It’s quite decidedly autumn and that typically means the start of flu season and winter coughs and colds. Arm yourself against the bugs that cause coughs and colds and stay happy, healthy and not at all snivelly this season, with these tried and tested natural remedies. This is in addition to the annual flu-shot, of course, which can help protect you, your family and the community through enhanced herd immunity!
Natural antimicrobials Garlic, echinacea and oil of oregano contain natural antimicrobial agents that have been seen to be effective against the viruses that cause colds.
Garlic Garlic is a rich source of allicin, a sulphur compound which supports cardiovascular health and has some serious antioxidant impact. Allicin has also been shown to help relieve symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections, including helping with catarrh and congestion, and to inhibit the activity of the influenza virus (Kyung et al., 2012). Garlic is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial, with activity against bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi, including Candida albicans. It even helps fight off pathogens that are resistant to commonly used antibiotics, with one study finding that garlic extracts inhibited the growth of seven types of undesirable bacteria collected from hospital patients (Karuppiah et al., 2012). In another study, 45 days of supplementation with garlic extract led to significant increases in the concentration of immune cells in volunteers, and after 90 days the volunteers had fewer missed days of work or school and reduced cold and flu symptoms compared to people taking a placebo (Nantz et al., 2012). As allicin reacts with oxygen in the air to form a more stable compound, it is best to crush fresh garlic and leave it exposed to the air for around 15 minutes before eating it or cooking with it. Or, take a daily supplement!
Echinacea Echinacea has become a popular remedy for fighting off colds and coughs, with some studies showing that echinacea can decrease your risk of developing a cold by 58% and shorten a cold’s duration by a day and a half (Shah et al., 2007). Echinacea purpurea contains active compounds called alkylamides, polysaccharides and cichoric acid which prompt the body’s immune system to hunt down pathogens and stop them in their tracks. Specifically, echinacea appears to be effective against rhinoviruses that cause the common cold. This means that the best approach is to take echinacea at the first sign or symptom of a cold or viral infection, such as chills, fever, muscle ache, headache, cough, congestion, or sore throat.
Oregano oil Oregano contains carvacrol, thymol and rosmarinic acid, but there’s barely any of these beneficial substances in typical dietary amounts of the herb. Instead, make sure your medicine cabinet contains an organic oregano oil extract to help fight:
- fungal infections
- some intestinal parasites
- urinary tract infections
Oil of oregano has been seen to kill a number of pathogens, including Escherichia coli, Candida albicans, Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella, as well as some pathogens that cause pneumonia (Lambert et al., 2001; Manohar et al., 2001). Oregano oil also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, meaning that it can help alleviate symptoms of coughs and colds if you’ve already succumbed.
Probiotics and immunity In addition to using natural antimicrobial agents like oil of oregano to guard against colds and flu, it can also help to make probiotics a regular part of your routine. These friendly bacteria help to maintain a healthy microbiome, keeping numerous pathogens at bay. As we age, and when we eat rich foods, or take antibiotics, this can compromise the bacterial balance in the gut and leave us vulnerable to undesirable organisms, including those that cause coughs and colds. Choose a multistrain probiotic formula containing gastric acid resistant strains of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus to help keep your digestive system happy and to support immune health throughout cold and flu season. Most adults suffer from 2-4 colds each year, and most kids get about 6-8 colds a year. This means 22 million days of missed school and 45 million days where calling in sick really was justified. Make sure you buck the trend this year by stocking up on natural remedies that can help fight coughs and colds at the first sign of a sniffle.
References Karuppiah, P., & Rajaram, S. (2012). Antibacterial effect of Allium sativus cloves and Zingiber officiale rhizomes against multiple-drug resistant clinical pathogens. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, 8, 597-601. Kyung, K.H. (2012). Antimicrobial properties of Allium species. Current Opinion in Biotechnology, 23, 142-147. Lambert, R.J., Skandamis, P.N., Coote P.J., et al. (2001). A study of the minimum inhibitory concentration and mode of action of oregano oil, thymol and carvacrol. J Appl Microbiol, 91(3):453-62. Manohar, V., Ingram, C., Gray, J., et al. (2001). Antifungal activities of origanum oil against Candida albicans. Mol Cell Biochem, 228(1-2): 111-7. Nantz, M.P., Rowe, C.A., Muller, C.E., et al. (2012). Supplementation with aged garlic extract improves both NK and gd-T cell function and reduces the severity of cold and flu symptoms: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled nutrition intervention. Clinical Nutrition, 31, 337-344. Shah, S.A., Sander, S., White, C.M., et al. (2007). Evaluation of echinacea for the prevention and treatment of the common cold: a meta-analysis. Lancet Infect Dis, Jul;7(7):473-80.