Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course
It’s that stuffy head, runny nose, nasty cold time of year. Viruses run amok when the temperatures drop, so it’s the season to catch a cold. As the old saying goes, a cold lasts a week, but 7 days if you treat it. You can’t do a whole lot to “cure” a cold, but there are quite a few ways to help make the symptoms more tolerable (and these natural cold remedies do not include a trip to the pharmacy).
Why pharmaceutical cold remedies should not be your first choice
While many people run to the drugstore at the first sign of a sniffle, it’s important to remember that sometimes the side effects can be worse than the symptoms you’re trying to treat.
Antihistamines are supposed to stop the watering eyes, runny noses, and scratchy throats but result in severe drowsiness for most people. Other common side effects are dizziness, headaches, dry mouth, dry eyes, and fatigue.
Decongestants (like pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine) allege to reduce sinus congestion, but can also dangerously increase heart rates and blood pressure in some people. Other side effects are Restlessness, insomnia, tremors, and anxiety.
Phenylpropanolamine (PPA), another common ingredient in cold and flu medicines, can increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke, especially in women ages 19-45.
For people who take monoamine oxidase inhibitors or SSRI antidepressants, the above medication types can cause lethal interactions.
OTC Cough Medicine
Dextromethorphan, the most common active ingredient in over-the-counter cough medicine, can be deadly if the recommended dosage is exceeded. As well, it is one of the most abused OTCs for those seeking a quick “high”. Common side effects of dextromethorphan are drowsiness, nausea, confusion, and dizziness. Expectorants and suppressants can cause either constipation or diarrhea.
Medicated Nasal Sprays
Over the counter medicated nasal sprays work quickly to open the nasal passages, but if they are used for more than 3-5 days in a row, they can result in more congestion than you had in the first place due to the “rebound effect” or rhinitis medicamentosa. When this occurs, the swelling of the nasal passages can become permanent, requiring surgical intervention.
A collection of natural cold remedies
You can get relief without diving into the chemicals. Following, find links to DIY home remedies that you can make yourself, as well as links to homeopathic and herbal pre-made remedies.
We keep these remedies on hand, as well as the ingredients for making them. Viruses are normally short-lived at our home, or at least the intense part of the sickness.
- Try a DIY Healing Vapor Rub. This one is simple to make, and if you keep some basic essential oils on hand, you most likely have everything you need already to whip this up. (I made this for my daughter recently and it was very soothing.)
- A fragrant, steaming cup of herbal tea can make everything better. This article discusses the herbal teas you should have in your home arsenal, including several that will help soothe cold symptoms.
- Breathe Free by Rootology contains a combination of 13 herbal extracts, tested for purity and strength. This remedy reduces congestion, alleviates sinus pressure, and relieves a runny nose.
- Add a Eucalyptus Shower Bomb to a steamy shower. The moist, scented air will help the sufferer breathe more easily.
- This Honey, Lemon, and Ginger cough syrup will not only relieve cough symptoms but also help to boost your immunity.
- Fire cider is a traditional remedy that has been used for centuries. Unfortunately, it usually takes a few weeks to be ready. This easy recipe provides instant gratification (and relief).
- Speaking of your immune system, this immune-boosting smoothie will help make your system powerful enough to fight off illness before it happens or to battle a cold effectively if you already have one.
- This is a guide to the different herbs you can use to make your own cough syrup based on your specific symptoms.
- Studies show that when zinc comes into contact with the rhinovirus (the virus that causes colds)it can prevent replication, shortening the amount of time that the sufferer is ill. One study recommends one lozenge every two hours. Lozenges and syrups, as opposed to capsules, are the recommended treatment.
- Nothing tastes better when you’re sick than soup made with homemade chicken or turkey broth. I can broth to be pulled out when the bugs strike our house. Here’s the recipe we use for the basis of our homemade soup. (Hint: the more garlic you add, the more healing power your soup will have.)
- Taking large doses of Vitamin C is a fairly common practice, and studies show that it can be effective in reducing the duration of cold symptoms. This website offers several different Vitamin C protocols you can try. Be sure to only use a high-quality Vitamin C supplement when you are using it therapeutically.
- Elderberry extract is often used for colds, but studies show it is more effective in treating the flu. Sometimes it can be difficult to determine whether your illness is caused by a cold virus or a flu virus, and elderberry does have antiviral properties, so taking it certainly won’t hurt you. Sambucol is the only standardized elderberry extract that has been used in studies. You can purchase it here or make your own syrup.
What is your favorite natural cold remedy?
What do you do when a bad cold strikes a member of your family? Is there anything special you always stock up on to treat them and relieve symptoms? What always makes you feel better?
As always, Daisy, a fabulously useful and well-written post. I can’t think of a single remedy to add other than answering the age-old question “Is it starve a cold and feed a fever or starve a fever and feed a cold?” And the answer of course is – it doesn’t matter, just stay at home and don’t pass it around.
Agree, stay at home and don’t pass it around. I wish some of the people my husband works with would take this advice, because they’ve been walking around coughing up their sick germs at work for weeks and my husband finally got sick and brought it home to me. I’m not a happy camper, because I hate getting sick.
We use a tea made from dried elderberries and sage for respiratory symptoms. Two table spoons of dried elderberries (bought from Frontier herbs) and a tablespoon of sage steeped in a quart of boiling water and sweetened with honey.
We also sometimes use matricaria (pineapple weed, I think it is related to camomile),yarrow, catnip and hyssop. Catnip and hyssop should be avoided by pregnant women. Hyssop is particularly useful for bronchial congestion.
