Isn’t there always someone around us or maybe ourselves, complaining of a cold? The common cold is one of the most frequent ailments that we often hear about — that’s why it’s called common cold!
Adults get an average of 2 to 4 colds and children 6 to 8 colds every year. In the United States, people suffer from 1 billion colds annually (1).
A cold is a mild upper respiratory tract infection of the throat, nose, and sinuses. Viruses belonging to the Rhinovirus group are mainly responsible for this, but it can be caused by other viruses too. It is usually harmless.
The virus enters your body through the eyes, nose, and mouth. It spreads through the air containing infected droplets, direct contact with infected people through handshakes, and contaminated objects like towels, doorknobs, telephones, keypads, etc.
The symptoms generally surface 2 or 3 days upon becoming infected with the germs and last for 7 to 14 days.
Symptoms include headache, runny nose or blocked nose, sneezing, cough, high fever, itchy eyes, sore throat, body aches, and so on.
Being out in the cold weather does not cause a cold, but the rhinoviruses that mainly cause the cold, survive better in the cool climate.
Although they say there’s no cure for the common cold, there are cures for the symptoms that come with a cold.
Over-the-counter prescriptions like cold medicines can be used to ease your symptoms, but you don’t need antibiotics normally to treat a cold. Moreover, people with cold tend to recover by themselves and it can very well be managed at home.
Plus, you may need to take steps to treat your common cold before it leads to other infections like sinus or ear infections, cough, bronchitis, pneumonia, and other complications (2).
Many natural treatments offer effective relief from the various symptoms of a common cold without any side effects. Of these, many have been passed on as traditional knowledge.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for the common cold.
Note: If the cold lasts longer than two weeks, you should consult a physician.
(Check out exactly how to prepare the best home remedies to relieve the common cold in this video.)
The organosulfur compounds present in garlic are mainly responsible for its medicinal properties. Garlic’s antibacterial and antiviral properties can be very helpful in getting rid of cold symptoms. Garlic boosts the immune system, helps open up respiratory passages, and flush toxins out of your body.
According to a study published in 2001, high dose of allicin had the ability to prevent colds. According to the study, the group of subjects that were treated with a high dose of allicin extract for 12 weeks reported fewer number of colds and reduced duration of symptoms during the period of common cold infection (5).
Another garlic product called Aged garlic extract or AGE (produced by aging garlic) has been shown to reduce the severity of symptoms, number of days of illness and also the occurrence of colds and flu (6).
- Mix together 1 crushed garlic clove, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of honey, and ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper or red chili powder. Consume it daily until the symptoms subside.
Here is how the prepared home remedy will look like.
- Boil 4 or 5 chopped garlic cloves in 1 cup of water. Mix in 1 teaspoon of raw honey. Drink it 2 or 3 times a day.
You can also eat raw garlic chopped in salads or along with warm milk.
- Garlic supplements are available commercially containing AGE that can be taken daily. For proper dosage, it is best you consult your doctor who can suggest after considering your overall health status and other medications you might be taking.
2. Raw Honey
Honey can be of great help in soothing an irritated throat as well as shortening the duration of a cold. The high amount of nutrients and enzymes in honey help kill bacteria and viruses that cause colds.
The results from a randomized study done in 1998 concluded that antibiotics were not of much help in fighting upper respiratory tract infection like colds in children (7).
There is increasing evidence to show that honey decreases the secretion of mucus and thereby cough in children.
Recommendations made by the World Health Organization in 2001 suggest that honey might have a role in treating cough and cold in children (8).
Always use raw organic honey. Manuka honey with high unique manuka factor (UMF>10) is said to be more potent.
- The simplest home remedy is to consume a mixture of 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and 2 teaspoons of honey. Take it every 2 hours to get immense relief from your cold and sore throat.
- If you prefer, you can simply swallow a spoonful of raw honey.
- Children with cough and cold can be given ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) of raw honey before bed.
Note: Use organic honey preferably. Avoid honey as a remedy for children below 1 year of age.
Did you know that ginger has many key medicinal properties, of which removal of chills due to common cold, and keeping the body warm are important properties (9)?
Ginger can be helpful in treating common cold and its symptoms due to its antiviral, expectorant, and anti-inflammatory properties (10).
- Eat raw ginger or drink ginger tea up to 3 times a day. To make ginger tea, boil 2 cups of water, add 1 tablespoon of chopped ginger in it, cover and let it simmer on low heat for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it sit for another 5 minutes. You can now strain the tea and add a little lemon juice and honey to it to enhance its health effect.
