THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED ON EVERYDAY ROOTS.
The common cold is a virus, or rather, lots of viruses-over 200, to be more specific. As a virus it is not curable, and since there are so many strains there’s not a way to make a vaccine like there is with the flu.
When you catch a cold the virus attaches itself to the mucous membranes of the nose and throat and essentially hijacks the cells that live there, forcing them to replicate more virus cells. It’s all quite sinister really. When your body tries to fight off the virus the symptoms pop up, like coughing, sneezing, a sore throat, general congestion and mild fatigue. Remedies are aimed at easing these symptoms to help keep you comfortable while your stalwart immune system battles the virus away. Many of the home remedies for colds listed below can be altered to fit your preferences (e.g. a different essential oil, more or less spiciness in the decongestant, etc. etc.) There may be some overlap with remedies for a sore throat or a cough, but I try and offer some variety here. Eventually you’ll have your own go-to remedies and recipes.
1. Hot Ginger Tea
This is one of the best teas to sip when you’re feeling stuffed up and yucky. The ginger is delicious, warming, a just a little spicy. Aromatic constituents such as capsaicin (found in chilies) or piperine (found in black pepper) are part of a family of compounds that provide numerous healing benefits. In ginger the compound of that family is called gingerol (original, right?), and it helps relieve congestion in a couple of ways. First, it lessens inflammation of mucous membranes that line the nasal passages and the sinus cavity, and this inflammation contributes greatly to the buildup of pressure and congestion. When the swelling goes down, mucous can flow out instead of getting all jammed up. Although slightly less scientific, there’s also the fact that its spiciness has enough of a kick that it can just perfectly loosen up built up phlegm. The tea itself is wonderful for you because you’re getting extra fluids, which your body needs desperately when fighting off an illness, and breathing in the steam vapors can also help loosen up any congestion you may be expecting. The below recipe is for an infusion, rather than a decoction (which is when you actively steep the herb in simmering water), but you can do either or.
You will need…
-6-8 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger root
-A pinch of cinnamon (optional)
-A squirt of lemon juice (optional)
-A dash of honey (optional)
-4 cups of freshly boiled water
-A glass jar (at least 1 quart)
Place the ginger in a 1 quart glass and sprinkle in some cinnamon if you are using it. Bring the water to a rolling boil, and then carefully pour it into the jar to cover the ginger. Steep for 30-40 minutes, and be sure to cover your jar-this is important because it keeps all that evaporating essential oil goodness right where it belongs-in your cup! Strain (use hot mitts or a towel as the jar may still be quite warm) and then pour yourself a piping fresh mug. You may find that you want to reheat the tea slightly. Add honey and lemon if you are using them, sip and savor, and be sure to breathe in the steam. Store the rest of the tea in the fridge for up to 24 hours, reheating and drinking 3 times throughout the day.
2. Essential Steam
One beautiful almost instant fix for a stuffy nose is to steam it out. This is a favorite remedy of mine and worth repeating in numerous remedy lists. You can glean the benefits of steam by breathing it in from a mug of hot tea, taking a hot shower, or filling a bowl with a hot water and adding an essential oil. The best essential oils to use for this are the strong ones like tea tree, peppermint, or eucalyptus (tea tree and eucalyptus being the best in my opinion.) The anti-bacterial/anti-viral properties of tea tree oil can be carried via the steam, which will help fight off any bug that you’re battling. Both tea tree and eucalyptus are, of course, rather strong smelling, which also helps dislodge congestion.
You will need…
-5-10 drops of eucalyptus, tea tree oil, or a combination
-A heatproof bowl
Put the essential oils in the bottom of the bowl and then pour in several cups of boiling water. Start by putting your face over the bowl at a comfortable distance-steam can do some damage if you aren’t careful. Eventually have your face directly about the bowl as close as comfortably possible. Drape the towel over your head to trap all that healing steam, and take deep breaths. Resurface as needed if you become too warm. Have some tissues handy to blow your nose after! Repeat 2-3 times daily, adjusting the amount of essential oil to your preferences. Some people find that too much will make their eyes water, so start with less.