I have used Purtitan Pride for years. Most of these oils are obtainable there, 2 for 1, and always free shipping….AND I get what I need, when I need it, and all at the same time—NOT a month apart.
Try it out!
And my vitamins are ordered there–no, I am not affiliated–just trying to save you money.
I have never been dissatisfied with this company, and 2 for 1 is not a bad deal.
Thanks JJ! I’ll check that out. I hope you’re doing well 🙂
My Mother made vinegar candy in the winter. I never realized how effective it was for sore throats until I had surgery with the tube down my throat. Also use mullein for coughs and sore throats.
Oh neat! Do you have a recipe? If so, feel free to post it! I love old remedies. 🙂
GJ Amber, could you post the recipe? I have never heard of vinegar candy, but I’d love to try some. Thanks!
I would love to have a recipe for this as well.
Timely article. I’ve been sick with head cold since Sunday. My husband had it first, only took 3 days for him to get past it. But, I’m going on day 4 and just starting to feel a little bit better. My immune system is not as robust as his since I’m carrying around a lot of extra weight (making progress on that though). We’ve both been using the instant fire cider and it really helped him. I’ve also been drinking elderberry tea none-stop and neti-potting twice a day. All together, I think those things have helped me shorten my cold. I’m feeling a bit better today, not as drippy, watery, or sneezy and I can feel my sinuses opening back up. I didn’t know about the zinc, so I might get some of those lozenges to keep on hand. And the eucalyptus shower bomb sounds like a good idea too. I sure hope this is not the start of a bad winter season for me. I don’t get sick very often, but when I do I feel like death warmed over, so I try to avoid sickness as much as humanly possible.
For those (like me) that use a “neti pot” or sinus rinse, please, Please, PLEASE boil the water. Tap water (either well or municipal), bottled water of any sort is NOT necessarily sterile. There is a nasty amoeba that can kill you in the water you use. Although rare, it is a risk I will not take. Boiling the water (whatever source) first is a good step to take.
“Can you get an infection from using a neti pot?
In recent years, there have been a few news stories of people developing Naegleria infection after using neti pots to irrigate their sinuses.
These cases weren’t due to the neti pot itself. Instead, they were caused by using contaminated tap water in neti pots, which allowed the amoeba to enter people’s noses.
If you use a neti pot, these tips can help you avoid an infection:
Purchase water that’s labeled as “sterile” or “filtered” for use in your neti pot.
Use tap water that’s been boiled for at least one minute and allowed to cool down.
Use a water filter that’s labeled as meeting NSF standard 53. You can shop for these online.”
There are numerous articles out there on the subject. Webmd is having issues right now, so just search for “brain eating amoeba”.
Even if I could find labeled sterile or filtered, I’d boil it anyway.
Eating tangerines/ “clementines” daily as a snack throughout the day helps me before getting a cold. They’re smaller than an orange so they won’t overfill you and you’ll be getting a steady amount of Vit C. Plus you won’t be paying for the thick skin of imported store oranges.
Grapefruits are also good for Vit C. They have a layer between the rind and pulp that when chewed coats a sore throat I may have, relieving some pain. The taste is a little bitter but ok.
Stay away from soda drinks. For me it effects my respiratory system, could be the caffeine irritating the throat lining. When sick avoid sugar especially asparment. Honey is good.
Gargling with salt daily along with nasal sprays helps clean out the upper respiratory tract. As mentioned above do not use tap water. Dispose of the nasal spray every so often, replace it with a new one.
Cleanese your body of mucous as it tends to gather ‘germs’.
Most important, I am not a medical professional so all of this not medical advice.
I agree if you’re sick say from a cold stay home. You would want other people to do the same. But if you’re in an office with mostly ‘parents’ it’s a losing battle. You have the summer months to build-up your immune system before the kids go back to school.
Germs travel as air droplets, by contact, doorknobs, used surfaces.
Duck taping a N-95 mask to someone wouldn’t be civil plus it’s probably illegal anyway. Stratch off that your list for uses of Guerrilla Tape.
Chicken broth is good for relieving the autumn ‘blues (also, french onion soup with a top layer of cheese. And yes dairy products promote mucous but eating should be fun.)
On another post I sort of tongue-in-cheek suggested carrying an affordable light-weight multi-use Gigli bone saw in your B.O.B..
But considering the likelihood of getting a cold during the SHTF …
…. did I mention it’s compact.
Why did the chicken cross the road?
To avoid the Prepper with the congested nose.
Colloidal Silver. Simply the best.
I’m a big fan of chicken soup, and loaded with garlic, onions and other herbs and spices it seems to help with the symptoms. I like to add curry powder to mine, (extra ginger) and herbs like thyme, basil and oregano. I also cook it with loads of vegetables – even if you strain it and just drink the broth, the water soluble nutrients are in the liquid and available.
Zinc is also good for colds, and available in lozenge form.
Orange, cranberry and other juices for hydration, vitamin C and antioxidants.
Water, water, water.
Hot lemon and ginger tea with honey, or a hot ginger brandy Toddy.
Sleep. Don’t feel guilty about taking a nap if you’re sick.
Such a timely article, I just came down with a cold! Personally I like “spicy noodles” . I take a package of ramen noodles (throw away that nasty little msg packet) break them up in a big mug, cover with water and microwave 3 minutes. When it is done I add soy sauce, sweet chili sauce to taste then add lots of fresh garlic and ginger. The noodles are easy to eat even with a sore throat and the spicy broth is so soothing.
Elderberry used for Covid can kill you. Numerous articles on the problem. Ranger
Wow. I had not heard about this, and I’m off to goggle now. I’m wondering if it’s wise to use as a preventive for viruses? So much to learn.