- You can also make a paste of ginger, cloves, and a little salt. Eat ½ teaspoon of it 2 times a day. If you have a runny nose, mix equal amounts of dry ginger powder, clarified butter (ghee) and jaggery (gur), a natural sweetener. Eat this mixture daily in the morning on an empty stomach. Jaggery is the unrefined sugar from raw concentrated sugarcane juice and is beneficial for respiratory problems as per Ayurveda. Date palm and palm sap are other sources of jaggery. You can buy jaggery from Indian grocery stores or online. Ghee is clarified butter. You can make it at home or you can buy it from Indian stores or online.
4. Chicken Soup
“Eat Chicken soup when you have a cold” is not just an old granny’s myth! Yes- studies have shown that chicken soup is superior to cold or hot water in treating a cold.
It also provides relief from common cold symptoms through its action on white blood cells that play a main role in fighting infections (11).
Chicken soup has many essential nutrients and vitamins that help treat common cold symptoms. The high antioxidant properties of vegetables present in chicken soup speed up the healing process.
So, chicken soup is highly recommended for its nutritional benefits, relieving dehydration and is best for promoting speedy recovery from the common cold.
For best results, make homemade chicken soup using organic vegetables and chicken.
5. Red Onion
The juice of onions has been used to make syrups in folk medicine to treat colds (12). The essential oil from onion when inhaled is also said to ease colds. Among other onions, red onion is supposed to be high in antioxidants like quercetin (13) and also in chromium.
Those suffering from a cold can get relief from homemade red onion syrup. To make the syrup, you will need red onions and honey or brown sugar.
- Slice 2 or 3 red onions horizontally. Put one slice of onion in a small mason jar and add raw honey. Repeat the process until the bowl is full.
- Cover the jar and leave it for 12 to 15 hours. When you open the jar, there will be thick liquid like syrup.
Drink a spoonful of the syrup several times a day to get relief from sore throats and other symptoms of a cold.
6. Black Pepper
Black pepper is the “king of spices” and has a lot of health-promoting properties. It is rich in many compounds that are responsible for its antioxidant, antimicrobial and gastroprotective (protective effect on stomach) effects (14).
Black pepper contains a compound called as piperine that makes it pungent and is also responsible for many of the medicinal properties of black pepper.
Piperine is known to cure cold, cough and throat problems by improving breathing and reducing cough. Once in the body, it also makes the nutrients from other foods and spices more available to the body (15).
Pepper is one of the most readily available natural treatments for various symptoms of a common cold.
- If you are suffering from a runny nose, add pepper to your food when you eat a meal.
- You can also gargle with 1 teaspoon of black pepper mixed in a glass of warm water.
- If you cannot eat or drink black pepper, you can still benefit from smelling pepper throughout the day.
7. Mullein Tea
You can get relief from cold by drinking plenty of fluids and nothing can be better than a hot cup of mullein tea! Mullein is a woolly-leaved plant that is found in certain parts of North America, Europe, North Africa and Asia.
It has traditionally been used to manage respiratory diseases like cold (16), treat wounds and burns. Due to its expectorant properties, mullein tea can relieve chest congestion that often accompanies a cold (17), (18).
- To make mullein tea, fill a strainer with dried mullein herb and place it in a cup of boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Add a little raw honey to it and drink it 2 or 3 times a day.
8. Turmeric Milk
Turmeric milk is a popular traditional remedy for cold (19). Milk, when combined with turmeric and ginger powder, helps treat coughing as well as other symptoms of a cold, like body aches and a headache.
Contrary to the popular misconception, milk does not increase mucus production. Turmeric is a very potent spice with antioxidant, anti bacterial, anti-inflammatory properties (20).
- Boil milk and add ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder and ½ teaspoon of ginger powder (you can also use fresh ginger).
- Allow the milk to cool to room temperature so you can drink it without burning your mouth. Try to drink it 2 times a day, especially before going to sleep.
Cinnamon can fight a common cold and help ease the pain of a dry or a sore throat. Cinnamaldehyde is the major constituents of cinnamon bark.
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of cinnamaldehyde have been demonstrated through many studies (21).
- Mix 1 tablespoon of powdered cinnamon and 2 cloves in 2 cups of boiling water water and allow it to simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and drink it while it is still warm. For best results, you can add some honey as well. Drink this tea 1 to 3 times a day.
- If you prefer, you can simply consume a few drops of cinnamon bark oil with honey.
10. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that is also known as ascorbic acid. It gained significance with respect to its role in preventing scurvy related deaths among ancient sailors.
You can find it abundantly in fruits and vegetables especially citrus fruits.
Although this vitamin has been debatable in the research circle regarding its role to cure colds, it has many functional properties. It plays a vital role in many processes of the body like wound healing, iron absorption, and collagen formation (22).
Vitamin C improves the glucose metabolism of your body. It also helps the body produce a chemical substance that is important for proper signalling of the nervous system. Vitamin C also plays a very crucial role in strengthening your immune system.
