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14 Natural Cold Fighters

There are hundreds of ways to stop the spread of cold and flu viruses without resorting to conventional medical treatments. Check out 14 of the best methods to fight a cold listed below.
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Cold virus infections may be minor, but they can interrupt fun, prevent work, and in some cases, lead to more serious infections. Every year, cold and flu season hits between Fall and Spring, leading to an epidemic of infections in adults and children alike.

Conventional remedies against cold and flu viruses are not as effective as many people would like. Over-the-counter cold and flu medication mainly masks the symptoms of a virus, rather than fighting it, and prescription medication may not fight all infections and viruses.

One of the best ways to fight off cold and flu viruses is through natural methods. Many of the natural methods listed below are just as effective in fighting cold viruses, if not more so, than many leading over-the-counter medications.

If you spend time building your immune system naturally, then you arm your body with tools that are used to prevent viruses from invading your body. In addition to the ingredients listed below, there are a few other steps you can take to ensure you stay as healthy as possible through flu season.

Getting enough rest is one of the biggest ways to protect your immune system. A rested body is a healthy body. Additionally, frequent hand washing and avoiding sick people will reduce your exposure to cold and flu viruses.

However, you cannot avoid all germs, which is why it is beneficial to arm your body with the tools it can use to fight invading infections from the inside out. Use the following 14 natural cold and flu fighters to keep your body healthy when flu season strikes.

Echinacea

Echinacea once was considered the be-all-end-all cure for colds and flu viruses, but recent studies have called into question the actual benefit of Echinacea and its role in colds and flu viruses.

How does Echinacea actually work and is it effective against colds? Studies show that Echinacea, although not a cure for every disease and illness, can be beneficial in fighting colds. Why? Echinacea promotes the number of white blood cells in the body. White blood cells are responsible for keeping the immune system strong. Echinacea also increases the replication rate of T-cells, which are responsible for cell-mediated immunity (the part of the immune system not related to antibodies). T-cells are particularly important for fighting off viruses.

Echinacea can also inhibit the production of hyaluronidase, which break down cell tissue, making it easier for viruses to invade. One study conducted in 1997 by the U.C. Irvine Medical Center showed that extracts of Echinacea and ginseng were able to significantly improve cellular immunity in vitro.

Saltwater

Something as simple as gargling with salt doesn’t seem like it can actually fight winter colds, but studies have shown that the classic home remedy is surprisingly beneficial against colds and flu viruses. Researchers are not quite sure why salt water gargling works, except that the salt water may clear out bacteria from the throat better than simple coughing, and the salt may make it difficult for viruses to find a home in your throat and nasal passages.

A 2005 study published in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine recruited 400 healthy study participants. The researchers followed the participants for 60 days during flu season. Some of the participants gargled with salt water three times a day. At the end of the study, it was revealed that the garglers were 40 percent less likely to catch any cold and flu viruses. Additionally, if the garglers did get sick, their symptoms were lessened.

Ginger

Ginger can soothe the stomach and fight off nausea, but it is also effective at fighting viruses. Researchers believe that ginger prevents the spread of respiratory viruses by preventing viruses from adhering to nasal and throat passages.

A 2013 study conducted by the Kaohsiung Medical University looked at the benefits of raw versus powdered ginger for treating the human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV). The researchers found that making a tea with raw ginger was effective at halting HRSV in its tracks. It could also shorten the duration of the virus. For best results, use raw ginger rather than powdered.

Turmeric

Turmeric, and specifically its main ingredient curcumin, can be highly effective at boosting the immune system. Curcumin stimulates nearly every part of the immune system, including T-cells, natural killer cells, B-cells, dendritic cells, and macrophages. Curcumin can also reduce inflammation throughout the body.

A 2006 study conducted by the North Shore University Hospital looked at the role of curcumin against the flu virus in vitro. Curcumin was able to not only reduce the number of virus cells, but it also helped protect uninfected cells from invasion by the virus.

Chicken Soup

Your mother always told you to eat some chicken soup when you were sick, but until recently, it was only thought of as a soothing relief for congestion. However, researchers have found that chicken soup can actually provide medicinal benefits against cold and flu viruses. Chicken soup contains an ingredient known as cysteines, which actually thin mucous. Chicken broth also contains a wide variety of nutrients that are able to boost the immune system when your appetite is reduced. Garlic, often an ingredient in chicken soup, is also effective in boosting the immune system.

One study cited by the University of Maryland looked at study participants who took garlic supplements or a placebo during 12 weeks of flu season. Participants taking the garlic supplements were sick less often. Another study published in Coping with Asthma and Allergies in 1998 showed that chicken soup improves the function of protective cilia, which prevent infections from entering the body.

