Common Cold

Young woman with cold holds a tissue to her nose

The Mayo Clinic defines a common cold as a viral infection of your nose and throat (upper respiratory tract). It’s usually harmless, although it might not feel that way. Many types of viruses can cause a common cold.

On average, adults suffer from two or three colds annually; children and infants have even more colds every year.

The common cold generally runs its course in a week to 10 days. Symptoms often include runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, congestion, slight body aches, mild headache, sneezing or low-grade fever.

Unless there are complications, or a cold lingers beyond 10 days, medical attention usually isn’t required for the common cold. Over-the-counter medications are popular for helping relieve common cold symptoms.

Typical over-the-counter medications to relieve symptoms of the common cold include nasal decongestants, cough suppressants, expectorants, antihistamines and pain relievers.

Several medicinal plants may also provide relief from common cold symptoms. Here are three medicinal plants you may want to try next time a common cold comes a-knockin’. They all have good scientific backing.

Ginger – This powerful medicinal plant has been used for centuries to help sooth sore throats and coughs from common colds. A popular way to take ginger for colds is make a healthful tea. To do this, cut raw ginger into thin slices (you can also grate ginger) then drop the ginger into boiling water.

Once it boils, you may also want to add honey into it and squeeze half a lemon and you are good to go. Ginger also works as an antioxidant and helps the body in releasing toxins which further results in the removal of the infection and flu.

Research also suggests that ginger can ward off the feelings of nausea that so often accompany influenza. One study found that just 1 gram of ginger can alleviate clinical nausea of diverse causes.

Garlic – Many feel that by including garlic in your diet, you have fewer colds to begin with. That’s due to the compound allicin, which garlic contains. Allicin may have antimicrobial properties. Adding a garlic supplement to your diet might reduce the severity of cold symptoms by boosting immune systems to battle germs.

Research shows garlic may also reduce the time you suffer from common cold symptoms as well as temper the severity of symptoms.

One study gave 146 healthy volunteers either garlic supplements or a placebo for three months. The garlic group had a 63% lower risk of getting a cold, and their colds were also 70% shorter.

Echinacea – This is a flowering plant that grows in the U.S. and Canada, and it’s been used as medicine for centuries. This healthful medicinal plant is well-known for helping strengthen your immune system, fight infections, and ease cold and flu symptoms.

For well over 400 years, Native Americans used the echinacea plant to treat infections. Its active ingredients include flavonoids, chemicals that have many therapeutic effects on the body. Research shows it increases the number of white blood cells, which fight infections.

Echinacea is available in extracts, tinctures, tablets, capsules, tea and ointments. It is also available in combination with other immune-boosting herbs, vitamins and minerals.

The Mount Sinai Health System recommends for general immune system stimulation during colds, flu or upper respiratory tract infections, adults should take echinacea three times a day until you feel better, but not for more than 10 days.

Additionally, don’t take echinacea on an empty stomach. Instead, take it with food or a large glass of water.