We’ve all come down with a cold. It’s a very common viral infection – so common, in fact, that it’s estimated that Americans suffer through a billion colds in a year!1 This infection can affect your nose, sinuses, throat, and upper airways and leaves you with a sore throat and a runny or blocked nose. And let’s not forget the annoying coughing that it can cause!2
“Causes Of Cough
- Common cold
- Infections of the upper respiratory tract
- Infection of the lower respiratory tract
- Inhalation of smoke or dust
- Flare-up of COPD, asthma, or chronic bronchitis
Coughing is a reflex action by your body to remove mucus or irritants like smoke or dust from your airways. You may get a “chesty cough” where phlegm is cleared from your airways or a “dry cough” that doesn’t produce phlegm.
A cold should start to get better on its own in 7 or 10 days and simple things like drinking plenty of fluids can be useful.4 And while there are medications that can ease the symptoms of a cold and cough, they may not be suitable for everyone. Some natural remedies can soothe the niggling symptoms and help you feel better.
1. Gargle With Salt Water
Gargling with warm salt water is a common remedy for dealing with a scratchy throat. Not only does it ease a sore throat but, according to research, regular gargling may even keep you from catching a cold by flushing out infection-causing germs.5
What to do: Dissolve a teaspoon of salt into 8 ounces of warm water and gargle to relieve your sore throat. Do this around 3 to 5 times a day till you get better.
2. Drink Lemon And Honey Water
Both honey and lemon have antiviral properties. Additionally, lemon contains vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant and can boost your immune system. Honey also coats your throat to relieve irritation which can cause coughing. So it’s no surprise a that warm lemon-honey drink is a popular treatment for coughs and colds. This remedy can effectively decrease the frequency and severity of coughing significantly.6
What to do: Juice half a lemon, dilute it with hot water, and add a couple of teaspoons of honey to make a soothing drink. You can also dilute a cup of warm honey with 1/4 cup of warm water and add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice for a thicker syrup. Now, drink up twice a day! You can choose the combination that suits your palate.
3. Scoop Up Some Chicken Soup
Yes, grandma’s remedy figures in this list! Chicken soup has been used by generations to treat a cold and cough. And it can work on many levels. The warmth of the soup, the amino acid cysteine in chicken meat, and the hot water can help loosen and thin out mucus. Herbs like ginger and garlic add not just flavor but potent antiviral properties to your favorite chicken soup.7 So the next time you come down with a cold, turn to this time-honored remedy for relief.
What to do: You may have a heavily guarded family recipe to bank on! If not, here’s one you can try.
You will need:
- 3 pounds of chicken meat with bones
- 4 carrots, chopped
- 4 stalks of celery, chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- Ginger to taste
- Garlic to taste
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
Add chicken, carrots, celery, ginger, garlic, and onion to a pot. Cover with water and simmer till the chicken cooks well enough that the meat falls off its bones. Now strain the broth and remove the bones from the chicken. Add the chicken meat and vegetables to the broth. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy your delicious soup.
4. Try Steam Inhalation
Warm, moist air can loosen mucus to clear a stuffy nose and ease your breathing. Do this at least twice a day and breathe easier.8
What to do: Boil water in a vessel with a wide rim and inhale the steam after the water has stopped bubbling. Draping a towel over your head and the vessel will help stop the steam from escaping. Do this thrice a day.
5. Try Eucalyptus Oil
Like the aboriginal people of Australia who have traditionally used eucalyptus to treat respiratory problems, you too could benefit from the antiseptic properties of eucalyptus.
What to do: Add a couple of drops of eucalyptus oil to the water to enhance the effectiveness of a steam inhalation and to clear congestion. You can also make a warm gargle with fresh eucalyptus leaves or a couple of drops of food-grade eucalyptus oil to ease a sore throat.9
Do note that eucalyptus is not suitable for children or pregnant or breastfeeding women.10 However, you can still benefit from a plain steam inhalation!
6. Drink Turmeric Milk
Turmeric milk is traditionally used in southeast Asia to treat coughs. Curcumin, a compound found in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antioxidant properties.11
Turmeric has also been found to inhibit the release of histamine, the chemical present in our bodies which is responsible for many of the symptoms that occur during allergic reactions like sneezing or getting a runny nose.12 So whether you’re coughing and sneezing because of the dust or an allergy or because you’ve got a cold, a glass of turmeric milk can come in handy.
What to do: Boil a teaspoon of turmeric powder in a glass of milk to make a healing drink. Having turmeric milk twice or thrice a day should do the trick.
7. Go For Yogurt
Yogurt contains beneficial bacteria, known as probiotics, which can be helpful in dealing with a cold. Studies show that probiotics can lessen the severity respiratory tract infections as well as shorten their duration.13 There is also some evidence that it may help prevent colds and respiratory tract infections and even reduce allergic reactions to pollen.14
What to do: Remember not to have yogurt straight out of the fridge if you’ve got a cough. Also, don’t wait till you come down with an infection to add yummy yogurt to your diet. If you’re prone to cough and cold, having a cup of yogurt a day can be helpful.
