The average adult will catch the common cold two or three times a year, while children catch it more often. Research shows that women, especially between the ages of 20 to 30, have more colds than men, possibly because of their closer contact with children. It’s further estimated that the average person will get 200 colds by their 75th birthday—that's two years of your life sneezing! Most people will get a cold or flu in the winter or spring, when drastic temperature changes occur and when the air is dry.
Although the flu and the common cold have similar symptoms which can be difficult to tell apart, they are caused by different viruses. Generally, flu symptoms are worse and more intense than the common cold. People with a cold are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. A cold does not generally result in serious health problems such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalization. In contrast the flu can have very serious associated complications. It’s estimated that 36,000 people die each year from flu-related complications in the United States alone.
Symptoms of a cold include: a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing and congestion, headache, a low-grade fever, a sore throat which is usually made worse by a cough and body or muscle aches. The flu has similar symptoms to the common cold, but may also include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms can be slightly different for everyone, but they typically appear about 1 - 3 days after exposure to a cold-causing virus. Symptoms will peak around day four, and taper off by about day seven. Sometimes colds can hang around as long as 2 weeks.
The time periods for a flu are similar: a bout of the flu typically lasts one to two weeks, with severe symptoms subsiding in two to three days. Flu symptoms usually start within one to four days after infection, and they may come on suddenly. Most healthy adults become contagious the day before symptoms develop (which makes it trickier to prevent spreading). They remain infectious for five to seven days after symptoms subside.
There is actually no cure for a flu or cold because it is not caused by a single virus—infection is caused by almost 250 different viruses and they mutate rapidly to become resistant to vaccines. It's just too hard for scientists to make a vaccine that protects you against all of them. Annual flu shots are only 80% effective. The idea behind the vaccine is to inject a weak or dead form of the virus into your system so that your body makes antibodies. Antibodies for that particular strain of virus can exist in your system for many years. However, injecting a weak strain of the virus into your system educates the immune system in an improper and unnatural way, and these vaccines often contain dangerous chemicals and preservatives.
Medications available at a pharmacy or chemist simply relieve the symptoms and make you feel better. They do nothing to help your body fight off the infection, neither do they have any effect on the amount of time you are sick. Many people immediately take antibiotics when they get a cold or flu. Unfortunately antibiotics are completely useless against a cold or flu. Antibiotics treat bacterial infections; the cold and flu are viral infections. The overuse of the antibiotics is the major concern worldwide because bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotic medications. You are essentially creating bacteria that are harder to kill when a genuine need arises. Besides this, antibiotics can have serious side effects.
Once you have been infected, it takes your immune system a few hours to a day to detect the new viral infection. Your immune system begins to produce antibodies to fight off the virus. The process is slow at first, but gradually accelerates. It takes about 3-4 days for your immune system to build up enough antibodies to fight off the entire infection. After the infection has cleared, some of these antibodies stay in your system for years. That’s why children get sick more often than elderly people; children are still building resistance to the many different strains of infections that adults already have antibodies against.
As mentioned previously, there is no cure for the cold or flu, but this herbal remedy will give your body the resources it needs to build antibodies quicker, and give your immune system the boost it needs to fight off a cold or flu. Honey can be mixed into this herbal remedy, or you can take it separately afterward. Be cautious with honey if you are highly allergic to bees. Note that the measures in this remedy are estimates – adjust any of the ingredients to suite your taste. To lessen the burn from the chili, you can soak them in salt water for half an hour and remove most or all of the seeds. If you can’t handle the burn from the chilli, substitute with yellow bell pepper, although the burn from chilli does clear your sinuses like nothing else. It’s important that all these ingredients are fresh – not dried, preserved, or store-bought in a bottle.
• 5 medium sized cloves of fresh garlic
• 3 Teaspoons Lime or Lemon Juice
• 12 leaves of fresh basil
• 120g or about 2-3 sprigs of fresh parsley
• 2 chillies with some seeds removed
• 1 and half inch piece of fresh ginger (peeled)
• 5 Teaspoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil / Avocado Oil
• 1 slice of a small onion
• 1 Teaspoon raw (unprocessed) Honey (be cautious if you are highly allergic to bees)
• 1 Tablespoon Pumpkin / Squash / Sesame or Sunflower seeds.
