Natural Cold Remedies That Actually Work
Cold and flu season is right around the corner. In fact, my son recently brought home one cold that made the entire family sick. I used to go straight for the over-the-counter medicines to fight a cold. Then I learned I could turn to natural cold remedies to help my family feel better fast.
Best of all, these home remedies for cough and cold use natural solutions, which are typically safer and better for the environment. The next time you feel those telltale symptoms of a cold coming on, turn to these natural cold remedies that actually work.
1. Take Zinc
Zinc is an essential mineral that’s believed to decrease the length of a cold. Scientists think this happens because zinc prevents the cold virus from multiplying in the nose and throat.
However, you can’t just pop a few zinc pills and feel better. There’s a certain way you need to take it for it to work. A lozenge form is most effective because you need it to dissolve slowly to coat your throat.
Start sucking on the lozenges as soon as you feel the first signs of a cold. Make sure you never use zinc as a throat or nasal spray, because this can damage nerves in your nose and cause you to lose your sense of smell.
Also, keep in mind that taking zinc won’t prevent you from catching a cold, so you should only use the lozenges when you feel sick.
A study at the Cleveland Clinic found that people who used up to eight zinc lozenges a day felt relief from their colds in four days versus seven days for people taking a placebo. In my own experiment, I started taking zinc lozenges when I felt a tickle in my throat on Friday, and by Monday, I felt well enough that I didn’t need any medication to help me get through the day.
I will take feeling sick for three days over seven or more every single time!
2. Eat Chicken Soup
It turns out your mom might have been onto something when you were sick and she gave you chicken soup. It seems like each culture has its own version of a chicken and vegetable soup as one of its natural cold remedies. That’s because its effectiveness isn’t an old wives’ tale.
A study at the Nebraska Medical Center showed that chicken and vegetables help reduce inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which is what causes congestion and coughs when you’re sick.
Another study at Cardiff University in Wales showed that the warmth from chicken soup was very effective at easing coughing, sore throats, sneezing, runny noses, chills, and fatigue.
Best of all, there’s no such thing as having too much chicken soup when you’re sick. So eat as much as you want until you feel better.
3. Take Echinacea
Echinacea is an herb that comes from the purple coneflower family and is thought to have excellent cold-fighting abilities. In a review of 14 clinical trials, researchers found that echinacea reduced the risk of catching a cold by 58% and cut the amount of time you have a cold by almost 1.5 days.
However, echinacea isn’t one of those home remedies for cough and cold that helps you after you’ve caught a cold. It only works to help prevent a cold.
Therefore, the best way to use it is to take it for three weeks, stop for a week, and then repeat for another three weeks. Do this during the entire cold and flu season.
4. Drink Water
Yes, drinking water seems like such a simple natural cold remedy, but it’s actually quite effective. Drinking water can help loosen mucus, relieve congestion, fight a fever, and replace lost fluids if your fever is making you sweat.
If you have a sore throat, you can also make a saltwater gargle for some temporary relief. Simply combine 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt with 8 ounces of warm water and use as necessary.
5. Have Some Honey
Another excellent natural cold remedy for a sore throat is honey. Honey has an incredible number of antiviral, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties, which makes it great for fighting colds.
One of the best ways to use honey to fight a cold is to mix two tablespoons with warm water or green tea and drink it.
Just remember that infants and children under 1 shouldn’t have honey because it might contain bacteria that their immune system isn’t strong enough to handle yet.
6. Don’t Forget Your Vitamin C
For years, scientists have known that vitamin C is essential for reducing the risk of illness. However, they’re now starting to understand the key is when the vitamin C is consumed.
One study found that vitamin C taken after a cold has already started made no difference in the length or severity of the illness. However, if vitamin C was taken before and during the cold, the duration of the illness was 8% shorter.
To make vitamin C most effective, take 500 milligrams six times a day from November to March, which is prime cold season. If you start to feel a cold coming on, increase your vitamin C intake to 500 milligrams every hour for 24 hours.
7. Sip Some Ginger Tea
For centuries, people have used ginger to help with everything from upset stomachs to inflammation. Today, scientists are also starting to believe ginger has excellent cold-fighting abilities.
This twisty root of the ginger plant contains compounds called gingerols that attack germs, viruses, and pain.
If you’re looking for something that packs a powerful punch to fight a cold, make yourself a cup of ginger tea with a squirt of lemon juice for vitamin C and a tablespoon of honey.
8. Don’t Forget to Wash Your Hands
I know, I know. You feel like you’re back in elementary school when you hear this advice. But the truth is, washing your hands is one of the best natural cold remedies out there.
In fact, the CDC says hand-washing can reduce the number of people who get colds and other respiratory illnesses by 21%.
Of course, washing your hands is only effective if you actually do it correctly. This means getting a good lather of soap all over your hands, including your palms, tops of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
You should also wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. To make sure you’re washing your hands long enough, sing the “Happy Birthday” song in your head (or out loud if you so desire) twice.
If you don’t have access to soap and water, you can also use this DIY hand sanitizer to clean your hands.
9. Use Eucalyptus Oil
Eucalyptus oil, which comes from the eucalyptus tree, contains several compounds that fight viruses and bacteria.
In one study by the University of Heidelberg in Germany, researchers put eucalyptus oil in a test tube with cold and flu viruses and found that the oil deactivated the virus particles by 96%.
While you can’t consume eucalyptus oil, you can add it to steaming water to help with congestion.
Simply fill a bowl with steaming water and add four or five drops of eucalyptus oil. Then put a towel over your head and hold it over the bowl so you can inhale the steam for about five minutes.
Keep in mind that eucalyptus oil is hard on the liver, so you shouldn’t use it in the steam more than twice a day. Plus, you shouldn’t use it at all if you have liver problems.
10. Eat Some Spicy Foods
You know even when you’re healthy your nose will start to run if you eat spicy food. If you’re looking for a way to clear congestion from a cold, munching on a few hot peppers is one of those natural cold remedies that can help.
Garlic is also great for fighting colds because it destroys virus cells before they even have a chance to enter the body. In one British study, participants who took a supplement with a compound found in garlic called allicin for 90 days cut their risk of catching a cold by more than half compared to people who were taking a placebo.
Plus, the people who were taking the supplement who did catch a cold recovered faster than those who weren’t taking it.
Some other foods to eat when you’re fighting a cold include:
- Bananas: can soothe an upset stomach
- Blueberries: high in natural aspirin, which can help with aches, pains, and fevers
- Mustard or horseradish: helps break up mucus in air passages
- Onions: contain phytochemicals that are thought to help fight bronchitis and other infections
Natural Cold Remedies
This cold and flu season, help you and your family stay healthy by turning to these eco-friendly and natural cold remedies that actually work. And remember, if someone else in your family brings home a cold, you can use these homemade disinfecting wipes and this DIY disinfectant spray to keep the surfaces of your home clean and minimize the spread of germs.
More Eco-Friendly Living Tips
Looking for even more easy ways to live a greener life? Check out some of our other popular eco-friendly living tips:
- Best Natural Sunscreen Options
- How to Naturally Ease Eczema
- Simple Ways to Reduce Plastic Use
- How to Make Natural Face Paint
The information in this post is intended for general understanding and entertainment only and is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.