8. Have Ginger Tea
Ginger, a warming herb, contains bioactive compounds called shogaols which are known for their anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antitussive (ability to relieve or suppress coughing) properties.15
What to do: Wash, peel, and chop fresh ginger. Now simmer a couple of tablespoons of the chopped ginger in about 3 cups of water for 10 minutes. Strain and drink up your soothing ginger tea twice or thrice a day till you get relief. And remember, adding a little honey and lemon will not only make it more delicious but also boost the healing power of your tea.
9. Have Garlic And Honey
Garlic is a common herb found in most kitchens. Did you know it can also help take care of that cold for you? According to one study, participants who took a garlic supplement containing allicin, a beneficial organosulfur compound present in garlic, for 12 weeks had significantly fewer colds and recovered faster when they did catch a cold than the control group which took a placebo.16
What to do: Crush a few cloves of garlic and take it mixed with a teaspoon of honey to get rid of that cough. If you prefer something less sweet, simply take 5 drops of garlic juice mixed in with hot water twice or thrice a day for relief.
10. Try A Saline Nasal Wash
A saline nasal wash can help clear your stuffy nose. This treatment requires you to pour saline water into a nostril and remove it from your other nostril. As the water flows from one nostril to the other it’ll wash away mucus or allergens and make it easier for you to breathe.
What to do: Mix one teaspoon of water in 500ml of water to make a salt water solution. Lean over a sink, tilt your head to the side and gently pour the solution into one nostril and let it run out the other.17 Start by doing a nasal wash once a day, and if you’re comfortable you can increase the frequency to twice a day.
When Should You See A Doctor?
Prevent Coughs And Colds
Practicing a few healthy habits can lower your chances of getting a cold.
- Beware of germs: Washing your hands regularly, especially before eating or touching your mouth or nose, can keep you from catching harmful germs. Also, make sure you don’t share items like towels or cutlery with someone who has a cold.20
- Build immunity: A healthy lifestyle that incorporates factors like exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep will give you a strong immune system that can resist germs which cause colds and other diseases.21
- Eat fruits and veggies: Studies show that having flavonoids, which are beneficial compounds found in plants can significantly lower your risk of getting colds and coughs. So remember to relish your fruits and veggies, especially items like kale, blueberries, apples, and onions. Green tea and cocoa are also good sources.22
- Meditate: Researchers have found that people who practice mindful meditation have fewer instances of respiratory infections than those who don’t.23 Mindful meditation aims at focusing your attention on the present moment without judgment.
|↑1||Common Cold. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑2, ↑18, ↑20||Common cold. National Health Service.|
|↑3, ↑19||Cough. National Health Service.|
|↑4||Common cold – Treatment. National Health Service.|
|↑5||Satomura, Kazunari, Tetsuhisa Kitamura, Takashi Kawamura, Takuro Shimbo, Motoi Watanabe, Mitsuhiro Kamei, Yoshihisa Takano, Akiko Tamakoshi, and Great Cold Investigators. “Prevention of upper respiratory tract infections by gargling: a randomized trial.” American journal of preventive medicine 29, no. 4 (2005): 302-307.|
|↑6||Khalil, Amira Mohammed Saed Mohammed, and Rasha Mohamed Gamal. “Honey with lemon Improves Children’s Nocturnal Cough and their Sleep Quality as well as Their Parents.” International Journal 3, no. 6 (2015): 143-152.|
|↑7||Francis, Mandy. Raising a Healthy Eater (52 Brilliant Ideas). Penguin, 2007.|
|↑8||Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for nutritional healing. Penguin, 2006.|
|↑9||Eucalyptus. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑10||Eucalyptus. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑11||AHMED, TALHA, and ARSHAD TAIMOR. “HERBAL AND CONVENTIONAL TREATMENT OF BRONCHITIS.”|
|↑12||Kurup, Viswanath P., and Christy S. Barrios. “Immunomodulatory effects of curcumin in allergy.” Molecular nutrition & food research 52, no. 9 (2008): 1031-1039.|
|↑13||Vouloumanou, Evridiki K., Gregory C. Makris, Drosos E. Karageorgopoulos, and Matthew E. Falagas. “Probiotics for the prevention of respiratory tract infections: a systematic review.” International journal of antimicrobial agents 34, no. 3 (2009): 197-e1.|
|↑14||Cough. University of Maryland.|
|↑15||NIKAM, AJINKYA R., LOHIDASAN SATHIYANARAYANAN, and KAKASAHEB R. MAHADIK. “VALIDATION OF REVERSED-PHASE HIGH-PERFORMANCE LIQUID CHROMATOGRAPHY METHOD FOR SIMULTANEOUS DETERMINATION OF 6-, 8-, AND 10-SHOGAOL FROM GINGER PREPARATIONS.”|
|↑16||Josling, Peter. “Preventing the common cold with a garlic supplement: a double-blind, placebo-controlled survey.” Advances in therapy 18, no. 4 (2001): 189-193.|
|↑17||Torkos, Sherry. The Canadian encyclopedia of natural medicine. John Wiley & Sons, 2012.|
|↑21||How to boost your immune system. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑22||Flavonoids reduce cold and cough risk. University of Auckland.|
|↑23||Barrett, Bruce, Mary S. Hayney, Daniel Muller, David Rakel, Ann Ward, Chidi N. Obasi, Roger Brown et al. “Meditation or exercise for preventing acute respiratory infection: a randomized controlled trial.” The Annals of Family Medicine 10, no. 4 (2012): 337-346.|