Usually, a change in weather precipitates a cold. Although the cold weather does not cause a cold, the cold virus thrives better in a cold and dry climate.  There are about 200 different viruses that can cause the common cold.  These viruses are floating around us – all the time!  Each one of us is exposed to their onslaught.  Yet, why do some of us get a cold more often than others!

Common Cold & Immunity

Once again, it all boils down to your immune system.  Your defense against a cold virus can only be as good as your immunity allows it to be. The virus battles against your immune system and if it wins, it produces the all too familiar symptoms of sore throat, watery eyes, leaking nose, congestion, cough and maybe fever.  The cold virus is spread by air, and by hand to hand contact. You can literally `pick up’ a cold by being in the vicinity of another person who is infected.  It is normal to get 2-3 cold attacks in a year.  But if you are getting more than that, your immune system may need some help

Cold facts

Cold is an infection of the upper respiratory tract.  It is important to know that most colds clear up on their own in seven to ten days.  All you have to do is to support your immune system during those days to help your body to fight it better. Otherwise, it can lead to more serious illness such as bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infection with fever.

Herbs that help


It has cold-fighting power.  It contains allicin which is a potent broad spectrum antibiotic. Take 2 cloves of chopped raw garlic during a cold.  You could also use a lot of garlic in your regular recipes to gain its cold fighting benefits.


This herb is known to strengthen the immune system. It exhibits antiviral and antibacterial properties.  It is especially effective against the cold virus and herpes virus.  You should use echinacea if you feel a cold is around the corner.  If you use it at the very onset of symptoms, it helps to avoid precipitating a cold. This herb is native to Central US.  It is available in health stores all over the world.

Eucalyptus oil

This is an essential oil which is very helpful in relieving congestion. You can put 5-6 drops of pure essential oil in 2 cups of water in your steamer and inhale after placing a towel over your head.  Do this for 3-5 minutes. It helps clear sinuses and relieves congestion.

Dried ginger (saunth)

Boil a two-level tablespoon of saunth powder and 1 tablespoon of pepper in 1 litre of water till it boils down to 750ml. Sip this liquid throughout the day without straining it preferably warm. It will help reduce blocked sinuses and help clear up all the cold symptoms.

What to do at the onset of a cold

Begin taking 1000-2000 mg of vitamin C at the very first sign of a cold.  Along with this, take a supplement containing B-complex with zinc.  This itself may stop your cold from developing further or it may shorten the duration of a cold.  Keep sipping hot liquids through the day.  This will help to loosen the mucus

Drink a couple of glasses of carrot juice as Betacarotene helps stimulate the immune system and above all keep moving.  Moving around helps to loosen the built-up mucus and makes you feel better.  Clear chicken soup or vegetable soup with lots of black pepper, ginger, garlic, and onions keep the sinuses open and reduces cold symptoms like headaches and congestion.

This is good food – and it works as well as any cold medicine!

(As published in Hindustan Times dated July 22, 2019)

December 7, 2019

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