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How to Kick a Cold Without Drugs

Updated on July 28, 2015

Get rid of the sniffles, naturally

For some people, getting a cold means loading up on decongestants in order to power through. But for many of us, drugs aren't an option. After finding that most cold medicines make me feel worse (heart palpitations, twitchy legs, and nightmares, oh my!), I have learned how to treat my colds naturally. I have experimented, researched and finally perfected a highly effective "cold-kicking protocol" that involves no drugs whatsoever - just a chain of ways to boost the immune system naturally. On this regimen, I'm usually back on my feet in 3 days or less after first symptoms appear.

There are three recipes that are essential to this protocol. I've described them below, and included other parts of the equation like sleeping well, eliminating harmful foods, and breathing easier. If you want to help your body heal itself the natural way, read on!

Get Souped Up

Bird is the word

Everybody knows chicken soup is good for colds. But do you know how to make truly therapeutic, delicious, nutrient-rich, kick-your-cold's-arse Chicken Soup? This soup packs a magical nutritional wallop: Vitamins A and C, Iron, protein, antibiotic garlic, anti-inflammatory cayenne. Plus, it tastes so delicious you might even forget about your cold for a few minutes. Put down the can opener, my friend, because I'm about to show you the way to good health, Jewish grandma style.

Therapeutic Chicken Soup

3-5 pieces* organic chicken with bones

2-3 carrots, chopped

1 onion, chopped

6 cloves fresh garlic, smashed

2-3 sprigs fresh thyme

1 lemon, halved

1/2 t cayenne

1 T salt

1 t. pepper

2 C. fresh spinach leaves, torn

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

1/2 t. apple cider vinegar

Put everything except last three ingredients in a large soup pot (4 qt. pan works) and cover with water to within 1 inch of the top of the pan (you want lots of broth). Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked, about 20 minutes. Pull out the chicken and let it cool, then shred the meat off the bones. Return the meat to the pot, and add the spinach, minced garlic and vinegar. Heat through 3 minutes and serve over noodles or rice if desired.

*I like whole chicken legs with thighs attached. You can use whatever cut you prefer, just make sure it has bones. And buy the best chicken you can find - free range, no hormones, no antibiotics. Hey, you're sick, you deserve it.

Burn It All Down

Spice it up, drain it out

This stuff is like Draino for your sinuses. It makes your immune system do the conga, and it's so easy you can make it with a Kleenex stuffed up one nostril. Not that I've ever done that.

Spicy Tomato (AKA Dragon's Breath Brew)

1.5 C. organic vegetable juice or pure tomato juice

3 cloves garlic, smashed

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 t. cayenne pepper, or more to tolerance

1/2 t. turmeric

splash of coconut oil (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and put over medium-high heat. As soon as it simmers, it's ready - you don't want to cook the garlic. Pour into a large mug, spike it with as much cayenne, sriracha and/or Tabasco as you can stand, and sip with a box of tissues nearby. I like to have crackers handy to cut the heat.

This brew combines some powerful cold-kickers: vitamin C from the tomato and lemon, antibiotics in the garlic, anti-inflammatory properties of cayenne and turmeric, and anti-bacterial, "good fat" benefits of coconut oil. Consume a mug of this concoction twice a day for 2-3 days - it'll really clear your head.

Note: don't even think about kissing anyone after you eat this, dragon breath. You've got cold cooties, anyway.

Kick It Real Good

4 quick tips for natural healing

The neti pot is your friend. If you haven't jumped on the sinus-washing bandwagon yet, give it a try - I promise you won't drown. There are plenty of tutorials online where you can find detailed instructions. You can even use a teapot in a pinch (just make sure you wash it before Lady Grantham comes over).

To clear your sinuses in a hurry, try this trick: boil some water, pour it in a mug, and add 3 drops of peppermint oil. Close your eyes, and slowly inhale the steam. The oil evaporates after about 60 seconds, so breathe quick and deep.

For a sore throat, there is no better salve than the searing heat of cayenne pepper. It may seem counterintuitive, but cayenne contains capsaicin, a well-known anti-inflammatory with documented healing properties. Gargling warm water with a pinch of salt and a pinch of cayenne can soothe even the most swollen throat. Repeat as necessary (tip: use a straw to keep the heat off your lips).

Last but not least, take fresh garlic like you take pills - it's the strongest, cheapest natural germ-killer you can get. Here's how: chop a clove of garlic into pieces the size of an aspirin, and take swallow with a meal or snack. Toss a couple chopped pieces into the back of your mouth and wash down with water like you're taking a pill (no chewing - this way your breath stays fresh). Take 2-3 cloves a day with food until symptoms resolve (not more than a week though - it's a powerful antibiotic!). You'll be surprised how much better this will make you feel!

