It is now officially autumn — time for leaf-peeping, cider pressing, and of course, the first cold viruses of the season. I have a 4-year-old daughter and a 7-month-old son, and with my daughter’s entrance into preschool this year, the little ones have had two colds already since the start of school.
Here are some remedies and prevention methods that you may want to explore. As always, I am not a doctor, and you should seek advice from a medical professional if you are concerned about your health.
For prevention, we always focus on diet and herbal remedies. As much as possible, eat a balanced diet full of nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits. Be sure to include probiotic foods like yogurt and sauerkraut to boost the health of your gut, aka your microbiome. Now that Halloween is on the horizon and candy has already started flowing, be aware of your sugar consumption. Eating sugar has the potential to reduce your body’s defenses by 75% or more for up to six hours.
Beyond diet, you can add adaptogenic herbs into your daily routine. Adaptogens help our bodies maintain balance during times of stress and fatigue. Adaptogens are considered tonics and can be taken daily for long periods of time without harm.
Two of my favorite herbs in this category are ashwagandha and astragalus. Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years in the traditional medicine of India, Ayurveda. Studies show that ashwagandha increases the amount and diversity of antibodies we produce and increases white blood cells, which identify and attack invaders. Astragalus has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over two thousand years. A study in the 1980s revealed that astragalus enhanced the immune system’s ability to identify bacteria, viruses, and even cancer cells.
If you feel a cold setting in — the first feeling of a scratchy throat, runny nose, or stuffy sinuses — there are a handful of things I would recommend. The first is one of my favorite foods: chicken soup. Chicken soup with noodles, rice, or even just vegetables warms your body and nourishes your soul. Rich bone broths are full of immune-supporting minerals like calcium and also support your microbiome.
Second, drink warming liquids like herbal tea. Yogi Tea and Traditional Medicinals brands make tea blends with names like “Breathe Deep” and “Throat Coat” which makes it simple to explore herbal tea if it is new to you. Other herbal teas to try are echinacea, a powerful immune-boosting herb, or elderberry, which has a wonderful fruity flavor.
For more specific ailments, one of my favorites is mullein, a soft-leaved plant you can find growing locally. This herb is an expectorant, meaning it will help you get rid of thick mucus in your lungs. It will also soothe irritated membranes. I have used this herb through a bout of bronchitis and it was so effective that it is my go-to whenever I feel a chest cold setting in.
Another favorite is thyme, an herb commonly used in the kitchen. Thyme has been used for centuries for upper-respiratory infections and has the amazing quality of suppressing a cough. When your lungs are full of thick phlegm, it is important to get that out, which an herb like mullein will help with. But when you have a lingering cough that is keeping you up at night, steep some thyme in hot water for tea and enjoy the restful sleep you’ll have.
There are so many other home remedies that I employ when sick, including a neti pot, essential oils, eucalyptus steam, humidifier, herbal remedies like fire cider and elderberry syrup, probiotics, hot baths with Epsom salt and bodywork. For my daughter, alcohol-free herbal tinctures from Herb Pharm have been helpful to kick a cold, and she enjoys herbal tea now, too. Many of these remedies can be found at the Rutland Area Food Co-op or online.