By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
May 4, 2020
How do you help your body heal from a viral infection?
Ask a family member, co-worker or friend and you’ll get many different “perfect” remedies.
Some folks swear by hot-toddies — a mix of hot water, whiskey, honey and lemon. Others will share a similar recipe with tea and ginger or cinnamon substituted for the whiskey.
One of my patients even claims a snifter of brandy will knock a virus right out of you! Then, another patient likes to chomp down on fresh garlic and onion at the first sign of the sniffles to stop a virus in its tracks.
So, what actually works? I’ll tell you one thing… you won’t find relief at the end of a pharmacy aisle.
Despite your best efforts, sometimes it’s impossible to avoid catching a cold or other viral infection. And when you do, it turns into a hacking, aching and snotty mess.
It’s just miserable. You want it to be done and over with as soon as possible.
Many people head right for the decongestants at their local drug store. But actually, there’s not a single cold medicine that can cure your cold.
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In fact, these meds don’t even shorten a cold’s duration! All they do is mask your symptoms. And some don’t even do that.
For example, studies show a common decongestant (phenylephrine) found in many cold, flu and sinus medications doesn’t work any better than a placebo – even when it’s taken every four hours.
To add insult to injury, this same ingredient can cause an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. So it could be very dangerous for patients with hypertension and heart concerns.
Therefore, I don’t recommend over-the-counter options to treat your cold. So what can you do?
Ok. Let’s go back to our talk of those home remedies. Because there may be some small benefit to some of them.
For instance, hot liquids help break down and clear out mucus. Garlic and onions have antimicrobial properties which can help boost your immune system.
And while I don’t think brandy will knock the cold out of you… it might knock you out. So you sleep through the worst of your symptoms.
With this in mind, I’m sure you’re wondering if there is anything that can actually reduce symptoms and shorten the duration of a viral infection?
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Lucky for you, I have several scientifically proven ways to put you straight on the road to recovery.
Elderberry is one of my favorite viral remedies. It can greatly reduce symptoms associated with the common cold, particularly upper respiratory complaints.
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And here’s a really neat travel trick for those of us who tend to catch a cold when we fly, which is quite common. Start taking 300mgm of elderberry twice a day a few days before you fly and four days after. Also take two grams of vitamin C as a short term antiviral just before boarding.
Oh, and be sure to hydrate on the plane. You lose around a pint of water from your body every hour you fly, so avoid drinking the coffee and alcohol because they are both diuretics.
Not only will you be less likely to catch a cold. But if you do, your symptoms will be less severe and you’ll get better faster.
This elderberry and Vitamin C trick also works great for the flu. In fact, elderberry practically stops the flu dead in its tracks by blocking viral growth. And when flu sufferers take elderberry extract, it can reduce fever and other symptoms about four days quicker than if they didn’t take it.
But don’t be fooled by lozenges and other “elderberry remedies.” Only the liquid extract works.
Andrographis is not a well-known herb. But it has been used medicinally for thousands of years for all sorts of health conditions. It’s particularly good when it comes to reducing cold symptoms like headache, nasal congestion, sore throat and achiness.
You can make the tincture into a tea and drink three to four times a day. Or, take it in capsule form, according to the label instructions.
Take a daily probiotic. Not only will it boost your gut health and support your immune system. A probiotic can also help reduce cold symptoms by around 34% and cold duration by two days.
Zinc lozenges may help reduce cold duration by more than 30% – nearly three days in total. It appears that zinc helps stop the rhinovirus from multiplying, which improves recovery time. Drinking a few cups of green tea daily also helps bring the zinc into your cells to fight the virus.
Bio-active silver hydrosol liquid 10 ppm. 1 teaspoonful held under the tongue for 30-60 seconds 7 times a day for short term immune support. Historically recognized for it’s antimicrobial actions but panned by FDA because of so many bad players out there hawking poorly manufactured non-ionic colloids or otherwise ineffective brands on the market.
Don’t forget the benefits of good, old-fashioned chicken soup. The ingredients actually reduce the inflammatory process that triggers the release of mucus. When making your soup, use plenty of organic chicken, onions, sweet potatoes, turnips, carrots, celery, parsnips and other veggies for maximum power. Throw in some fresh dill the last 30 minutes for a really great soup.
Rest, hydration, warm liquids, nasal flushes and hot showers can also help ease your misery and put you on a quicker road to recovery. You will get better strengthening your immune system and letting it do it’s job.
Meltzer EO, et al. Oral Phenylephrine HCl for Nasal Congestion in Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis: A Randomized, Open-label, Placebo-controlled Study. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2015 Sep-Oct;3(5):702-8.
Franklin Institute of Wellness. (2018). Elderberry Syrup Benefits: A Meta-Analysis.
Hawkins, et al. Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) supplementation effectively treats upper respiratory symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials. Complement Ther Med. 2019 Feb;42:361-365.
Franklin Institute of Wellness. (2018). Study Finds That Elderberry Keeps You Healthy When Traveling.
Tiralongo, E., et al. Elderberry supplementation reduces cold duration and symptoms in air-travellers: A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Nutrients. 2016; 8(4), 182.
Zakay-Rones Z, et al. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res. 2004 Mar-Apr;32(2):132-40.
Gabrielian ES, et al. A double blind, placebo-controlled study of Andrographis paniculata fixed combination Kan Jang in the treatment of acute upper respiratory tract infections including sinusitis. Phytomedicine. 2002 Oct;9(7):589-97.
Smith TJ, et al. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG® and Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis BB-12® on health-related quality of life in college students affected by upper respiratory infections. Br J Nutr. 2013 Jun;109(11):1999-2007.
Hemilä H, et al. Zinc acetate lozenges for treating the common cold: an individual patient data meta-analysis. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2016 Nov;82(5):1393-1398.
American College of Chest Physicians. “New Study Supports Chicken Soup As a Cold Remedy.” ScienceDaily. Oct 2000.