Vitamin C

What does vitamin C do for your immune system? Researchers have found that vitamin C probably does nothing prevent colds, but rather, shortens the duration of colds. In some cases, vitamin C was able to prevent colds from forming- usually in stressful environments.

A 2004 review of 30 vitamin C studies with over 11,000 participants looked at how vitamin C could benefit colds. The researchers found that vitamin C was able to reduce the duration of colds by about 8 to 14 percent. In studies of high-stress environments and the rate of cold infection, it was found that supplementing with vitamin C could reduce the chances of someone getting a cold by about 50 percent.

Zinc

Zinc is a necessary mineral that is used for many functions of the body. Several studies have looked at the role of zinc in cold prevention. Like vitamin C, zinc probably does not prevent cold infections, but rather, can shorten the duration of existing colds.

In a 1992 study conducted by the Dartmouth College Health Service, participants who started taking zinc supplements within the first day of feeling a cold coming on were able to shorten the duration of their symptoms from 6.1 days to 4.9 days. Zinc supplements were less effective if taken after the cold was fully activated.

Raw Buckwheat Honey

Honey is known for its antibacterial properties, but some studies have also suggested that honey can soothe the symptoms of cold and flu viruses. Honey has a soothing quality on the throat, which can prevent itchy, dry coughs.

A few studies have backed the health claims of honey against the common cold. One study cited by Web MD looked at 139 children. Some children were given honey, while others were given a cough suppressant or an antihistamine. The researchers found that children supplementing with honey slept better and coughed less. This study looked at using buckwheat honey. The same benefits of other honey have not been studied.

Do not give honey to children younger than one year. Babies do not have the same digestive enzymes that can destroy botulism bacteria present in honey. Once a baby passes one year of age, he or she is able to kill any botulism spores present in honey.

Elderberry

Elderberry has been used in folk medicine for thousands of years. Recent studies have supported the traditional use of this berry in treating cold and flu viruses. Elderberry is a potent antiviral that can treat all types of flu.

In one study from 2004 by the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, it was shown that supplementing with 15 ml of elderberry syrup four times a day for 5 days cleared flu symptoms 4 days sooner.

Goldenseal

Goldenseal contains many beneficial ingredients, such as berberine. Berberine is the most effective ingredient in goldenseal against cold and flu viruses. Goldenseal is able to fight against infections like eye infections, stomach infections, and even staph infections. Goldenseal may also support immune function by reducing inflammation of the nasal passages.

In a 1969 study published in the Canadian Journal of Microbiology, berberine was shown to fight against many common bacteria and viruses.

Spirulina

The blue-green algae spirulina may be an effective supplement against cold and flu viruses. Spirulina contains many beneficial ingredients and vitamins that can support overall immune system function. Many of the ingredients in the algae boost the effectiveness of white blood cells.

One 2008 study published in the journal the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, looked at 78 elderly volunteers who took spirulina or a placebo for 16 weeks. By the end of the study, it was shown that taking the algae boosted the immune function by increasing the plasma levels of the interleukin, IL-2, which boost white blood cell activity.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a necessary part of immune system support. For many years, vitamin D combined with the UV rays from the sun have been used to treat bacterial infections like tuberculosis. In a review of several studies about vitamin D looking at over 19,000 patients, it was shown that individuals who had low vitamin D levels were more likely to suffer from upper respiratory infections. Researchers think that vitamin D protects the immune system by engaging toll like receptors (TLRs).TLRs lead to the production of peptides that fight infections and bacteria.

Ways to Get Vitamin D
  • Sun exposure
  • Vitamin D supplements
  • Grass-fed dairy
  • Vitamin D-fortified foods

Omega 3s

According to studies from Michigan State University and elsewhere, omega 3 fatty acids boost the activity of B cells (a white blood cell type). B cells are responsible for retaining health throughout the body. Researchers found that when they fed omega-3 rich diets to mice, their immune system was much stronger than that of mice that did not have omega-3s in their diets.

Bromelain

Bromelain is a supplement that is effective at modulating the immune system response. Bromelain enhances the natural immune system of the body, which is helpful in fighting colds, the flu, and other minor infections.

In a 2001 study conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, bromelain enhanced T cell receptors, and improved B cell response against infections.

Stopping Cold Viruses From the Inside Out

The supplements and ingredients listed above will help you stop any flu or cold virus in its tracks. With these natural and effective remedies, you may find that you spend less time sick and in bed, and more time out and about doing the things you love. It doesn’t take much to prepare your body to fight off invaders, and all of the above methods have virtually no side effects- which make them safe to take during any stage of life. Add these ingredients to your diet and find out just how effective they can be in protecting your health.

Sources


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11485354

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3166406/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9043936

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