Prevention & Recovery

5 natural cold remedies

By: Katherine Vankoughnet

© Author: Canadian Living Credits: ©

Prevention & Recovery

5 natural cold remedies

By: Katherine Vankoughnet
The truth is that there is no cure for the common cold. But fear not! There are plenty of natural remedies that will help you through your misery and reduce your time spent suffering, and you likely already have most of them in your kitchen. Here are our top 5 natural cold remedies.

1. Garlic

Useful for more than just warding off vampires and unwanted kisses, this flavourful bulb will also help kick your cold to the curb. Garlic contains an enzyme called alliin that when crushed or cut produces allicin, a sulphuric compound that has antiviral properties.

DIY dose: Kate Whimster, a naturopathic doctor at Wavelength Wellness in Toronto, recommends avoiding garlic pills. Since allicin is quite volatile it is rarely properly preserved in pill form and it's much cheaper to use the real thing. Peel and dice a clove or two of garlic, let them sit for a few minutes and then eat them raw. Do this twice a day until your symptoms have subsided (and cancel all scheduled social engagements).

2. Hydrotherapy

"When people get sick they often take cold medication to suppress their symptoms so they can go to work,” says Whimster, "but those symptoms are signs that your body is trying to heal itself, so you want to facilitate that.”

She recommends performing a water-based ritual – known as hydrotherapy – once or twice at the beginning of illness to promote warmth, relaxation and rest, and to ultimately feel better faster. She also recommends taking at least one day off from work – both your body and your coworkers will thank you.

DIY dose: First, use a neti pot: Dissolve a 1/4 tsp of sea salt with a mixture of boiling and filtered water in a 1 cup neti pot so that it's warm, then take it to the shower and perform a rinse to dramatically decrease decongestion. A contrast shower will also help. Stay in the hot water for two minutes (concentrating on the areas where you're experiencing symptoms), and then switch the water to cold for 30 seconds. Repeat for four cycles. Always check with your doctor before starting a new health regime.

"It's first a little unpleasant, but after that your temperature sensors are so confused that you adjust,” says Whimster. "This helps the blood out of all the tiny capillaries in your skin and gets you really warm.”

Finally, just before you go to bed, soak a pair of cotton socks in ice water, wring them out and put them on your feet. Then put a pair of dry wool socks overtop. "This brings a lot of blood to your feet and out of your head, which reduces congestion, gets your feet nice and warm and gets circulation going,” explains Whimster. "You'll wake up feeling much better.”

3. Oil of oregano

This isn't the flavourful herb you've come to know and love in your pasta dishes; rather, it's an extremely potent extract from the same plant that's a lot less palatable. Two of its main components are thymol and carvacrol, which have antimicrobial effects.

Don't overuse it though, warns Whimster. "It's very powerful and kills a lot of bacteria and viruses,” she says, "but if you're taking it every day, you're disrupting that whole ecosystem of good organisms in your mouth, stomach and body that actually prevent you from getting an infection.”

DIY dose: At the first signs of a sore throat or cold, place a drop in a shot glass full of water, gargle with it and swallow so it gets into your system. Do this twice a day until symptoms have abated. Whimster also recommends brushing your teeth with oil of oregano (a drop on the brush followed by toothpaste) to clean your mouth during and after illness.

4. Ginger

Though it has long been touted for its ability to cure nausea, the cure-all root also works fantastically on cold symptoms. "It has that spicy, warming quality, and the warmer you are, the better your body is at fighting off a virus,” says Whimster.

DIY dose: Add slices of ginger to a hot broth or brew a strong cup of ginger tea to soothe your sinuses almost immediately.

"I always keep ginger in my house, but it goes bad very quickly, so a good storage tip is to freeze it, and then it grates really easily,” adds Whimster. Don't let it defrost before grating, though, or it will turn to mush.

5. Steam

Hot water vapours will help moisturize your dry throat, skin and nasal cavities, and will loosen up your mucus membranes, making it easier to clear your sinuses or a congested chest.

DIY dose: Fill a large bowl with boiling water and then stand over it with a towel covering your head. Close your eyes and breathe deeply, allowing the steam to enter your nose and mouth. Whimster recommends adding a drop of thyme oil (which also contains thymol) to the water, as it's an excellent decongestant.

Check out some other treatments for the common cold, including how not to spread your cold to friends and family.

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Prevention & Recovery

5 natural cold remedies