In a food processor or blender, blend all the ingredients together. It should resemble a pesto. Take 1-2 tablespoons, 3 times a day, as you would a cough mixture. Remember that you can adjust the ingredients to your taste. Add a little more of whatever you feel will make it taste better, or chase it down with the teaspoon of honey.
Let’s take a look at each of these ingredients to find out how they work:
Garlic has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. Experiments have shown that garlic’s antiviral properties are extremely effective at killing off the microorganisms that cause the flu and colds. Actually, swallowing a small clove of garlic once or twice a week is a highly effective way of preventing a cold or flu in the first place. A study has shown that taking raw garlic when you have a cold helps you recover much faster. Garlic has also been known to kill bacteria that are becoming resistant to man-made antibiotics.
• Lemon / Lime Juice
Citrus fruits are high in Vitamin C. For many years scientists believed that Vitamin C helps to prevent or reduce the duration of the common cold, although more recent studies have found little benefit. The evidence for Vitamin C is still very strong however. Either way, there is no denying that it stimulates white blood cell production which is vital for your immune system to function properly. Lemon juice is also known to make your body more alkaline and less acidic. Incidentally, people who have very acidic systems are likely to get sick more often. Lemons also contain a wealth of others minerals.
Basil has been proven to have anti-inflammatory effects, as well as the ability to reduce pain (analgesic) and fever (antipyretic). It boosts the immune system and protects from disease. Like garlic, basil has anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties that fight germs and bacteria. And like lemon, basil helps balance acid within the body and restore the body’s proper pH level.
Parsley is packed with beneficial nutrients, essential oils and antioxidants — to the point that it’s often called a superfood. It has been used for many years as a natural detox remedy, diuretic, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory agent, and modern studies have confirmed these benefits. Parsley is also known to strengthen the immune system and it’s a good source of Vitamin K.
Capsaicin, found in green chillies, has been shown to lower body temperature by stimulating the cooling center in the brain, which is helpful if you are experiencing sweats associated with fever. Chilli contains up to seven times the amount of vitamin C that an orange has. There is good evidence that large doses of vitamin C shorten the duration of the common cold by about a day and that symptoms are ameliorated. Chilli aids digestion and helping to relieve migraines, muscle, joint and nerve pain. It's a good source of vitamins A and E. There's also nothing like a bit of hot chilli to clear your sinuses. Capsaicin stimulates blood flow through the membranes and causes mucus secretion to become thinner. This action makes it beneficial in combating the common cold or sinus infections. Surprisingly the heat produced by the chillies act as an effective pain reliever. Endorphins released by your body from eating chillies also boost your mood. Similar to garlic, they also have antibacterial and antiviral properties.
Ginger has been effective at helping digestion, reducing nausea and helping to fight the flu and common cold. It has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Ginger appears to be highly effective against nausea. It has been used for many years to combat sea sickness and new research suggests it may be as effective as prescription medication. It has also been found to be effective at treating nausea associated with morning sickness. It boosts the immune system and its cleaning properties remove toxins that make your body especially susceptible to respiratory infections - such as the cold and flu. In one study it was found that drugs like chloramphenicol, ampicillin and tetracycline were not nearly as effective as the antibacterial properties of ginger. Ginger also helps relieve pain. Ginger helps warm and stabilize your body temperature, especially if you are experiencing chills associated with fever. Ginger also contains Zinc, which has been found to reduce the duration of a cold by up to 40 percent.
• Olive / Avocado Oil
Although there have been many disagreements in the past about fats in the diet, pretty much everyone agrees that olive oil, especially extra virgin, is good for you. Properties in olive oil help reduce inflammation. In fact, its anti-inflammatory properties are so strong that they have been shown to have similar effectiveness as ibuprofen. Olive oil is loaded with powerful antioxidants which help fight serious diseases. Experiments with the antibacterial properties of extra virgin olive oil have shown it to be effective against eight strains of bacteria, three of which are resistant to modern antibiotics.
