Echinacea. Photo by Chris Kilham

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“Hippocrates said “Let food be thy medicine.” The simple food spice ginger, revered around the world, is also potent medicine indeed.” - Chris Kilham, Fox News Health

6 Natural Remedies to 'Cure' a Cold

Cold season has officially arrived, with coughing, sinus congestion, and the dullness that colds impart. Fortunately, natural cold remedies can help you to beat colds more quickly, and reduce the severity of symptoms. Here are a few of my favorite remedies, which are free of side effects.

1. Fresh Ginger root

Spicy and inexpensive, fresh ginger root is my all-time favorite pick for cold care. Buy ginger fresh (organic is preferred), and cut a piece about an inch and a half long. Either chop that piece very finely or grate it. Put the finely minced ginger into a tea strainer, and put the tea strainer in a cup. Pour fresh boiling water into the cup. Let the tea sit for five minutes. Remove the tea strainer, and squeeze the ginger with a spoon to get a bit more of the ginger juice into the cup. Flavor with a spoonful of honey and sip. The anti-inflammatory gingerols and shaogals in ginger root will help to relieve a sore throat quickly, and they also kill rhinoviruses, which cause colds in the first place. Drink three or more cups daily until you are well. You can also drink the same ginger tea to warm up on a very cold winter day. For children, reduce the concentration of the tea a bit, so it’s less spicy.

Ready-made Ginger teas are also good. Try Organic Ginger Tea, by Traditional Medicinals, in tea bags. It’s easy and convenient, and certified organic. >Alvita Ginger Root Tea is also very good. For more info, visit our Ginger page.

2. Eucalyptus essential oil

You are congested, and your nose feels like it is plugged with baking dough. Fill the bathroom sink with hot water. Drop three to five drops of eucalyptus essential oil into the sink water. Drape a towel over your head, and bend over the sink. Breathe the vapors. Do this for five minutes. Eucalyptus essential oil is nature’s very best decongestant. As you breathe the vapors, you will feel your sinuses opening up. Do this as many times as you need. The eucalyptus vapors will also get deep into your chest, and can help to open up congested bronchial tubes. You can also get eucalyptus-based cough drops. They too will help you to decongest.

Essential Oil Organic Eucalyptus, by Aura Cacia, is a good one, or try Aromatic Chest Rub Eucalyptus & Mint, by Badger.

3. Echinacea

Even though a recent study found little improvement in colds when Echinacea was used, many other studies have shown that Echinacea, a traditional herbal cold remedy, does in fact reduce both the severity and the duration of colds. Your best Echinacea remedies are those made from fresh Echinacea.

Try Gaia Herbs' Organic Echinacea Supreme.

4. Umcka

This funny name is a traditional San tribal name for the South African herb Pelargonium sidoides. You don’t need to remember the Latin name, but do remember Umcka. Especially when taken at the beginning of a cold, Umcka can cut the entire misery short. Human clinical studies show that Umcka works well. My favorite brand is Umcka Coldcare by Nature’s Way.

5. Elder flower tea

Both a traditional remedy and a well studied modern medicine, elder flower helps to relieve the symptoms of a cold. It is safe even for very small children, and is remarkably gentle. Plus elder flower has a pleasant taste, so kids won’t find it objectionable. Alvita has an excellent Elder flower tea.

6. The super decongestant tea of all time

If your local natural food store has loose herbs, buy equal amounts of Eucalyptus, Hyssop and Sage. Add equal amounts of the three herbs together. Put a teaspoon of the mixture into a tea strainer. Pour freshly boiled water over the herbs and let steep for three minutes. Strain and drink. I have found that when nothing else will provide decongestant relief, this remarkable tea will do so very effectively. Drink one to three cups daily, and stop if your sinuses dry out too much.


Natural remedies work, and that is why they are the most widely used medicines on earth.

I keep all the remedies above in my home, ready for use. If you supply yourself with natural remedies for when cold season hits, you won’t be left scrambling to get them once symptoms have set in. In addition to the remedies above, if you do come down with a cold, stay warm, get plenty of rest, and take time to recover. And yes, for reasons that we do not entirely understand, chicken soup does help too. There’s a reason it’s affectionately known as “Jewish penicillin.”

Basically, follow the advice of wise grandmothers, and you’ll start to feel better.

December 2010