Make Gingery Coughkiller Syrup

Leave the hacking to the computer nerds

Sometimes life is hectic, you can't get as much rest as you need to heal your cold, and the congestion goes to your chest. This all-natural cough syrup has powerful ingredients will calm that maddening tickle, soothe your sore throat, break up chest congestion and help you stop hacking - without making you feel drunk.

Coughkiller Syrup

1/4 C. warm water

Juice of 1 lemon

2 T raw honey

1 T apple cider vinegar

1 T freshly grated ginger root

1/2 t. cayenne pepper, or more to tolerance

Combine all ingredients in a small jar with a lid, and shake to combine. Take 2 tablespoons as needed, letting it sit in your throat as long as you can. Remember to drink plenty of water and herbal tea.

Lemons are cold-kicking ninjas

Lemons are cold-kicking ninjas
Lemons are cold-kicking ninjas

Cut The Crap

No sugar, no dairy

As soon as you start feeling run down, stop eating junk foods and sugar in any form. Bacteria feeds off of sugar, and sodas and processed foods are known to suppress the immune system. You don't have to give it up forever, just for a few days. Trust me on this one, your body already has enough to do right now without having to process sweets.

Also, do yourself a favor and give up dairy for a few days, too. Milk products can thicken the phlegm in your airways, making you feel more congested. So just say "no" to cheese, milk, butter, and ice cream for awhile - it'll make breathing a lot easier.

Don't Hesitate

If you feel sick, pretend like you are

Your throat feels scratchy, you're sneezy, wheezy and just run down... is it a cold coming on? Don't wait to find out! It's crucial to begin taking care of yourself when you FIRST start feeling sick. Even if you're not sure yet, go ahead take the first few steps. If you wake up the following day and feel better instead of worse, great - you dodged a bullet. If not, you've given your immune system an important head start in the germ-fighting race.

Start getting extra sleep, pronto. Aim for at least 8-9 hours a night for the next few nights, and as many catnaps as you can fit in during the day. If you can, take time off from work. Minimize all extracurricular activities, set aside your workout routine - just let your body rest. Also, as soon as you feel that funky throat tickle, start drinking lots of water - this is the time to try for 6-8 glasses a day (and no, coffee doesn't count).

Sleep Tight, All Night

How to not lose your snooze

Nighttime presents a big challenge when you have a cold; the whole mouth-breathing thing doesn't help. Since getting plenty of rest is essential for the body to heal, I've developed this ritual for sleeping tight with a cold, sans-Nyquil.

Start with a warm bath. Spike the water with a cupful of Epsom Salts, which have a mild sedative effect and help relieve muscular aches associated with colds. A few drops of eucalyptus or lavender oil in the water is nice too. If you don't have a bath, a shower will do. Soak for about 20 minutes, breathing in the steam.

Next, dry off and make yourself a hot toddy, which in this case is basically hot tea with a shot of whiskey added after it's steeped. You can use any herbal tea you like (Gypsy Cold Care is nice). Chamomile knocks me out, and peppermint is great for a grumbly tummy. You can use other liquor in a pinch, but whiskey is classic.

Climb into bed with your hot toddy and plenty of pillows - elevating your head can help keep airways clear (also, if you're in a dry climate, run a humidifier in the bedroom overnight to breathe easier). Slather the soles of your feet, chest, throat, eyebrows and cheekbones with Olbas Oil (a great petroleum-free alternative to Vick's Vapo-Rub, but you can use Vick's in a pinch). By now, you should be pretty darn sleepy, cold or no cold. Good luck finishing that toddy.

Drop Till It Stops

Peroxide to the rescue

I have used this remedy at first signs of a cold, and many times awoken the next morning with zero symptoms. It's very simple. Get some hydrogen peroxide, lie on your side, and put a few drops in your ear. It'll fizz and bubble and snap-crackle-pop. Lie still for 7-10 minutes, then turn over and drain it into a tissue. Repeat with the other ear. I usually do this at the very first throat tickle, and repeat at bedtime as needed until I'm feeling better.

Since I'm not a doctor or a health professional, I don't actually know how this works, just that it does work for me. If you're curious, you can do some research like I did - there is plenty of evidence out there touting the effectiveness of peroxide for all sorts of things. Hey, if nothing else, your ears will be very, very clean.

Note: if you have an inner ear injury like a ruptured eardrum, or a history of ear problems, don't put anything in your ear without consulting a doctor. Use common sense.


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