11 Popular Natural Remedies for the Common Cold

1) Zinc Lozenges

Zinc is an important mineral and is required by over 300 enzymes. Zinc is found in food such as meats, fish, eggs, liver and seafood. The daily recommended intake (RDA) for women is 12 mg and men 15 mg, which can be found in multivitamins.

Zinc lozenges can be found in many health shops, online and in some pharmacies that are marketed as cold remedies. Numerous studies have shown that zinc can reduce the severity and duration of cold symptoms. This is especially true if the symptoms are present within 24 hours. Unfortunately, many of the zinc studies have been flawed. Therefore, better quality studies are required. Zinc lozenges can be used to prevent the cold virus replication (prevent it from spreading), or to impair the ability of cold virus cells in the nose, throat and throat.

The studies used zinc lozenges that contained at least 13.3 mg elemental zinc. The lozenges had to be taken at least twice daily, beginning immediately after symptoms of a cold. Studies that showed zinc was ineffective could have used too much zinc or taste-enhancing compounds that can decrease its effectiveness, such as tartaric acid (found in citrus fruits), citric acid, sorbitol or mannitol.

Zinc lozenges typically contain zinc gluconate, zinc acetate or both. Each lozenge contains 13.3 mg elemental zinc. For a maximum of 6-12 lozenges per day, it is recommended to take one lozenge every 2 to 4 hours.

Zinc can cause nausea and unpleasant taste in your mouth. Zinc lozenges should not be used to prevent colds. They can also be harmful if taken in excess of 15mg per day. This could cause a copper deficiency.

2) Vitamin D

Some evidence suggests that people who have higher levels of vitamin A may be less likely to catch a common cold. 1

3) Astragalus

Astragalus root has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. It has been shown to boost immunity and reduce the risk of getting sick. However, there are no human clinical trials that have tested its effectiveness against colds.

Astragalus can also be used as an antioxidant, which has been recommended for heart disease. Astragalus is being studied as an herbal treatment for those with weak immune systems.

You can find Astragalus in capsules, tea, and extract forms at most health food stores. Also, dried roots are available in Chinese herbal shops as well as some local health food stores. It can be difficult for you to locate the dried root.

Traditional Chinese medicine doctors recommend that you take astragalus to prevent catching colds. If you are already sick, it is best flu remedies. To prevent colds, a bowl of soup with astragalus root boil is recommended at least once per week.

Astragalus can increase the antiviral medication potency such as interferon or acyclovir, which could lead to side effects like kidney failure or other side effects. It may also counteract immuno-suppressing medications such as Cytoxan, Neosar or corticosteroids. It can lower blood glucose and blood pressure, which could increase the effects of diabetes medication or blood pressure medications.

Astragalus for Health

4) Garlic

Garlic is a popular home remedy for colds. There are many home remedies for colds that garlic is used in. It can be as simple as eating raw garlic or chicken soup.

Allicin is believed to be the cold-fighting ingredient in garlic. It has been shown to have antibacterial and antifungal qualities. Allicin gives garlic its unique hot flavor. Fresh garlic should not be minced or chopped. You can also buy it in pills.

One study involved 146 participants who were given either a garlic supplement (or a placebo) for 12 weeks. The period was between November and February. The risk of getting a cold was reduced by half in people who took garlic. Researchers also found that people who had a cold recovered faster if they ate garlic. These results require further research.

There are some side effects to garlic and safety concerns. Bad breath and body smell are the most common side effects. However, there have been reports of dizziness and headaches as well as fever, headaches, chills and runny nose. Ingestion of large amounts can cause irritation to the mouth and stomach.

People with bleeding disorders should avoid garlic supplements for two weeks prior to or after surgery.

Garlic can also increase insulin release and blood glucose levels. Garlic should be avoided by people with allergies to members of the lily family, including onion and leeks. Garlic supplementation should be avoided by pregnant women as it can increase bleeding risk.

5) Vitamin C

Linus Pauling, PhD proposed in 1968 that different vitamins were required by people and that some individuals needed more than the recommended daily allowances (RDAs). Pauling suggested that people should consume 1,000mg of vitamin C each day to reduce their risk of getting a cold. Vitamin C has been a popular cold treatment ever since.

The Cochrane Collaboration reviewed whether vitamin-C supplements of 200mg or more per day could decrease the severity, incidence, and duration of the common cold. Researchers reviewed 30 published studies that included a total of 11350 participants. Vitamin C did not appear to be able to treat the common cold. The common cold was not prevented by vitamin C.

