Your grandmother was right: chicken soup is the ultimate cure-all. Research published in the medical journal Chestsuggests that enjoying a bowl of steamy chicken soup and vegetables, whether prepared from scratch or warmed from a can, can actually slow the movement of neutrophils, the common white blood cells that protect the body from infection. By slowing that movement, the neutrophils can stay concentrated in areas of the body that require the most healing. Researchers found that chicken soup was most effective in reducing upper respiratory infections, but low-sodium soup carries great nutritional value and helps keep you hydrated.
The health benefits of ginger root have been used for centuries, but now they have proof of its curative properties. A few slices of raw ginger root in some boiling water may help soothe a cough or a sore throat, but it will also ward off the feelings of nausea that so often accompany influenza. Several studies, including one in the British Journal of Anesthesia, report that just one gram of ginger can “alleviate clinical nausea of diverse causes.”
Honey in tea with lemon can ease sore throat pain, but new evidence reveals that honey is an effective cough suppressant. A recent study published in Pediatrics revealed that 10 grams of honey given at bedtime reduced the severity of cough symptoms in children. In addition to quieting their cough, the children in the study reportedly slept more soundly, which also helps reduce cold symptoms. In general, honey has a variety of antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. However, never administer honey to a child younger than one year. Honey often contains botulinum spores, and while this is harmless to adults and older children, infants’ immune systems are not able to fight off the bacteria.
Adding a garlic supplement to your diet might not only reduce the severity of cold symptoms, it may also keep you from getting sick in the first place. Garlic contains the compound allicin, which blocks the enzymes that contribute to the development of a variety of bacterial and viral infections. While it is not yet known if just taking a garlic supplement at the start of a cold will reduce symptoms, it’s generally a good idea to include ample garlic in the diet, especially during cold and flu season.
Native Americans have used the herb and root of the Echinacea plant to treat infections for more than 400 years. Recent studies also support that herb’s effectiveness at reducing the duration of common cold and flu symptoms. Its active ingredients include flavonoids, chemicals that have many therapeutic effects on the body, including the ability to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation. Otherwise healthy adults may take 1-2 grams of Echinacea root or herb as a tea three times daily, but not for longer than one week.