The common cold: drippy nose, nagging cough, sore throat, clogged sinuses, and congestion. It’s miserable, spreads quickly (person-to-person or through the air), affects people of all ages, and hits nearly any time of the year, but especially in the spring and fall. It’s the most prevalent type of upper respiratory infection (URI) and is caused by a virus (rhinovirus).
So, what’s a person to do?
If you get a cold, give your body the rest and support it needs and the infection will generally resolve within ten days. We all know there are myriad products that promise to reduce symptoms, from decongestants, cough suppressants, and pain relieving medicines. But we also know that relief is temporary and often comes with side effects. We suggest following a natural path to preventing and treating those pesky colds. You’ll be happy you did.
The Natural Medicine Approach
If you want to minimize your risk for catching a cold, it’s important to look at factors that sustain a strong immune system. This includes considering your diet and food allergies; nutrient deficiencies (which will only be revealed by blood test); hygiene and hand-washing habits; and physical activity. Look too at your lifestyle and environmental factors, including personal relationships, ongoing stress, and exposure to allergens, mold, and toxins.
When you do come down with a cold, natural approaches can support the healing process:
Rest and Replenish: Rest as much as possible as the body needs its resources for healing. Drink plenty of water or diluted vegetable/whole fruit juice, and herbal tea. Eat fresh fruit, vegetables, broth-based soups and protein. Avoid processed sugars, which can depress immunity.
Essential Oils: Use oils in a chest rub or aromatherapy diffuser to reduce the intensity of coughs and congestions. Try peppermint, lemon, eucalyptus, lavender, clove and tea tree. Ask your physician for guidance, as some oils are not recommended for children; others should not be combined, and concentrated oils need to be diluted properly before use.
Massage: Helps reduce pain and inflammation and promotes relaxation, which is vital to the body’s healing process. As long as you’re not coughing and sneezing, visit a massage therapist for lymphatic drainage or Swedish massage. Self-massage techniques can help drain the ear-nose-throat canal (see the therapy article in this newsletter).
Supplements: Research indicates vitamin C reduces the severity and duration of colds, but not the incidence. Similarly, properly prescribed Zinc supplements can reduce the frequency and intensity of colds; there is little evidence for the effectiveness of over-the-counter zinc lozenges. For symptom relief, try botanical medicines, such as ginger, elderberry, and Echinacea.
Humidify: If you live in an especially dry, warm climate, consider using a humidifier in your home. There is mixed evidence about how much humidification can help treat URI, but at the least, it may make breathing more comfortable.
Natural medicine offers a multitude of ways to personalize care, especially to support the prevention and treatment of URI. Speak with your physician about what approaches are best for you.