in the prevention and treatment of the common cold. They looked at twenty four double-blind trials with 4631 participants including a total of 33 comparisons of Echinacea preparations and placebo.
The interesting conclusion that the researches made was that Echinacea products in general didn’t provide benefits for treating colds, although, it showed that you can get some alleviation from Echinacea products, if you take it when you notice cold symptoms and continue it for seven to 10 days. (source)
But then again, how long does it take for you to recover from a cold if you let your body do its thing and give it plenty of rest and stay hydrated? In our family it’s certainly not longer than 1 week.
Do you use other medicines? Then please be careful
Echinacea appears to be safe for healthy adults, but it can interact with other drugs. Check with your doctor before taking echinacea or any other supplement.
American ginseng is native to eastern North America, though it’s also cultivated in China and have been used in traditional Chinese medicine as a natural-derived energy booster for ages.
Some studies show that American ginseng can both alleviate and shorten colds by stimulating the body's immune system. It appears to be effective in shortening the duration of colds in healthy adults when taken preventively. But you should not eat ginseng all year round, trying to prevent a cold. You shouldn't take ginseng regularly longer than a duration of 6-8 weeks, then you need a break before taking it again. (source)
American ginseng can be used in different forms, including sliced dried ginseng root, powder, liquid, lozenges and tea. Different ginseng products may have different effects depending on what it’s mixed with and if it indeed has ginseng in it. Make sure to read the label so you really get the product you’re looking for.
Hot ginseng tea is a great way to enjoy the health benefits of ginseng, but by brewing ginseng in hot boiling water, some of the most fragile chemical compounds in the root can be destroyed.
How to make your ginseng tea
- Peel the ginseng root and make 7 or 8 thin slices
- Coat the ginseng with a generous amount of honey and let sit for 15 minutes
- Pour quite hot (NOT boiling) water over the ginseng and honey and let steep for 5 to 10 minutes
- If you wish you can strain out the ginseng slices
- Drink slowly
This ginseng tea recipe is zesty, aromatic, and will warm you from the inside.
Ginger chews are made from pieces of real ginger root, which means they contain its natural active ingredients.
A basic ginger chew consists of a slice of ginger root that's been boiled in water and sugar to soften it and then coated in sugar.
Ginger has both anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
When buying ginger chews remember to be aware of the sugar content. If you’re already consuming a lot of sugar in your everyday life we recommend you make ginger tea (recipe further down the article) or even buy ginger juice instead of adding the sugar on top of what you’re already eating.
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Beverages for battling the common cold
It’s important to drink a lot of fluids when you feel a cold is coming on. When you’re down with a cold be sure to drink plenty of water and other fluids. That will help you replace the fluids and electrolytes (not found in plain water) you’ve lost while also loosening mucus. But all beverages aren’t good for you, for instance steer clear of sugary options which also includes juices.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is becoming a popular home remedy for colds. It has a high concentration of vitamin C, fiber, and the acids are believed by some to boost immunity while breaking up the congestion that comes with a cold. (source)
Vinegar is made from the fermented, unstrained juice of crushed apples.
A popular remedy for a cold mixes apple cider vinegar with honey. This remedy has been used for centuries:
- Mix 1 part apple cider vinegar with 5 parts warm water
- Add 2-3 tbsp. of raw honey
There's also a USDA certified organic, raw, all natural apple cider vinegar#ad available on Amazon. It´s a great vinegar that´s very popular and tastes great. You also get a measuring spoon when ordering this bottle.
When it comes to alleviating symptoms from colds, flu and upper respiratory issues, elderberry syrup is very popular.
Elderberry syrup has been used for centuries to cure and treat a variety of illnesses and disorders.
It's been proven in several studies that elderberry syrup can be used to reduce both the frequency and the length of existing respiratory infections. The elderberry syrup is efficient against viral infections such as the common cold. (source)
It seems to be efficient against sinusitis as well as reducing symptoms and speeding up recovery time. (source)
Elderberry syrup can also help to strengthen the immune system.
Remember: There is a toxicity risk when taking elderberry syrup. All elements of the elderberry plant, contain toxic elements. Only cooking and other forms of processing can render the berries safe for consumption.
You can read more about the health benefits of elderberry syrup in our article: What is elderberry syrup good for? Does it really work?
If you are interested in elderberry syrup there are two ways to go, either you find a high quality brand available for purchase, or you can make your own. The bought syrup is more expensive than the homemade one but then again, it's very convenient and easy to get.
