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Natural ways to prevent colds

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A lot of my friends and family have come down with this ‘super cold’ that seems to be going around lately. Can you suggest any effective natural remedies to help prevent colds?

T.P., via email


With all the focus on Covid-19, the common cold seems to have taken a back seat over the last couple of years. But with recent reports of  ‘super colds’ circulating, it’s a great idea to protect yourself this cold and flu season—and beyond.

Here are some natural ways to fight off colds and other upper respiratory tract infections, plus ease your misery if they do strike. 

Eat cold-fighting foods

Eating the following foods may reduce your chances of catching a cold or lessen your symptoms and how long you suffer if you do get one.

Fruit and vegetables (lots of them). In a study of over 1,000 pregnant women, those eating the most fruit and veg—an average of eight and a half servings a day—were less likely to come down with a cold compared to those eating the least (under two servings a day).1

Kiwifruit. A study of older adults found that eating four gold kiwis a day for a month reduced the severity and duration of common cold symptoms.2 It may be because the fruit is high in vitamin C (see below).

Vitamin C-rich foods. Women with a high intake of vitamin C from food (more than 200 mg/day) have a lower risk of colds compared to those with a low intake (less than 100 mg/day).3 Good sources of C include kiwifruit, guavas, bell peppers, strawberries, oranges, broccoli and kale. 

Beets. A study of students doing final exams found that those drinking a daily dose of beet juice had reduced symptoms of cold and sickness. Those with asthma showed the greatest benefits.4

Probiotics. Yogurt supplemented with probiotic strains appears to help protect against colds.5 Watch out for yogurts with added sugar or sweeteners, though. Other probiotic-containing foods, such as kefir and kimchi, may also be beneficial.6

A Mediterranean diet. Children who switched to a Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and olive oil, had fewer colds and were given less medication after a year compared to the previous year.7


Moderate aerobic exercise seems to help prevent colds and reduce the severity and duration of a cold when you get one.8 Aim for 30 to 45 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise—such as swimming, jogging or cycling—at least three days a week.

Get hot

One trial suggests that having regular saunas can cut your chances of catching a cold. The group taking saunas had half the number of colds compared to the control group after three months.9 If you don’t have access to a local sauna, at a gym or spa for example, consider a portable infrared sauna, available from companies such as Fir Zone ( and Get Fitt (

Soothe stress

Psychological stress appears to raise the risk of getting a cold,10 so make time to relax. Research also shows that employing stress-reduction techniques, such as meditation and guided imagery, can ease the severity and duration of a cold when one hits.11

Sort out your sleep

People who get less than seven hours of sleep a night are nearly three times as likely to develop a cold compared to those who get eight hours or more, according to one study. And those with the best ‘sleep efficiency,’ the percentage of time a person actually sleeps between lying down and waking up the next morning, are five and a half times less likely to catch a cold than those with the worst sleep efficiency.12

Get connected

Having lots of social ties, whether with family, friends, workmates or social groups, may help protect you from colds. In a study of volunteers exposed to cold-causing viruses, those with the most diverse social networks were less susceptible to colds, produced less mucus and shed fewer virus particles.13


Vitamin C. Regularly supplementing with this vitamin as a preventative can reduce the severity and duration of colds.14

Suggested dosage: 1–2 g/day

Vitamin D. A review of 25 trials involving some 11,000 people found that taking vitamin D can protect against colds, especially if you’re vitamin D-deficient.15

Suggested dosage: 2,000–5,000 IU/day, but it’s best to get your levels tested first

Probiotics. Supplementing with the good bacteria can reduce the number of colds you get and how long you’re sick if you do get one.16

Suggested dosage: Choose a high-quality multi-strain formula and follow the label instructions

Beta-glucans. Found in yeasts, algae and mushrooms, these prebiotic fibers can help reduce the incidence of colds as well as their duration and the severity of symptoms.17

Suggested dosage: 250–900 mg/day extracted from yeast or algae 

Try herbs

Garlic (Allium sativum). Taking an allicin-containing garlic supplement during the winter months slashed the number of colds and sick days in one study.18

Suggested dosage: 180 mg allicin

Green tea (Camellia sinensis). Supplementing with green tea capsules can help prevent cold and flu symptoms as well as enhance the activity of immune cells.19 Drinking green tea also has a protective effect.20

Suggested dosage: Choose a high-quality supplement and follow the label instructions, or drink catechin-rich green tea daily

American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium). Those given this herb over a four-month period had fewer colds and symptoms compared to those given a placebo.21

Suggested dosage: 400 mg of a standardized extract

Treating a cold

Obviously, it’s vital to get a test to rule out Covid-19 first, but if you do come down with a cold, here are some top natural treatments proven to work.

Zinc lozenges. Taken within 24 hours of symptoms starting, these can shorten the duration of a cold by around two days.1

Suggested dosage: 75 mg/day zinc acetate lozenges

Vitamin C. A single 8-gram dose of vitamin C given on the first day of illness reduced cold duration in one trial.2

Suggested dosage: 8 g/day in divided doses; reduce the dose if you get gastrointestinal symptoms

Andrographis paniculata. This herb is effective at reducing cold symptoms.3

Suggested dosage: 200 mg/day of a standardized extract

Pelargonium sidoides. Also known as Umckaloabo, this herbal remedy can shorten a cold and ease symptoms.4

Suggested dosage: 30 drops three times daily of an alcohol root extract

Echinacea purpurea. This is another herb that can cut the course of a cold and alleviate symptoms.5 Take at the first sign of symptoms.

Suggested dosage: 6 to 9 mL of pressed juice, or 0.75 to 1.5 mL of tincture per day 

Honey. This simple remedy is more effective than standard treatments for improving cold symptoms, especially cough.6

Suggested dosage: Sip on a warm honey and lemon drink throughout the day 

Saltwater nasal rinsing. Flushing out your nasal passages using a neti pot and a saltwater solution can soothe cold symptoms.7 Kits for nasal rinsing are widely available online and from health food stores.




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Treating a cold



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