Common Cold Cure? natural vitamins, herbs, supplements, a step by step guide to home remedy
27 2017 by Ray Sahelian, M.D.

One of the most important steps you can take to prevent these viruses landing in your nose is frequent hand washing.

Each winter all of us are exposed to rhinoviruses-- those annoying viruses that cause common cold symptoms. The word rhino means nose. Therefore, rhinoviruses are viruses that infect the nose and upper respiratory system. The upper respiratory system includes the nose, mouth, the throat (or pharynx), and the sinuses. The lower respiratory system includes the trachea and the lungs. Upper respiratory infections (URIs) are the most common acute illnesses in the United States and the Western world. As internal body temperatures fall after exposure to cold air, so too does the immune system's ability to beat back the rhinovirus that causes the common cold.

Symptoms and signs
The most common symptoms of the common cold are nasal discharge and obstruction, sneezing, sore throat, cough, and hoarseness. Although URIs can be caused by bacteria, most commonly they are caused by viruses. There are at least two hundred different viruses that cause colds. Half of these are rhinoviruses although coronaviruses, influenza, and other types of viruses also play a role. With time, many individuals become exposed to a number of these viruses, built an immunity against them, and will not easily succumb to these germs again. The odds of catching a cold are thus reduced with age, except in the elderly since their immune system often begins to falter.

Being exposed to a rhinovirus is almost inevitable in the winter, but coming down with symptoms of the common cold is not inevitable. In my clinical experience, many colds can be stopped dead in their tracts by a combination of vitamin C and zinc lozenges, taken at the right time, and in the right dosage and frequency. Or, at least, symptoms and duration can be reduced significantly. If more doctors recommended these natural supplements, the number of unnecessary antibiotics prescribed for colds could be dramatically reduced. A long-term moderate exercise program can reduce the risk of the common cold.

Start immediately, natural treatment and prevention
The following is an hour-by-hour recommendation of how to go on the nutritional offensive and stop your cold before it settles in for a lengthy stay. This supplement plan has the best chance of being effective the earlier you start. So pay attention to your body (and it helps if you keep your home stocked with these crucial supplements year-round for the fastest response time) and start this cold attack plan at the first moment your suspect a cold is coming on. Often, the earliest symptoms include a scratchy throat, twitching in the nose, runny nose or congestion, or sneezing. But remember, cold symptoms usually develop about two or three days after you are exposed to the virus. If you suspect that you were exposed, start this plan immediately, before waiting for the full blown symptoms to emerge. Chicken soup could be helpful and can be taken about the same time as the supplements.

Discuss with your doctor before undertaking any of the common cold treatments listed below.

At the earliest onset of symptoms: (discuss with your health care provider first)
Take 3 to 5 grams of vitamin C followed by 500 mg every 3 hours.

Allow a zinc lozenge containing 10 to 20 mg of zinc in the form of gluconate, gluconate/glycine, or zinc acetate to dissolve in the back of your mouth. Keep the lozenge in the mouth for at least 5 minutes or as long as you can. Swallowing the lozenge early reduces its effectiveness. After the Zinc Lozenge has melted, wait a few minutes and place another lozenge in your mouth. Repeat the zinc lozenge every hour for four hours and then reduce the frequency to every two to three hours while awake. If you wake up in the middle of the night, take the zinc lozenge again.

Eat as many garlic cloves as you, your housemates, people at work, and your immediate friends and neighbors, can tolerate.
   Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014. Garlic for the common cold. Authors' conclusions There is insufficient clinical trial evidence regarding the effects of garlic in preventing or treating the common cold. A single trial suggested that garlic may prevent occurrences of the common cold but more studies are needed to validate this finding.

Drink warm or hot water regularly. Some people find this helps them loosen up the mucus in the respiratory system and to expel it.

Several times a day breathe steam from a humidifier or lie in your bathroom tub and allow hot water to shower on you while you breathe in the steam. This helps to loosen the mucus in your nose and lungs and you can cough out and blow out all the junk in your nasal passages and lung tissue. Stay in the tub breathing steam for at least 20 minutes and have a glass of water near you to drink from. Breathing this warm steam may do you as much or more good to ease symptoms of the common cold than most of the over the counter cough and cold medicines sold in pharmacies.

Keep your chest warm by wearing a sweater, particularly if it is cold in your room.
Try not to engage in any form of demanding physical activity, especially outside if the air is chilly. Stay at home and use the time to study, read books, watch TV, etc.

