Natural Alternatives to OTC Cold Remedies

It’s coming up on cold and flu season again and I have the sore shoulder from getting my annual flu shot to prove it. I don’t get many colds anymore and it has been years since I got the flu, but when I do get a cold, it’s usually a humdinger.

Seven degrees of misery: runny nose, watery eyes, and a cough that just won’t quit. I have high blood pressure so I can’t take anything with a decongestant in it, so I’m pretty much resigned to get a steady supply of orange juice to replenish the fluids and search around town for the store that has a special price on bulk tissues.

Rest, take plenty of fluids, and stay home. If only the latter were possible. There are all kinds of folk remedies for getting over a cold. It’s debatable if going out in the cold without proper clothing on can contribute to a cold. For years doctors scoffed at the idea, but a recent study showed that the chances of you getting sick are a little higher when you don’t keep warm.

For me, the best way to treat a cold is a stiff shot of Jack Daniels and a hot bowl of chicken soup. I’m not sure what the Jack does, but it has been shown that chicken soup is a good decongestant. Hunter S. Thompson, the famous writer, liked Nyquil and scotch, but he drank that even when he didn’t have a cold. I don’t recommend it.

So, modern science still hasn’t discovered a cure for the common cold. It’s probably because the pharmaceutical companies wouldn’t make enough money off of it. Millions of dollars are spent each year for over-the-counter cold remedies.

So what are the natural counterparts to these OTC medications? Which ones work and which ones don’t? Here are a few according to WebMD:

Echinacea was used by the native Americans to fight colds, but modern science has yet to find much benefit although one study did find that it could shorten the duration of a cold. The jury remains out on this one.

Zinc has been shown to help somewhat. It won’t prevent you from getting a cold, but it may lesson the symptoms and shorten the duration. But beware of zinc nasal sprays, as they may cause you to permanently lose your sense of taste.

One study has shown that people who are under a great deal of stress and given Vitamin C have less of a chance of getting a cold. Best not to load up on the pills though. Drinking some fruit juice can help replenish fluids and give you the C that you need. Hot tea and honey also acts as a decongestant and can also help replenish fluids and sooth your throat.

Garlic and turmeric root have both been touted for their anti-viral properties and the stinky flower and the spicy root can add a little zest to your food when you can’t taste anything from a cold. Ginger works as well.

Saline spray or using a Neti pot can help relieve the symptoms of a cold. The nasal washing can also flush pollen and cold viruses out of the nose and help prevent coming down with an infection.

A little menthol rub can relieve chapped skin around the nose and the vapors can ease congestion. Just be sure not to put any in your nose as that can lead to a nasty case of chemical pneumonia.

And finally, despite what the boss may say, don’t be afraid to call in to work and stay in bed. There is a reason that getting a virus makes you feel feverish and tired. Your body wants you to lay down and rest so your immune system can get to work. Besides that, I don’t want you sneezing all over me and getting me sick too.


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