Natural Alternative Cold Treatments

Posted Fri, 01/07/2011 - 10:36am by Deeanna Franklin Campbell

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Cold season is upon us, and if you're looking for an alternative to over-the-counter decongestants, antihistamines, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, then try these natural remedies. While not proven to prevent colds, this preparation can relieve some of the misery of cold symptoms:

1. Hit the vitamin C hard

Taking 600-1000 mg at the onset of symptoms may reduce the duration of your cold by several days. Throw in a beta carotene supplement, too. This precursor to vitamin A helps heal infected and inflamed mucus membranes. Take both with food to avoid stomach upset.

2. Load up on zinc

This infection-fighting mineral can cut a cold's duration by up to four days. Start by taking a zinc gluconate lozenge every 3-4 hours. Try Zicam. It claims to shorten the duration and severity of the common cold, and I've had excellent experience with it. Use at the first sign of a cold. The active ingredient in this homeopathic cold remedy is zinc-based.

3. Nasal washing

Fill a neti pot with a saline solution, or use a prepared nasal rinse spray. Spray, or pour the solution into one nostril and let it flow out of the other. This simple move helps clear nasal passages, alleviate swelling and curtail the cold virus.

4. Hydrate

Taking a nice warm (not hot) bath or shower will add much needed moisture to the largest organ of your body — your skin. It will also stimulate your blood and lymph circulation, jump-starting the elimination of toxins.

5. Have some tea

Add Echinacea, goldenseal, slippery elm, or black elder teas to your arsenal. Drinking plenty of fluids is always a good idea, and these herbal teas do double duty. Echinacea has antiviral benefits and boosts immunity; goldenseal has antibacterial properties; slippery elm (licorice root and marshmallow root will also work) soothes and coats the throat, reducing inflammation (try Thayer's Slipper Elm lozenges); and elderberry tea, while primarily antiviral also has antibacterial properties, too. Sweeten with honey, if necessary — its antimicrobial properties can only help (but don't give honey to children under age 1). Not a fan of tea? Many of these herbs are available as tinctures which can be mixed with water or juice.

Coffee in moderation is fine. However, caffeine can be dehydrating and over-stimulating. It's a vasoconstrictor, which means it shrinks blood vessels. This makes it mildly effective at easing headache pain (it's often included with OTC pain killers like Tylenol and Motrin), and good at opening airways, which can help ease wheezing. Or try some hot broth. Chicken soup, anyone?

6. Blow your nose often

Don't sniff and snuffle the mucus back into your head (and try not to swallow it, either). Don't blow so hard that you give yourself an earache. Regular, gentle nose blowing is recommended. Get some soft tissues and always wash your hands afterward.

7. Get some rest

This can't be overstated. Stay in bed; pull up a blanket and take over the sofa, and stay home from work and school. It's important to rest and let your body recharge your immune system.

8. Sleep with an extra pillow under your head

Raising your head will help drain your nasal passages. It can take some getting used to, so if it's too uncomfortable, try placing pillows (or even large books) in between the mattress and box springs.

9. Gargle

Dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water and have at it. Gargling with this solution will help hydrate and soothe a sore throat.

10. Dab a little salve under your nose

Breathe in that heady smell. Rub a small amount of mentholated salve under your nose. It will open breathing passages and soothe tender nose skin that's likely irritated from blowing and rubbing. Eucalyptus, camphor, and menthol have numbing properties which may also help ease the pain of raw, red noses.

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