How to Get Rid of a Cold Quickly
By: Courtney Sperlazza, MPH
December 18, 2017
- Once you feel the first signs of a cold, you might think that you have to let it run its course.
- There are things you can do make yourself stronger, to get rid of a cold in its tracks or shorten the duration.
- From soothing detox teas to targeted supplements to cleaning your nasal passages with salt water, these natural cold remedies will help you kick a cold before it starts or cut down the days it has you down.
The kids start school. The weather changes. You have to travel by air. You visit someone in the hospital. At some point or another, you’re going to come into contact with germs.
You know the feeling. That tickle in your throat, or that tightness between your cheekbones and your nose, that initial chill — your body gives you clear signals you’re getting sick.
Once a cold strikes, you might think you’re past the point of no return, that you have to let it run its course. But there are things you can do make yourself stronger, to stop a cold in its tracks or shorten the duration.
Below, get the best tips for how to get rid of a cold fast. Then, keep scrolling to learn the science behind why these cold remedies work.
Your feel-better-fast checklist
You feel like crap and just want to get rid of your cold fast. Here, your quick and dirty guide to natural cold remedies that actually work.
- Eat garlic. Mince two cloves and let them sit for 15 minutes for the active compounds to develop. Mix with olive oil and salt and spread on your food of choice.
- Drink ginger tea. Ginger wards off the cold virus, and soothes a sore throat and headaches.
- Take zinc to shorten your cold by as many as 3 days. When loading up on zinc, take copper with it so you don’t deplete your stores.
- Pop vitamin C. It won’t prevent colds unless you’re deficient, but it can shorten your cold and reduce symptoms.
- Add glutathione. Master antioxidant glutathione strengthens the immune system and makes vitamin C work harder. Take a supplement or get from a high-quality whey protein.
- Supplement with curcumin. Turmeric’s active compound reduces inflammation to relieve congestion.
- Sip bone broth to bolster the immune system and take the edge off your cold symptoms. Add ginger, garlic and turmeric for extra cold-busting oomph.
- Take a detox bath. Add epsom salts, essential oils, or bentonite clay to your tub to soothe symptoms and draw out impurities.
- Don’t forget vitamin D. Vitamin D keeps your immune system in fighting shape.
- Use a nasal rinse. This all-natural DIY nasal irrigation rinse will kill germs and relieve symptoms.
Eat garlic for added immunity
The scientific community needs more data on garlic’s ability to keep vampires away, but research and centuries of traditional use have solidified garlic’s ability as a natural cold remedy.
Raw garlic is a strong antiviral, antibacterial, antiparasitic, and antifungal that gives your immune system a boost, so you can get rid of your cold, stat.
Garlic is in the caution zone on the Bulletproof roadmap because it inhibits alpha brain waves and may affect your mood. So, it might not be best as an everyday food, but sickness is one of those times to add garlic to your food or eat it raw if you can handle it.
A couple things to note…first, elephant garlic doesn’t have the same antimicrobial oomph that other varieties have. Also, get your garlic from a farmer you can trust, and check your bulbs for mold. Finally, smash your garlic and leave it be for a couple of minutes — this allows the active compounds to develop so you get the full cold-busting benefit.
Sip ginger tea to kill the cold virus
When you feel a cold in your sinuses, most of the time you’re dealing with the germ rhinovirus. Ginger contains sesquiterpenes, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory chemicals that act on rhinovirus specifically, making it an ideal cold remedy. Ginger can help ease headaches and sore throats and ward off the rhinovirus.
Ginger is easy to add to your cold-busting regimen. If you’re hardcore, peel the root, slice it thin, and eat it raw as the tears stream down your face. If you want ginger to be a pleasurable experience, make ginger tea or peel and grate a knob of the root and add it to bone broth, another healing elixir.
Take turmeric to feel better
When you see a bright golden curry or sauce, you can guess that turmeric is a star ingredient. Turmeric has been a staple spice in Eastern cuisine for thousands of years, and you’ve recently seen it popping up in capsules and extracts for its effects on lowering inflammation, its antioxidant activity, and even its potential as an anti-tumor agent.
Reaching for turmeric when you have a cold makes perfect sense because of the active compound, curcumin, that keeps your inflammation in check. It regulates your immune system, plus it has antimicrobial properties. Translation: it has potential to take the edge off of your symptoms, and depending on what you have, it might shorten the duration of your cold.
Your body doesn’t readily absorb curcumin without some help. Things like fats and black pepper increase bioavailability of curcumin. Just a pinch of black pepper is all you need, which is a good thing because it falls under the caution zone of the Bulletproof Diet roadmap.
Pop vitamin C to shorten your cold
The jury’s out as to whether vitamin C can help you prevent a cold, but do take it as a cold remedy. Studies show vitamin C can help you get rid of a cold more quickly.
Vitamin C is easy to find, but it can be tricky to take. Vitamin C is one of those nutrients that you can take to bowel tolerance. And how do you find your individual bowel tolerance? There’s only one way. You keep taking it until you cross into “disaster pants” territory.
If you take a 1000mg capsule a time throughout the day, you’ll feel a little digestive discomfort when it’s time to scale back. You won’t necessarily take enough to cause major disasters if you’re paying close attention to how your gut feels.
It’s helpful to experiment when you’re well, to know how much you can take when you’re not sick. The amount of vitamin C you took up to that point is a good starting point when you’re sick, and spreading out the dose throughout the day is a good idea. When you have a cold, your body will burn through much more vitamin C than it usually uses.
If you have stomach acid issues like acid reflux or GERD, high-dose ascorbic acid might exacerbate symptoms. Ask your functional medicine doctor about other forms of vitamin C like a whole-food version, ascorbate, or intravenous vitamin C.
