At-Home Remedies That Work
There are plenty of cold medicines out there, but these home remedies are scientifically proven to work.
Treat Your Cold at Home
Being sick, even when you’re at home in bed, is nothing to dismiss. The combination of body aches, fever, chills, and nasal congestion is enough to make anyone feel miserable.
Thankfully there are plenty of proven home remedies that can alleviate your symptoms so you can get back to feeling like yourself.
Click "next" to see what cold and flu remedies you can conjure up at home.
Your grandmother was right: chicken soup is the ultimate cure-all. Research published in the medical journal Chest suggests that enjoying a bowl of steamy chicken soup and vegetables, whether prepared from scratch or warmed from a can, can actually slow the movement of neutrophils, the common white blood cells that protect the body from infection. By slowing that movement, the neutrophils can stay concentrated in areas of the body that require the most healing. Researchers found that chicken soup was most effective in reducing upper respiratory infections, but low-sodium soup carries great nutritional value and helps keep you hydrated.
The health benefits of ginger root have been used for centuries, but now they have proof of its curative properties. A few slices of raw ginger root in some boiling water may help soothe a cough or a sore throat, but it will also ward off the feelings of nausea that so often accompany influenza. Several studies, including one in the British Journal of Anesthesia, report that just one gram of ginger can “alleviate clinical nausea of diverse causes.”
Honey in tea with lemon can ease sore throat pain, but new evidence reveals that honey is an effective cough suppressant. A recent study published in Pediatrics revealed that 10 grams of honey given at bedtime reduced the severity of cough symptoms in children. In addition to quieting their cough, the children in the study reportedly slept more soundly, which also helps reduce cold symptoms. In general, honey has a variety of antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. However, never administer honey to a child younger than one year. Honey often contains botulinum spores, and while this is harmless to adults and older children, infants’ immune systems are not able to fight off the bacteria.
Adding a garlic supplement to your diet might not only reduce the severity of cold symptoms, it may also keep you from getting sick in the first place. Garlic contains the compound allicin, which blocks the enzymes that contribute to the development of a variety of bacterial and viral infections. While it is not yet known if just taking a garlic supplement at the start of a cold will reduce symptoms, it’s generally a good idea to include ample garlic in the diet, especially during cold and flu season.
Native Americans have used the herb and root of the Echinacea plant to treat infections for more than 400 years. Recent studies also support that herb’s effectiveness at reducing the duration of common cold and flu symptoms. Its active ingredients include flavonoids, chemicals that have many therapeutic effects on the body, including the ability to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation. Otherwise healthy adults may take 1-2 grams of Echinacea root or herb as a tea three times daily, but not for longer than one week.
The many health benefits of vitamin C means you should always get enough lemons, limes, oranges, and greens in your diet. Adding fresh lemon juice to hot tea with honey or hydrating with hot or cold lemonade can help to reduce phlegm. While drinking lemonade or hot tea with lemon may not lesson cold symptoms to a remarkable degree, studies report that including at least 500 mgs of vitamin C in your daily diet boosts the body’s immune system, therefore reducing exposure to infection. In the study, people under stress, such as athletes, experienced the greatest health benefits from vitamin C.
Recent studies in China have suggested that healthy adults who regularly ingest the probiotics commonly found in yogurt may reduce their chances of developing respiratory infections by up to 12 percent. Besides its positive impact on digestive health, yogurt is a light and healthy snack, especially when combined with super foods such as strawberries and blueberries. It also offers plenty of protein and calcium.
According the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, gargling with salt water can help prevent upper respiratory infections, as well as decrease the severity of their symptoms. Using a saline solution may also ease sore throat pain and nasal congestion. Dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a full glass of water and then swish it around your mouth and throat before spitting it out. Gargling with salt water reduces and loosens mucus, which can then expel bacteria and allergens from the body. If you use salt water in a neti pot for nasal congestion, use water that has been boiled first—and subsequently cooled—in order to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria.
Influenza thrives and transfers easier in dry environments, so decrease your exposure by creating more humidity in your home. Temporarily adding a cool-mist humidifier in the bedroom may make a sick person more comfortable, especially in winter, when dry indoor heat can easily exacerbate symptoms. Increased humidity can reduce nasal inflammation, making it easier to breathe. Adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil might also stimulate breathing. (Remember, the water used in humidifiers needs to be changed daily to avoid fungi and molds. For the same effect without a humidifier, take a long shower or linger in a steamy bathroom.)
You might not like the smell, but old-fashioned topical ointments like vapor rub appear to reduce cold symptoms in children older than two years, according to a study published in Pediatrics. Just one or two applications before bed can open air passages to combat congestion, reduce coughing, and help children sleep. Vapor rub is gaining traction among physicians who are more often recommending that parents avoid giving over-the-counter cold medicines to young children because of unwanted side effects.
You can reduce a child’s fever by giving him or her a warm sponge bath, but warm baths are also useful to reduce cold and flu symptoms in adults. Adding one box of Epsom salt and one box of baking soda to the water can also help reduce body aches, especially with the addition of a few drops of essential oil. Recommended oils include tea tree, juniper, rosemary, thyme, orange, lavender, and eucalyptus.
Besides the methods you just learned about, there are many, many other ways people treat their cold and flu symptoms with a more holistic approach. Some may seem a bit weird, but some cultures swear by their effectiveness. To learn more about the oddities of the health spectrum, check out our Weirdest Cold Treatments from Around the World slideshow.
If you want to avoid the cold season all together, you will have to be proactive in boosting up your immune system. For that, we recommend viewing our Secrets to Never Getting Sick slideshow.
We wish you and yours the speediest of recoveries.