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Natural remedies for the common cold

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POSTED January 30, 2013 3:40 p.m.

Everyone dreads the searing fevers, congestion, achy coughs, and irritating sore throats, but can do little to stop hundreds of viruses from infecting our upper respiratory system. Despite our best attempts to keep ourselves from falling under the weather, there is no cure against the pernicious viruses.

Fortunately, there are easy steps you can take to ensure a prompt recovery and cut the duration of a cold by employing natural remedies found in most households.



Warm Liquids

Burning, itchy throats make eating feel like a chore, and breathing extremely uncomfortable if congested. Family Practitioner Dr. David Hilburn of Sutter Gould Medical Foundation suggests drinking warm fluids to prevent dehydration and relieve nasal congestions while simultaneously comforting the throat.

“Warm liquids give us a soothing effect,” he said. “What really works is a couple teaspoons of dark honey; dark honey and lemon drops in warm tea give the same relief as prescription cough medicines.”



Gargling

Gargling lemon juice, honey, and hot water also aids against the burning sensation. Taking tablespoons of honey every four hours also advances mucus flow by acting as a natural expectorant.

If you do not have honey, tea or lemon juice, substitute the three with two common household ingredients: salt and water. Gargling a teaspoon of salt dissolved in warm water roughly four times a day provides the same relief for a sore throat.



Vitamin C

Debates reign over the effective properties that Vitamin C gives to the immune system. Small doses of Vitamin C do little against viruses, even if they are ingested daily. Only larger doses of fruit and vegetables increase the immune system and help fight off a cold in its initial stage.

“One of the best natural supplements is taking a lot of Vitamin C,” said Family Practitioner Dr. Susan P. Le of Valley Care Medical Group in Turlock. “You should start taking this once you feel the cold start to take over. Eating fresh fruits like oranges, lemons, and berries provide antioxidants that are good for you.”

Sticking to fruits and vegetables with high citrus content increases white blood cell production, which prevents the virus from spreading. Citric acid also reduces inflammation in the nasal passageways while reducing mucus flow. Popular food containing Vitamin C includes cauliflower, broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes, and cabbage.



Echinacea

Health food stores carry natural remedies for added convenience in the form of pills. Echinacea increases properdin levels in the body, a chemical that increases defense mechanisms against bacteria and viruses.

Echinacea has dominated against colds for nearly 70 years, and continues to be a top selling product in Europe.

“It’s popular. It is strong at fighting off colds and boosts the immune system,” said health advisor Freddy Lopez of Sheri’s Health Foods. “You shouldn’t be putting drugs in your body. It is good to try something natural first, and this works well.”

Thirty clinical studies support its safety and benefits. Echinacea is known to cure a cold twice as fast as any other natural medicine.



Steam

The nose is often a breeding ground for viruses. Your body responds by releasing mucus to capture the bacterial particles to expel from the body. This often dries the nose and dehydrates the body.

Holding warm concoctions of honey, tea, hot water under your nose opens the nasal passageways while moisturizing it at the same time. Drs. Le and Hilburn agree that sitting in a hot shower or sponge bath with rising vapor helps relieve congestion and clears sinuses.



Rest

Sleeping is important in the fight against colds. When you are resting, your body redirects its energy towards the immune system. Going to work or school instead of nursing the problem is counter-productive and increases the duration of a cold.

If you are bedridden, be cautious not to lean too far back. Elevate your head with propped pillows so that you are leaning in a gradual slope.

“If your head is lying flat at night, phlegm sits in the back of the throat,” Dr. Hilburn said.

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