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Best home remedies to ward off and soothe seasonal sickness

(Collegian File Photo)

It’s that time of year; the leaves have started tumbling off the trees and the air has a bit of a bite to it. And with the cold weather comes more time spent indoors, in close contact with other people—a perfect environment for germs to spread.

Yes, there are some perks to the colder weather: hope for snowy days to come, Thanksgiving break and the overcome-halfway-semester-hump that has come and gone, leaving midterms in the dust for many students. That being said, the end of October also signifies the season of sniffles and sore throats that is fast approaching.

College life seems to always be in high gear, causing many students to neglect their health and feel like they don’t have time to take care of themselves. Consequently, it’s important to realize that taking little steps to building one’s immune system can make miles of difference for one’s health, happiness and overall college experience.

Whether it’s a cold, the flu or this season’s ‘plague,’ here are some easy home remedies, both to ward-off sickness and relieve symptoms when necessary. Everything listed below can be purchased at a local grocery store or pharmacy, and they’re all natural.

  1. Ginger tea and honey

Ginger is one of those things that seems to be good for any ailment. It is the perfect remedy for a sore throat, and it is effective for detoxifying and reducing inflammation. Honey also has antibacterial properties. According to Organicfacts.com, when ginger and honey are drank concurrently, they can help clear sinuses and relieve scratchy throats

Moreover, honey coats the throat. So, while your body is working overtime to get you well, this concoction will also provide temporary pain relief. Try eating a spoonful of honey by itself in between cups of tea to further circumvent discomfort. I swear by this tea, and actually drink it year-round because I think it tastes delicious in addition to its medicinal benefits.

  1. Garlic

RAW. Yes, I said raw garlic. Whenever I get a tickle in my throat, I wolf down a whole clove. If you’re not feeling brave enough to handle the burn in your mouth and nose, or you really don’t love the taste, try watering down minced raw garlic in a small cup of water and taking a ‘garlic shot.’ Even adding garlic to hot water and drinking it like tea works.

Garlic is a natural antioxidant and immunity builder. Incorporating raw garlic into your diet on a regular basis can help ward off colds and flu. For some people, eating too much garlic can upset the stomach because of a compound called fructans which is not easily digested in humans. I recommend trying this technique sparingly at first, to assess whether or not the many benefits of eating garlic outweigh the potential upset belly that some individuals experience.

  1. Apple cider vinegar

Many people don’t know that apple cider vinegar is actually apple juice with yeast. When added, the yeast ferments the cider into alcohol, which is then converted into acetic acid by bacteria.

Vinegar has antioxidants in it, in addition to being highly acidic. When drunk, the acetic acid in the apple cider vinegar creates an environment in the nose and throat that many bacteria are unable to inhabit. I personally hate the taste, so I usually make a cup of hot tea with honey and lemon and add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to it. Other methods include mixing with warm water and gargling to soothe a sore throat, or taking a teaspoon of the vinegar straight. 

  1. Gargle with salt water

Gargling with salt water is a trick I’ve been using for sore throats for as long as I can remember. Gargling loosens thick mucus and draws fluid away from inflamed tissues. Salt is known for its healing abilities, so gargling a couple of times a day when you have a scratchy throat can reduce the pain associated with it. 

  1. Zinc

This mineral is essential to maintain the strength of your immune system. Zinc has been found to nip a cold in the bud if taken within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms. Zinc can be found at most drugstores and supermarkets in a pill form. If you’re someone that always gets sick, this could be a sign that you actually don’t have enough Zinc in your body, and should consider seeing a doctor for further consultation.

  1. Vitamin C

Whether it’s in supplement form, citrus fruits and juices or in fermented vegetables, vitamin C is an excellent way to keep one’s immune system feisty. Like many other remedies on this list, vitamin C is a natural antioxidant. Antioxidants protect the body from the deleterious effects of free radicals, which can affect normal cellular functions. Making sure to drink a glass of orange juice or take a vitamin C tablet is an easy way to stay healthy during this time of year.

  1. Sleep, sleep and more sleep.

Take a break from homework, going out or daily activities if need be. No, I’m not recommending you start skipping all your classes, but remember to listen to your body. If you start feeling sick, try to prioritize sleep over social activities, and if you are sick, contact your professors if you feel like your body needs a day of rest to recuperate.

A study done on fruit flies at the University of Pennsylvania showed that sleep is vital when you’re sick. According to Dr. Julie A. Williams, a member of the research team, “These studies provide new evidence of the direct and functional effects of sleep on immune response and of the underlying mechanisms at work. The take-home message from these papers is that when you get sick, you should sleep as much as you can.”

I am not claiming to be a doctor, or have the ‘magic cure’ for colds and flus, but all these remedies are methods that I personally use whenever I feel like I’m getting sick or already have a cold or flu. There’s no harm is trying them, as everything is all-natural and relatively inexpensive and accessible. Getting sick can be debilitating, and makes one realize how easy it is to take good health for granted.

 Nadia Raytselis can be reached at nraytselis@umass.edu.

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