Vitamin C exceeding 2,000 mg can cause diarrhea and loose stool.

Vitamin C: Health Benefits

6) Honey

Honey is a common home remedy for colds and coughs in many cultures. The Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine has published the first study that shows honey can help children sleep better and calm their coughs. The researchers gave honey-flavored cough medicine to 105 children who had a cold. The children all got better but honey scored the highest in parents’ ratings of their children’s cough symptoms.

Researchers believe honey can soothe an irritated or clogged throat. It also has antibacterial and antioxidant properties. The study used buckwheat honey as its darkest color honey. This honey is especially rich in antioxidants.

Babies younger than one year old should not consume honey because of the possibility of botulism. Honey consumption at night can also encourage cavities development.

7) Echinacea

Despite recent research questioning the effectiveness of echinacea in treating colds and flu it is still a popular herb. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine conducted a 2005 study that found that echinacea had little effect on the common cold. Many critics of this study said that it shouldn’t be taken as proof that echinacea isn’t effective. However, the Cochrane Collaboration reviewed 15 studies and concluded that echinacea was not more effective than a placebo in preventing colds.

There are many types of echinacea. However, it is the leaves, flowers and stems of echinacea purpurea that have received the most research.

Many herbalists recommend that you take echinacea daily for two to three hours. Then, at the first sign of symptoms, increase your daily intake to three grams. The dose can be reduced over the next week. Echinacea can also be found in Airborne, an over-the-counter supplement that contains vitamins and herbs.

8) Ginseng

There are many varieties of ginseng. However, the Panax quinquefolius, or “North American Ginseng”, has been a popular choice for treating colds and flu. Ginseng’s active constituents are believed to be polysaccharides (also known as ginsenosides) and ginsenosides. Cold-fX is one of the most popular ginseng products.

Two studies evaluated Cold-fX in 198 residents of nursing homes. They were given either Cold-fX, or a placebo. There was no statistically significant variation in the number or severity of flu-like symptoms. Researchers analyzed both studies together to determine if Cold-fX had a lower incidence of flu. It’s very popular and people swear by it. However, it is important to conduct large, well-designed and independent studies to verify its safety and effectiveness.

Some people are concerned that ginseng could decrease the effectiveness of anticlotting and antiplatelet drugs like warfarin (Coumadin), aspirin, or other blood-thinning (anticlotting) drugs. It can interact with antidepressants such as MAO inhibitors, diabetes medications, antidepressants (e.g., fluphenazine(Prolixin), chlorpromazine(Thorazine), and antipsychotic drugs (e.g. olanzapine [Zyprexa]), drugs that stimulate central nervous system (used for conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy and obesity), and estrogen replacement therapy (or oral contraceptives).

Ginseng root has estrogen-like properties. It is not recommended for women with hormone-related conditions like endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and cancers. Patients with diabetes, heart disease, schizophrenia and other conditions should not consume ginseng root without a doctor’s approval. Cold-fX’s manufacturer states on its website that their product is not a whole plant extract, but rather contains a compound that is found in ginseng. This means that it does not have any side effects or safety concerns that are common with ginseng root. However, this is possible.

What is American Ginseng?

9) Ginger

Another folk remedy is ginger root for sore throat, colds and cough. Traditional Chinese medicine uses ginger root to treat coughs. It is also used for colds that are accompanied by a runny nasal, clear nasal discharge, headaches, neck and shoulder pains, and a white coating on the tongue. Ginger is used in Ayurveda (India’s traditional medicine), to treat colds and coughs.

Hot ginger tea is a popular home remedy to soothe a sore throat and relieve symptoms like a cold. Sometimes honey and lemon are added.

Normal amounts of ginger in food are not likely to cause side effects. However, excess ginger can cause heartburn or indigestion. Before taking ginger, people with gallstones or bleeding disorders as well as those who take “blood-thinning” medications (anticlotting/antiplatelet) such as warfarin (Coumadin), should consult a doctor. Two weeks prior to or following surgery, ginger should be avoided.

10) Elderberry

Elderberry ( Sambucus Nigra) has been used for centuries as a folk remedy against colds, sinus infections and flu. Elderberry extracts were found to be effective in fighting viruses in preliminary laboratory studies. Limited research has been done on the flu virus. Anthocyanins, which are compounds found in elderberries, may be the active ingredient that boosts immunity and prevents the flu virus sticking to our cells.

Elderberry syrup, juice, and capsules are available at health food stores. Although rare, side effects may include mild indigestion and allergic reactions.