Yep, it's that time: cold season. Colorado is gorgeous in autumn, but as our temperatures outside fall, our internal body temperatures fall too - and our bodies are less capable of fighting off the viruses that cause colds. What a price to pay for crisp, beautiful mornings!
Fortunately, Mother Nature is super good to us. Holistically, there's a lot we can do to not only fight off a cold, but make sure we don't get one in the first place.
First, understand that a cold is a virus (or a collection of viruses). The viruses that cause colds attach to the mucous membranes in your nose and throat and sit there, forcing your cells to produce more and more virus cells. There’s no way to cure a virus, and there are so many strains out there that it’s impossible to make an effective vaccine. So all you can really do is try to ease the symptoms that pop up – congestion, a sore throat, fatigue, coughing, and sneezing – while your immune system battles the invader.
Bearing that in mind, the best remedy for a cold is to prevent getting one in the first place! Supercharge your immune system with powerful preventative methods. But if you do happen to catch something, move it out of your system quickly with the tips and tricks below.
(avoid getting a cold in the first place)
Get elderberry and echinacea in your life
I'm just going to put it out there: King Soopers is your (surprising) new best friend if you're trying to live naturally. Their herbs and supplements stock is pretty impressive. And since your first line of defense during cold season is to keep your immune system in tip-top shape, pick up some elderberry and Echinacea pills to take every day during the fall and into winter. (I swear by the Nature's Way brand.)
If you feel a cold coming on, increase your dose - the bottle will typically instruct you to take as many as six pills, twice a day. You can also try a wellness supplement with a whole host of cold-fighting compounds, like this one from Source Naturals.
Try honey, honey
Switch your honey bear to a local, raw brand. Local bees consume local pollen, and the honey they produce will help your immune system to ward off environment-specific pathogens. Plus, high-quality honey is full of antivirals and antioxidants. Add this to your coffee instead of sugar, drizzle it on plain yogurt, or substitute it for sweeteners in your smoothies and baked goods.
In the Thick of It
(suffer a little less if you do pick up a cold)
Rest - really
No, you don't get to go to work if you are actually sick. It's not just because it's very rude to get your coworkers sick, too - it's also because you're not going to get any better if you fill your day with stressors that suppress your immune system. So don’t just cancel a few commitments; take the whole damn day off. Binge on Netflix, stay super hydrated, and sleep. Then try the following methods:
Make a chest rub
Who needs Vick's Vapor Rub? There's literally nothing coconut oil can't do, including make the base of a holistic chest rub. Rub a little coconut oil on your chest with three to five drops of essential oil. Peppermint will clear congestion and soothe sinus headaches; eucalyptus oil will work similarly, with an added benefit of an aroma that soothes sore throats, too.
For your diffuser:
Oregano oil, lavender, and thieves essential oils are all powerful antivirals. I suggest adding five to ten drops of oregano oil to your diffuser, and then using the lavender or thieves to cut the spicy herbal smell of the oregano. (They'll make your air smell more pleasant and add extra antiviral goodness at the same time.) If you don't own a diffuser, drip these oils at either end of your shower, or pour them into a bowl full of hot water and inhale them for five to ten minutes.
Get cozy with apple cider vinegar
We have been blessed with a miracle cure-all and its name is apple cider vinegar. Barring the fact that it makes a hell of a good salad dressing, ACV also contains potassium, which thins mucus; and the acetic acid in it prevents germ growth. Make a gargle with two tablespoons ACV, a little hot water, lemon juice, and local, raw honey to taste. Sip or gargle it three to four times a day.
Ginger: your new BFF
If ACV isn’t your jam, make a tea out of freshly grated ginger root to clear congestion and support the immune system. Sip it two to three times a day.
Clear your sinuses
Use a Neti pot filled with warm salt water to wash out your sinuses. If you don't like hunching over your sink for ten minutes at a time with warm water running out of your nose, buy a simple saline spray at the store and use it three to five times a day to clear congestion. (Bonus: getting all that phlegm out of your system will likely ease your cough, too.)
Shots! Shots! Shots!
Sorry, not tequila. One of my favorite daily rituals is a shot of oregano oil and water (plus the other eight hundred tinctures I take). Buy therapeutic-grade oregano oil, which is expensive, but worth it. Four drops of oil in a shot glass of water every morning will help to purge your body of bacteria. Plus, it's kind of fun to start a Monday morning the way you generally end a Friday night.
Splurge on a massage
No, it's not just for funsies. A professional massage can seriously help your lymphatic system! When your lymph nodes have way too many toxins and foreign pathogens in your tissues to clean (like when you have a cold) they stop working efficiently and start working sluggishly. Gentle pressure on your skin can help them to move lymph fluids back to your heart, increasing their speed and their ability to clean your tissues of toxins and fight pathogens.
A professional massage therapist can likely give you a special "lymph massage". If you’re like me, sometimes you really have to spend that $60 on groceries for the week, not an hour-long massage. No worries - ask your SO (or a really good friend) to massage the sides of your nose, underneath your eyes, and the sides of your throat down to your collar bone with light circular motions. That will give your lymph nodes some love and help release the buildup of toxins, making you feel better faster. Just make sure you're on the tail end of your cold, so you don't get anyone else sick, too!
It's no wonder celebrities swear by Epsom salts (made up of pure magnesium and sulfate). The mineral compounds absorb easily into your skin, helping you to feel their benefits - reduction of inflammation and soothing your parasympathetic nerve system - quickly.
When you have a cold, an Epsom salt bath will helpa detoxify your body and ease muscle aches. I like Dr. Teal’s ginger and clay formula when I’m sick, and I try the lavender mix when I can’t sleep.
(heal faster after you've been sick, and keep from getting sick again)
Lemon essential oil is an incredible cleaning product. Add fifteen to twenty drops to a small spray bottle full of water, and clean all the germs off of your counters, bathroom, and bedside table. Wash your sheets with a few drops of lemon oil, too.
Keep up the supplements
Continue your elderberry/Echinacea routine for the rest of cold season to keep another virus strain from invading your body.
A routine exercise schedule will give you structure, and committing to sweating out toxins three to five times a week will keep your lymphatic system moving efficiently.
Load up on sleep
Your immune system can't do its job if you're exhausted all the time. When you don't get enough sleep, you force yourself to run off of adrenaline; and adrenaline releases cortisol, which kills all of the biochemicals you need to produce to keep your body healthy.
Moral of the story: stay in a few extra nights a week during cold season. Make a homemade stew, kick your feet up, and get a solid 7-9 hours of sleep to keep the germs away.
Anna Squires studies political science, journalism, and creative writing at Colorado College. There is nothing she enjoys more in a yoga class than laughing so hard she falls out of a pose, especially since then she doesn’t have to hold it anymore. She hails from Atlanta, GA.