Herbal Relief for Coughs and Colds

Herbal Relief for Coughs and Colds

Herbal Relief for Coughs and Colds


Autumn and Winter are peak time for catching the flu and there are plenty of common cold viruses circulating these days too. If you are unlucky enough to catch a cold, you may want to enlist the help of natural health products to soothe symptoms and cut that cold short.

Vitamins C and D for immune health

Vitamin C is well known for shortening the duration of symptoms of the common cold and may also help prevent colds after intense physical exercise. It does this by increasing levels of interferon, an immune system cell that fights viruses. Vitamin C also supports antibody production and immunoglobulin levels, increases Natural Killer cell activity, and supports the thymus (an important immune system gland).

Vitamin C also helps keep coughs and colds at bay by supporting collagen synthesis. As well as being important for healthy looking, smooth, youthful looking skin, collagen is also a vital component of the tissues in lungs, sinuses, and your throat. In fact, that tickle you feel in your throat at the beginning of a cough or cold may well be caused by a virus trying to break down collagen to gain a foothold and cause infection. Nip it in the bud by supporting collagen health and immune function with a daily dose of at least 500 mg vitamin C.

Vitamin D is another key nutrient for immune function. Numerous studies show that people with the lowest levels of vitamin D suffer from more colds and are more likely to catch the flu. In one study, people with the worst vitamin D levels were 36% more likely to experience respiratory infections than those with sufficient levels. Those who had asthma and vitamin D deficiency were five times more likely to get sick. And the risk was doubled for those with vitamin D deficiency and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

There’s also a growing body of data linking a greater risk of poorer outcomes from SARS-CoV2 infection with vitamin D deficiency and in the UK a small study of healthcare workers found that those of BAME ethnicity had the highest risk of both vitamin D deficiency and COVID-19, with low levels of vitamin D being an independent risk factor for males in developing the infection.

And, as we can’t generate our own vitamin D from sunlight until at least April in the UK (and chances are you’re not planning an overseas beach vacation), you’d be wise to top up your vitamin D with a daily supplement containing at least 1000 IU.

Herbal relief for coughs and colds

There are also many herbal products can also help you feel better faster, some by supporting your immune system in fighting off infection and others by soothing irritated mucus membranes, breaking up phlegm, and calming coughs.

Look for natural cold remedies, such as lozenges, cough drops, and tinctures that include:

Astragalus membranaceus – enhances the activity of Natural Killer cells, which track down and destroy invading organisms to fight infection

Lomatium dissectum - contains compounds called furocoumarins that make it harder for viruses to replicate

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) – used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and rich in beta-glucans, the reishi mushroom can enhance the function of dendritic cells, neutrophils, Natural Killer cells and other immune system cells, helping to prevent viruses from hooking onto and invading your cells

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) – a source of glycyrrhizin and glycyrrhetinic acid, which may support normal immune function and inflammatory activity and can help promote production of interferon, a protein that tells the immune system to attack infected cells and helps prevent viruses from replicating

Wild cherry bark and ivy – helps calm coughs

Mullein, horehound, bromelain, and N-acetyl-cysteine – help to thin and break up phlegm, making it easier to clear. 

You might also want to enlist the help of essential oils such as echinacea and peppermint. Add a few drops to a bowl of warm water, or to your bath water, and these oils will help open up your sinuses to temporarily relieve congestion and pressure.

Before using any herbal remedies, be sure to talk to your doctor, especially if you have existing health concerns and/or are taking medications.

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