Every year, that persistent winter cough seems to make an unwelcome return. The winter months bring an increase in the common cold and it is almost expected that many individuals will struggle with its symptoms. The common cold, a mild viral infection, targets the nose, trachea, throat and sinuses, causing symptoms such as stuffy nose or runny nose, sneezing, feeling tired, sore throat and cough. While there is no specific cure for the common cold, we have compiled a list of everyday foods, herbs and home remedies that can help relieve your winter cough symptoms.
Garlic: Embracing powerful antioxidant properties, garlic stands out as a potential ally in warding off or reducing colds. Notably, studies reveal that including garlic supplements in your routine can significantly reduce the frequency of colds by 63%. In addition to its effects on colds and flu, garlic offers additional health benefits, including its ability to lower blood pressure, raise cholesterol levels, and contribute to the prevention of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Ginger: Ginger is another herbal ingredient that is highly valued in Ayurvedic medicine for coughs and colds as it not only reduces phlegm, but also helps fight infection and reduce inflammation. These anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects are associated with gingerol, the active ingredient in ginger. Research shows that ginger and ginger extract can act as a bronchodilator, relaxing airway smooth muscle to reduce irritation, coughing and shortness of breath. Ginger can be used to make herbal tea with honey or you can even drink the freshly extracted juice or chew some ginger.
Basil: Tulsi, an Ayurvedic herb that has been used in India for centuries for its health benefits. Tulsi is an expectorant, meaning it helps expel mucus from the respiratory tract, making it an effective remedy for a dry cough. Also, Tulsi is a natural antibacterial agent, which helps fight infection and accelerate the healing process.
Fruits and vegetables: While vitamin C may not possess the mythical powers once attributed to it in preventing colds, it can still play a helpful role when that unwanted sniffle starts coming. Embrace the goodness of citrus fruits like oranges, grapes, lemons or limes to boost your immune system with this essential vitamin.
For those not keen on the tangy joy of citrus, fear not. Many other foods are ready to provide a strong dose of vitamin C: these include kiwi fruit, strawberries, broccoli, red bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, butternut cantaloupe, cauliflower and tomatoes.
Onion Juice: Onion is another staple ingredient in every Indian kitchen, making it a very convenient remedy. People don’t realize that onions not only add flavor to food, but can also be therapeutic. Studies show that onion extract has an anti-inflammatory effect and relaxes the airways, which can reduce or stop coughing fits. These benefits may be linked to the sulfur compounds in onions. The value of onion as a dry cough remedy has long been recognized in Ayurveda and is worth a try. You can extract onion juice powder by mixing it with equal parts of honey. Most have a tablespoon of the mixture at least two or three times a day.
Honey: Research suggests that honey can provide relief from a persistent cough. In a 2021 review, scientists examined the effects of honey in treating coughs associated with upper respiratory tract infections. Studies have revealed that honey outperforms standard care, effectively suppressing coughs and reducing the need for antibiotics.
Another study comparing honey with dextromethorphan, a common cough suppressant, found both to be effective in suppressing coughs. One test even indicated that honey scored slightly higher, while in another, it matched the effectiveness of dextromethorphan.
To use this remedy, individuals can eat a spoonful of honey directly or add it to a hot drink, such as herbal tea.
Hot liquid: Although current research is limited, an older study from 2008 suggests that drinking liquids at room temperature may help reduce symptoms such as coughing, runny nose, and sneezing. However, people with additional cold or flu symptoms may find more relief by opting for a warm drink. According to the same study, hot drinks can provide immediate relief for symptoms such as sore throat, chills, and fatigue. The positive effects were noted to persist for a long time after finishing the hot drink. Hot drinks that can provide relief include clear broth, herbal tea, decaffeinated black tea, warm water, and warm fruit juice.
Pumpkin seeds: Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of zinc, a mineral needed to increase the function of white blood cells. These cells play an important role in fighting pathogens such as the flu virus. You can enjoy pumpkin seeds by the handful or sprinkle them on salads to add a delightful crunch to your diet.
Yellow: Turmeric milk stands out as a popular home remedy in India for various ailments, famous for its effectiveness in treating sore throat and cough. The main ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, gives it its yellow color and has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric has the ability to boost the immune system and stimulate antibody responses against infections. For quick relief, consider adding black pepper to the turmeric mixture. This combination harnesses the therapeutic benefits of turmeric, providing a natural and soothing remedy for respiratory problems.
Pineapple: Surprisingly, pineapple proves to be an effective aid in relieving cough, thanks to the presence of bromelain, an enzyme with anti-inflammatory and mucolytic properties. Bromelain’s unique combination of properties makes pineapple an excellent choice for relieving coughs by helping to break up mucus and reduce inflammation. Consider including this tropical fruit in your diet for its natural and beneficial effects on respiratory comfort.
Banana Berry Smoothie: Introducing Banana Berry Smoothie – a nutrient-dense blend that harnesses the goodness of ripe bananas and mixed berries. Known to be rich in essential vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin B6 and potassium, bananas play an important role in supporting the immune system. Combined with antioxidant-rich berries, especially strawberries and blueberries, this smoothie delivers a powerful dose of vitamin C and antioxidants. These ingredients contribute to reducing cough symptoms and boosting overall immunity, making banana berry smoothies a delightful and healthy choice to boost your well-being.
As we embrace these natural remedies to combat a cold cough, it’s crucial to recognize that individual responses may vary. Consultation with a healthcare professional is recommended, especially if symptoms persist or worsen. While these home remedies offer potential relief, maintaining a balanced diet, staying hydrated, and practicing good hygiene are integral components of overall wellness. Embrace the nourishing power of nature’s ingredients to support your health, providing comfort and well-being during the cold winter months.
(Sushma PS Jindal Chief Dietitian at NatureCure Institute)