When you're hit with the common cold, there's really not much that you can do except treat the symptoms and hope it passes quickly. There are any number of over-the-counter cold medicines designed to make the symptoms less bothersome, but those medications aren't for everyone. Maybe you dislike the side effects, or maybe you already take medication that could interact badly with over-the-counter cold remedies. Whatever the reason, you're looking for safe, natural cold remedies that actually work. Everyone has heard at least a few supposedly surefire cold cures from a well-meaning friend or relative, but are any of them really effective? Take a look at a few that have a real basis in science.
Sure, chicken soup tastes great when you're sick, and the hot liquid is soothing on a sore throat. But is it actually doing anything to help your cold? As it turns out, chicken soup may really be more than just comfort food when you have a cold. Research has found several ways that chicken soup acts as more than just a placebo when you're sick.
For one thing, chicken soup contains a compound called carnosine that helps the body's immune system fight off the flu, though the effect is relatively short-lived. But there's more to it than that. One study found that chicken soup helped slow the migration of certain white blood cells, which helped to reduce upper respiratory symptoms. Another study showed that chicken soup helped to ease congestion by improving the function of cilia inside the nose, and yet another showed that the vegetables and chicken in the soup worked together to alleviate inflammation in the respiratory tract. You don't necessarily have to take a trip to the store and break out your big pots when you're feeling sick, either—many canned soups have the same effects that homemade chicken soup has.
Ginger can be added to various foods and drinks, but when it comes to cold remedies, it's most commonly used in tea. You may be more familiar with ginger as an anti-nausea remedy. If you've ever had food poisoning, morning sickness, or just a stomach bug, someone's probably suggested ginger ale or ginger tea as a cure. Ginger really does aid digestion and help alleviate morning sickness, but it has other uses as well.
Ginger contains several elements that help improve blood flow, like chromium, zinc, and magnesium. This helps your blood circulate properly, which can prevent cold symptoms like fever, chills, and sweating. It also contains anti-inflammatories, which can help fight pain—like the pain that you feel when your throat is inflamed. Ginger also functions as an expectorant, which means that it can help break down and expel mucus in your lungs. Finally, ginger is good for your immune system, so it can help your body fight off the cold.
You may not have known exactly how they could help a cold, but you've heard of chicken soup and ginger. Mullein is one that you may not have heard of before, but it's an herb that's been around for a long time, and it's very effective as a natural cold remedy.
Mullein can be applied topically, ingested, and even smoked. If you have a cold, mullein tea is your best bet. The herb contains both antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, so it can help soothe your throat and relieve a cough while helping you expel mucus. Although smoking is not the most effective way to use mullein, people who smoke tobacco may find relief by smoking mullein while they're sick instead. If you have an ear infection along with your cold, mullein oil can help relieve the earache as well.
If you don't find relief with natural remedies, make an appointment to see your doctor and rule out something more serious. A common cold and the flu can seem a lot alike at first, but the flu can come with dangerous complications. If you're not getting better with rest and home remedies, then you need a doctor's advice.