Almost every individual on the planet experiences ‘COLD’ at some stage in their lives. Different viruses tend to cause cold and the symptoms could differ based on the virus type. Generally, ‘Rhinovirus’, is one of the common causative agents of cold, which multiplies expansively in the throat and nasal passways. CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) pointed out that, colds are common and, on an average, adults acquire cold almost twice a year There is no medical cure as such for treating cold. Although the symptoms of cold tend to disappear within a week, it can be immensely discomforting for an individual. People affected with cold experience the following signs/symptoms:
- Sore throat
- Congested nostrils and cough
- Headache, pain and sore muscles
- Fever more than 100°F accompanied by chills
- Sneezing, nasal stuffiness, yellow/green mucus and
- Runny nose
Since cold is a viral infection, antibiotics don’t tend to be effective. However, most of the natural remedies are safe and don’t have any contradictory effects.
The following home remedies can help in managing the symptoms
- Adequate hydration: Intake of fluids such as water, juice, warm soup/broth/lemon water enables to release of congested respiratory units and also keeps one de-hydrated. A cup of hot tea/herbal tea (such as ginger, lemon, sage, camomile, slippery elm, green tea & liquorice root) help in relieving infections of the nose/throat. Adequate hydration also helps in thinning of the mucus and promoting easy extraction. While, warm beverages facilitate nasal drainage and removal of mucus, making breathing easier. Fresh Turmeric Tea can be an excellent remedy as an anti-inflammatory agent. However, certain beverages such as alcohol, coffee and caffeinated sodas should not be consumed, as it tends to worsen dehydration.
- Honey (Vitamin Bee): Honey or the ‘Vitamin Bee’ is one of the commonly opted cold/cough therapies. Honey, as a solitary element acts as an effective cough suppressant. As per the recommended guidelines of the NICE (National Institute of Health and Care Excellence) and Public Health England (PHE), Honey should be used as a first-line treatment for cold/cough. Honey is more effective than over-the-counter drug (Dextromethorphan) in suppressing cough. Research evidence suggests, Honey is effective in symptomatic conditions of acute cough due to UTRI’s (Upper respiratory tract infections) and infected respiratory system.
As per the research publication, ‘Paediatrics’, giving honey to children minimised nocturnal coughing and promoted sound sleep. However, the precautionary step is to refrain from giving honey to children under the age of 1, as there are risks of ‘Infant Botulism’ (an uncommon type of food poisoning caused due to the presence of Botulinum spores in the honey). As honey contains natural sucrose content, there are risks of tooth decay too. Adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of honey into warm water and consuming when warm is an excellent remedy for cold. However, when warm, should not be given to children.
- Zinc: Since the year 1984, Zinc has been found therapeutically effective in minimising the symptoms of a cold. Research studies have highlighted the properties of zinc in decreasing the severity and period of cold-associated symptoms. Zinc restricts the multiplied growth of Rhinovirus. It may also block the virus from dwelling in the mucosal membranes of the throat and nose. Over-the-counter zinc supplements are available widely in various forms and dosages. However, zinc tends to be more effective as a lozenge, which allows it to stay and come in contact with the Rhinovirus.
The review by the Cochrane Collaboration, an international NPO (Non-Profit Organisation), which publishes systemic reviews of high standards in the domain of healthcare research has pointed out the efficacy of zinc in treating a cold. As reported, consuming zinc within 24 hours, upon first experiencing the symptoms, cut shorts the duration of the cold by a day. However, apart from the benefits, certain adverse effects such as metallic taste and nausea have been reported upon taking zinc lozenges. Also, the toxicity of zinc remains a concern. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has issued warrant notice against the usage of nasal sprays in managing cold due to more than 100 reported cases of loss of smell.
The IOM (Institute of Medicine) has set a maximum tolerable limit of zinc is 40 milligrams (mg)/day, and lesser dosages for teenagers and adolescents. Thus, the sustainable maximum limit can be opted, without any potential adverse reactions to combat cold.
