As the cool weather well and truly settles in, unfortunately so does the annual cold and flu season!
Whilst snuggling up in bed with some warm tea and a movie isn’t the worst part of getting sick, the reality is that this isn’t generally an option with work, school, and well… life!
Fortunately, there are a few winter wellness hacks that you can implement into your day, to help you get over that pesky cold as quickly as possible.
1. ACV Cold & Flu Tea
1-2 tbl spoons of Apple Cider Vinegar (or as much as you can tolerate!)
Squeeze of lemon
1 tsp of good quality honey
Any choice of ginger tea, or fresh ginger (I use a ginger, lemongrass & rosehip mix)
1 cup of hot water
Now I couldn’t start this article off without first mentioning my absolute ride-or-die cold and flu tea. This mix is packed with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory goodness that helps break down the mucus and congestion keeping you blocked up, as well as kill off all that bad bacteria. The powerhouse in this tea is the apple cider vinegar (ACV), with its potent antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects1. When purchasing, aim for organic ACV as this will provide the most diversity in its antibacterial properties2.
Try drinking a few cups the moment you feel an itchy throat or phlegmy chest. When I manage to do that, I generally find I can kick the brewing cold in the butt before it gets too bad! Either way, you can’t go wrong with a nice, warm tea when your sick!
2. Thyme time
The commonly known herb, thyme (a.k.a. thymus vulgaris), is a potent antibacterial and antimicrobial4, traditionally used for its therapeutic properties in respiratory ailments.
Particularly utilised for sore throats, here are some ways you can use thyme when sick:
Apply the essential oil topically to the area of skin outside the throat, by mixing 1-2 drops with a carrier oil (e.g. melted coconut oil)
Put thyme essential oil in a diffuser
Enjoy thyme tea which you can buy as is, or simply use fresh/dried thyme to make your own
3. Manuka Honey
Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without honey! But you may be wondering- why is it that Manuka honey gets all the hype?
The main (and possibly most noticeable) difference between Manuka honey and regular honey is the price. Manuka honey can cost 10 - 20 times more than regular honey, generally cancelling it out from the regular grocery shop. For this reason, I recommend saving your Manuka honey for therapeutic use only as this will prolong its usage. Manuka honey is best saved for its beneficial properties when they are actually required. For your day-to-day honey use, just keep in mind that Manuka will not necessarily make enough of a difference to your overall health to justify its price!
The second difference between Manuka and regular honey is a little something known as the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) grading system. In 1996, TradeNZ worked alongside the Honey Research Unit to establish a standard for the antibacterial classification of Manuka honey. Grading is scaled from 5-26, with a greater UMF score being associated with high amounts of the key markers DHA, Methylglyoxal, and Leptosperin, which ensure the honeys therapeutic quality6.
When choosing a Manuka honey for its medicinal properties, aim to purchase one with a higher UMF grading. Some of Manukas therapeutic claims to keep in mind upon deciding when to use it are as followed:
Tips for use when you’re sick: add it into tea or on top of your morning breakfast. Remember also that the use of Manuka honey topically is incredible for any cuts and lesions (it fights off infection and aids the healing process)!
4. Gargle Salt Water
¼ teaspoon salt
200-250 mL water
Gargling salt water for a sore throat is a tale as old as time, but always still, a quick and important one to remember! Gargling a salt water solution will help alleviate some of the discomfort, pain and swelling associated with pharyngitis, by killing off any bacteria it reaches.
Aiming to gargle every 2-3 hours will provide best results.
5. Sweat it Out
It’s fairly obvious that staying warm when you have a cold is important, but recent studies are starting to show that maintaining a higher core temperature may actually help fight off the infection. Important enzymes and proteins involved in the body’s immune response have showed an enhanced effect when body temperature stays above 37ºc7.
Stacking the blankets on when in bed, keeping a heat pack on your chest and upper pack as often as possible, and wearing as many layers (particularly over your chest) as you can bare, should therefore help fight off your cold.
So what about exercising when you're sick?
This is a common question people tend to ask, as they’ve probably heard of “sweating out a cold” in a more literal sense. Essentially, exercising when sick will work under the same principal of raising your core temperature to help fight off the colds infectious pathogens.
If you are feeling physically well enough to exercise, giving it a go will certainly raise your core temperature which may in-turn help fight your cold. However, the important note to remember is that you don’t let your body temperature fall rapidly when you finish exercising (this is where people tend to go wrong!). Ensure that you wear a jacket and stay as warm as possible when cooling down, otherwise you may find that your cold simply gets worse the next day!
The role of zinc in fighting off the common cold has been explored for many years, with most studies being conducted on the therapeutic efficacy of zinc acetate in lozenge form. As well as providing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant characteristics, zinc ions are involved in signalling pathways within different immune cells – which is where their therapeutic qualities come in.
It has been found that by consuming zinc lozenges within the first 24 hours of symptom onset, a significant reduction in the duration of your cold may be seen8. However, other than bad taste, one of the side effects that has been associated with zinc lozenges is nausea. If choosing to consume zinc lozenges, ensure you monitor intake and use only as recommended.
On the other hand, simply increasing your intake of foods rich in zinc during winter and when you’re sick, will help support your immune function greatly.
Below are some foods rich in zinc that you can try incorporating into your diet (some may surprise you!):
Next time you're sick, try incorporating some of these tips and tricks to help you get over your cold! As with every medical issue however, be sure to seek out advice from your doctor if symptoms persist.
Antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans; downregulating cytokine and microbial protein expression. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29379012
Comparison of Cultivable Acetic Acid Bacterial Microbiota in Organic and Conventional AppleCider Vinegar. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27904401
Clinical Inquiries. Which treatments provide the most relief for pharyngitis pain? https://mospace.umsystem.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10355/10730/WhichTreatmentsPharyngitisPain.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
Phytochemical, Antimicrobial, and Toxicological Evaluation of Traditional Herbs Used to Treat Sore Throat. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27429983
Health Benefits of Manuka Honey as an Essential Constituent for Tissue Regeneration. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28901255
UMF Grading System. https://umfhawordpress.azurewebsites.net/grading-system-explained/
Stay warm if you have a cold: study. https://www.sbs.com.au/news/stay-warm-if-you-have-a-cold-study
Zinc for the common cold. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23775705
The role of zinc lozenges in treatment of the common cold. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9475824