Natural Cold Remedies: Heal Faster and Stay Healthy Longer

As soon the season changes from summer to fall, television and radio commercials begin selling us on how to ease cold symptoms by using commercially made, over-the-counter medications. In reality, catching a cold in the first place points to issues that go deeper than a stuffy nose or aching head. Unlike conventional cold medicines which alleviate and suppress symptoms, natural cold remedies help support your body and your immune system to help you get over the cold faster and possible make it harder for you to catch another one.

Healing the common cold with natural remedies means using the bounty of nature itself. From teas to aromatherapy to gargles, all-natural cold remedies are easy to find or make at home and work not just to make you feel better, but boost your body's natural defenses.

Cold-Busting Teas
Holistic medicine is based on the idea that any illness, including the common cold, is the result of an overall imbalance in the body. If one aspect of your being isn't in harmony with the others, you're more susceptible to illness. The goal of holistic medical treatments is to restore balance to the body and bring your body, mind and spirit back into proper alignment. Herbal teas are one of many healing methods holistic medicine draws on to achieve that goal.

A cold-busting tea of elder flower, peppermint and yarrow is often recommended for cold and flu. These three herbs, available in any natural foods store, are combined in equal parts (e.g., ½ tsp of elder flower, ½ tsp of peppermint, ½ tsp of yarrow). Mix the herbs thoroughly before steeping the mixture in 6 to 8oz of water for up to 10 minutes. Sweeten with honey or agave nectar if desired. Drink one cup of tea at least three times daily until symptoms resolve.

Why does the mixture work? Elder flower has naturally occurring compounds that break up mucus and strengthen mucus membranes, which helps you filter out further illness-causing germs. Peppermint has long been known as a stimulating herb, but studies have also shown that its chemical makeup acts as a decongestant. Finally, yarrow works as a diaphoretic to promote sweating and a diuretic that helps to thin mucus.

Thyme Gargle
The oil derived from thyme has powerful antibacterial properties and works hand in hand with your immune system to fight cold-causing bacteria. The chemical name for the antiseptic contained in thyme is thymol, which is also the main active ingredient in mouthwashes. Its antibacterial properties are so effective that prior to the development of antibiotics, it was used to medicate bandages.

You can purchase thyme oil at health food stores or the natural health section of your local grocery store. Add two drops of thyme oil to 1 cup of warm, but not hot, water. Stir to distribute the oil evenly throughout, then gargle immediately. Do not swallow the gargle. Repeat up to two or three times daily. Both the gargling action and the thyme will soothe throat inflammation and shorten the duration of your cold.

Natural Cough Drops
When you or a loved starts to cough, don't run to the pharmacy: Turn to your own kitchen where can make lozenges that soothe and ease. In addition the artificial sweeteners used in commercial cough drops, there have been several reports of mass poisonings resulting from the use of the less expensive diethylene glycol in place of glycerin in expectorants and toothpastes manufactured in China.

Making your own cough drops is easier than you think and you'll appreciate both their cooling and astringent properties when you're suffering from a cold.

Steep ¼ cup peppermint leaves, ¼ cup spearmint leaves, ¼ cup chamomile leaves along with 1 tbs of white willow bark powder in a pint of boiling water. Let cool then add 1 cup of sugar and 1/3 cup of light corn syrup to the water. Bring the mixture back to a boil without stirring, until it begins to crystallize. Remove from the heat and drop lozenges using a teaspoon onto a greased surface or hard candy molds. After the lozenges have hardened and cooled, roll them in cinnamon and store, wrapped in waxed paper inside a freezer bag or glass container.

The herbs used in this recipe contain the oral anesthetic menthol, which helps numb the receptors in the throat that trigger your cough reflex. Use these or choose from a variety of others you'll see in prepackaged natural cough drops, including horehound, mullein root, marshmallow, thyme and slippery elm. Purchase herbs at health food stores or plant them in your garden to use fresh or dried.

Simply Echinacea
An herb that is native to the deserts in the southwest, Echinacea also grows wild in the white hills of Kansas, the Sand Hills of Nebraska and throughout Wyoming and eastern Colorado as well as parts of Canada. It flowers from May to July and it's the light purple to light pink coneflowers that delivers one of the most effective natural cold remedies.

When taken in capsule or tea form, Echinacea angustifolia helps boost the body's defenses in a number of ways, but it's one way in particular that makes it such an amazing cold remedy: Echinacea speeds the response of white blood cells when they're called to attach and break down bacteria, toxic immune-complex proteins and the larger viruses that cause both cold and flu.

In simplest terms, what makes Echinacea work is its natural ability to attach to bacteria, which makes it easier for your body to heal by helping the immune system recognize it along with viruses and mold more quickly, so that your body can get rid of them more quickly.

Vitamin C
Vitamin's primary role is aiding the body in the production of collagen, an important structural component of skin, ligaments, tendons, bones and blood vessels. But it's also a powerful antioxidant that's been the subject of hundreds of studies for its potential to reduce the risk for certain diseases and stave off colds and flu.

While various studies over the last 30 years indicate that vitamin C may not prevent colds as it was once thought, increased levels of vitamin C have been shown to reduce the duration of colds by up to 10%, but only in cases when that increase was consistent before the onset of cold symptoms.

Because it's water soluble, vitamin C can't be stored in the body and must be continually replenished from diet and supplements. When cold and flu season starts, consider increasing your intake of vitamin C. You may still catch a cold, but if you eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and whole grains, and already get plenty of exercise, chances are that cold won't last more than a few days.

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