The cold and flu season is coming as we approach the autumn and winter months, bringing with it a host of chills, ills, and other concerns. Highly contagious and annoyingly persistent, a cold is one of the most common seasonal afflictions. Although there's no cure for the cold, there are many natural ways to soothe the unpleasant symptoms it causes while your body naturally works it out. Here are a few simple recommendations for making yourself more comfortable during cold and flu season.
Natural Remedies to Fight a Cold
1. Vitamin D
Boosting your levels of vitamin D has dozens of benefits, including amping up your body's defenses against the common cold as well as the flu. The vitamin, which is produced by the body in response to sunlight exposure, increases immune cell activity, reduces toxicity, and lowers the inflammatory response.
Zinc reduces both the intensity and duration of the common cold by up to 50 percent. Zinc also improves immunity and fights bacterial load within the body. Common sources of zinc include pumpkin seeds and cashews.
Turmeric is a yellow and mellow-tasting spice highly prized for its use in Indian cuisine and natural medicine. You can find the root in its whole form at some specialty supermarkets, and the powder can also be found in most spice sections. It’s rich in antioxidants and may provide defense from harmful organisms that cause sickness.[5, 6] For a cold-fighting tea, place ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder in eight ounces of hot water. Drink this mixture often throughout the autumn and winter seasons. As a gentle food, turmeric may also help soothe a sore throat. Simply combine ½ teaspoon turmeric with one tablespoon of raw, local honey and consume slowly to coat the throat.
Echinacea is an herb that has seen continuous support in the natural health community. Some research suggests that it's helpful for a healthy immune response; yet despite this research, many conventional medical professionals remain skeptical on the herb's ability to keep a cold at bay.[7, 8] Echinacea provides compounds responsible for combating the cold before it starts.[9, 10]
5. Vitamin C
If you have a lingering cold that just won't go away, or if you experience colds frequently throughout the year, chances are you are not getting enough vitamin C. This important, water-soluble nutrient is found in high amounts in green vegetables and citrus fruits and is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system.  Freshly-squeezed lemon juice is a great way to receive vitamin C in your diet. Consuming warm herbal tea with lemon juice during a cold, or before one sets-in may be helpful for defense.
A warming circulatory stimulant, cinnamon is a powerful health-promoting spice with dozens of benefits for the body. Not only can it encourage healthy blood sugar levels, cinnamon has also been shown to boost the immune system and fight harmful organisms.[12, 13] Sip on some cinnamon tea when you feel the chills coming on, and sprinkle some cinnamon in your smoothies, breakfast foods, or coffee.
7. Oregano Essential Oil
Oil of oregano has been studied extensively for its natural action against harmful organisms. Oregano oil is one of the most beneficial essential oil for fighting infections. If you have a cold, you can place a few drops of oregano oil in a vegetarian capsule and take daily.
9. Licorice Root
Traditional medicine has used licorice root for a variety of ailments. Licorice is a a potent immunomodulatory herb, possibly explaining its popularity in natural medicine.[17, 18] It has soothing properties and, when taken orally, may be helpful for sore throat.
When you're facing a cold or the flu, exercise may be the very last thing on your mind. Despite this, there are significant improvements in immune function following exercise, making it one of the most natural (and free) ways to fight sickness.[19, 20] While mostly used as a preventative measure, you can still engage in exercise while enduring a minor cold. Only perform physical activity during an illness with the utmost care, and always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before engaging in strenuous activity if suffering from any kind of illness.
It may seem like an easy thing to do, but pure relaxation is sometimes the most challenging thing to accomplish in today's fast-paced world. Being overworked and highly stressed can interfere with your immune system and increase your susceptibility to getting a cold. Stress, whether it is mental or physical, decreases the activity of the immune system and can lengthen the duration of illness. Meditation, sleep, and simple breathing exercises can help decrease stress and improve the immune system.
A good, light-hearted laugh with friends or alone can help boost immune function. The power of emotion helps in maintaining our physical health — especially our immune systems. Watch an uplifting comedy, recall funny moments in your past with loved ones, or read a joke book. Doing these simple things can certainly aid in keeping your body healthy during the cold and flu season.
- National Institute of Health. Common Cold: Cause. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Fact Sheet.
- J. J. Cannell, R. Vieth, [...], and E. Giovannucci. Epidemic influenza and vitamin D. Epidemiology and Infection. December 2006; 134(6): 1129-1140.
- Harri Hemilä. Zinc Lozenges May Shorten the Duration of Colds: A Systematic Review. The Open Respiratory Medicine Journal. 2011; 5: 51-58.
- H Babich and G Stotzky. Toxicity of zinc to fungi, bacteria, and coliphages: influence of chloride ions. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. December 1978; 36(6): 906-914.
