It almost seems inevitable that we will all catch a cold at some point during the winter months so I have been researching natural ways to try and strengthen my immune system and to fight a cold should I succumb!
These are just a few natural remedies for treating a cold or strengthening the immune system.
Echinacea (a flowering plant in the daisy family) to help reduce the duration of a cold
Research into its effectiveness is mixed. In 2012 a study found that taking Echinacea may reduce the duration of a cold by up to 26% and the Lancet reported in 2007 that Echinacea decreased the odds of developing the common cold by 58%. Other studies are not so favourable. It appears to work by increasing the number of white blood cells which help to fight infections. It is available as a tincture, capsule or tea.
Pumpkin Seeds (contain zinc) to help the duration of a cold
Several trials have demonstrated that zinc reduces the duration and severity of a cold. Zinc is found in pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, red meat, shell fish, cashew nuts and legumes or can be bought as a lozenge.
Probiotics (the “good” bacteria) to help prevent a cold
Probiotics do appear to improve the immune system of the body and in Sweden a study found that factory workers taking a daily probiotic supplement took less than half the number of sick days than a control group. Probiotics can be taken in supplements or in fermented foods such as yoghurts (with live bacteria), Kefir, Sauerkraut, and Kombucha amongst others.
Ginseng to help prevent a cold
The supplement Ginseng is derived from the plant group Panax and is made from the root. There are two main types Asian and American. It contains ginsenosides and gintonin which are the constituents which have been shown to improve the immune system by stimulating the production of immunoglobulin – proteins that stick to bacteria when they invade the body. There have been several studies which have demonstrated that American Ginseng decreases the number and severity of colds.
Ginseng can be eaten raw, made into tea or added to various dishes. It can also be taken as a supplement as a powder, capsule or oil. There are some contraindications to Ginseng so if you are taking other medication it is best to check with your pharmacist or GP before taking it.
Herbal remedies and supplements are not regulated in the UK so always try and buy them from a reputable source.
There are other simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of catching a cold.
- Wash your hands – lots!
- Use tissues once and throw them away
- Change your hand towel regularly
- Do not share cups, glasses or other utensils with someone who has a cold
- Try to get a good night’s sleep – high quality sleep is one of the best ways of boosting the immune system.
- Aim to spend time outside each day
If you would like my home made St Clements and elderberry cold remedy recipe please feel free to contact me by email firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you a copy.