Let’s face it: no matter how many oranges or multi vitamins we stock up on, every now and then, our immune systems will invariably succumb to the common cold. And while modern medicine has provided us with replacement organs, IVF and Viagra, it has yet to come up with a fast, effective cure for a runny nose.
You might not be able to prevent yourself getting poorly, but there are ways to alleviate the symptoms. Here are our top five natural solutions for getting the better of that sore throat and chesty cough:
Studies have shown that this immune system-boosting wonder herb can decrease the duration of a cold by one and a half days. Only take it when you feel symptoms coming on, though – it is less effective the longer you use it, so limit treatment to no more than ten days.
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Professor Ronald Eccles of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University recommends cold sufferers put their head over “a steaming bowl of hot water for five minutes to soothe and clear the airways. Add a few drops of menthol Vaporub or crystals to the water, which has a cooling effect on nerves in the nose.”
3. Feed the cold, er, feed the fever
There’s a little truth in this oft-dispensed piece of advice, though forget about starving a fever if you do feel like eating. Hearty portions of nourishing food are crucial when you’re feeling under the weather. Always start the day with a big breakfast full of antioxidant-rich fare such as porridge, with a generous handful of blueberries and seeds, and a dollop of Manuka honey. This superfood contains antiviral and antibacterial properties that will help soothe sore throats.
Other must-eats include sweet potatoes, peppers, mushrooms, barley and garlic. It may not be a crowd pleaser, but garlic contains allicin, a powerful antibacterial agent – and what makes it smell. Chow down on it in food or take two 100mg capsules three times a day for optimal results.
4. Take Zinc supplements
Naturally occurring in meat, peanuts and seafood, zinc is used in many cold lozenges and over the counter remedies. This essential mineral helps maintain a healthy immune system and has been proven to reduce the severity and duration of cold symptoms.
5. Drink plenty of fluids
Fluids help break up congestion and prevent dehydration. Drinking water or fruit juice will keep your throat moist, while antioxidant-rich green tea will fight the virus. There’s also some indication that chicken soup really can relieve cold and flu symptoms. It acts as an anti-inflammatory and temporarily speeds up the movement of mucus, which can help relieve congestion.
These natural remedies should start to work within a couple of days, but for those in need of something stronger, Professor Eccles advises buying a nasal spray that contains xylometazoline or oxymetazoline “to help reduce the swelling in the nose that causes congestion. Also look for lozenges with a strong taste. This promotes salivation, which helps coat and soothe a sore throat. Covonia lozenges, containing menthol and capsicum, are good. For a chesty cough, choose strong-flavoured medicines and look for expectorants such as guaifenesin, which help thin mucus and clear it from the airways.”
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If even if these cures make you feel a bit more human, it’s worth treating yourself to a duvet day rather than spread the virus. The indulgence of watching a favourite boxset in your pyjamas while everyone else is at work should have you back on your feet in no time.