DRUG-FREE COLD & FLU RELIEF
10 natural ways to feel better and give your immune system a boost.
It’s that time of year, when nd annoying coughs can morph u. nes t come without bothersome, and sometimes dangerous,
— certain herbs, vitamins, and minerals have proven to be e ective alternatives to OTC slp s on of some seasonal sicknesses. ere’s some overlap d
n Israelsen, president of the United Natural Products ar OTC medicines like aspirin, guaifenesin (an expectorant), and even pseudoephedrine (a decongestant) all originate
nts. “You can buy many of those al
form—they can’t use the same wording because that’s reserved for over the counter products, but essentially they are the same thing,” he says. “ere’s a lot of ce behind these natural products, and the evidence and the studies supporting them are de nitely there.”
Just as a u shot targets only certain strains of the virus, there is no one drug to prevent or cure the common cold, and no one natural remedy either. Joe Graedon, pharmacologist, author, and cohost of the nationally syndicated People’s Pharmacy public radio program with his wife Terry Graedon, has a hypothesis: there are over 200 di erent viruses that cause the common cold, and
one remedy won’t necessarily
x the entire problem. For example, “sometimes zinc seems to work like a charm and other times it fails,” he says. “Perhaps the reason is not the remedy, but rather the nature of the infection itself.”
Be prepared for whatever cold and u season brings with one or more of these 10 proven cold and u alternatives, combined with plenty of rest and hydration to help keep the bugs at bay:
VITAMIN C AND ZINC: A potent preventive combo that also gives existing colds a one-two punch.
When it comes to warding o a cold or the u, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. Tieraona Low Dog, MD, author, teacher, and former member of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy, recommends proactive, regular consumption of vitamin C and zinc for decreasing the odds of getting sick. And if you do catch something, this combo will help you ght it o faster. “In general, take 200 mg of vitamin C twice daily, and take it more frequently if you start to catch a cold,” she says. “Take 15 mg of zinc every day (the amount in most multivitamins), and if you start to get sick, suck on lozenges containing 5–10 mg of zinc every 3–4 hours for 2–3 days.”
COD-LIVER OIL: is oldiebut-goodie boosts immunity and reduces the risk of upper-respiratory infections.
Cod-liver oil has traditionally been the go-to home remedy for staying healthy in
the cold winter months, especially in frigid Nordic countries. It can be taken in either liquid or capsule form. People’s Pharmacy’s Terry Graedon says cod-liver oil’s long-standing reputation for warding o winter colds has been studied for its particular e ectiveness in children, and the research con rms that kids who take it su er from fewer upper-respiratory tract infections. “Whether that is due to the vitamin D and vitamin A that is found in the oil, or to some other quality isn’t known,” she says.
BLACK ELDERBERRY: e first line of defense against colds and congestion, and a proven reducer of the severity and duration of influenza.
Available in syrups, tinctures, lozenges, and tablets, avonoidrich black elderberry is a favorite of Low Dog, who suggests taking this immune-booster at the rst sign of a scratchy throat or stu y nose. “Elderberry can be safe and e ective for many of the common respiratory complaints people complain of during the cold and u season,” she says, noting its safety for adults and children. “Studies show that it has potent antiviral activity, even against the u,” she continues. “When the H1N1 u was going around, the National Institutes of Health screened a wide range of natural products to see if they had antiviral activity, and black elderberry ranked very high.”
HONEY: A sweet soother of coughs and sore throats.
A spoonful of sugar may help the medicine go down, but a spoonful of raw honey, either taken alone or melted into a mug of warm water or a cup of fresh ginger tea, has been hailed as an e ective, short-term cough buster, especially at night among young children. Note: Never give honey to children under the age of 1.
ECHINACEA: e herb that eases colds, sore throats, and respiratory tract infections.
e e ectiveness of echinacea (also known as purple cone ower) has been hotly debated for decades, but a 2014 study acknowledged that the perennial garden plant does indeed deliver bene ts for cold su erers. Low Dog uses echinacea to quell colds, sore throats, and respiratory tract infections. “I have used the tincture for both my family and patients for more than 35 years,” she says. “As a matter of fact, many patients told me it was the rst herbal medicine that they had ever used that made them really believe that ‘this stu works.’”
HYSSOP: Nature’s expectorant.
Th is aromatic member of the mint family can help to reduce phlegm. It is usually taken in tea form with honey (a bonus cough soother). “Hyssop possesses antiviral properties and promotes the expulsion of mucus from the respiratory system,” says Low Dog. She adds that hyssop
fl ower tea has long been used to ease colds, coughs, and congestion. “Th e tea is quite pleasant, and I have found it to be a very good expectorant when taken in small doses throughout the day.”
EUCALYPTUS OIL: A beloved clearer of stu y sinuses.
A featured ingredient in lozenges, salves, and nasal inhalers, eucalyptus oil contains a component that’s proven to be an effective treatment for sinusitis. Most easily used in a diffuser or via steam inhalation, eucalyptus oil has been lauded by the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy for its ability to decongest sinuses and act as a natural cough suppressant, while helping cleanse the air of bacteria and other icky microbes. You can also blend a few drops into a neutral carrier (like coconut oil) and apply to the chest to help reduce congestion.
PEPPERMINT OIL: A refreshing way to soothe headaches.
Th e cooling zing of peppermint does more than just freshen breath; it’s also a potent way to ease headaches. “A drop [of peppermint oil] massaged into the temples encourages irritated blood vessels to return to a more balanced state, evening out blood fl ow and dulling sharp pain,” says Low Dog. “A drop or two will work magic on any tension and tightness around the temples and neck.” Be careful to wash your hands after application, as peppermint oil will sting mucous membranes in the eyes and nose.
MAITAKE: A mushroom your immune system loves.
Maitake mushroom has been found to be a potent and effective immune enhancer. An extract from maitake known as maitake D-fraction has been shown to increase numbers of key immune cells, enhance their activity, and improve function of immune system overall. Th is means it can better your odds of not catching that cold in the fi rst place, and help to knock out one more quickly if you do. Studies show maitake D-fraction is effective in stimulating macrophages, T cells, and natural killer (NK) cells in the immune system, giving your body a fi ghting chance against invaders and even cancer.
BETA GLUCANS: A proven way to reduce total sick days.
Beta glucans are naturally occurring polysaccharides found in the cell walls of yeasts, bacteria, fungi, yeasts, algae, and plants. Th ey work by activating immune cells known as macrophages. In turn, macrophages consume foreign substances in the body, helping the immune system to work more effectively. A UK study found that beta glucans naturally derived from the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Wellmune WGP) resulted in an 18% reduction of the total number of days with symptoms of upper-respiratory tract infections.