It’s that time of year again: the ground is snowy, the air is crisp, and the people are…sick. It seems that you and everyone you know is experiencing the dreaded symptoms of the common cold: congestion, sneezing, coughing, and a little red nose from the constant tissue action. So to curb your couch time, we’ve come up with seven ways you can kick the sick and get back to optimal health.
Fresh ginger root is basically your anti-inflammatory one stop shop when you’re feeling sick. Ginger soothes sore throats, alleviates nausea, and loosens chest congestion. The best way to prepare fresh ginger is to peel it, and cut thin rounds—about an inch and half long—and steep it in a mug of boiling water for five minutes.
There’s good reason we often crave a bowl of chicken soup when we’re sick! Traditional bone broth—in which the bones have been simmering for hours—are a source of easily digested nutrients, which is highly beneficial when you’ve lost your appetite. It also has great immune boosting properties: bone broth contains various amino acids, like arginine, glutamine and cysteine, that reduce inflammation, eliminate mucus and make it easier to breathe. Furthermore, bone broth is extremely hydrating due to its water and electrolyte content.
Eucalyptus, a powerful medicinal plant native to Australia, is a fantastic expectorant and decongestant. It works by eliminating toxins from the body, and opening up blood vessels to allow more oxygen to the lungs. It also has antimicrobial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, making it an effective tool in combatting cold symptoms like coughing, runny nose and sore throat. Since shower steam is also a great way to help with respiratory cold symptoms, combining the two makes for instant relief. To make a eucalyptus steam shower, tie fresh eucalyptus—which can be purchased from your local florist—to your showerhead, and as you shower, breathe in deeply. This will last a few weeks (and look very attractive, might I add). Alternatively, you can put a few drops of eucalyptus oil on the shower floor where it won’t be immediately washed off, to get the same effect.
When you’re sick, it can be tempting to want to lift your spirits (and energy level) with a bit of chocolate or some candy, but research shows that sugar actually suppresses the immune system for hours after eating it by reducing the ability of Vitamin C to get into white blood cells. So if you find yourself craving something sweet, grab an orange instead—that way you’re getting a natural form of sugar, with Vitamin C and fiber.
This trace element is a great immune booster—being both anti-inflammatory and antiviral—and research shows that zinc can reduce the duration of cold-related symptoms when taken upon first signs of sickness—some studies show by up to 50%. To get the most benefit, take one zinc lozenge every two to three hours as soon as you begin to notice symptoms. You can also include food sources of zinc, like beef, lamb, chickpeas and pumpkin seeds to your diet for a speedier recovery.
Raw unpasteurized honey is such a powerhouse food: I’m talking antimicrobial, antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. It’s also full of antioxidants and healthy probiotics—and it’s super delicious to boot. Research shows that raw honey is just as effective as over-the-counter medication in treating coughs and soothing sore throats. To make a Common Cold Elixir, combine one to two teaspoons of raw honey, with a few slices of fresh ginger, two slices of lemon and boiling water and steep in a mug for five minutes.
So this guy might be the hardest piece of advice to follow—and probably the most important. Not only are people who get less sleep more likely to get sick, but they’re also more likely to take longer recovering. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep every night, and make sure to practice good sleep hygiene: turning off technology/blue light at least an hour before you go to bed, eating your last meal at least two hours before bed, and sleeping in a completely dark room. If you have trouble sleeping at night due to cold-related symptoms, take a hot Epsom salt bath with soothing essential oils (like eucalyptus, lavender and chamomile) to help sooth your body and put you in a more relaxed state of mind.
Tisha Riman is a Holistic Nutritionist, a Wellness Chef-in-training and the blogger behind The Nourished Mind – her little corner of the Internet to share whole food recipes, healthy living tips, and maybe (always) talk about her pets. She’s a lover of delicious food, fact-based nutrition, red wine, a good sense of humor and dark roast coffee. She also works as a Recipe Developer, Content Creator, Nutritional Consultant and Food Stylist.