Q. I’ve had a cold and have been coughing and stuffed up for days. I have read that using nasal sprays can be addictive. Cough medicines are not helping much either. I would prefer some natural approaches that don’t cause rebound congestion. What can you suggest?
A. The usual ingredient in cough syrup, dextromethorphan, is no better than placebo for kids and only modestly effective for adults (Journal of Family Practice, Oct. 2009). Natural alternatives that may provide some relief include tea made of thyme or ginger. Elderberry and Chinese herbs such as Andrographis or Astragalus may also be helpful. We are sending you our Guide to Colds, Coughs & the Flu for more details on these and many other natural remedies.

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  1. Barb S.

    SORE THROAT – I’ve had good results gargling with salty water for a sore throat. I use about a teaspoon full per cup. Salt dissolves faster in warm water.
    SINUS PAIN – Try sniffing salty water up into the nose to wash over that area. As the water leaks out, I blow my nose. Doing this several times can really help when symptoms are just beginning.
    CANKER SORE – Dry salt, directly on a canker sore in the mouth, again several times, can stop that virus too.
    COLD SORES – For cold sores on the lip, I use tea tree oil as soon as I realize I might be developing one. It may not stop it totally, but the outbreak will be small and short-lived, NOT ugly and lasting 6 to 10 days.

  2. Brent B.

    Building on the previous advice, I use a small bottle (1 oz.) of essential eucalyptus oil as an inhaler — just don’t inhale too deeply through the hollow cap or you may irritate your mucus membranes! Oolong tea is another good option for sinus relief, as it has natural antihistamine properties. There are also small portable electric steam inhalers that work well, but try to get one that has a splash guard so you don’t get burned. Then you can add your own essential oils (like eucalyptus or tea tree or thyme) for greater relief. Finally, try taking nettles capsules as they’re a great all-around allergy and sinus helper.

  3. Beverly E.

    Have considered the possibility that it could be allergies that are plaguing you? I have the same symptoms when my allergies kick up and I know it’s not a cold as it happens at the same time every year. I get very congested and cough. I also get pressure in my ears. Try taking an over the counter medication and if that doesn’t work consult your doctor. I hope this helps.

  4. W.H.

    There are several things I do for nasal stuffiness: press your middle fingers into the notches in the bones that go from beside your nose to your ears. The notch is about 1 finger width away from your nose, underneath the bone. Try different angles, and use gentle pressure at first, increasing it more as it releases. For chest congestion, I use finger pressure starting on the sternum just where the collar bone and it join and find sore points going outward from the sternum about 1/2 inch or so. I press and circle my fingers, and move down between the ribs on all the sore points. This really helps even with asthma. Stick with it as long as you can, and start breathing deeply as soon as you can!
    Fresh ginger, eaten in small doses, helps open the airways. If you can’t eat it, slice it thinly and place in boiling water to the strength you can tolerate (you can breathe the steam, too, being
    safely away from it after you’ve taken it off the stove).
    When I have a cold, which I haven’t in a long time due to much better nutrition, I stay away from dairy, sugar, and anything “heavy” like starches. I go for clear foods, heated, like broths, warm lemon juice with cayenne, and herbal teas. Keeps the stuff flowing, not stagnating within me.
    Hope this helps!

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