You can find an organic elderberry syrup#ad through Amazon.
Cranberries are packed with antioxidants and the hot drink calms and warms. Perfect when you feel a cold coming on.
Cranberries have a tremendous amount of antioxidant capacity. Like most fruits, you get the highest level of nutrition when you eat cranberries whole. But the juice is still full of benefits.
Cranberry juice is rich in vitamin C and salicylic acid and in terms of minerals, it contains calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and potassium among other nutrients.
Cranberry juice’s antimicrobial effects on the body are what enables it to help fight against several bacterial strains. For instance cranberry juice may help inhibit certain strains of Haemophilus influenza and also be effective against Norovirus. (source)
When making a warm cup of cranberry juice you have to make sure to not boil it as the nutrients you’re after will be destroyed by too much heat. I prefer to warm it up just a bit so that I’m able to drink it or serve it to my children right away. Don’t gulp it down quickly though but instead take the opportunity to relax and enjoy your beverage.
Many juices contain added sugar. Stay away from them, There’s a big difference between cranberry juice drink and real cranberry juice. Look for labels that say “made with 100 percent real cranberries”. Here's a juice that's made of 100% cranberries#ad available on Amazon.
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Tea against sore throat
Drinking tea has been considered a health promoting habit since ancient times. Hot tea can give some relieve for a sore throat. Mainly because the warmth gives a soothing feeling.
A special trick for your sore throat:
To make a proper tea for sore throat, you can brew a cup of caffeine free herbal tea of your choosing, and then add one or two cough drops. Stir thoroughly so that the tablets dissolve in the water. It’ll give that extra soothing you deserve.
Another tea to try is non-herbal teas, it doesn't matter if they're made from black, green, or white leaves. All of them contain antioxidants that are believed to strengthen immunity and ward off infections. And if you want an extra boost, add a teaspoon of honey. Add the honey after the tea has cooled of some to keep all of the benefits of the honey intact. Add the honey at around 70 degrees Celsius or 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Drinking hot tea with ginger and is good for strengthening the immune system. It can also be useful for a bad cough or a sore throat. But if you have high fever you should avoid ginger. Ginger has the ability to warm you up which you don’t need when the fever is high.
Ginger tea, which is made from the root, is known for its medicinal properties. Raw ginger, has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory properties.
There are two ways to make a great cup of ginger tea:
- Peel the ginger root and cut in small pieces
- Boil water
- Pour the water over ginger pieces and let it simmer for a few minutes
- Add a few drops of fresh lemon
- Drink it slowly
- Peel the ginger root
- Boil water
- Grade a bit of the ginger root in the water
- Add a few drops of fresh lemon
- Enjoy! You can eat the graded bits of ginger, they're quite tasty!
You can read more about the health benefits of ginger in our article What is ginger and what is ginger good for?
When you have a cold as well as any other day, its important to drink water frequently, it flushes toxins out of the lymphatic system, and it keeps you hydrated. But for that extra immune system boost you can also drink concentrated juices.
To get the most out of it, you should make the concentration yourself. Use your juice blender and slice in kale, broccoli, apple, arugula, parsley, cucumber, carrots, mangold, lemon and mint.
Or you can pick and choose with fruits and vegetables you really like and mix them together. (source)
There's quite a few different juices available on Amazon but this organic 100% flavored juice blend with a mix of fruits#ad ticks all the boxes when we look for the healthier option; Organic, High vitamin content and No added sugar.
Please drink juice in moderation as even though no sugar might be added it can still have a lot of sugar in it. I highly recommend you read more about sugar and its effects on your health at sugarscience.ucsf.edu.
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Soups for battling the common cold
Eating soups when you’re under the weather give you multiple advantages; you’ll get fluids as well as vitamins or other healthy things that you put in your soup. You should also serve it hot if you for instance have a soar throat.
Carrots are a real booster of vitamin C among other things. Carrots can act as expectorants when coughing and also have an antiseptic effect.
Carrots are an excellent source of beta carotene. One of beta carotene’s jobs is to support the body’s mucus membrane, which lines the respiratory and intestinal tracts, making it harder for bacteria to enter the bloodstream and cause trouble.
