When you’re suffering from cold or flu, symptoms like headaches, runny nose, sore throat, and exhaustion, can have you looking for fast-acting and effective relief. These natural remedies can help you nip that cold in the bud and start feeling like yourself again—without a trip to the doctor or pharmacy.
Gargle or rinse with saltwater
Gargling with saltwater can soothe a sore throat, and rinsing your nose with a saltwater solution—also called nasal irrigation or sinus flushing—can help break up congestion.
For a sore throat
Mix 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of salt in 1 cup of warm water and gargle the solution throughout the day as needed.
For sinus congestion
Mix 1/4 tsp of un-iodized salt and 1/4 tsp of baking soda in 1 cup of warm water, then use a bulb, syringe, or neti pot to rinse your nasal passage with the solution. Be sure to use distilled or sterile water, don’t swallow the solution, and make sure you breathe through your mouth while rinsing.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
When you catch a cold or flu, your body needs extra hydration to battle back against the infection. Fevers, diarrhea, and vomiting are a few examples of how our bodies lose fluid when we’re sick. Additionally, if you have a sore throat and just generally don’t feel well, you’re probably less inclined to drink water. If you’re feeling under the weather, be sure to drink plenty of fluids, such as water, teas, and soups.
Try a little honey
Honey contains health-supporting vitamins, minerals, and enzymes and offers antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. It’s been used as traditional medicine against respiratory viruses for centuries. Research suggests that honey may help ease the severity and duration of symptoms, such as coughs. Any honey will do, but manuka has been found to provide the most benefits.
Ward off colds with garlic
Studies suggest that garlic may carry some hefty medicinal weight. It helps protect the heart, may reduce the risk of cancer, and lessen the chances of a blood clot forming. Garlic may also enhance the immune system and prevent colds and viral infections by helping to inhibit viruses from replicating. While there are many recipes containing garlic, you can find garlic supplements just as easily if you aren’t a fan of its distinct flavor.
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Keep the echinacea handy
Echinacea is a flowering herb related to sunflowers and ragweed. It’s commonly used to support the immune system and fight inflammation. It’s believed that echinacea has chemicals that help activate immune cells that work to fight off viral infections. When taken at the start of a respiratory tract infection, echinacea may shorten the duration of your cold symptoms.
Eat probiotic foods
Probiotics are microscopic organisms found in the gut that affect our mood and behavior. They also aid our digestive system and influence our immune response. Probiotics can reduce the duration of an infection or virus. While you can take a probiotic supplement, many fermented foods contain beneficial strains, such as yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and pickles.
Get some vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin your body needs to limit inflammation and help build healthy bones. It’s a powerful nutrient that can also fight viral infections and shorten the duration of a cold. Your body gets vitamin D from sun exposure and a few foods, such as fish liver oils and egg yolks, or you can take vitamin D supplements, available in capsules, gummies, liquids, and other forms.
Zap it with zinc
Zinc is a trace mineral found in many foods, such as chicken and chickpeas. It’s an important nutrient to the body, that supports the immune system, promotes growth in children, helps treat skin disorders, and has been shown to help slow macular degeneration. When taken within the first 24 hours from the onset of cold symptoms, zinc lozenges and syrups have been found to significantly reduce the length of the common cold.
Add some ginger to your diet
Ginger is often used to calm upset stomachs, but it’s also shown to have antiviral activity against viruses associated with the common cold. Fresh ginger has more virus-fighting power than dried. You can grate fresh ginger and add it to sauces or dressings. It’s also delicious in soups and stir-fries.
Take elderberry extract
Elderberry flowers and berries are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. The plant’s extract has been used to treat diseases and ailments for many years. Studies show that when taken at the first sign of symptoms, elderberry supplements can shorten the length and severity of a cold or flu by about two days.
In one study, participants took 15 mL of placebo or elderberry syrup four times per day for five days. Those patients who received the elderberry supplement experienced an improvement in flu symptoms about three days earlier than their placebo counterparts. You can find elderberry extract in syrups, capsules, or lozenges.
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