- Eucalyptus Oil: Eucalyptus tree (scientific nomenclature: ‘Eucalyptus Globulus’) is a perennial tree native to the Australian continent, though cultivated across the globe. In the preliminary era, the Aborigines used the Eucalyptus roots due to its huge water content and drank the tea as a remedy for fever. Since then, it has been widely known as ‘Australian fever tea’. Eucalyptus oil, that is extracted from the leaves through the process of steam-distillation has been medically tested in treating chest (respiratory ailments), since the year 1788. Since the late 1800s, the ability of the oil to facilitate sweating and draining mucus has led to its prescription in relieving symptomatic conditions of the URTI’s (such as cold, cough, congestion and other conditions).
The oil constitutes natural elements such as, eucalyptol and 1,8-cineole, that imparts medicinal properties to it. As per a research study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Biotropical Medicine, the oil exhibits strong anti-viral properties. Thus, helping in unblocking sinuses and de-congestion. Eucalyptus oil in the form of steam distillation is recommended to treat cold. As the vapors of the oil are inhaled into the respiratory tract, it relaxes the muscle spasms and constricted air passages, which resulted in breathing difficulty. Thus, it acts as a natural mild expectorant and promotes mucus removal and drainage from congested/blocked sinuses.
Thus, adding a few drops of the oil into the boiling water and inhaling the vaporized steam can help in relieving cold/cough. Also, mixing a few drops of oil with an ounce of carrier oil and rubbing the same onto the chest can help in combating the symptoms.
- Andrographis: Andrographis, scientifically, referred as ‘Andrographis Paniculata’ native to the South Asian nations (such as India and SriLanka) has been proven to be considerably effective in the treatment of cold/cough. Medicines are manufactured using an underground stem and leaves. There have been claims about Andrographis, that were found to be effective in limiting the ‘flu’ epidemic in India, in the year 1919. Andrographis stimulate the immune system and stop the influenza virus from binding to the body cells.
As per research reports, consuming Andrographis alone or as a constituent of a herbal product relaxes the symptoms of cold, cough and sore throat. As highlighted by some research claims, consuming an amalgamated product containing Andrographis and Siberian ginseng relieves the symptomatic conditions of common cold within 72 hours of falling sick. At times, the symptoms might improve within 2 days of treatment, but it generally requires 4 to 5 days of therapy, before all the symptoms completely ward off.
Previous research studies have claimed the importance of Andrographis extract alone for cold. Also, as per evidential studies, consuming Andrographis as a sole ingredient for 2 months helps in keeping the cold at bay.
- Echinacea: Echinacea plant extracts (family Asteraceae) which come as 10 different species, have been widely used in the North American and European regions for treating cold. Echinacea extracts available in the market tend to vary based on the different species and parts (such as roots, flower, leaves or stem) used. Thus, the clinical studies have shown to conclude conflicting results in determining the effectiveness of Echinacea in monitoring cold. Recent scientific studies have suggested that certain Echinacea supplements tend to shorten the duration of the cold by half a day and help in minimizing the intensity of the symptoms.
As per a study published in the ‘Annals of Internal Medicine’ in the year 2010, the herb reduces the duration of the common cold. Also, according to a 2006 review, products comprising of the Echinacea purpurea lessens the tenure and symptoms of a cold. The working mechanism of Echinacea focuses on boosting the immune system, by increasing the body’s defence against various pathogens. The increase in the number of WBC’s (White Blood Cells) help in battling against infections. The roots and various parts of the plant can be used as a fresh/dry form to prepare tea, squeeze juices, fresh extracts and capsules/tablets to treat cold.
For children suffering from cold, humidifiers/saline drops, saltwater gargles should be used to relieve congestion and flush out the sinuses. Opting for home remedies won’t necessarily mean recovery, but it would help to relieve and calm down the symptoms. It is always better to stay prevented when it comes to cold. Precautionary measures such as frequent washing of hands with soap and water can get rid of viruses and limit them from spreading. Also, by keeping the immune system strong by taking adequate sleep, doing exercise, having a healthy and well-balanced diet. Refraining contact with people affected by cold is also one of the precautionary steps to be taken.
With these home remedies, you no longer have to hold on to cold!