By Andrea Jacobs, Certified Naturopath

In our  5-part “Common Colds and Influenza Series” (Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4) we are discussing topics concerning the infectious winter diseases: how they develop, how they spread, how you can protect yourself against them, which natural remedies exist and much more. Today:

Relieving the symptoms of common cold NATURALLY

It is impossible to achieve full protection from common colds, but by following the suggestions presented in the first four parts of our series, some degree of protection can be achieved. If illness sets in, there are a number of measures that everybody can take to relieve annoying symptoms such as sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and coughing.

First of all, the most important thing is rest.
During a cold, the immune system is compromised and over-worked. Support your immune system by relaxing at home and taking short walks in the fresh air, if you feel well enough to do so and have no fever. Sleep also supports your immune system, so get enough.

Increase the humidity of the room.
Setting up humidifiers or putting a damp cloth on the heating reduces the feeling of exhaustion. Inhale steam a few times a day, preferably with an infusion of chamomile or eucalyptus. This helps to moisten the mucous membranes and helps transport the mucous, making breathing much easier.

Nasal washes with salt water are also beneficial. Such salts can be obtained from the pharmacy. Alternatively, you can add table salt to a glass of lukewarm water until it approximately has the concentration of tears. Contrary to what you may think, this solution does not sting in the nose like pure tap water does. Additionally, gargling with salt water also helps against sore throats.

Lozenges: To treat a dry hacking cough, you can try out cough lozenges. Especially suitable are thyme, eucalyptus or menthol products. Eucalyptus salves can be applied directly to the chest and achieve their effect through the inhalation of the essential oils.

Elderberry: A scientific study which was conducted at the Griffith University in Australia and published in 2016, provided very strong evidence supporting elderberries benefits against colds. In that study 312 long haul flight participants who were flying from Australia to an oversea destination were divided into two groups. One group received 600mg – 900mg of elderberry extract (Iprona AG, Italy) and the other group received a placebo. Participants who received the elderberry extract and contracted a cold had a 33% shorter illness duration compared to the placebo group. The severity of symptoms were also significantly reduced in the elderberry group. After the stressful air-travel, elderberry participants had better overall health compared to the placebo participants. These significant results have been published in the peer-reviewed journal, Nutrients.

Elderberry´s antiviral and antibacterial properties have been attributed to its high flavonoid content. These natural plant ingredients protect plants from pests and microbes and in humans, they negatively impact the multiplication of viruses and bacteria. Elderberries have been used against coughs, common colds and influenza for centuries.

Water: It is especially important to drink a lot of fluids while suffering from a cold. Hot herbal teas are suitable, either as special common cold tea blends, or with thyme, licorice, buckthorn, chamomile, fennel and anise. Teas warm  up the body and soothe mucous membranes.

Self-medication though, has limits. You need to see a doctor if:

  • You have a high fever
  • No improvement has occurred for 1 week after starting self-medication
  • You suffer from dizziness, nausea and vomiting, ear ache
  • You experience heart problems such as pain or palpitations

All things considered, simple common colds can be self-medicated with simple and in-expensive measures.