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Natural remedies for the common cold

We investigate the most popular natural remedies for the common cold.

By Donna Fleming
Some people swear by natural remedies to beat a cough or cold, especially if they are taken at the first sign of symptoms. However, studies into how effective they are have had varying results. Here’s a look at some of the most popular alternative treatments for the common cold.
Echinacea
This herb is one of the best-known natural treatments for colds, as it is believed to help support the immune system. Some studies have found that it can reduce the severity of symptoms, while others have shown negligible results. There’s a huge variation in the way echinacea is prepared, so some versions may be more effective than others, and it should be avoided by pregnant women or people with autoimmune disorders.
Chicken soup
It may seem like an old wives’ tale, but eating chicken soup really can be an effective treatment for colds. Inhaling its warm vapours helps to loosen thickened secretions in the nostrils, unblocking the nose and clearing mucus from the bronchial tubes. Boiling bones to make the base of a chicken broth releases a variety of minerals that can help to fight infection.
Honey and lemon
These two ingredients are popular for fighting colds, thanks to their ability to stop or slow the growth of microbes that can cause infection. While they don’t appear to be able to prevent or shorten a cold, they do seem to relieve symptoms.
Vitamin C
This popular vitamin has long been used as a cold remedy thanks to its antioxidant properties. Experts seem to support it more than any other remedy, but though it may be able to ease your symptoms, it is not likely to prevent you getting a cold. There are lots of different supplements available, but it is a good idea to get as much vitamin C as you can from citrus fruits, kiwifruit, broccoli, strawberries and capsicum.
Ginseng
Usually taken to boost energy and stamina, this Asian herb has also been investigated for its ability to fight colds. A Canadian study found it reduced the severity and duration of cold symptoms, but didn’t prevent the cold.
Nasal rinsing
This is an ancient practice that has recently become popular again as a treatment for colds. It involves rinsing the nose with a saltwater solution, in a pot with a long spout called a neti pot. A 2008 study found children who rinsed with a saline nasal wash six times a day noticed an improvement in cold symptoms. However, another study suggested daily rinsing may deplete the nose of protective mucus, increasing the chances of getting a cold in the first place.
Garlic
This pungent plant contains a compound called allicin, which is believed to be a powerful antioxidant. However, the jury is still out on how effective it is when it comes to the common cold. There can also be some side effects if you have a bleeding disorder or gastrointestinal problems.
Camphor, eucalyptus and menthol
Often combined in products to treat nasal congestion, these strong-smelling ingredients appear to be able to relieve the sensation of a stuffy nose, but there’s no evidence that it can treat or shorten colds.
Common cold myths
Being cold causes a cold.
No, it doesn’t. While cold air can cause a runny nose, you catch a cold from a virus. You may be more likely to pick up that virus in winter, when you are in close confines with people because it’s chilly outside, and exposed to more germs from coughing and sneezing.
If you’ve got a cold, you should take antibiotics.
These work against bacteria, while most colds are viral. Taking antibiotics when they’re not necessary can lead to becoming resistant to them, so when you really do have a bacterial infection, antibiotics may not be effective against it.
Feed a cold, starve a fever.
Eating well is important as it supports the immune system to battle bugs. It’s also important to drink water to avoid dehydration, which can make symptoms worse.

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