7 unusual cold remedies

Can playing jazz boost immunity? Can cold, wet socks relieve congestion? Some swear by these methods. Next time you feel a cold coming on, ditch the over-the-counter meds and try these unusual remedies

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woman with cold

Uncommon natural remedies

Your nose is dripping like a faucet, your throat is sore and your head feels like it might explode. You’ve caught a cold, again. Ever thought of trying wet socks to relieve congestion or playing jazz to boost immunity?

If you’re sick of over-the-counter meds, we’ve got seven effective but uncommon natural remedies to help you combat the common cold.

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woman listening to music

1. Listen to jazz

Billie Holiday fans are in luck here. Research has shown that listening to jazz for 30 minutes boosts our levels of Immunoglobulin A (IgA), an immune protein that plays a critical role in defending against infection. “IgA resides in the mucosa – the lining of the nose, mouth, throat and other areas of the body. It acts as an antibody and prevents virus, bacteria and other microorganism infection,” explains Jean-Jacques Dugoua, a naturopathic doctor (ND) and director of clinical pharmacology and naturopathic medicine for Newtopia.com.

Furthermore, adds Dr. Dugoua, the effect of jazz on IgA levels continues for an additional half hour after music stops playing. Bluegrass, choral music and soft rock have also been shown to induce a similar response, meaning that Air Supply fans are in luck too.

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woman in socks

2. Put on a pair of cold wet socks

It may sound counterproductive, but according to Leslie Solomonian, ND and assistant professor at the College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto, wearing cold wet socks to bed when coming down with a cold can mimic the effects of immune-enhancing hydrotherapy treatments.

Her recommendation: “Soak a pair of socks in cold water, put them on your feet and cover them with a pair of wool or thermal socks. Go to bed and keep your feet in a warm blanket.” According to Dr. Solomonian, cold socks stimulate the body to increase circulation to the feet, relieving congestion from the head, regulating immune response and aiding in the elimination of waste. By morning, socks are usually bone dry and feet wake up toasty and warm.

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exercise at home

3. Break a (little) sweat

You can add fighting a cold to the list of never-ending benefits associated with exercise. “Moderate exercise has an anti-inflammatory effect and subsequently reduces the risk of infection,” explains Dr. Dugoua.

It’s important, however, to keep it at a gentle pace, since high intensity exercise may temporarily weaken the immune system. “Mild exercise can also help to elevate body temperature, which can increase the efficiency of our immune response,” adds Dr. Solomonian. And in case you don’t feel like taking a brisk walk, Dr. Solomonian says that diaphoretic teas, like peppermint, yarrow or catnip, can also promote a rise in body temperature.

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fair trade chocolate

4. Munch on a little chocolate

As wonderful as this remedy sounds, there’s a catch: sugar-sweetened and milk chocolate don’t apply. “Try hot, dark chocolate and sweeten it lightly with honey,” recommends Dr. Dugoua.

Chocolate contains theobromine, a component that suppresses the nerve activity responsible for coughing and has been found to be three times more effective in stopping persistent coughs than codeine.” Sugar, on the other hand, can weaken immunity, so it’s best to avoid it all together when you have a cold.

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Raw onion

5. Chow down on a raw onion

Onions can help you fight a cold for two reasons. Firstly, they are naturally antimicrobial, especially when they haven’t been cooked. “They also contain a lot of sulfur, which is helpful for both immune responsiveness and detoxification,” explains Dr. Solomonian. Try using raw onions in a homemade cough syrup, or swap some of its antimicrobial benefits for taste by cooking it in a chicken or vegetable broth – another tried and tested home remedy.

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6. Eat oysters

Oysters can do more than just kick-start your sex drive. Their high zinc content also makes them beneficial when you’re out with a cold. “Zinc is responsible for white blood cell function, which is associated with fighting viruses and bacteria,” says Dr. Dugoua. “Oysters are the best source of zinc, followed by beef shank and crab.”

Zinc is also important for the health of mucus membranes, our barrier between our internal and external environment, continues Dr. Solomonian. For vegetarians, she suggests eating whole grains, snacking on nuts like pumpkin seeds or taking a supplement. Sucking on a zinc lozenge can help too.

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7. Have a glass of coconut water

Hydrating is important when you have a cold and are losing fluids, especially when you have a fever,” explains Dr. Dugoua. But to achieve proper hydration the human body requires electrolytes, which balance out our blood chemistry. “Coconut water is a good source of electrolytes,” says Dr. Dugoua, who notes that salt, bananas and electrolyte replacement drinks used in sports also replenish our electrolyte reserves.   

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