Most Americans “catch” two to four colds each year. Yet, hope as we might, a cure for the common cold remains elusive. That’s because a cold can be caused by any one of more than 200 different types of viruses. The best defense against this self-limiting condition is a strong immune system. If you do come down with the sniffles, there are several natural strategies to ease symptoms and shorten the duration of your suffering.
Foods that are rich in nutrients help to support a strong immune system and may help fight a cold once you have one. Fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants and bioflavonoids like quercetin can enhance immunity. Foods containing zinc, such as meat, seafood, eggs, nuts, and whole grains, may bolster the body's resistance to infection and can enhance tissue repair. Fluids are also important if you have a cold. Hot liquids like tea and chicken soup are particularly beneficial because the steam they produce tends to clear nasal congestion.
Frequent hand washing is one of the best preventive measures that you can take during cold season. It’s also wise to avoid things that can undermine your immunity, such as smoking or chronic stress. One way to ensure a strong immune system is with regular exercise. Findings from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, suggests that moderate-intensity exercise may reduce the risk and severity of the common cold.
Aged garlic extract (AGE): was recently found to shorten the duration of a cold and relieve its symptoms. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial published in the journal Clinical Nutrition found that a daily dose of 2,500 mg of AGE reduced the duration of a cold by as much as 61 percent. Typical dosage: 600 mg for prevention; 1,200 to 2,500 mg during a cold.
Andrographis: is an herb long used in Ayurvedic, Thai, and Chinese medicine for its anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and immune-boosting properties. During a recent trial of 223 cold sufferers, half were given andrographis and the other half a placebo. During the first two days of the study, the symptoms in both groups remained about the same. But after day three, those in the andrographis group experienced a rapid improvement in nearly all of their cold symptoms. Typical dosage: For general immune support, take 60 mg of a standardized extract in two divided doses daily. If you’re already under the weather, boost that amount to 100 mg twice daily.
Echinacea: is perhaps the best known herb for the common cold. Echinacea supports the immune system by activating white blood cells immune cells that defend the body from infectious disease. A review at the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy found that echinacea decreased the odds of developing the common cold by 58 percent. And if you are unlucky enough to catch one, echinacea can shorten your suffering by 1.4 days. Typical dosage: 300 mg of a standardized echinacea supplement that contains 4 to 5 percent echinacoside three times a day for a total of seven to 10 days.
Fruit and vegetable liquid concentrate has been shown to reduce cold symptoms by up to 20 percent. A placebo-controlled trial of 530 volunteers that appeared in the British Journal of Nutrition found that those taking a daily dose of a micronutrient-dense concentrate of fruits and vegetables had an average of 7.6 days with moderate or severe cold symptoms, compared with 9.5 days in the placebo group. Typical dosage: Follow label directions.
Vitamin C: is an antioxidant: with years of clinical research and use. A double-blind, five-year randomized, controlled trial showed the benefit of giving 500 mg a day of vitamin C to reduce the frequency of the common cold by about 70%. Interestingly, this study showed no benefit in reducing severity or duration of the cold, once a person presented with one, which suggests that nutrient status maybe be more important in preventing a cold versus treating one.