Natural ways to kill a cold

Before you reach for the Lemsip there are natural, and more effective ways to beat a cold, or, at least dramatically reduce the symptoms and shorten its duration to under 24 hours.

Vitamin C – does it work?

Vitamin C works but you have to take a lot – ideally 1 gram (that’s 20 oranges worth) an hour. I’ve done this for years and can usually knock a flu or cold on the head in 12 hours.

One study gave volunteers 8 grams on the first day of a cold and almost half, 46 per cent, were cold free the next day (1). In a study involving 700 students, those taking hourly doses of 1000mg of Vitamin C for the first 6 hours and then 1 gram three times daily thereafter, reported an 85% decrease in cold symptoms compared to those receiving conventional cold and flu treatment (2).

When people quote evidence saying that vitamin C doesn’t work they are just talking about reviews of studies that used too low a dose. You have to have a high dose from the immediate impact of a virus. Then the results are impressive. I know because I’ve been doing this for 30 years and have almost never suffered for more than 24 hours.


The mineral zinc, in doses of 50–100mg a day, has also proved to be anti-viral (3). It is available in lozenges for coughs and colds. On a daily basis, as prevention, supplement 15mg a day. Supplementing this amount of zinc has been shown to make the body’s T-cells much more effective, hence boosting immunity (4). Some vitamin C tablets contain zinc, eg 3mg per tablet. If you take 10 to 20 tablets over 24 hours, at the onset of a cold you’ll be getting effective amounts of zinc.


Especially immune-boosting are blue-red foods. Black elderberry, for example, stops viruses from penetrating cells and spreading their germs. In a double-blind controlled trial, elderberry extract given to those with flu, produced a significant improvement in symptoms – fever, cough, muscle pain – in 20 per cent of patients within 24 hours, and in a further 73 per cent of patients within 48 hours. After three days, 90 per cent had complete relief of their symptoms compared to another group on a placebo, who took at least six days to recover (5). In another double-blind controlled trial, black elderberry extract cut recovery time in those with influenza by four days (6).

The hero ingredient in blue-red foods is anthocyanidins (cyan means blue). For a virus to invade and infect cells it must release an enzyme called neuraminidase. The drug Tamiflu was a neuraminidase inhibitor. So is vitamin C. Anthocyanidins have a direct effect on inhibiting neuraminidase (7).

Most people think of blueberries but two of the richest sources of anthocyanidins are bilberries and cherries, and particularly Montmorency cherries. A single shot of CherryActive, a concentrate of pure Montmorency cherries, provides the same level of anthocyanidins as 180 blueberries. During an infection it’s worth having two or three shots a day, in a hot drink with pieces of fresh ginger, which soothes sore throats.


“At the first sign of a cold I take 3 grams of a souped up C formula containing zinc, black elderberry, zinc and ginger,  plus a shot of CherryActive, then 1 gram an hour, plus more CherryActive. Invariably I’m symptom free the next day.”


To find out more about boosting your immune system and protecting against colds and flu read my book Boost Your Immune System.

Visit the home of GL friendly foods and drinks, supplements, tests and books.


1. Anderson TW et al. The effect on winter illness of large doses of vitamin C. Canadian Medical Association Journal 1974:111:31-6.

2. Gorton HC, Jarvis K. The effectiveness of vitamin C in preventing and relieving the symptoms of virus-induced respiratory infections. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1999 Oct;22(8):530-3

3. Zakay-Rones, Z. et al., ‘Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama’, J. Altern. Complement Med., vol. 1(4), pp. 361–9 (Winter 1995). 3. Hulisz, D., ‘Efficacy of zinc against common cold viruses: anoverview’, J. Am Pharm. Assoc., vol. 44(5), pp. 594–603 (Sep–Oct 2004).

4. Aydemir, T. et al., ‘Zinc transporter ZIP8 (SLC39A8) and zinc influence IFN expression in activated human T cells’, J. LeukocyteBiology, vol. 86, pp. 337–48 (2009).

5. Zakay-Rones, Z. et al., ‘Inhibition of several strains of influenzavirus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract(Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama’, J.Altern. Complement Med., vol. 1(4), pp. 361–9 (Winter 1995).

6. Zakay-Rones, Z. et al., ‘Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections’, J. Int. Med. Res., vol. 32(2), pp. 132–40 (Mar–Apr 2004).

7. Swaminathan K et al., ‘the binding of natural productanthocyanidin inhibitors to influenza neuraminidase’ Anal Chim Acta. 2014 May 30;828:61-9.