A study done in 2014 demonstrated that daily intake of vitamin C in men with low vitamin C status improved their physical activity and reduced the duration of cold (23).
So see that you get your daily intake of vitamin C preferably from natural sources especially when you are down with a cold!
Fruits rich in Vitamin C:
- Indian gooseberry or Amla
- Orange, grapefruit, limes, lemons
- Berries like strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, cranberries
- Common Cold. https://medlineplus.gov/commoncold.html.
- Facts About The Common Cold | American Lung Association. http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/influenza/facts-about-the-common-cold.html.
- Ankri S, Mirelman D. Antimicrobial properties of allicin from garlic. Microbes Infect. 1999;1(2):125-129. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10594976.
- Garlic | Linus Pauling Institute | Oregon State University. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/food-beverages/garlic.
- Josling P. Preventing the common cold with a garlic supplement: a double-blind, placebo-controlled survey. Adv Ther. 18(4):189-193. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11697022.
- Percival SS. Aged Garlic Extract Modifies Human Immunity. J Nutr. 2016;146(2):433S-436S. doi:10.3945/jn.115.210427.
- Fahey T, Stocks N, Thomas T. Systematic review of the treatment of upper respiratory tract infection. Arch Dis Child. 1998;79(3):225-230. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9875017.
- Goldman RD. Honey for treatment of cough in children. Can Fam Physician. 2014;60(12):1107-1108, 1110. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25642485.
- Huang Q, Matsuda H, Sakai K, Yamahara J, Tamai Y. [The effect of ginger on serotonin induced hypothermia and diarrhea]. Yakugaku Zasshi. 1990;110(12):936-942. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2074539.
- Haniadka R, Rajeev AG, Palatty PL, Arora R, Baliga MS. Zingiber officinale (Ginger) as an Anti-Emetic in Cancer Chemotherapy: A Review. J Altern Complement Med. 2012;18(5):440-444. doi:10.1089/acm.2010.0737.
- Hopkins AB. Chicken soup cure may not be a myth. Nurse Pract. 2003;28(6):16. https://search.proquest.com/openview/2f62296a53c5cf6e3736a88fcd405fe1/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=37199.
- Shrestha H. A Plant Monograph on Onion (Allium cepa L.). 2007. http://www.uiennieuws.nl/kennis/docs/A Plant Monograpgh on Onion (Allium cepa L.) 2007.pdf.
- Tsanova-Savova S, S. Acta Medica Bulgarica AMB. de>> Gruyter; 2011. http://nt-cmb.medun.acad.bg:8080/jspui/handle/10861/338.
- Butt MS, Pasha I, Sultan MT, Randhawa MA, Saeed F, Ahmed W. Black Pepper and Health Claims: A Comprehensive Treatise. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2013;53(9):875-886. doi:10.1080/10408398.2011.571799.
- Meghwal M, Goswami TK. Chemical Composition, Nutritional, Medicinal And Functional Properties of Black Pepper: A Review. doi:10.4172/scientificreports.172.
- Hüsnü Can K, Tümen G, Malyer H, Kirimer N. Plants used for common cold in Turkey. ProceedingsoftheIVthInternationalCongressofEthnobotany. 2006:133-137. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/K_Husnu_Can_Baser/publication/259866194_Plants_used_for_common_cold_in_Turkey/links/0c96052e37538a28ab000000/Plants-used-for-common-cold-in-Turkey.pdf. Accessed March 24, 2018.
- Turker AU, Gurel E. Common mullein (Verbascum thapsus L.): recent advances in research. Phyther Res. 2005;19(9):733-739. doi:10.1002/ptr.1653.
- Saraswathy GR, Sathiya R, Anbu J, Maheswari E. Antitussive Medicinal Herbs -An Update Review. Int J Pharm Sci Drug Res. 2014;6(1):12-19. www.ijpsdr.com.
- Aggarwal H, Kotwal N. Foods Used as Ethno-medicine in Jammu. Stud Ethno-Medicine. 2009;3(1):65-68. doi:10.1080/09735070.2009.11886340.
- Krishnaswamy K. Traditional Indian spices and their health significance. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008;17(S1):265-268. http://repository.ias.ac.in/18688/1/337.pdf.
- Singletary K. Cinnamon. Nutr Today. 2008;43(6):263-266. doi:10.1097/01.NT.0000342702.19798.fe.
- Yakoot M, Salem A. Efficacy and safety of a multiherbal formula with vitamin C and zinc (Immumax) in the management of the common cold. Int J Gen Med. 2011;4:45-51. doi:10.2147/IJGM.S16266.
- Johnston C, Barkyoumb G, Schumacher S. Vitamin C Supplementation Slightly Improves Physical Activity Levels and Reduces Cold Incidence in Men with Marginal Vitamin C Status: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2014;6(7):2572-2583. doi:10.3390/nu6072572.