Carrot is one of the important root vegetables rich in bioactive compounds like carotenoids and dietary fibers. The consumption of carrots is an important source of natural antioxidants. (source)
How to make an easy but delicious carrot soup
- Boil half a kilo of fresh carrots in one liter of water until soft
- Mix the carrots
- Add a pinch of salt
- Serve piping hot in a bowl with some parsley sprinkled on top
There’s several reasons why chicken broth or soup is good for you when you have a cold.
While research affirms that it’s not a cure, hot chicken soup is a potent mucus stimulant, especially when it's loaded with pepper, garlic, hot curry powder, and other pungent spices that help to thin out mucus in the mouth, throat, and lungs.
It’s also good because you get heat, liquid and nutrients at the same time when you have some chicken soup, while battling your cold.
You can buy organic chicken broth#ad through Amazon that'll do wonders for you. Heat the broth and cut some vegetables like broccoli, carrots and garlic in it and enjoy!
Spicing it up - for battling the common cold
There are products you can use to spice up for instance your tea to not only get the benefits that your tea provides but also some other potent added properties. Why not add something else to your meal or beverage if it can help you with you cold?
Honey contains antioxidants and vitamins and many, including our family, would agree on its power to help relieve a vicious throat. Honey is expectorant and therefore good if you have a nasty cough.
Although honey won't cure a cold, it does have benefits and may relieve certain common cold symptoms.
Honey is great to mix in your tea, a cup of hot milk or the like. It soothes the throat and, according to some home remedies, can help you get rid of the cold faster. If nothing else, it alleviates the symptoms for a while. (source)
While there are many over-the-counter cough medicines that include honey, you can also mix it with hot lemon yourself at home to obtain a similar effect:
- Squeeze half a lemon into a mug of boiled water
- Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of honey
- Drink while still warm
Don't serve anything with honey to infants younger than 1 year. It can cause infant botulism. You can read more about infant botulism at The World Health Organization: (source)
If you need to stock up your honey, we recommend you buy this 100% pure, organic, raw and unfiltered honey#ad from Amazon. It’s remarkably rich and smooth. This honey comes straight from the hive and isn’t cooked in high temperatures, which means that all the nutrients you find in raw honey is left intact.
Lemon tea or lemon water is said to counteract colds. The acid in the lemon makes it antiseptic. It stimulates the immune system, suppresses colds and fever and is also a real c-vitamin boost. (source)
Lemon is antiseptic and can alleviate swelling. It’s also very easy to use. Just squeeze it in hot water or a cup of tea!
For that extra special remedial, make yourself a warm cup of lemon tea and add a teaspoon of honey. Just remember that the tea shouldn’t be too hot. Heating up raw honey will change the makeup of the honey, and potentially weaken or destroy enzymes, vitamins, minerals. Heating honey to maximum 95 degrees is fine, and will leave the health benefits of the raw honey intact.
If you don't have the energy to run to the store to get your lemons, there are organic fresh lemons#ad available through Amazon that they'll deliver right to your door!
Garlic in various forms has shown promise as a treatment for preventing colds. Many believe that it can both prevent and cure colds.
Studies have shown that garlic reduces the risk of becoming sick in the first place, as well as how long you stay sick. It can also reduce the severity of symptoms.
One study gave 146 healthy volunteers either garlic supplements or a placebo for three months. The garlic group had a 63% lower risk of getting a cold, and their colds were also 70% shorter. (source)
Fresh garlic is great to have at home, even when you don't have a cold, it´s wonderful to spice up your dinner. Garlic is both delicious and good for you. You can buy 2 pounds of fresh California softneck garlic bulb#ad through Amazon. These bulbs are grown naturally without use of chemicals and pesticides.
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Extra tips for battling the common cold
There are things to do when having a cold that don’t involve eating or consuming something.
First and foremost you should rest. Rest is important. If you continue to go about your day as usual, your cold will probably linger on. Give your body the time and rest it needs to fend of the cold as quickly as possible.
Rinse with salt water! This is actually an old tradition, which many seem to have forgotten. Salt water rinses have proven to be very effective, both in avoiding and getting rid of colds. On the one hand, you reduce the load of microbes (viruses and bacteria) in the nose and, secondly, strengthen the nasal hygiene.
It’s also perfect for small children that have difficulty with blowing their noses!
