Resources + Remedies for Cold Season
It’s March, but cold season still seems to be in full swing. Whether you’ve been in good health, are in the throes of feeling unwell or recently got over something, there’s no wrong time to pay attention to self-care and your immune system.
Most of the below are available in various forms — from tinctures to pill supplements, lozenges and teas.
When in doubt, always discuss your symptoms and any treatments with your healthcare provider. Information included here does not replace medical advice, and every person and body is different. The info here is based on personal and client experience, as well as research into available scientific data (references included at the bottom of the page, if you like to geek out like we do!).
Sambucus (aka Elder, or Elderberry)
Elderberry is having a bit of a moment, with syrups and lozenges popping up all over the place, produced from small/local brands to bigger companies. As an ingredient, it’s been used for centuries for it’s immunity-supportive properties, and may be taken as a preventative or maintenance supplement, at the on-set of symptoms or for the duration of feeling under the weather. It’s high in Vitamin C, and has moderate amounts of Vitamin B6 and iron. Some clinical studies have pointed toward elderberry helping to reduce the duration of cold or flu symptoms, but more research is needed. That being said, there is a plethora of personal, anecdotal support for taking this (we keep the syrup on-hand in our cabinet!).
Some research has shown that echinacea may increase the number of white blood cells, which help fight infections. Look for it in tablet, tincture or tea form.
Unlike the other items listed here, I prefer to use eucalyptus in essential oil form when I have any sort of head or chest cold. I like to diffuse it near my bed when sleeping and by my desk when working (sometimes in combination with peppermint oil), or anywhere in the house really. I’ll also sometimes mix a little frankincense oil with it.
One thing to remember when sick is to get the bad stuff out. Blow your nose, cough, pee, etc. Many commonly available cough syrups have come under some scrutiny in recent years. To help get the gunk out of your chest, guaifenesin can be a tremendously effective expectorant with less associated risk. We personally use Herbal Expec.
Manuka honey comes only from New Zealand, and has long been used for its anti-microbial properties. It can be taken solo (licking off a spoon = yes please!), stirred into tea, or mixed with some apple cider vinegar and lemon juice as a wellness shot. It’s pricey, but honey never spoils and if you treat it like a supplement, it should last you a long time. When you need a larger amount of honey for culinary or other purposes, reach for a good local brand instead. As for brands of Manuka honey, this resource offers a good list. The biggest things to look for are to ensure it’s from New Zealand, level of purity, and ideally that is third/independent-party tested to ensure authenticity and quality. We bought a few jars of WellBeeing when in New Zealand, which I have not found readily available in or to ship to the U.S. I also like Wedderspoon’s Manuka products — lozenges that include ginger or lemon, as well as their single-serve packets of honey that are perfect when traveling.
Other Raw Honey
Alongside our love for Manuka Honey is our love for two kinds of honey — local honey, and “superfood” honey by Philosophie. As with all real, raw honey, both are full of antioxidants (phenolic compounds), antifungal and antibacterial properties, phytonutrients and more. Honey can help with both digestive issues as well as a sore throat. Local honey can offer the added benefit of helping with pollen allergies, and Philosophie honeys are mixed with other ingredients known for their nutritional potency. What’s more — purchasing local honey not only tends to come with a greater guarantee of quality, but you’ll be supporting local business (Philosophie is an awesome small-business brand that’s also well worth supporting!).
Prebiotics + Probiotics
Gut health is so central to total, overall health. It’s always important to try and keep your microbiome strong and happy, and regularly consuming prebiotic foods (i.e., radishes, jerusalem artichoke) and probiotic foods (i.e., krauts and other fermented foods) and drinks (i.e., kombucha and kefir water) can help with this. There are also many supplements available. We tend to change up which products we use a few times per year, but a few great ones include Integrative Therapeutics probiotic pearls, HealthForce probiotics and Trust Your Gut prebiotic/probiotic powder.
At the onset of a cold — a tickle in the throat, feeling a bit fatigued, or even just prophylactically when traveling or in close proximity to others who are sick — we like these tablets that also contain echinacea.
While often universally associated with being an immunity-booster or cold-shortener, more recent studies have only shown supplementing Vitamin C to really help people who are extremely physically active (think professional endurance athletes) recover faster from a cold. So while it’s more debatable today whether or not supplementing Vitamin C can actually help you get over a cold faster, consider simply consuming more foods rich in it on a regular basis vs. taking a supplement. Strawberries and citrus are two great sources!
There is compelling evidence indicating that consuming proper amounts of Vitamin E may help in cold prevention or healing. Foods high in Vitamin E include sources of healthy fats such as avocados, almonds, olive oil and sunflower seeds, as well as other plant foods like sweet potatoes, butternut squash and spinach. If supplementing, research has shown it to work better when used in combination with Vitamin C — and that rule can also apply to consuming it through whole foods.
Gargling with good old salty warm water can do wonders for a scratchy throat. My pediatrician and just about every other primary care doc I’ve worked with along the way suggests this, and it’s also backed by substantial medical literature. You can read more about the “whys” and “hows” here, here and here. Simply pour a few ounces of warm water into a glass, add a few pinches of salt, swirl to dissolve, and gargle away (a few mouthfuls) for a minute or two. I try and do it a few times a day, as long as I’m having symptoms.
This is a whole other category in and of itself, deserving of a separate post… more on that coming soon (and feel free to get in touch with any questions in the meantime)!
Note: This post includes some affiliate links. We simply share information about products we personally and professionally know, trust and use, and the ability to include affiliate links helps support editorial costs for this site.
- Salt: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20088240
- Salt: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16242593
- General: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/28/health/28real.html
- Manukah honey (breakdown of grading system): http://manukahoneyorganic.com/what-is-umf/
- Vitamin C: https://www.health.harvard.edu/cold-and-flu/can-vitamin-c-prevent-a-cold