If you’re yet to succumb to one of the many colds and viruses doing the rounds this winter, then sorry to say it, but it’s probably only a matter of time. In addition to evidence of lingering “long colds”, a term coined after new research by Queen Mary University of London observed a pattern of acute respiratory infections with cold-like symptoms that last around four weeks, the first UK case of swine flu in a human since 2005 was detected in North Yorkshire this week.
Sales of over the counter medicines understandably spike at this time of year, as many of us seek relief from runny noses, blocked sinuses and persistent coughs. This year, however, it seems more of us than ever are turning to natural alternatives in a bid to feel better: Google has witnessed record high searches for “honey garlic” and “apple cider vinegar” over the past week.
It might read as a shopping list of store cupboard essentials, but the terms, which were searched for alongside “flu remedy”, are actually two remedies that may positively impact the severity and duration of a cold (although it should be noted that more severe viruses like flu always need proper medical attention and treatment). “Natural remedies can be soothing, and often patients will turn to them for comfort when struggling with a common cold or flu virus,” says Dr Raj Arora, a GP and founder of The Face Bible.“However, if there are more serious respiratory symptoms, or if one is struggling with flu rather than a common cold, then it is important to seek medical advice.”
Apple cider vinegar, the result of fermenting crushed apples with sugar and yeast, is often dismissed as a wellness fad, but many who regularly incorporate it into their daily routine have noticed a big difference. “Drinking a warm concoction of apple cider vinegar may help with soothing symptoms of the common cold, such as helping to loosen mucus and helping to soothe a sore throat,” says Arora. It seems that many experts are also coming around to its ability to increase microbial diversity in the gut and improve cellular immune response, with more research helping to prove its antimicrobial properties.
Not all ACV is equal, though: in order to get the true benefits seek out raw and unrefined versions, like Willy’s ACV Organic Live Apple Cider Vinegar, that contain “the mother”, which refers to the living bacteria and yeast. “My favourite home remedy for immunity is fire cider,” says Rhian Stephenson, founder of Artah. “I use raw apple cider vinegar to ferment and draw out the beneficial compounds of a variety of medicinal herbs and roots, including ginger, garlic, horseradish, turmeric and more. It’s so powerful, and I use it daily in the winter alongside a good daily supplement, like Essential D3/K2.”
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Separately, the benefits of honey shouldn’t be underestimated, given its antioxidant, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. In one study it was shown to decrease the severity and duration of coughing, as well as a variety of symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections. It’s also a highly accessible and affordable way to ease your symptoms if you’re suffering.
Garlic, meanwhile, is so much more than just a seasoning and was used as a healing agent in many ancient cultures for good reason. Its use as a treatment for disease control and maintenance of health in the distant past is documented, so garlic is a powerful tool to add to your seasonal ailments arsenal. The reason? Alliin, a compound that’s naturally present in garlic. When chewed or crushed, it gets converted into allicin, another compound which helps boost the response of disease-fighting white blood cells. As well as allicin, sulphur compounds including diallyl disulfide and s-allyl cysteine enter your body via the digestive tract and exert impressive antiviral, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal powers.
Showcasing its potential as a preventative treatment for fighting seasonal colds, one study even found that taking garlic extract resulted in three fewer colds over a period of three months, compared with taking a placebo. “There have been some studies to suggest that garlic may help to prevent the common cold or upper respiratory viruses in some people but more evidence is needed to validate this,” cautions Arora. Although eating raw garlic will suffice (if you’re feeling brave), if you can ferment it then even better. “When garlic is fermented, its benefits are exaggerated. In addition to the medicinal properties of raw honey and garlic, you of course benefit from a natural probiotic food, which is great for gut health,” says Stephenson.
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While honey and garlic on their own are important seasonal boosters to eat regularly, taking them together is like a supercharged support boost for your immune system. To create your own honey garlic tincture at home, simply add lightly crushed, unpeeled garlic cloves into a jar of honey, turn upside down to mix, and leave for one to two weeks before enjoying as and when required. While raw, unpasteurised honey or Manuka honey are preferred options, any honey will work. “Raw honey is high in polyphenols, a group of beneficial plant compounds that help nourish the [gut] microbiota and contribute to a diverse microbiome,” says Stephenson. It’s also antimicrobial, so it can be a nice functional food to include in your regime.”
Originally published on Vogue.co.uk