Saline Drops
Dripping saltwater into the nose may remove virus and bacteria particles, while reducing congestion. Try over-the-counter saline drops, or make your own by mixing a few ounces of warm water with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. Use a bulb syringe to squirt the mixture into one nostril while holding the other one closed. Repeat twice and then do the other side.

The second and third days
Take 1,000 mg of vitamin C three times a day and continue the zinc lozenges every three to four hours.

For nasal congestion and mild cough
Turn on the hot shower in the bathroom and every few hours spend 10 to 20 minutes breathing the warm humid air in order to loosen up any mucus in the lungs or nose. This will help you clear out sputum accumulating in these tissue and you can cough and expel them. Mucus-producing tissue lines the mouth, nose, sinuses, throat, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract. Mucus acts as a protective blanket over these surfaces, preventing the tissue underneath from drying out. It is not uncommon for a cough to last 2 or 3 weeks after the nasal symptoms and sore throat are gone.

Fever, should you treat it?
Fever is the body’s protective response to fight off bacteria and viruses. If you can stand the discomfort until your fever reaches 102 to 103, try to let the fever go away on its own. Once the body temperature reaches higher than 103, it becomes dangerous because it can be toxic to brain cells, and can also precipitate seizures as well as increase heart rate and basal metabolic rate, causing people to more likely become dehydrated. This is especially true of children and the elderly or those with weak hearts.

Other potential immune enhancers
Andrographis has been evaluated in common cold and flu
Probiotics are helpful in reducing the incidence of colds in children, and perhaps adults
AHCC mushroom extract
Beta glucan extract
Bovine colostrum has been tested in common cold
Echinacea most recent studies have not found echinacea to have much of an influence on the common cold.
Elderberry has been tested in common cold and flu
Flavonoid supplementation could potentially reduce the risk for upper respiratory infections.
Lactoferrin and why protein combination
Olive leaf extract supplement

When to get medical advice:
The common cold is most likely during winter and spring, though you can get a cold at any time. Symptoms usually subside in seven-to-10 days. Some people with a compromised immune system or respiratory problems may develop pneumonia as a complication.

In most cases, the appropriate use of nutrients and herbs can stop a cold dead in its tracks. However, you should consult a health care provider if:
Your symptoms are getting worse
Your fever exceeds 102 degrees
You have severe nausea, have vomited, and can't keep fluids
You have a moderate or severe headache
You have difficulty breathing.
Your mucus has turned thick yellow or green
And you have a moderate to severe earache.

Although most respiratory viruses clear up within a few days, some can lead to dangerous complications, particularly for smokers. Signs of complications include: a cough that interrupts sleep; persistent, high fever; chest pain; or shortness of breath.

Unlike colds, the flu comes on suddenly and lasts more than a few days. In the United States, flu season peaks between December and February. Although colds and the flu share some signs, the flu can lead to more serious symptoms, including fever, headache, chills, dry cough, body aches and fatigue. Influenza can also cause nausea and vomiting among young children.

Help for a stuffy nose during the common cold
What I find helps the most during the common cold is taking a hot, steamy bath for at least 10 to 15 minutes. The steam helps break up the mucus and clear the nose for a few hours to come. This is especially important to do before going to bed so you breathe through your nose for a few hours as opposed to breathing through the mouth which can make the mouth quite dry.

Eight tips for avoiding a cold
It’s a germy world out there, but there are some steps you and your family can take to protect yourself from being infected with the latest virus circulating around your home or office.

1. Wash your hands frequently if you happen to shake a lot of hands or are in contact with many people at the office or home.
2. Keep your hands away from your eyes and nose.
3. Maintain moist mucous membranes by drinking plenty of water and using a humidifier in cold, dry season.
5. Sleep a good, deep sleep at least six to eight hours a night. People who get only a few hours of sleep at night have several times higher risk of catching a cold than people who sleep a deep, long sleep.
   When you're run down from lack of sleep, you really are more apt to catch a cold. Investigators exposed 164 adults to a cold virus, and found better-rested folks more likely to resist infection; September 2015, Sleep.
6. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (these foods are rich in vitamins and phytonutrients).
7. Limit your intake of alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.
8. Exercise regularly. Upper respiratory tract infections are reduced in active and physically fit adults.
Moderate amounts of aerobic exercise such as jogging, brisk walking and cycling during the cold and flu season boost the body’s defenses against viruses and bacteria. But at a certain point, the physical stress of a long workout undermines the immune system and leaves the endurance athlete even more vulnerable to infection than before a workout.

