11 Natural Tricks to Tackle Your Winter Cold

CC BY 2.0. Cinnamon Vogue

It’s cold and flu season, and many of us are battling low-level sickness while trying to carry on with our regular lives. When a long, uninterrupted nap isn’t possible, fortunately there are a number of effective natural remedies to help ease the discomfort and speed a nasty cold on its way.

1. Oil of Oregano

It tastes vile (hence the nickname “urine of Satan”), but it works. Put 3-4 drops under your tongue, followed by a glass of water to dilute the taste. When added to a diffuser or vaporizer, it can reduce nasal congestion. Oil of oregano is best taken consistently to build up resistance and reduce symptoms; spread dosages throughout the day until you’re better.

2. Echinacea

Reports are mixed about the efficacy of Echinacea. Some studies say it stimulates and supports the immune system, but it seems to do best at modestly reducing cold symptoms that are already present, rather than preventing colds. If you’re skeptical about the tincture, then opt for pots of Echinacea tea, as the hot liquid will hydrate and clear up congestion.

3. Salt-water nasal spray or rinse

Salt-water helps to reduce nasal congestion while removing virus particles and bacteria. Buy a premade spray or mix the following solution: 1⁄4 tsp salt and 1⁄4 tsp baking soda in 8 oz. boiled, filtered, or distilled warm water. Fill a bulb syringe or a Neti pot and squirt into one nostril while plugging the other. Let it drain and repeat before rinsing the other nostril.

4. Drink lots of fluids.

Aim for at least 8-10 8-oz glasses daily. Avoid sugar-laden drinks; caffeine, which is a diuretic; and alcohol, which can suppress your immune system and dehydrate you.

5. Use steam

Hold your face over a just-boiled pot to clear nasal congestion. If the steam burns your nose, let it cool or breathe more slowly. Using a humidifier or hanging out in a steamy shower can help.

6. Make ginger tea

Ginger is a powerful antiviral root that seems to halt cold symptoms if taken early enough. Make a tea of sliced fresh ginger root, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and honey.

7. Chicken soup is good

Science actually backs this old-fashioned notion. Chicken soup contains cysteines, which thin mucus. Spike it with garlic (to kill germs) and hot red pepper flakes (to clear congestion).

8. Make a homemade cough syrup

Mix 1⁄4 cup honey and 1⁄4 apple cider vinegar; mix well and take 1 tbsp every 4 hours.

9. Take Vitamin C

The research on Vitamin C is controversial. It doesn’t appear to help prevent colds, but it might reduce symptoms. To boost your immune system, take a hefty dose, around 1000-3000mg for a short period of time.

10. Pop some zinc

Zinc lozenges appear to help reduce cold symptoms if you start taking them as soon as you detect sickness. The most effective ones contain 15 to 25 mg of zinc gluconate per lozenge.

11. Raw honey

Unpasteurized (raw) honey is an antimicrobial agent and antioxidant. It boosts immunity and suppresses coughs, which is helpful for kids under age 6 who can’t take over-the-counter cough medicine. (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not giving honey to children under one year.)

Of course, if you are feeling seriously ill or your symptoms are not improving, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor.