The common cold (also known as nasopharyngitis, rhinopharyngitis, acute coryza, head cold, or simply a cold) is a viral infectious disease of the upper respiratory tract which primarily affects the nose.
Signs and symptoms include coughing, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, and fever which usually resolve in seven to ten days, with some symptoms lasting up to three weeks. Well over 200 virus strains are implicated in the cause of the common cold; the rhinoviruses are the most common.
Turn on the tap and drink a tall glass of cool water. Drink at least seven more glasses of warm liquids over the course of the day. Warm liquids are soothing, help increase blood circulation to the throat and speed clearance of respiratory mucus.
3g grated fresh ginger or ½ teaspoon dried
60ml fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons or 14g honey
Preparation and Use: Boil the water and then turn off the heat. Add the ginger. Cover and steep 20 minutes and then strain. Add the lemon juice and honey. Sip the quart of tonic over the course of the day. Reheat as necessary or drink at room temperature. How it works: The hot water is a hydrator that keeps your throat moist and also thins mucus and helps expel it. As you sip, simply breathing in the steam of the warm liquid helps with decongestion. Ginger is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, immune-enhancing, and an expectorant.
1 quart (946 ml) water
2 to 3 drops eucalyptus essential oil
Preparation and Use: Boil the water and pour into a bowl. Add the eucalyptus essential oil. Cover your head with a clean towel. Lean over the bowl. Inhale through your nose to clear nasal congestion. Repeat three to five times a day as needed to clear lung congestion, inhale through your mouth. How it works: Inhaling steam from the boiling water helps decongest nasal passages. Oil of eucalyptus is an expectorant and antitussive (cough calming). It aids breathing by opening up bronchial tubes, easing congestion, and promoting sputum. It is also antimicrobial. Note: If you have asthma, try using only steam first. If steam doesn’t make you cough, add 1drop of eucalyptus oil, working up to 3 drops as tolerated. In some people with asthma, inhaling the vapours from plant essential oils may trigger coughing.
1 head garlic, cloves peeled and crushed
1 medium-size horseradish root, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 finger-size slice of ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
Apple cider vinegar
Preparation and Use: This recipe is best prepared at least one week in advance. Place the crushed garlic cloves, horseradish root, and ginger in a clean, pint-size jar. Cover with apple cider vinegar until the fluid level clears the chopped ingredients. Close the lid snugly. Shake. Store in a covered cabinet. After two weeks, the chemicals in the plants will have largely moved into the vinegar. Now you can strain and rebottle the vinegar extract and store it in the refrigerator or you can leave the herbs in the jar and eat them with the vinegar extraction. Sip 1 to 2 tablespoons (15 to 30 ml) of this mixture at the first sign of cold symptoms. You can dilute the vinegar with herb tea or warm water. Repeat each day for the first three days of the cold. How it works: Garlic stimulates the immune system and may defend against catching a cold. It may also help fight viruses. Ginger is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, immune-enhancing, and calms coughing. Onions, which are botanical cousins of garlic, are also immune-enhancing, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial. The spiciness of horseradish stimulates thin nasal secretions, which helps clear away viruses.
GYPSY COLD-COMBAT TEA
3 cups (710 ml) water
1 tablespoon (2 g) dried peppermint leaves
1 tablespoon (2 g) dried yarrow flowers
1 tablespoon (2 g) dried elderflowers or elderberries
Preparation and Use: Boil the water. Turn off the heat. Add the herbs cover, and steep for 20 minutes. Rewarm over low heat. Strain, sweeten with honey as desired, and sip. Drink a serving three to six times a day. How it works: This is traditional European tea and has been used for hundreds of years to counter symptoms of influenza. These herbs make you sweat which helps reduce fever. Peppermint reduces respiratory congestion, pain, and headache. The steam can also help clear nasal passages.
WHEN SIMPLE DOESN’T WORK
• Zinc lozenges can reduce the duration of cold symptoms because zinc inhibits the replication of cold viruses. Side effects include a bad taste in the mouth and nausea. Avoid intranasal zinc, which has been linked to loss of the ability to smell.
• The Indian herb andrographis (Andrographis paniculata) can shorten cold symptom severity and duration.
• Combinations of andrographis and eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosis, also called Siberian ginseng) is also effective to treat colds.
• A study in children showed this product outperformed echinacea.
• Three studies have shown that, in elderly people at risk for respiratory infections, an extract of American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) helped prevent colds.
Follow the package instructions for dosing guidelines.
Tinctures made with plant extracts, water, and ethanol (alcohol) are surprisingly simple to make. Absolute Vodka has the right blend of water and ethanol.
1 cup (26 g) ground echinacea root (Echinacea purpurea)
1½ cups (355 ml) vodka
Preparation and Use: Pour the grounded echinacea root into a pint-size jar. Cover with vodka and stir. Add more vodka to the level of the herb. Cover tightly and shake vigorously. Store in a cabinet, shaking daily, for at least two weeks (4-6weeks are great). Strain and pour the tincture into a clean, dry pint-size jar. Cap and store in the cupboard. It will keep for years. At the first sign of cold symptoms, take ½ teaspoon of the tincture mixed with water or tea. How it works: Echinacea enhances immune function and has antiviral effects against respiratory viruses. It is seen that the echinacea modestly reduces cold severity and duration. Warning: Echinacea is in the same plant family as ragweed. Some people are allergic to it. If you develop any symptoms of allergy, discontinue use.
KID-FRIENDLY HERBAL GLYCERITE
Many parents prefer not to give alcohol-based extracts to children. Vegetable glycerine makes a suitable substitute.
2 tablespoons (3 g) dried echinacea root (E. purpurea or E. angustifolia)
2 tablespoons (3 g) dried echinacea leaves and flowers (E. purpurea)
2 tablespoons (3 g) dried lemongrass leaves
2 tablespoons (3 g) dried lemon balm leaves
1 tablespoon (2 g) dried sage leaves
1½ cups (355 ml) vegetable glycerine
1 cup (235 ml) distilled water
Preparation and Use: Using a clean coffee grinder or food mill, grind the herbs into a coarse powder. Mix the water and glycerine in a quart-size jar. Add the herbs and shake until the herbs are moist. Seal the lid tightly. Place in the cupboard, shaking daily, for two weeks. Strain through several layers of cheesecloth to remove herb particles. Store in a clean jar or you can use dropper bottles. How it works: Lemongrass is antioxidant and antimicrobial. Lemon balm is antioxidant and antiviral. Sage has a gentle drying effect. As mentioned previously, well-prepared Echinacea products taken at recommended doses modestly decrease cold symptom severity and duration. Echinacea syrup significantly improved cold symptoms. Warning: If ragweed allergies run in your family, try a single dose and wait several hours. If your child develops a rash, discontinue use. Other signs of allergy include runny nose and sneezing (already present with a cold) and stomach upset.
1 drop ravensara essential oil
Preparation and Use: Tilt the essential oil bottle until a single drop falls onto a facial tissue. Twist the tissue so that the spot of essential oil is at the center and so you can insert that bit of twisted tissue into your nostril. So what if you look a little weird. Breathe deeply ten times and remove. Repeat with a fresh tissue on the other side. How it works: Ravensara (Cinnamomum camphora) comes from Madagascar. The tree is the source of camphor, though a different, safer chemotype (a plant with distinct chemical constituents) is used to make the essential oil. It smells much like eucalyptus, but is gentler. It’s antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant. Note: If you can’t easily find ravensara essential oil, you can use eucalyptus or peppermint essential oil, which are antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and decongesting.
If you or your child is prone to colds, consider consuming fermented foods, such as yogurt, or supplementing with probiotics. Probiotics, live microorganisms with health benefits, have been shown to prevent upper respiratory tract infections, such as colds.
Take care with over-the-counter cold medications:
1. They don’t cure the common cold.
2. Most combination products contain acetaminophen which is toxic to the liver.
3. Most products contain an antihistamine, which dries nasal secretions, as well as your mouth and other mucus-covered membranes in the body and they can also make you sleepy.
4. Another common ingredient in cold medications is a decongestant, which does shrink mucous membranes, but also can cause nervousness and increased heart rate.
If you’re going to use a decongestant, nasal sprays produce fewer side effects than do oral products. They do make it easier to breathe. However, with overuse or continued use (more than a few days), the shrinkage of the mucous membranes is followed by rebound swelling. This rebound stuffiness causes people to reach for the spray bottle, perpetuating a vicious cycle that can be surprisingly hard to break.
Chicken soup is a time-honoured remedy against the common cold. Hot chicken soup hastens clearance of nasal mucus and is anti-inflammatory (and the immune system’s inflammatory response creates many of the cold’s symptoms). Plus the parsley, mushrooms, onions, garlic, shiitake mushroom, astragalus root and Italian seasonings (thyme, oregano, rosemary) so often in soup have relevant medical properties.
FACT OR MYTH?
Vitamin C prevents the common cold. It is hard to say. Some studies show success, but many do not. Vitamin C supplements may be effective in people subjected to physical stress, such as performing vigorous exercise in very cold weather.
Being out in the cold will cause you to catch cold. Studies show that’s not true. However, being chilled stresses your body, and people who are under stress are more at risk for the common cold.
Yellow nasal discharge means you’ve developed sinusitis. Actually, nasal mucus normally starts out clear and thin and becomes yellower as your immune system kicks in. The yellow comes from shed white blood cells and cells lining your nose and other debris. Furthermore, most people with colds do have, as evidenced by CT scans, sinus inflammation. Some people may subsequently develop bacterial sinusitis.
WHEN TO SEE THE DOCTOR
• Respiratory symptoms persist longer than two weeks. The common cold should resolve within seven to ten days.
• You develop a high fever. The common cold causes mild fever, at best.
• You develop pain and greenish-brown discharge from one or both nostrils.