The average human sneeze expels a high-velocity cloud that can contaminate a room in minutes.

How many types of common cold viruses are there?
There are more than 200 different viruses are known to cause the common cold. That means even when you are older, you could still become infected with a type that you have not been exposed to before and built antibodies to.

Natural therapies for cough due to the common cold
Licorice is one option
Marshmallow  herb
Mullein herb
Osha root (Ligusticum porteri) is a Native American herb from the parsley family. It inhabits in the southern Rocky Mountains. Osha Root has been used to soothe sore throats. Boiling the root into a tea may help loosen phlegm and is and is used for colds and flu.

Some of the lasting effects of the common cold is dry cough due to irritation of lung tissue from the inflammation. This often resolves by itself after a few days or weeks. Steam showers and long baths breathing in moist air is helpful, a humidifier in the bedroom can benefit. Lots of warm soups, fresh vegetables juices are helpful. It the cough is severe and interferes with sleep night after night, then a prescription medication called Phenergan with Codeine can stop the cough, help with sleep, and is an excellent short term remedy.

Chest cold
If you have coughing, whether dry or with mild symptoms of small amounts of sputum, without much fever, wear a sweater or two to keep your lungs and chest warm, avoid going outside in the cold air since this could irritate your lungs. Drink hot tea and hot water. Avoid tea in late afternoon or evening since this can interfere with sleep, drink hot water instead. I think keeping the chest warm with sweaters can help a lot. Each time I have had a chest cold and walked outside in the cold, my cough got worse.

Medication for cough
I find Phenergan with Codeine to be a very effective prescription medication used at nighttime to relieve severe cough that disrupts sleep.

Sore throat natural remedy
If your symptoms are not due to a serious bacterial infection, you can try these home remedies:

Gargle with warm saltwater. Make a saline solution by adding half a teaspoon salt to a cup of very warm water and gargle every few hours.

Drink warm liquids, broths, and soups.

Eat foods such as cooked cereals, mashed potatoes, soft fruits, and soft-cooked eggs as they are easy on a sore throat.

Sit with your face over a bowl of steaming hot water and your head covered with a towel to keep the steam in. Adding a couple of drops of eucalyptus oil or spearmint oil can be soothing.

Eating fresh garlic may help kill germs in the mouth and throat.

Use a vaporizer in your bedroom at night or use a shallow pan of water to provide moisture in the air through evaporation if you don't have a humidifier.

Aspirin, acetaminophen, naprosyn or ibuprofen can reduce discomfort. However, aspirin shouldn't be given to children under the age of 19 because of the risk of Reye's syndrome.

Some nonprescription throat lozenges, such as Sucrets Maximum Strength or Spec-T, are helpful and have a local anesthetic that numbs the throat to soothe pain. Regular cough drops may also help.

Herbal Tea For Sore Throat
"Demulcents" is a general category of products that are soothing and relieve irritation. They are not topical anesthetics but have been used for many years to treat sore throat. This study evaluated the effectiveness of a demulcent mixture containing licorice root, elm inner bark, marshmallow root, and licorice root aqueous dry extract (an herbal tea called Throat Coat).

An herbal tea containing a mixture of traditional demulcents was more effective than a placebo tea in the short-term relief of pain in patients with acute pharyngitis. Because the effect does not last long--less than 30 minutes--frequent tea drinking is required throughout the day. Although I use an analgesic and a topical anesthetic for my own sore throat, herbal tea may be useful in patients who prefer a more active approach and who want to avoid the feeling of a partially anesthetized mouth.

Safety and efficacy of a traditional herbal medicine (Throat Coat) in symptomatic temporary relief of pain in patients with acute pharyngitis: a multicenter, prospective, randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study. J Altern Complement Med April 2003.

Overuse of antibiotics?
Doctors often improperly prescribe antibiotics to children complaining of sore throats but could avoid that mistake by administering a simple test for strep throat. American physicians prescribe antibiotics for 53 percent of the estimated 7.3 million children with sore throats who visit a doctor each year, according to the eight-year study. But antibiotics are called for in just the 15 percent to 36 percent of cases where the source of the pain and inflammation is strep throat, or group A streptococcal pharyngitis, against which antibiotics are effective. Children with sore throat are frequently given unnecessary antibiotics.

