The common cold is the most frequent infectious disease and has been plaguing the human race since antiquity. The average American adult gets two to three colds per year and the average child gets between six and twelve. Over 200 virus strains cause the cold and there is currently no cure. Antibiotics, which fight and kill bacteria, will not do anything to cure the common cold.

As a country, we spend billions of dollars on over-the-counter cold medicines to help us endure the misery of the 7-21 days of sickness. But in most cases, it turns out that we’re throwing away our money. Federal health experts concluded in 2007 that over-the-counter cold and cough medicines don’t work on children and should especially not be used on kids under six.

And Professor Ron Eccles of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University says: ‘In clinical trials on cough medicines, up to 85 per cent of the reduction in coughs is associated with the placebo treatment, and the active pharmacological component of the medicine only contributes to 15 per cent of the reduction.’

So what can you do if the heavily advertised products don’t work and your nose is running like a faucet? Look in your kitchen. It’s only very recently that there has been a huge divide between food and medicine. Here are some of our favorite easily available home remedies that you can find in every grocery store. Everyone and their mother has their own home remedy for helping coughs, colds, sore throats, and flu. And there are many similarities between these natural remedies from country to country. It’s no coincidence – people have been using herbs and food as medicine for thousands of years.


* Get rest. Get a lot of rest. Stay in bed.
* Drink a lot of water.
* Meditate
* Eat Healthy
* Sip some hot tea and hot soup.
* Cut down on sugar.
* Use a Neti Pot, Saline Spray, and/or Saline Inhaler
* Stay warm
* Watch a funny movie.

Here are some of the best cold-fighting foods to eat:

1. Raw Honey

raw honey

Honey is delicious, but it can also soothe coughs and sore throat. Mix raw honey into your tea or coffee or take spoonfuls for some relief.

* Honey can inhibit the growth of microbes that can cause infection (Dhanavade, Jalkute, Ghosh, & Sonawane, 2011; Efem & Iwara, 1992).
* Honey may also contain antiviral properties that could inhibit viral activity from colds (Zeina, Othman, & Al-Assad, 2007).
*In addition, a growing number of studies have found honey to be an effective cough suppressant and sleep aid during a cold, especially in children (Cohen, et al., 2012; Paul, et al., 2007).

2. Lemon


Use lemon juice in cooking and squeeze it into your water or your tea when you’re feeling under the weather. Lemon is acclaimed for its vitamin C and antimicrobial properties. (Dhanavade, Jalkute, Ghosh, & Sonawane, 2011; Efem & Iwara, 1992).

3. Ginger Root

cayenne cinnamon

Ginger is a warming spice, so it’s good for colds. It’s also a potent anti-inflammatory to help ease symptoms. Even the most modern research supports ginger as an effective remedy for travel sickness, and for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.

Get the recipe for our soothing carrot-ginger soup here.

4. Licorice

A strong anti-inflammatory agent, add licorice to your tea to help prevent and treat your cold.

5. Oranges

We all used to drink OJ when we were sick as kids, but now we know that it’s better to eat the fruit itself. Vitamin C has been used for a very long time to prevent and treat the common cold, and it is an antioxidant that helps the body heal. A recent literature review concluded that vitamin C can “decrease the duration of cold symptoms.”

6. Garlic


The good thing about garlic is that it makes most things taste better. So add it to your salad dressing, your soups, and your stir-fries. Garlic has antibacterial properties that help the immune system to fight infection, and it’s even been shown to be effective for high blood pressure, fungal skin infections, tick bite treatment, and prevention of certain cancers (NIH, 2011).

(Editor’s note: there is the belief that people who suffer from an auto-immune disease should easy up on things like garlic that bolster the immune system).

7. Echinacea

Native Americans have used echinacea as a herbal medicine for hundreds of years and it’s a popular remedy for colds and fight respiratory infections. Echinacea has anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties, and has been shown to stimulate the immune system in animals. Take this as a supplement during the winter before you get sick.

8. Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne is rich in vitamin C and helps relieve chills, coughs, and congestion. It is also an antioxidant and antiseptic, so make your soup spicy or stir some into your tea if you can take it.

natural cold remedies

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Naomi Imatome-Yun, is a food, wellness, and lifestyle editor. Her work appears in USA Today, Yahoo, and Dining Out. She is the author of Cooking with Gochujang: Asia’s Original Hot Sauce and is a food expert for Naomi lives in Santa Monica and loves running, reading, beach volleyball, yoga, sculpture parks, and dancing around with her husband and kids.

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