Natural Cold Remedies

Many cold symptoms are due to the body's immune system reacting to the virus. The goal of naturopathic treatment is to work with the body's defense mechanisms by enhancing immune function rather than suppress symptoms with nasal decongestants and analgesics. For this reason, cold symptoms may temporarily worsen when treating with natural therapies. However, the duration of the cold is usually shorter. It is not necessary to use every suggestion to treat a cold; any combination will help.

Common Cold & Nutrition

A healthy immune system is the best prevention against colds and nutrition is the key to a healthy immune system. Once a cold has taken hold, the following can be helpful in boosting the immune system:

  • Eat lightly. Let your body's energy go toward eliminating the virus instead of digesting food.
  • Drink plenty of water, herbal tea, diluted vegetable juice, and soup. Do not drink fruit juices, dairy, coffee, alcohol, or soda.
  • Limit sugar intake. Sugar intake depresses the immune system.

Common Cold & Dietary Supplements

  • Betacarotene—Take 200,000 IUs daily.
  • Bioflavonoids—Take 1000 mg daily.
  • Garlic—Eat 3 cloves of garlic per day or take 2-3 capsules or tablets 3 times daily.
  • Vitamin A—Take 25,000 IUs daily (do not take more than 5000 IU daily if pregnant).
  • Vitamin C—Take 500-1000 mg every 2 hours.
  • Zinc—Take one zinc lozenge containing 23 mg of zinc every 2 hours.

Common Cold & Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicines rarely have significant side effects when used appropriately and at suggested doses. Occasionally, an herb at the prescribed dose causes stomach upset or headache. This may reflect the purity of the preparation or added ingredients, such as synthetic binders or fillers. For this reason, it is recommended that only high-quality products be used. As with all medications, more is not better and overdosing can lead to serious illness and death.

Herbs often used in the treatment of viral infections include the following:

  • Astragalus (Astragulus membranaceus)—Used as an antiviral, an antiinflammatory, an immunomodulator, and an antioxidant
  • Echinacea (Echinacea spp.)— Used as an antiviral, an antiinflammatory, and an immunomodulator
  • Hyssop (Hyssop officinalis)—Used as an antiviral, an immunomodulator, and an expectorant
  • Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)—Used as an antiviral, an antiinflammatory, and an immunomodulator
  • Lomatium (Lomatium dissectum)—Used as an antiviral, specifically for hard to treat respiratory tract infections
  • Osha (Ligusticum porteri)—Supports the immune system and indicated for viral respiratory illness with copious amounts of mucus and congestion
  • Oregon Grape (Mahonia spp.)—Used as an astringent, an antimicrobial, an antiinflammatory, an antioxidant, and it supports the immune system
  • St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)—Used as an antiviral and an antiinflammatory.

Common Cold & Homeopathy

The standard dosage for acute symptom relief is 3 pellets of 30C every 4 hours until symptoms improve. If the right remedy is chosen, symptoms should improve shortly after the second dose. If there is no improvement after 3 doses, a different remedy is given. Remedies that have been shown to be effective in acute, symptomatic relief of the common cold include the following:

  • Allium cepa—Indicated for eyes and nose that drip like a faucet, nasal discharge that burns and irritates the nose and upper lip, and a nonirritating eye discharge.
  • Arsenicum album—Indicated for a nose that feels stopped up while it runs; feeling chilly, anxious, nervous, or restless; and thirst for frequent small sips of water.
  • Belladonna—Indicated for a cold that comes on suddenly and violently; bright, red, and flushed face; and the throat is very red and sore.
  • Ferrum phosphoricum—Indicated when a person feels they are coming down with something, but there are no symptoms yet.
  • Kali bichromicum—Indicated for pressing pains in the sinuses and root of nose; discharge is thick, greenish-yellow, and stringy; and colds that develop into sinus infections.
  • Mercurius—Indicated for persons sensitive to both heat and cold with yellow-green mucus and bad breath.
  • Nux vomica—Indicated for symptoms that come on after overwork or anger and include impatience and irritability, and are made worse by going outdoors.
  • Pulsatilla—Indicated for a ripe cold with thick yellow-green discharge, changeable moods, a whiny, clingy disposition, and lack of thirst.

Common Cold & Hydrotherapy

  • Castor oil pack
  • Constitutional hydro
  • Heating compress to feet or throat

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 01 Jan 2001

Last Modified: 08 Sep 2015