Every year, without fail, I get the mother of all colds. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill, few-days-of-sniffles scenario—which is a pain in its own right—but a weeks-long saga of sore throats, sleepless nights, and sinus headaches. It’s the Great American Novel of illnesses, with an endless number of sequels that drop like clockwork every year as winter melts into spring.
Colds are the number one reason that adults miss work, according to the CDC, and we can expect two or three of them a year. In the past, I’ve resigned myself to this reality, cursed my Victorian immune system, and cleared my calendar for the next month. My most recent epic illness was especially bad: Over the course of five weeks (!), I decimated a Costco pallet of tissues, and even my kind, supremely tactful boyfriend noted that I looked like an overworked ghost. After finally recovering, I decided once and for all that I was sick of being sick.
So I sought the expertise of New York–based otolaryngologist Monica Tadros, MD, FCAS, on the best way to beat a ruthless cold. Keep scrolling to read her genius advice!
What to do to prevent a cold:
“In an ideal world, prevention is best,” says Tadros, whose practice often focuses on sinus woes. “For the average person, keeping healthy habits is the key to staying healthy and fighting colds. Stay well hydrated, eat simple, clean meals, and pay attention to the vitamins and micronutrients that might be missing from your diet in the winter, especially vitamin C and vitamin D levels.” It’s also important to avoid often overlooked germ-spreaders, like putting your tissue back in your pocket after blowing your nose.
(Also, clean your phone screen, like, yesterday.)
What to do when you already have one:
Healthy habits are well and good, but I was unsure that sleep and water could really keep away my dreaded, endless cold. I had to ask Tadros: Is there anything you can do if you’ve already caught your Great American Novel of an illness? I was shocked to hear that yes, there was a fix—and I’d never heard of it before. Tadros introduced me to a surprising solution that’s cheap, natural, and fantastically effective: black seed oil.
Also known as black cumin, black caraway, and Nigella sativa, black seed has been used by ancient Egyptian and Middle Eastern medics for thousands of years, but this is the first time I became wise to it, which is surprising considering that this tiny seed is basically kryptonite for your cold. Tadros explains, “Black seed cumin oil was long used by ancient Egyptians for its healing properties. It is derived from the seeds of the Nigella sativa flower with three key phytochemicals: thymoquinone, thymohydroquinone, and thymol.
These phytochemicals provide a natural supplement with antioxidants that boost the immune system; antibacterial and antiviral properties that help fight infections; and antifungal properties that may help treat certain allergies.”
How black seed oil can truly change your life:
Intrigued, I took to the internet, where I learned that scientists are also stoked on black seed oil. Experts claim that black seed oil can fight ailments from asthma to high blood pressure to eczema—so in addition to soothing your sore throat, you might find that black seed oil cures a number of other things as well. Colds can be a symptom of another, more chronic condition, warns Tadros, and in addition to proper diagnosis, black seed oil can help: “Appropriate treatment for chronic sinusitis, allergies, or dietary deficiencies is so important.
In these patients, I also recommend supplementation with small doses of black seed oil routinely for prevention.”
One review of several years’ worth of studies involving black seed oil highlighted its potent antimicrobial, immune-boosting properties; another cut to the chase, calling black seed a “miracle herb.” (And if the stamp of approval from doctors and scientists isn’t enough, the oil has also garnered thousands of glowing reviews on Amazon.)
I almost can’t believe that I’ve spent years slogging through endless colds when a solution—one that’s natural and side-effect free—was at my fingertips all along. Needless to say, I plan on stocking up on this unexpected Holy Grail before my next big cold hits.
This story was published at an earlier date and has since been updated.