The cold and flu season is coming as we approach the autumn and winter months, bringing with it a host of chills, ills, and other problems. Highly contagious and annoyingly persistent, a cold is caused by more than 200 viruses present in our environment.  Although there’s no cure for the cold, there are many natural ways to soothe the symptoms it causes. Here are a few simple recommendations for making yourself more comfortable during cold and flu season.
1. Vitamin D
Boosting your levels of vitamin D has dozens of benefits, including amping up your body’s defenses against the common cold as well as the flu.  The vitamin, which is produced by the body in response to sunlight exposure, increases immune cell activity, reduces toxicity, and lowers the inflammatory response.
Double-blind studies have shown that zinc reduces both the intensity and duration of the common cold by up to 50%.  Zinc also improves immunity and fights bacterial load within the body.  Common sources of zinc include pumpkin seeds and cashews.
Turmeric is a yellow and mellow-tasting spice highly prized for its use in Indian cuisine and natural medicine. You can find the root in its whole form at some specialty supermarkets, and the powder can also be found in most spice sections. It’s rich in antioxidants and may provide defense from harmful organisms that cause sickness.   For a cold-fighting tea, place 1/4 tsp. of turmeric powder in eight ounces of hot water. Drink this mixture often throughout the autumn and winter seasons. As a gentle food, turmeric may also help soothe a sore throat. Simply combine 1/2 tsp. turmeric with 1 tbsp. of raw, local honey and consume slowly to coat the throat.
Echinacea is an herb that has seen continuous support in the natural health community. Some research suggests that it’s helpful for a healthy immune response; yet despite this research, many conventional medical professionals remain skeptical on the herb’s ability to keep a cold at bay.   Animal models have shown that Echinacea provides compounds responsible for combating the cold before it starts.  
5. Vitamin C
If you have a lingering cold that just won’t go away, or if you experience colds frequently throughout the year, chances are you are not getting enough vitamin C. This important, water-soluble nutrient is found in high amounts in green vegetables and citrus fruits and is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system.  Freshly-squeezed lemon juice is a great way to receive vitamin C in your diet. Consuming warm herbal tea with lemon juice during a cold or before one sets in may be helpful for defense.
A warming circulatory stimulant, cinnamon is a powerful health-promoting spice with dozens of benefits for the body. Not only can it encourage healthy blood sugar levels, cinnamon has also been shown to boost the immune system and fight harmful organisms.   Sip on some cinnamon tea when you feel the chills coming on, and sprinkle some cinnamon in your smoothies, breakfast foods, or coffee.
7. Oregano Essential Oil
Oil of oregano has been studied extensively for its natural action against harmful organisms.  A recent study from Georgetown University Medical Center found that oregano oil was the most beneficial essential oil for fighting infections.  If you have a cold, you can place a few drops of oregano essential oil in a vegetarian capsule and take daily.
9. Licorice Root
Traditional medicine has used licorice root for a variety of ailments, some proven and some yet to be studied. Research studies have indicated licorice as a potent immunomodulatory herb, possibly explaining its popularity in natural medicine.   It has soothing properties and, when taken orally, may be helpful for sore throat.
When you’re facing a cold or the flu, exercise may be the very last thing on your mind. Despite this, studies have reported significant improvements in immune function following exercise, making it one of the most natural (and free) ways to fight sickness.   While mostly used as a preventative measure, you can still engage in exercise while enduring a minor cold. Only perform physical activity during an illness with the utmost care, and always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before engaging in strenuous activity if suffering from any kind of illness.
It may seem like an easy thing to do, but pure relaxation is sometimes the most challenging thing to accomplish in today’s fast-paced world. Being overworked and highly stressed can interfere with your immune system and increase your susceptibility to getting a cold. Research has confirmed that stress, whether it is mental or physical, decreases the activity of the immune system and can lengthen the duration of illness.  Meditation, sleep, and simple breathing exercises can help decrease stress and improve the immune system.
A good, light-hearted laugh with friends or alone can help boost immune function, according to recent research. Breakthrough research in the power of emotion and immunity is showing just how powerful our intangible, invisible feelings are in maintaining our physical health.  Watch an uplifting comedy, recall funny moments in your past with loved ones, or read a joke book. Doing these simple things can certainly aid in keeping your body healthy during the cold and flu season.
Do you have any tried-and-true methods for naturally reducing a cold and its symptoms? We would love to hear about them in the comments!
-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
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