Echinacea may shorten the duration of a cold if taken within the first day or two of symptoms. Chinese medicinal herbs can also help. The people who use echinacea to treat symptoms have the right idea. Research to date shows that echinacea can help treat a cold, but it won’t prevent one.
Food and supplements that contain helpful bacteria, known as probiotics, promote digestive health and have been linked to stronger immunity. For everyday health, eat yogurt with active cultures several times weekly; if you can’t tolerate dairy, try miso soup or sauerkraut. During the cold and flu season, consider adding a supplement (which has at least 10 times the amount of good bacteria as yogurt) to your prevention routine. Possibilities include Lactobacillus GG, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Bifidobacterium.
If you tend to catch every winter bug that goes around, consider two supplements: the herb astragalus and a medicinal mushroom supplement that contains maitake, shiitake, turkey tail, or reishi mushrooms. Both remedies, long used in Chinese medicine, have antiviral properties that may ward off colds and flu. Like all “tonic” remedies, they have a cumulative effect and are meant to be taken daily. Ideally it’s best to start taking one or both in the early fall, before cold season begins, and continue throughout the winter. But start now and enjoy good health!
When you’re having trouble swallowing, honey, lemon, and cayenne pepper can bring soothing relief. The lemon contracts inflamed tissues and provides vitamin C, the honey soothes and disinfects, and the cayenne stimulates circulation and encourages healing.
Try It: Fill a tablespoon halfway with honey, and then squeeze a lemon to fill the spoon with juice. Sprinkle on 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, put the spoon in your mouth, and suck on it slowly. Repeat as needed.
Citrus is bursting with vitamin C, and your body absorbs extra cold-fighting antioxidants from the combo of pink grapefruit, which also contains the phytochemical lycopene.
Indoor air breeds colds and coughs, but common-sense therapies — like eating fruits and veggies and scrubbing hands clean — are still the most effective way to keep germs at bay this winter.
Studies have shown that green tea (steeped 3 to 5 minutes) is the best food source of catechins, plant compounds that halt oxidative damage to cells. Flavor it with fresh, anti-inflammatory ginger and pomegranate for an extra nutrient punch.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) has immune-boosting and throat-soothing properties that make it an excellent addition to cough and cold formulas.
How to use: For coughs, make a tea that combines mullein leaf with a pinch of licorice. Safety note: People who have high blood pressure should avoid this herb or use the deglycyrrhizinated form (look for “DGL” on packaging).
Common culinary sage (Salvia officinalis) can help to ease sore throats and dry up sinuses.
How to use: For a sore throat, make a strong tea by pouring 4 ounces of water over 2 teaspoons of dried or fresh sage. Cool to room temperature. Gargle until the mixture is gone. Repeat three times daily. For drippy sinuses, drink a cup of regular-strength sage tea.
Also known as Siberian ginseng, this well-studied herb (Eleutherococcus senticosus) can help your body resist the effects of stress and boost your immune system.
How to use: Take in tincture or capsule form, or make an immunity chai by blending eleuthero with cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon. Simmer for 20 minutes and strain; drink two to three cups daily.