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Best Herbs for the Common Cold

It’s cold season again. If you find yourself sneezing you can find relief through the use of herbs. Here are some ways to use them to reduce symptoms and even shorten your cold.

Anecdotally, thyme has been favored for centuries in treating bronchitis, sore throats and congestion. It’s easy to make a comforting tea by steeping a couple of fresh sprigs (or a teaspoon of dry leaves) of thyme in hot water for five minutes. Remove the sprigs or leaves (strain if necessary) and add the juice of half of a lemon and honey to taste. Drink the beverage while it is hot.

Echinacea and goldenseal extracts have also been favored for shortening the duration of colds. They are often used together because this enhances their benefits. However, some people should not use these herbs. Echinacea presents a noted potential for causing allergic reactions and is a close relative of ragweed. Echinacea could be harmful if used by people who have HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, leukemia, and several other disorders. Goldenseal can cause irritation to the throat and mouth and should be avoided by people who have seizures, depression and several other disorders. Women who are breastfeeding or pregnant should avoid both echinacea and goldenseal. It would be best to consult a physician before using either of these herbs (or using them in combination).

Tips from “New Choices in Natural Healing,” Bill Gottlieb, Ed.:

According to the old adage, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you think you’ve been exposed to the cold virus, add extra garlic to your diet or take odorless garlic capsules. Varro E. Tyler, Ph. D, who was a professor in pharmacognosy at Purdue University, stated that garlic could be taken as a preventative of colds. If you’re already sick, take garlic to get well quicker. It will reduce the symptoms of the cold as well. The allacin in garlic is a potent antibiotic. You can find odorless garlic capsules in most health food stores and in some drugstores.

Fresh pineapple juice is full of vitamin C, which boots your immune system’s ability to fight colds. Eve Campanelli, Ph. D., who practices holistic medicine in Beverly Hills, California, says to drink four to six ounces of fresh pineapple juice diluted with an equal amount of water at least four times daily while you have a cold to aid in dissolving mucus. This advice makes sense: pineapples are the source of bromelain, which has anti-inflammatory properties and has long been used to address excess mucus in the respiratory system.

Vasat Lad, B. A. M. S., M. A. Sc. and director of the Ayurvedic Institute, recommends drinking ginger tea. Add ½ teaspoon each of ginger powder, cinnamon, fennel seeds, plus a pinch of clove powder to one cup of hot water and allow to steep for about ten minutes; strain out the herbs and enjoy.

Remedies recommended in “The Complete Home Health Advisor” by Rita Elkins:

Catnip can be taken to break up congestion. Chamomile tea is a time-honored all-purpose remedy taken during minor illnesses to provide comfort, and it’s better with a bit of honey, which soothes sore throats. Comfrey, licorice and fenugreek address coughs. White horehound is a natural expectorant. Slippery elm and licorice are soothing to sore throats. Use hops or valerian tea to help you rest well while you recover.

Treatments provided in “Prescription for Nutritional Healing,” Third Edition, by Phyllis A Balch, CNC and James F. Balch, M.D.:

Use five drops of eucalyptus oil in a hot bath to ease congestion; or, put six drops of eucalyptus oil (you can add a little rosemary and sage oil as well) to a cup of boiling water and inhale the steam. To do this, remove the boiling water from stove, drape a towel over your head to form a tent over your head and the cup of water that holds in the steam, and inhale deeply to open up nasal passages.

You can clear toxins from your lymphatic system by taking red clover. This will assist in reducing inflammation and congestion. Mullein also reduces mucus and coughing. Wild cherry bark may be taken for cough.

The next time you are ill with a cold, you might just find something that will lessen your symptoms and help you get back on your feet faster in your spice rack or refrigerator. Now you can nurture yourself without having to run to the drugstore.