Anika Thielmann of the University Hospital Essen and some of her colleagues asked about 3,000 men and women in 27 European cities what home remedies they used for colds. The most common measure: drink more. And that makes sense. Mucus remains liquid, separates better, mucous membranes and the body do not dry out. Also at the top of the hit list: “stay in bed,” which is also good because rest and sleep help the body in its protective work. In addition, those who stay in bed or at home cannot infect others on the subway or in the office.
Someone who goes to bed with a bad cold usually doesn’t feel hungry for a while, warm tea is enough. One of the typical signs of infection is often a lack of appetite – an evolutionarily very old program that can be observed even in insects. Gustav van Niekerk and colleagues from the Department of Physiological Sciences in Stellenbosch, South Africa, write why disease-related loss of appetite is a good evolutionary idea. According to the authors, starvation enhances the process of autophagy. During this “self-digestion”, the body gets rid of all cellular debris, damaged organelles or macromolecules lying around. It also includes remnants of pathogens or infected cells of the body that accumulate in large quantities during the protective actions of the immune system.
But it is probably a matter of time. While eating less food can be helpful in the early stages of a cold, certain foods can speed up the healing process during the recovery period.
Eat with appetite
In the case of a cold, most Europeans use a combination of home remedies for which there is no scientific evidence of their effectiveness. Nearly 40 percent of men and women surveyed by Anika Thielmann and her colleagues tend to eat fruit or drink juice when they have a cold. There’s some science behind why this craving for something fresh makes sense, too. In addition to vitamins, fruits and fruit juices contain secondary plant substances such as polyphenols. Polyphenols have an anti-inflammatory effect and have a calming effect on the immune system. After the cold viruses have been eliminated, it is important that the body’s defenses shut down so as not to damage the body’s own tissues excessively.
The study tries to record the positive effect of fruits and vegetables in overcoming colds: during the study, 529 employees of a Berlin hospital took capsules with fruit and vegetable extract or a placebo for eight months. Compared to the control group, the number of sick leave in the study group decreased by about a fifth. The authors of the study attributed this effect to the antioxidants contained in the extract, such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and folate.
Even grandma probably wasn’t so wrong with elderberry tea. In a study of 312 air travelers, participants who regularly took elderberry extract reduced the symptoms and duration of colds. (Sambucus nigra) took Elderberries are very rich in vitamins; they contain copper, zinc and magnesium, as well as polyphenols in significant quantities, which apparently support the body in the fight against cold viruses.