The season of runny noses and tickly coughs is well and truly upon us. Coughs and colds are more common in winter not because of the weather but because we spend more time indoors and in close proximity to other people. This increases the chance of being infected with some kind of bacteria or virus.
We’ve all been there. It starts with a dry, tickly feeling in the back of the throat. By bedtime you’re convinced you’re coming down with something. Sure enough, by the time you wake up it feels like someone’s taken sandpaper to the back of your throat. Your nose is blocked, exacerbating the sore throat by forcing you to breath through your mouth. And, more often than not, it feels like you’ve had a large animal sitting on your head all night long.
Before you reach for the paracetamol, have you ever considered a natural remedy? Of course, there are lots of things you can do to support your immune system. Vitamin C is vital for healthy immune function, as is zinc. A healthy diet full of varied vitamins and minerals is a great way of helping your body defend itself against infections.
But, if you’ve already come down with a cold, what you really need is targetted relief which tackle specific symptoms.
We know what you’re thinking. All these so-called remedies are just old wive’s tales, right? There’s no scientific proof that any of them work. Wrong!
Below we’ve put together a selection of simple home-made cough and cold remedies. Each tackles a different aspect of the illness, so you can mix and match depending on how you’re feeling. Within each remedy we’ve linked to various scientific research papers which demonstrate why they are effective. Of course, not every treatment will work 100% of the time, but in the case of the following natural remedies there is good evidence to suggest that they do work and are definitely worth trying.
Honey and Thyme Cough Syrup
Thyme is a garden herb. It’s used a lot in cooking – especially in mediterranean cuisine. It grows well in the UK – you might even have some in your garden! Thyme is rich in a natural compound called thymol. According to this study, thymol is highly antibacterial. The report states that “its antimicrobial spectrum is broad, including bacteria, fungi, and parasites.”
Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts and thyme essential oil is widely available. However, fresh thyme works really well in this recipe.
Alongside some fresh thyme, you’ll need some honey. Another scientific study reports that the “healing property of honey is due to the fact that it offers antibacterial activity”. Honey has been used to treat wounds for thousands of years. Today, scientific research is able to demonstrate why honey is such a powerful antibacterial treatment. Manuka honey is found to be particularly effective – perhaps due to a very low pH level and high sugar content.
Honey and Thyme Cough Syrup Recipe
Take 400ml of water and bring to the boil in a small pan. Remove from the heat and add a good handful of fresh thyme. You can strip the leaves from the stems, if you like, or just put them in whole. Leave them in the water for 10-15 minutes whilst it cools.
Once room temperature, pass the water through a seive to remove the thyme leaves and stalks. Then whisk in 200ml of runny honey. Try and get responsibly and locally sourced honey. Alternatively, use our Propolis Honey.
This contains propolis extract which is also an excellent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory treatment. Propolis Honey will supercharge this home remedy!
Having whisked the honey into the thmye-infused water, pour the whole lot into a jar and store in the fridge. The honey acts as a natural preservative so it should last for several months.
How to use Honey and Thyme Cough Syrup
Take a spoonful to soothe a sore throat, as required. Or, add to hot water or herbal teas.
Essential Oils Tackle Congestion
Eucalyptus oilis known to be helpful in clearing airways. Eucalyptus contains a compound called cineole. Cineole helps clear the air of bacteria and other microbes. It can also help clear airways of mucus and is a natural cough suppressant.
Peppermint oil is widely used in decongestants. Whilst there is little evidence that it substantially reduces congestion, menthol produces a cooling sensation. This can lead users to believe their nasal passages are clearer and they’re breathing better. Anyone who’s ever tried an extra strong mint will be aware of this effect!
How to use Essential Oils
A couple of drops of the above essential oils on a pillow overnight can help clear congestion. For more targetted relief, try getting a bowl of hot water and adding a few drops of oil to it. Lean over the bowl and place a towel over your head and the bowl to create a tent. Inhale deeply for a couple of minutes at a time. Repeat as required.
Herbal Remedies for Sore Throats
A number of readily available herbs have been proven to help soothe sore throats.
Used as a gargle or drunk as a tea, liqourice contains compounds which protect damaged and inflamed tissues. It’s also antibacterial. It contains glycyrrhizin and glycyrrhetinic acid, both of which inhibit growth of microbes and production of microbial toxins. Liquorice herbal teas are widely available. However, it might be more beneficial to get hold of some fresh liquorice root and boil it in water for about 10 minutes before drinking the liquid. What’s more, liquorice tastes delicious and is naturally sweet!
Chamomile tea is a popular herbal tea. It has a delicate floral taste and is known to offer various kinds of medicinal benefit. It’s anti-inflammatory and studies have shown that it’s useful for treating symptoms of the common cold. Regularly drinking chamomile tea can boost the immune system too. So, if you want to help your body tackle infections before they take hold, chamomile tea is a great place to start!
What other Natural Remedies are Available?
The list above is not exhaustive. There are plenty of other natural remedies which are worth trying next time you come down with a cough or cold. But, if you feel like you need a bit more relief, what other natural options are there?
Propolis for Colds and Flu
Propolis works by supporting the body’s natural immune defenses. If you’re suffering from a cold the anti-bacterial properties of propolis is thought to help the body fight bacterial infections. Propolis deals with the source of the problem not just the symptoms, so taking propolis can be a fantastic treatment for colds and sore throats.
There are thousands of research papers demonstrating the health benefits of propolis. One study found that propolis “possesses a wide range of pharmacological potentials including anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-protozoal, hepatoprotective, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties.” Available in a wide range of forms, propolis can be taken regularly as a preventitive remedy, or applied topically. We think propolis is one of the most amazing natural cough and cold remedies!
Propolis & Honey Throat Spray
Our Propolis Throat Spray contains propolis extract and honey along with essential oils. We’ve blended eucalyptus, fennel and star anise oils – all of which have proven anti-inflammatory and antibacterual properties. Finally, menthol is added to reduce the uncomfortable feeling of a stuffy head. This spray is applied to the back of the throat, directly treating the inflammation.
Propolis Syrup with Eldberry & Honey
Another of our effective cough and cold remedies is our Propolis Syrup. This combines propolis extract with elderberry and other herbal tinctures including liquorice, mentioned above. Taken by the spoonful, this soothing syrup brings immediate relief for sore throats and blocked noses.
The common cold is here to stay. As the old saying goes, “prevention is better than a cure”, so eating healthily and supporting your body’s natural immune system is the best defense. However, it’s almost inevitable that from time to time we will all succumb to a cough or cold.
Next time you do, why not try some of these home-made remedies before reaching for the Lemsip. Nature is full of amazing plants which contain healing chemical compounds. And what’s more, modern science has proven that they’re effective forms of treatment. Maybe natural cough and cold remedies are worth trying afterall!