This is how you do it:
Here’s how to make the salt water you’ll need
- 5 cups of sterile water (if you use tap water, you need to boil it first and let is cool)
- 1 teaspoon plain table salt
- Heat the water carefully to body temperature (be sure it’s not too cold or hot)
- Add a teaspoon of table salt
- Stir until the salt is dissolved
The water now has the same salinity as your body (0.9 percent) and is therefore called physiological saline.
To facilitate rinsing, there are special nasal wash pots that are inserted into one nostril. I strongly recommend you to buy one, especially if you’re going to use it on children. It makes the process so much simpler and as it’s reusable you’ll always have an effective method to help out with runny noses etc.
You can buy one from your local pharmacy or online. I recommend this sinus rinse pot#ad available through Amazon. It’s suitable for both kids and adults. It has a large capacity of 500 ml.
Here’s how to rinse
- Bend your head and upper body slightly to one side and allow the pot to follow
- The salt water flows from one nostril through a cavity in the middle wall between the nostrils and out through the other nostril
- Dirt and mucus are rinsed out
- When half the water has run through, blow your nose carefully
- Then pour the rest of the water through the other nostril
Be sure to not wait for too long between these steps as the water cools down quite quickly. If you think it’s too cold I recommend you make another batch or reheat it carefully back to body temperature. We usually pour the remaining water in a clean cup and reheat it in the micro.
It´s important to stay hydrated. Water, clear broth or warm lemon water with honey helps loosen congestion and prevents dehydration.
But fluid intake has little to do with curing a cold. Hydration is believed to help your immune system, but there isn’t any hard evidence to really support that. But dehydration can make people more sick. Proper hydration can help your body use medication better, which may lead to a quicker alleviation of symptoms.
If you have a fever, diarrhea, or vomiting, and really losing liquids, it’s very important to replenish your body with an electrolyte-enhanced beverage. It may not make your cold and flu symptoms go away, but it can prevent them from getting even worse.
There is a great product on Amazon for this. It’s an electrolyte concentrate for rapid dehydration#ad. It contains essential minerals that you loose when you loose a lot of water. The best part with this product is that the manufacturer haven't focused on the taste at all. They've only used what's needed for the best re-hydration, no additives for better taste, smell or color. But still it tastes just a bit salty. Check it out!
Avoid alcohol, coffee and caffeinated sodas, which can make dehydration worse. Also avoid all drinks that contain sugar.
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What I believe works the best in fighting that cold
It's tempting to try the latest remedies or run to the pharmacy to get the fanciest looking bottle of some miracle cure but the best thing you can do is take care of yourself and let your body do what it’s good at; fighting off bacteria and viruses. You help yourself the best through rest, drinking plenty of fluids and by making sure the air around you isn’t too dry. Remember to wash your hands frequently.
But if you want to give your immune system some extra ammunition there’s elderberry syrup. When it comes to alleviating symptoms from the common cold we recommend Elderberry syrup. It’s a great remedial that works. Elderberry syrup has been used for centuries to cure and treat a variety of illnesses and disorders.
Adults can take 1 tablespoon daily for five days straight. If you are feeling sick or have the flu, increase dosage to 1 tablespoon every 3-4 hours up to 4 times per day, but not longer than five days. You should be careful and refrain from over using it. If you're interested I recommend you read our article about elderberry syrup.
A runny nose is effectively taken care of by rinsing it with salt water and for that nasty cough I’d go for some kind of tea, ginger is my favorite, with some added honey.
And try stay away from work/school. You’ll infect others and prolong your own cold as well. It’s not worth it.
There is no cure for the common cold.
As mentioned in the beginning of this article the best thing you can do to avoid getting sick is to wash your hands frequently. And if you have children, teach them to do it properly as well.
When you're sick with the common cold you should get a lot of rest and drink plenty of fluids. There are also ways to alleviate some symptoms. That can be a relief when you fleeing a bit under the weather. Try some alternatives on our list to alleviate some of your symptoms.
Everyone should eat healthy throughout the year and not just during the cold seasons. A well-nourished immune system, your body's defense against germs, will be better able to ward off infections.
If you are not feeling better after 7-10 days you should talk to your physician.
An important note
"Natural" does not always mean "safe". Like all medicines, herbal products and supplements are expected to have some side effects. Some side effects are related to the natural toxicity of the plants they’re made from or from issues introduced in the manufacturing process.
The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate the supplement industry. That means manufacturers don’t have to prove supplements are safe or effective.
So be careful if you are about to shop for some new herbal products or supplements, remember to always read the label and buy from reputable dealers.