Previously I wrote an article on natural ways to prevent and beat colds and the flu, which also benefit your immunity and health as a whole. But there are so many ways you can do this, and while they do depend on the individual, here are some additional basic and herbal interventions to keep you healthy, regardless of the season.
First, here are some very basic interventions that are recommended for even the most conventionally-minded. If you or someone you know has a cold, remember that it is contagious for about the same time as most people experience symptoms, for 2-7 days. Some viruses can be caught by inhalation, as they are suspended in the air when a person coughs or sneezes nearby. Sometimes you can catch a cold by direct contact, as some viruses can live for up to 3 hours on human skin. Also, while most people do touch their faces subconsciously, try to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth during or soon after being around others infected with colds. Washing your hands regularly, especially before eating, is very important to remember too (unfortunately, many don't).
Of course, there are many herbal remedies that could prevent and treat colds. One of these is Astragalus membranaceus, otherwise known as astraglaus or huang qi. It has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to treat immune deficiencies, as well as to increase vitality and stamina (most likely the reason for the "qi" part - qi means "life force). In a clinical study comparing echinacea, astragalus and licorice, astragalus had the strongest affects in stimulating immune cells. However, it is not typically recommended during acute infections, it is more of a prevention and maintenance herb (Phytotherapy Desk Reference, Thomson and Gennat).
Travelling to the West, Sambucus nigra, or elderberry, has also been used for centuries in treating colds and flu, as far back as 400 BC. Its purple-black fruit is rich in antioxidants, and researchers believe that it works by activating immune cells that engulf and destroy pathogens. The German Commission E, a high-level guide for the safety and efficacy of herbal medicines, recognises elderberry as an effective treatment to relieve colds. Use as an alternative to conventional cold medicines is therefore quite common in some regions.
Now for something that most of us are familiar with: Allium sativum, or garlic. When raw garlic is chewed or chopped, it releases a substance called allicin, which has demonstrated antiviral activity against the rhinovirus (the most common cold virus) and other pathogens. This is another herb that looks more useful for preventing colds, as opposed to treating them. In one clinical study, those who took a garlic supplement with allicin had their risk of catching a cold cut by 65%! Compared to placebo, the garlic supplement was also linked to 70% less cold symptoms, with the average duration 1.5 days instead of 5 days. Once again, you don't have to put up with sporadic weeks of misery and inconvenience, there are other ways, but seeing a qualified naturopath can determine what treatment plan is right for you.