- Chinampudur V. Chandrasekaran, Kannan Sundarajan, [...], and Amit Agarwal. Immune-stimulatory and anti-inflammatory activities of Curcuma longa extract and its polysaccharide fraction. Pharmacognosy Research. 2013 April-June; 5(2): 71-79.
- Apisariyakul A, Vanittanakom N, Buddhasukh D. Antifungal activity of turmeric oil extracted from Curcuma longa (Zingiberaceae). Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 1995 December 15;49(3): 163-9.
- Dapas B, Dall’Acqua S, Bulla R, Agostinis C, Perissutti B, Invernizzi S, Grassi G, Voinovich D. Immunomodulation mediated by a herbal syrup containing a standarized Echinacea root extract: A pilot study in healthy human subjects on cytokine gene expression. Phytomedicine. 2014 May 27. pii: S0944-7113(14)00221-9. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2014.04.034.
- Kim HR, Oh SK, Lim W, Lee HK, Moon BI, Seoh JY. Immune enhancing effects of Echinacea purpurea root extract by reducing regulatory T cell number and function. Natural Product Communication. 2014 April;9(4):511-4.
- Bany J, Siwicki AK, Zdanowska D, Sokolnicka I, Skopinska-Rozewska E, Kowalczyk M. Echinacea purpurea stimulates cellular immunity and anti-bacterial defence independently of the strain of mice. Polish Journal of Veterinary Sciences. 2003;6(3 Suppl):3-5.
- Senchina DS, Martin AE, Buss JE, Kohut ML. Effects of Echinacea extracts on macrophage antiviral activities. Phytotherapy Research. 2010 Jun;24(6):810-6. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2991.
- Strohle A, Hahn A. Vitamin C and immune function. Medizinische Monatsschrift für Pharmazeuten. 2009 February;32(2):49-54; quiz 55-6.
- Alam Khan MS, PHD, Mahpara Safdar, MS, Mohammad Muzaffar Ali Khan, MS, PHD, Khan Nawaz Khattak, MS and Richard A. Anderson, PHD. Cinnamon Improves Glucose and Lipids of People With Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care. December 2003, vol. 26 no. 12 3215-3218. doi: 10.2337/diacare.26.12.3215.
- Yutaka Orihara, Hiroshi Hamamoto, Hiroshi Kasuga, Toru Shimada, Yasushi Kawaguchi and Kazuhisa Sekimizu. A silkworm-baculovirus model for assessing the therapeutic effects of antiviral compounds: characterization and application to the isolation of antivirals from traditional medicines. Journal of General Virology. January 2008, vol. 89 no. 1 188-194. doi: 10.1099/vir.0.83208-0.
- Royo M, Fernandez-Pan I, Mate Jl. Antimicrobial effectiveness of oregano and sage essential oils incorporated into whey protein films or cellulose-based filter papers. Journal of the Science of Food and Agricultural. 2010 July;90(9):1513-9. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.3977.
- Faleiro L, Miguel G, Gomes S, Costa L, Venancio F, Teixeira A, Figueiredo AC, Barroso JG, Pedro LG. Antibacterial and antioxidant activities of essential oils isolated from Thymbra capitata L. (Cav.) and Origanum vulgare L. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2005 October 19;53(21):8162-8.
- Marc Schumacher, Claudia Cerella, [...], and Marc Diederich. Anti-inflammatory, pro-apoptotic, and anti-proliferative effects of a methanolic neem (Azadirachta indica) leaf extract are mediated via modulation of the nuclear factor-kB pathway. Genes and Nutrition. May 2011; 6(2): 149-160.
- Adel M. Aly, Laith Al-Alousi, and Hatem A. Salem. Licorice: A possible anti-inflammatory and anti-ulcer drug. AAPS PharmSciTech. March 2005; 6(1): E74-E82.
- Mengyue Wang, Min Zhang, [...], and Xiaobo Li. Influence of Honey-Roasting on the Main Pharmacological Activities and the Water-Soluble Active Glycosides of Licorice. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicines. 2012; 9(2): 189-196.
- Brolinson PG, Elliott D. Exercise and the immune system. Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine. 2007 July;26(3):311-9.
- Nehlsen-Cannarella SL, Nieman DC, Balk-Lamberton AJ, Markoff PA, Chritton DB, Gusewitch G, Lee JW. The effects of moderate exercise training on immune response. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 1991, 23(1):64-70.
- Suzanne C. Segerstrom and Gregory E. Miller. Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry. Psychological bulletin. July 2004; 130(4): 601-630.
- Mary Payne Bennett and Cecile Lengacher. Humor and Laughter May Influence Health IV. Humor and Immune Function. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. June 2009; 6(2): 159-164.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.