Cold feet
Getting chilly can bring on a cold. Researchers at Cardiff University's Common Cold Center paid 90 students to sit for 20 minutes with their bare feet in buckets of cold water. A few days later the study found that 13 of the students reported cold symptoms, such as a runny nose or sore throat, compared to five in a control group of 90 students who kept their feet dry in socks and shoes. When feet are placed in cold water, there is constriction to the blood vessels in the nose. This may be one of the factors that actually can aid the virus by lowering the defences within the nose and triggering the symptomatic infection. Previous studies inoculated patients with the cold virus and then chilled them, but failed to find any link between temperature and catching a cold.

Common Cold Research studies
Giving nursing home residents a daily dose of vitamin E may offer a little help in reducing the risk of upper respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold. Journal of the American Medical Association, 2004

Two ingredients commonly used in cough syrup are no better than sugar water in suppressing night-time coughing in children. The two ingredients are dextromethorphan -- often listed on labels as “DM” -- and diphenhydramine, an antihistamine. The former is the most common nonprescription cough suppressant on the U.S. market.

The more outdoor air is pumped into office ventilation systems, the lower the inside levels of viruses that cause the common cold.

Cold virus vs Flu - how to tell the difference
Cold viruses do not usually cause fever in adults. Sudden onset, fever and cough are the best predictors of influenza.

Common cold natural treatment emails
About four years ago I read your book The Common Cold Cure.  I tried using zinc, Vit.C. and Echinacea and found that they were really effective in stopping a cold if I used them at the first sign, and lessening the effects and shortening the duration of the cold if started a little later.  Then I started to think, "If zinc kills viruses, would it work on the virus that causes plantar warts?"  I had had plantar warts for 15 years and had gone to doctors repeatedly to have them frozen, burned, and finally I had laser surgery.  But one year after the surgery all the warts had returned.  Then I read your book and shortly thereafter started taking 50mgs zinc and 500 mgs Vit C.  daily, ground up in a bowl of oatmeal.  I did this for one year and by the end of the year every single wart was gone!  I have been wart free for 3 years now even though I only take zinc and Vit C. during the cold season and not every day.  Thank you for your book.  I hope my story can help someone else.

Q. I have discovered an extremely effective treatment of symptoms at the onset of common cold viruses. The product combines 1g each of Andrographis and Elderberry and 500mg of Olive leaf plus 2.5g of echinacea. These capsules have proven so effective that I am considering using them at times when my immune system may be under stress, such as travelling.

Q. Can the common cold be caused by a bacteria?
   A. No. It is caused by a virus, so an antibiotic is not helpful.

Q. Is curcumin herbal extract helpful as a natural treatment for the common cold?
   A. I don't think so.

Q. Do you have any information on pelargonium?
   A. Please see
pelargonium herb.

Q. This week I had a sore throat and tried your hour-by-hour recommendation for taking vitamin c and zinc. As I took 3 grams of Ester-C and several zinc lozenges after having breakfast, I had a diarrhea within a few hours, which seemed to be a side effect of mega dose of vitamin C. So I stopped taking Ester-C for the day and continued to take only zinc lozenges. Overall it worked. My rather annoying sore throat (that I felt spreading toward my ear) was gone within 24 hours. I regularly take Ester-C for 0.5g to 1g after having supper (and have taken up to 2g at a time when I felt sick) and have never had a problem, but from this experience I've learned that my body cannot tolerate 3g of vitamin C at one time. I'm not sure how common this knowledge on the link between mega dose of vitamin C and diarrhea as a possible side effect, I thought this anecdote might be of some help for other people. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.
   A. Usually diarrhea occurs after 5 grams of vitamin C, but some people may be more susceptible. We are not sure whether your daily intake of high doses of Ester C made it more likely to have the diarrhea. Also, the zinc may cause gastrointestinal problems in some people.

Is there anything among all the herbs and vitamins that is likely to be particularly effective in fortifying a person (with, it may be presumed, a healthy circulatory system) against the cold, i.e. to help a person feel comfortable in an indoor environment with a lower-than-customary temperature (such as 60 degrees or so)?
   I prefer lifestyle changes regarding diet, deep sleep, exercise and low stress life.