1. Drink plenty of warm fluids
Drinking warm fluids helps to loosen the secretions in your sinuses so that your mucus flows more freely, making you feel better faster. Studies show that drinking warm fluids relieves cold symptoms such as a runny nose, cough, sneezing, sore throat, and fatigue.
- Hot, non-caffeinated tea will do the trick. Stick with a herbal tea like chamomile or peppermint to rehydrate yourself. Adding some honey and lemon will soothe your throat and help the effects last a little longer. Chamomile is good for reducing stress and fatigue, while peppermint relieves nasal congestion.
- Japanese Benifuuki green tea may help reduce nasal congestion and allergic symptoms when drunk regularly. The traditional herbal tea “Throat Coat” has been shown to be much better at relieving sore throat pain than regular teas.
- Hot broth is also a good choice when you have a cold. Drink vegetable or chicken broth in large quantities, but look for low-sodium broths to avoid consuming too much salt. Chicken soup can help soothe a sore throat and loosen mucus to ease congestion.
- If you’re a coffee lover, there’s no need to avoid it. Drinking coffee has been shown to increase alertness among those with colds. Children should still avoid caffeine. Warm water, tea, and broth should be the main fluids you take in, as too much caffeine can dehydrate you.
- Avoid alcohol. It may make nasal congestion and swelling worse.
2. Consider oil pulling
Oil pulling is an Ayurvedic remedy that uses oil to remove germs and bacteria from your mouth. Most microorganisms adhere to the fat in oil, allowing you to spit them out along with the oil.
- Use coconut oil. Coconut oil has anti-bacterial properties and also contains lauric acid, an anti-microbial agent.
- Use organic, cold-pressed oil. Sesame and sunflower oil will also work, but coconut oil has additional anti-microbial properties (and also tastes more pleasant).
- Take a tablespoonful of oil and swish it in your mouth for at least one minute. The longer you swish, the more bacteria you will remove. Swirl the oil around your mouth, suck it through your teeth, and make sure to get it onto your gums too.
- Don’t swallow the oil. If you have trouble swishing the oil without swallowing, spit a little out.
- After swishing the oil around, spit the oil into a trash can. (Spitting it into the sink could clog your pipes.) Rinse out your mouth with lukewarm water.
3. Use a neti pot to irrigate your sinuses
A neti pot is designed to flush the mucus from your sinuses and relieve cold symptoms for several hours through a process called nasal irrigation. A saline solution is poured into one nostril, and it carries mucus out the other. Neti pots are available at most drug stores and health food shops.
- Start with one irrigation a day while you have symptoms. As you feel better, you can increase it to twice daily.
- Make a saline solution or buy one from the store. To make your own solution, combine ¼ tsp of kosher or pickling salt, ¼ tsp of baking soda, and eight ounces of warm distilled or boiled water. It’s important to use distilled water, or water that’s been boiled and cooled, because tap water may contain parasites or amoebas.
- Fill the neti pot with four ounces of the saline solution. Stand over a sink or work in the shower or bathtub to prevent messes. Tilt your head at about a 45-degree angle.
- Hold the spout of the neti pot to the upper nostril. Tip the pot to pour the saline solution into one nostril and let it flow out the other. Repeat with the other nostril.
4. Blow your nose correctly
While it’s important to blow your nose while you have a cold to help keep your sinuses clear, don’t blow too explosively. The pressure from blowing hard can impact your ears, giving you an earache on top of your cold. Be sure to blow gently, and only as often as necessary.
- Doctors recommend that you blow by holding a finger over one nostril and gently blowing the other into a tissue.
- Wash your hands each time you blow your nose. This will eliminate bacteria and viruses on your hands that could cause other infections (or spread infection to others).
5. Try eucalyptus
Eucalyptus has antioxidant properties that protect against free radicals, molecules that can damage cells. The active ingredient in eucalyptus is cineole, a compound that works as an expectorant to fight respiratory infections and alleviate coughs. You can find it in lozenge, cough syrup, and vapor bath forms at most drug stores.
- Ointments containing eucalyptus oil may also be applied to the nose and chest area to relieve congestion and loosen phlegm.
- Fresh or dried eucalyptus leaves can be used in teas and warm water gargles to soothe sore throats. You can make eucalyptus tea by steeping two to four grams of dried leaves in a cup of hot water for 10–15 minutes. Drink this tea up to three times per day.
- For gargles, steep two to four grams of dried leaves in one cup of warm water. Add ¼ to ½ tsp salt. Steep for five to 10 minutes. Use after meals to reduce bad breath and soothe sore throats.
- Don’t consume eucalyptus oil by mouth, as it can be toxic. People with asthma, seizures, liver or kidney disease, or low blood pressure should not use eucalyptus without asking their doctor.
6. Use peppermint
Peppermint is also widely used to treat cold symptoms. Its main ingredient, menthol, is an excellent decongestant. Menthol thins mucus and breaks up phlegm. It can also soothe sore throats and coughs. You can find peppermint in essential oils, lozenges, supplemental extracts, herbal teas, and as a fresh or dried herb.
- Peppermint tea can help soothe sore throats. Steep one tea bag (approximately three to four grams of leaves) in hot water. Adding a little honey will help quiet coughs.
- Do not use peppermint oil or menthol with children under two.
- Peppermint oil is safe for aromatherapy use and as a rub. Do not consume peppermint oil orally.
7. Eat raw honey
Honey contains anti-viral agents and strengthens your immune system, and raw honey is even better for you. Raw honey is solid at room temperature and has a slightly stronger flavor than pasteurized honey. For maximum benefits, look for raw honey that has been harvested locally, as it helps your body combat the allergens particular to your area.
- You can use honey and lemon in tea to soothe sore throats and quiet coughs.
- Do not give honey to a child under one year old.
8. Eat garlic
Garlic appears to boost your immune system, and may have a mild anti-viral quality. More studies are needed to determine whether garlic can help fight colds, but it shows some promise.
- You can take garlic as a supplement, or eat it in foods. You should aim to eat two to four cloves of garlic per day to maximize any effects
9. Gargle warm salt water
A warm saltwater gargle can help moisturize a scratchy throat. Mix ¼ to ½ tsp of kosher or pickling salt in an eight ounce glass of warm, distilled, or boiled water.
- Gargle with the water for one minute, then spit out. Repeat every few hours as necessary.
- Do not ask young children to gargle. They may accidentally swallow the liquid.
10. Consume vitamin C
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can help strengthen your immune system. Vitamin C will not “cure” a cold, but it can help your body heal faster. Most adults should consume between 65–90 mg a day, and no more than 2,000 mg per day.
- Citrus fruits, red and green peppers, kiwifruit, spinach, and other raw fruits and vegetables are good sources of vitamin C.
- Do not over-consume vitamin C. In addition to the small possibility of overdose, your body cannot store excess vitamin C. It will expel what your body doesn’t use in your urine.