The common cold is the cause of considerable misery. Searches for its cure are like searches for the Holy Grail. Fortunately herbs have much to offer.
What To Do When You Catch a Cold
If you have a healthy, functioning immune system, your cold should not last more than three or four days. Do not expect miracles or immediate results from natural remedies. In fact, since most of these remedies will assist the body, as opposed to suppressing the symptoms, your symptoms may temporarily worsen.
Base your primary treatment on helping your body to detoxify and support its natural defense mechanisms (your immune system). Avoid trying to include as many remedies as possible, it seldom works, and if it does, you will not know which remedy actually did the job. By selecting herbs that fit your individual needs and addressing immune support, diet and lifestyle, the common cold should not present you with a problem.
You can include one or two herbs to help relieve your symptoms, especially if they make your life miserable. Although this may sound contrary to the advice that you should not suppress your cold symptoms, most of the herbal remedies you have at your avail will alleviate your symptoms without suppressing them. Remember, they are Nature’s Little Miracles.
A Sample Herbal Cold Busting Treatment Plan
- At the first sign of a cold decrease your food intake, or eliminate it completely for the first 24 hours.
- Take an Epsom salts bath and consume lots of liquids – water and/or lemon balm tea.
- Get sufficient rest. Even if it means staying in bed for a day or two. Your health is your most valuable asset.
- Avoid sugar (even natural sources) as it can impair immune function. Orange juice for example contains a much higher level of sugar than it contains vitamin C. Therefore consuming lots of orange juice during a cold may do more harm than good.
- Increase your intake of vitamins A and C and take supplemental zinc. There is good scientific data to support this practice.
- Use one or more of the herbs discussed below. A proven combination is equal parts of yarrow, peppermint and elderberry. If you can tolerate cayenne (chillies) increase your daily intake to your individual maximum tolerance.
- Lastly, use your common sense. If your symptoms persist, or become worse, consult your doctor or health care provider.
Herbal Cold Remedies
Cayenne (Capsicum sp.)
Chillies, especially Jalapeno, are probably the best, most available and most effective antiviral. Unfortunately, unless you are used to taking it, your digestive tract won’t tolerate enough cayenne to treat your virus infection. Try to integrate more chillies into your diet before you get sick. Then, when you need it, you’ll have a better tolerance for high doses. To get accustomed to the heat of chilli try a glass of water or milk with a few drops of Tabasco sauce on a daily basis. Gradually increase the drops. You can grow your own chilli plants or you can buy chillies from your green grocer.
Echinacea (Echinacea sp)
Taken frequently, and in sufficient quantities, this is undoubtedly the best herb to take during the early stages of your cold. It is not an antibiotic – it does not kill germs. Instead, it works by stimulating the production of white blood cells, accelerating their maturity, and speeding their travel to the area of infection where they fight off the invaders. You can also take echinacea in small quantities before you get a cold (especially when everybody around you is getting sick) to help build your immunity. Take echinacea as an infusion or as a tincture. Both are available from health shops.
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)
Elderberry has been used for centuries to treat colds and flu. Recent research indicates that elderberry fruit extract may de-activate cold and flu viruses by preventing them from replicating (they must reproduce or else they can’t infect the body.) Although this finding is exciting it only proves what millions have known for ages – it works for colds and flu. It is best taken at the first signs of a cold either as an infusion, tincture or capsules. Discontinue use as soon as your symptoms subside. Available from health shops.
Garlic (Allium sativum)
Garlic is sometimes referred to as a truly natural antibiotic as it can destroy foreign bacteria without any side effects. Its antibiotic properties stem from the substance allicin, a potent antibacterial agent that is released when garlic cloves are cut or bruised. The volatile oil containing the allicin is excreted via the lungs. This explains why garlic is so successful in combating respiratory infections such as chronic bronchitis, catarrh and recurrent colds and flu.
Garlic is best when fresh but it can also be taken in capsule form. But make sure that the capsules contain natural allicin – the synthetic alternatives are useless. Many people use it daily as a tonic to maintain health and to prevent recurrent respiratory infections. About 4 g fresh garlic (one medium sized clove) daily is recommended for tonic use, or if you prefer capsules, one capsule twice daily. For a therapeutic dose use one clove three times a day. Obtain it from your grocer or try and grow your own.
Ginger (Zingiber officinalis)
Ginger, either freshly grated or powdered, taken as a tea induces sweating and elimination. Hot ginger tea (or my favourite – ginger brandy made with 10 year old KWV brandy and fresh ginger root) also supports and tonifies the stomach, spleen and large intestine and it improves bowel function. It is a classic immune system and respiratory tonic. Ginger will also provide relief for virtually all of your cold symptoms – fever, sinus congestion, sore throat, stomach ache and nausea. Available from you grocer or supermarket as fresh root, ginger powder or tincture (Lennon’s Jamaica Gemmer.)
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)
Hyssop is specifically indicated for bronchitis and it has some properties that make it a very valuable herb for treating colds. It has diaphoretic properties, loosens mucous and is a demulcent (membrane soother). The nervine properties are also very valuable in the treatment of colds. You can easily grow your own hyssop and plants are readily available. Take it as a standard infusion made with 3 – 6 teaspoons fresh herb (use a third of that for dried herb) three times a day.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon Balm is an excellent carminative, anti-depressive and nervine. It is mostly used for stress and tension related problems but is often found in cold formulas for feverish conditions. It is an excellent remedy to take in the wake of a cold to nurture the nervous system and to expel feelings of lethargy. Best used fresh, you should grow your own supply. Plants are readily available and dried material can be obtained at health shops. Make a standard infusion with 4 – 6 teaspoons fresh herb. Take a cup three times a day.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
Peppermint is most valuable in the treatment of fevers and especially colds and flu. When viral illness involves stomach trouble, you may not be able to eat much, or keep down your remedies. Peppermint is a good, cooling stomach soother that will help with nausea. It also relieves pain. It should preferably be used fresh and is very easy to grow. Take a standard infusion made with 4 – 6 teaspoons fresh herb, three times daily, or as needed.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Yarrow is one of the best diaphoretic herbs available to us and has become a standard remedy for aiding the body in dealing with fevers. For colds it is best combined with other herbs such as peppermint and elderberry. Yarrow is easy to grow and plants are freely available – so grow your own. Make a standard infusion with 3 – 6 teaspoons fresh herb, or 1 – 2 teaspoons dried herb. Take one cup three times a day.