The common cold is an infection of the upper respiratory tract caused by more than two hundred virus strains which spread through the air, through sneezing and coughing, and through contact with infected objects. The mucous membranes that line the nose and throat react to the presence of the virus by becoming inflamed and secreting a greater amount of mucus than normal. This leads to congestion, sneezing, coughing, a sore throat and a general feeling of fatigue, which represents the mechanism by which the body repels the virus, forcing you to slow down and rest. Although this disease can rear its head at any time of the year, it is more common during autumn and winter. It primarily affects people whose immune system has been weakened by overwork, persistent illness, a poor diet or a lack of exercise.
The best cure is to stimulate the body's natural defences as soon as the well-known symptoms appear. Once the virus has settled in the body, you can turn to natural remedies that have a direct antiviral effect as well as stimulating the immune system to eliminate the virus. The vast majority of colds last for three to ten days. It is recommended that you do not take over-the-counter medication, since the symptoms of the infection are a sign of your immune system's attempts to get rid of the virus. Consequently, medicine that suppresses the symptoms can prolong the lifespan of the disease or even cause it to return.
Distinguishing a cold from flu is not always easy. In adults, flu causes general aches and a fever, although colds can also be associated with a slight increase in temperature at times. In children, however, fever is one of the normal symptoms of a cold. If the symptoms of a cold persist or are accompanied by yellow or greenish mucus, it is recommended that you consult a doctor, as you may have an allergy or a different infection such as sinusitis.
For adults, catching more than two colds a year may indicate an underlying illness. According to some researchers, the body uses the cold virus to detoxify itself through the elimination of mucus and a loss of appetite, something which is certainly true in some cases. Moreover, one of the main causes of recurring colds may be a weak immune system caused by an unsuitable lifestyle.
- Rhinorrhea (runny nose)
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Loss of appetite
- Moderate fever (sometimes a high fever in children)
- Bodily infection
- Weakened immune system due to lifestyle, nutritional deficiencies and high levels of stress
Eat light meals. Steamed vegetables, soups, broth and herbal teas allow the body to focus on the healing process rather than digestion. If you lose your appetite, don't force yourself to eat.
Because it is essential to keep your body hydrated, drink plenty of water and other liquids (see the notes on sugar and juice in the next paragraph) to expel toxins and to stop the mucous membrane in your respiratory system from drying out.
It is suggested that you eat more ginger, onions and garlic - try adding one or more of these foods to chicken soup or miso soup.
Hot water with lemon, honey and cinnamon is a traditional remedy against colds. A cup every two hours works well to reduce the discomfort in your throat and chest, preventing the accumulation of mucus and working up a healthy sweat.
Foods to avoid:
Sugar reduces the number of white blood cells produced by the body and weakens the immune system. It is therefore advisable to cut refined sugars out of your diet while you are ill. It is also important to moderate your juice intake. Although they have traditionally been seen as a cure for the common cold, juices - particularly orange juice - usually contain more sugar than vitamin C. Before you drink them, it is recommended that you dilute them.
While you have a cold, avoid consuming milk and dairy products as they encourage the secretion of mucus and worsen the symptoms.
Seven key prescriptions - The common cold
||Homeopathic cold remedies
When the first symptoms of a cold appear, take a dose of a combined cold remedy four times a day for three days. If you see an improvement, stop taking it unless you notice the symptoms beginning to reappear. If no improvement is seen during the first twenty-four hours, choose the remedy that best fits your symptoms from those listed in the "Homeopathy" section.
||Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) and goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
A product made from a combination of echinacea and goldenseal which strengthens your body's immune response. In particular, echinacea is an antiviral agent.
Warning: if no mucus is being secreted, only use echinacea. Take 500 mg, or 2-4 ml of tincture, four times a day.
||Lomatium (Lomatium dissectum)
Take 500 mg, or 2-4 ml of tincture, four times a day. Lomatium is a powerful antiviral agent.
Take 1000 mg three to four times a day. Reduce the dosage if you have diarrhoea. Vitamin C strengthens the immune system by increasing the activity of red blood cells.
Take 15-25 mg of zinc tablets (zinc gluconate or zinc acetate) every two hours for four days. Zinc stimulates the body's immune response and may have an antiviral effect. Zinc nasal sprays may be even more effective. Follow the dosage stated on the packaging.
||Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Take 500 mg in pills or drink a fresh herbal tea four times a day. Ginger helps to combat sore throats and chills.
||Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)
Take 500-1000 mg or 3 ml of tincture two to three times a day. Astragalus is an excellent treatment to prevent colds. Do not take it if you have a fever.
Heisel, O. et al., "Echiniguard treatment shortens the course of the common cold: A double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial", European Journal of Clinical Research, no. 9, 1997, pp. 261-268
Hemila, H., "Does vitamin C alleviate the symptoms of the common cold? - A review of current evidence", Scandinavian Journal of Infectious Diseases, no. 26, 1994, pp. 1-6