On my last trip to Palm Springs, I had the unforeseen misfortune of catching a cold while on vacation. There I was, poolside, pina colada with the little umbrella in one hand, and a box of tissues in the other. To my dismay, I had gotten hit with a runny nose, itchy eyes, sore throat and endless sneezing. Needless to say, my immune system was on an indefinite hiatus, but I wasn’t about to let this deviant bug get the best of me on my week-long getaway. I knew I had to stop my immune system from taking a nose dive and get my body rebalanced and back on track, but I am never excited about having to pop a bunch of pills or introduce a chemical cocktail into my body that will surely wreak havoc on my system. I’m old school. I don’t see a doctor unless I go missing a limb, and I try to stay away from meds like the black plague. For those reasons, I keep a list of natural remedies that have been passed down from generations to help alleviate illness and boost immunity. So now I will share with you some of my favorite practical, natural remedies that my abuelita (granny) fortunately shared with me.
1. GARLIC POWER
The health benefits of garlic have been known and its use has been well documented by ancient civilizations like the Egyptians, Greeks, Chinese, Romans, and Babylonians for centuries. Part of the Allium family, garlic is rich in antioxidants and its sulfurous compound Allicin make it the perfect cold-busting, flu combative, superfood. As a matter of fact, studies have found that daily garlic supplementation reduces the number of colds by 63% compared with placebo. Also, the average length of cold symptoms was reduced by 70% – 1.5 days in the garlic group as oppose to 5 days in the placebo group. Garlic’s medicinal properties make it a great immunity booster, plus its versatility makes it extremely effective and easy in introducing it to your diet. You can spice up your favorite dishes by adding some tasty garlic, or you can supplement with powdered garlic in pill form. Personally, I find the best results when eating a teaspoon of raw garlic first thing in the morning. Just don’t expect to be receiving many smooches all morning long.
2. GINGER GALORE
Famous for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, ginger is a dietary staple in many cultures. Loaded with antioxidants, ginger gets rid of illness-causing free radicals which makes it an excellent immunity booster. Belonging to the Zingiberaceae family, the ginger root has been used in traditional and alternative medicine for centuries, and its nutrients and bioactive compounds have been known to treat the symptoms of the common cold and flu. You can increase your ginger intake by supplementing with ginger capsules, brewing a delicious ginger tea or adding a few drops of cold pressed ginger extract to an 8oz glass of water. A yummy alternative is to pair your ginger with a tasty sushi roll, which is my personal excuse for eating sushi at least once a week. Pass the ginger and wasabi, please!
3. TENACIOUS TURMERIC
Similar to ginger, turmeric is also packed with beneficial antioxidants and bioactive compounds. Its main ingredient curcumin also makes turmeric a powerful anti-inflammatory. For this reason, turmeric is excellent at reducing inflammation in the bronchial passages, which promotes easier breathing and chest decongestion. Speaking of decongestion, turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties reduce nasal congestion which alleviates headaches associated with cold and flu symptoms. Turmeric is often found in Indian, Asian, and middle eastern cuisine, so dishes like curries and rice plates are perfect to introduce turmeric in your diet. Another fantastic way of introducing turmeric into your diet is by taking a page out of the Indian playbook and drinking a delicious turmeric tea. Turmeric tea or “golden milk” is an ancient immune-boosting remedy that contains turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, and pepper in a milk/broth base.
4. LAVISH LEMONS
We all know that lemons are a good source of vitamin C and healthy doses of vitamin C have been proven to boost immunity, but there are many more benefits to consuming lemon and its juice that you may not be aware of. Lemons are also chopped full of nourishing elements such as vitamin B6, vitamin A, vitamin E, folate, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, copper, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and phosphorus which make lemons an awesome superfood! In addition, lemons also have great antiseptic and antibacterial properties that work extremely well in relieving sore throat symptoms associated with infections. Some studies have also shown that lemons may be effective at reducing fevers by increasing body temperature and promoting perspiration. I personally like to consume lemons by adding some lemon juice to my morning glass of water. I find that this works as a great morning pick-me-up as well as great for weight management.
5. CHELATING CILANTRO
Being a native of Mexico, cilantro is personally one of my favorite herbs. I use this superfood to garnish many of my favorite dishes and with good reason – cilantro is delicious and packs a healthy punch! Loaded with flavonoids and antioxidants, cilantro is a powerful immune booster that fights damaging free radicals. Moreover, a small amount of cilantro supplies a full daily dose of vitamin A and K and is rich in vitamin C, potassium, and manganese. Just as important, cilantro is immensely filled with chlorophyll and when consumed, acts as a chelating agent in the body. This means that cilantro will get rid of toxic heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, mercury, and cadmium that cause hormonal imbalance and lowers your immune system. Try some cilantro on some fresh organic guacamole or some pico de gallo.
In the end, I didn’t let my cold interfere with my vacation for too long. After some natural remedies, rest, and plenty of fluids, I was back to my normal, healthy self in no time. Try some of these natural remedies next time you are feeling under the weather or add them to your diet to keep your immune system strong and healthy.