The phytochemicals in onions along with their vitamin C help improve immunity. For centuries, onions have been used to reduce inflammation and heal infections and actually, in Russia they are used to treat colds and flu possibly because they are rich in manganese which offers protection against cold and flu. When onion is combined with garlic, the effects are even greater: the two together are known to be effective antidepressants, painkillers, anticoagulants, and anti-inflammatory. Onions also treat allergies by preventing the cells from releasing histamine. Its antihistamine properties aid in reducing nasal congestion while its sulfur-compounds can break down the mucous. Its anti-inflammatory properties help soothe respiratory ailments. Surprisingly it also helps cure fever.
Raw honey contains bee pollen, which is known to ward off infections, provide natural allergy relief and boost overall immunity. It also boosts the immune system and promotes restorative sleep. Raw honey has been shown to be as effective in treating coughs as over-the-counter commercial cough syrups. Increasing scientific evidence shows that a single dose of honey can reduce mucus secretion and coughs. In one study, honey was just as effective as diphenhydramine and dextromethorphan—common ingredients found in over-the counter cough medicines. Honey works to soothe sore throats. Beware of consuming raw honey if you are highly allergic to bees. Raw, unprocessed honey is also not suitable for children under 1 year of age. Processed honey doesn’t have as many benefits as its raw, unprocessed counterpart.
• Pumpkin / Squash / Sesame / Sunflower Seeds
These seeds all contain a high amount of Zinc. Researchers have found that zinc reduces the severity and duration of cold symptoms by directly inhibiting the binding and replication of cold and flu viruses. Zinc also helps to suppress inflammation – which is your body’s reaction to an infection. Research has found that zinc can reduce the duration of a cold by as much as 40 percent.
While you are sick, it’s also important that you follow these guidelines:
• Stay well hydrated – water is best.
Fever causes you to lose a lot of fluid. Avoid alcohol, coffee and other caffeinated beverages which all have a dehydrating effect on the body. You can supplement your fluid intake with ginger or herbal tea. Warm water with lemon and honey also helps soothes the throat and loosen congestion. Try and drink a tall glass of water every two-three hours.
• Get lots of rest
Your body heals best when it’s resting. Lots of rest is also the key to a healthy immune system. Often with a cold, you'll feel a bit more fatigued. Give into it. Now is the time to go to bed earlier and take it easy. Add an extra pillow under your head to help drain your sinus.
• Add Moisture to the Air
Humidifiers put moisture back into the air and according to a 2013 study, increasing the humidity levels to 43% or above, significantly reduces airborne viruses that cause cold and flu infections. The study concluded that your family is only 14 percent likely to catch your cold or flu if you use a humidifier as opposed to 75 percent more likely to catch your cold if you don't. This is because viruses and bacteria can't travel as well in moist air - another reason that most infections occur during the dry months of winter. A humidifier could mean the difference between getting the flu this winter and remaining healthy.
• Hot Bath with an Antiseptic Solution
A hot bath may feel uncomfortable at first, but you’ll soon become accustomed to the heat. A warm bath will make you feel better afterward and helps clear up congestion. A hot bath that makes you sweat can also help you fight off a cold or flu. Add a strong antiseptic solution, such as Dettol to your bath water to kill off all the germs that you have been coughing up. This is especially important since covering your cough with your hands means they are now a breeding ground for germs, viruses and bacteria.
• Try eat something
Appetite seems to vanish when you are sick. Try soups or broths if you can. Chicken noodle soup has been found to have some properties that are especially beneficial for colds and flu.
It’s generally not recommended that you spend money on high-dosage vitamin C, Echinacea or zinc supplements when you are sick. Your body can only handle so much of these at a time and gets rid of the excess. In effect you are just making expensive urine! Rather use the cheaper, herbal solution above. And if you are suffering from a cold or flu right now – get well soon.