Speaking of IVs, intravenous vitamin C does amazing things for a cold, so if you can find a naturopath or functional medicine doc who can administer IV vitamin C, ask about it for sure.
Help your body make more glutathione
Your body makes some of its own antioxidants, including a powerful one, glutathione. It boosts cellular energy and strengthens your immune system to help your body fight off infections, like the common cold. Glutathione is busy when you’re under the weather, acting on inflammation, toxins, free radicals, and pathogens. However, your supply can deplete quickly with stress.
Glutathione recycles other antioxidants, too, so you can get a little extra juju out of your vitamin C if you take it with glutathione — either as a supplement or via foods that help your body make its own. A high-quality, grass-fed, undenatured whey protein gives your body everything it needs to keep your glutathione supply (and immune defenses) up.
Supplement with vitamin D for killer defense
Vitamin D is arguably the most important nutrient to supplement, for everyone. Well, for everyone who wears clothes and doesn’t live in the tropics.
Out of the bajillion benefits of vitamin D, one of them is its role in the immune system. Vitamin D supports the cytotoxic T-cells, otherwise known as the “killer cells.”
These cells hang around the body, waiting for the immune system to signal them into action. Once the immune response is underway, they search for and destroy invaders like the cold virus. Vitamin D has a key role in the signaling mechanism. Just as importantly, vitamin D plays a role in the “at ease, soldiers” signal to the killer T-cells that the attack is over. If they keep going after the attack, they can chip away at healthy cells, so it’s important that they’re active only when you need them.
Vitamin D supplements are easy to find. Get a high-quality brand, and make sure you’re getting enough vitamin A to balance it out.
Take zinc — with copper — to attack germs
The typical diet doesn’t include a whole lot of zinc-rich foods. Even if you get adequate amounts, fighting a cold really plows through your supply, and your body cannot store it. Zinc is one of those nutrients you have to keep up on.
Your immune function and energy production (which your cells need when you’re fighting something) depends on an adequate supply of zinc. Of course, you can find zinc supplements everywhere, and it’s a start. But zinc and copper together form an antioxidant powerhouse called copper-zinc superoxide dismutase (CuZnSOD). It’s one of your body’s most effective defenses that you make. Consider it a must-have in your arsenal of cold remedies.
If you’re supplementing zinc, your body will find copper wherever it can to make CuZnSOD, which can deplete your stores if you’re low. Most of the population consumes a small enough amount of copper to throw off their zinc-to-copper balance, enough to put themselves at risk for heart attack. Something to keep in mind when you’re popping the popular fruity immune support lozenges, since they don’t provide any copper.
Detox with lemon honey lavender tea
When you’re under the weather, sip this soothing lemon lavender beauty elixir. It helps purify your skin from the inside out; it also works as an overall detox.
The ingredients of this calming tea has amazing properties, like:
- Lavender – soothing, relaxing, and anti-microbial
- Lemon – a vitamin C powerhouse
- Collagen – useful for every cell in your body
- Coconut charcoal – to bind toxins and get them out
- Raw honey – antimicrobial, and to help you sleep
Oh, and it tastes amazing. Don’t let the black charcoal throw you — it doesn’t taste like much. The lavender and lemon steal the show here.
Use a sinus rinse to wipe out sniffles
Nasal irrigation comes in many forms — saline spray, neti pot, and yogic basin rinses. The Bulletproof Sinus Rinse gets everything moving and kills the bugs in its path. The short description — you fill a bowl with boiled and cooled water, and mix in Himalayan sea salt, iodine, and xylitol.
Then you “breathe” in the water through your nose. If your angle is correct, it’ll collect at the back of the throat, and you spit it out. You have a whole bowl of the stuff, so you can repeat the process until you feel clear.
If you want to give it a go, get the recipe for the rinse liquid and detailed instructions here.
How quickly you get rid of your cold depends on what the illness is, and how strong your individual immune system is at the start of it. Some illnesses are no match for any of these remedies, and others will respond to something as simple as extra vitamin C. You have to experiment, and now you have a variety of things to throw at your next cold, so you can get back in the game pronto.
Take a detox bath to soothe cold symptoms
When you have a cold, soaking your cares away in the tub makes you feel better almost instantly. While not a remedy, per se, the warm water relaxes stiff muscles and joints, while the moist air opens up congested sinuses and calms coughing. Adding things like essential oils, epsom salts, and bentonite clay can turn your plain old soak into a detox bath.
Bentonite clay is an adsorbent. That’s not a typo — adsorbents attract molecules with a positive charge. A lot of impurities have a positive charge, so bentonite clay draws the yuck to the surface of your skin and shortens the path to eliminating it through your pores.
Epsom salts are magnesium sulfate crystals that you can get from pretty much any pharmacy or supermarket. It’s super easy to use — simply add some to your bath as you’re filling it.
Your skin absorbs magnesium from the epsom salts through the skin. Magnesium has calming effects, and coupled with the relaxing warmth, you’ll be ready for a good night’s sleep when you get out. Your immune system fights hard while you’re sleeping, so anything you can do to lull yourself to sleep will help your body recover from your cold more quickly.
Since you absorb electrolytes in an epsom salt bath, you’ll probably need to drink a little extra water after your soak. Water is essential for flushing your system, so keep your fluids up whether you tub it or not.
Essential oils are another fantastic addition to your bath when you’re working in getting rid of a cold. The little bit of steam from your tub diffuses the oils so that you can breathe them, and you also get the benefit through the skin. Eucalyptus opens up a stuffed nose. Lemon boosts the immune system, and lavender has a calming effect that goes great with a warm soak.
You cannot dilute essential oils in water. They will form full-strength drops at the surface. Dilute a few drops in a teaspoon or so carrier oil before adding them to the bath. Of course, be careful exiting the tub so you don’t slip.
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