Natural Remedies for the Common Cold

Natural Remedies for the Common Cold

Scientifically reviewed by: Michael A. Smith, MD

How can you prevent the common cold? And if you're already feeling one coming on, how can you naturally lessen the duration or progression of a cold? There is no shortage of dubious approaches to beating the virus. But before you slather your neck in lard and wrap it with a dirty sock or sip that mystery concoction that your neighbor's plumber's great grandmother swears by, maybe give these science-backed, natural remedies for cold and cough a try.

Rest and fluids

Woman lying in bed, fighting a cold
There’s no substitute for rest when you're battling a cold

When you've got a headache, runny nose and a cough, nothing sounds better than climbing back in bed. The good news? That might be the best thing you can do. Battling a viral infection takes a toll on your body, and the more rest you get, the more your body can devote its energy to the fight (wouldn't it be nice if "take a nap" was the best advice in every situation?).

You'll also need to make sure you're getting plenty of fluids. Drinking enough water, juice, or clear broth will help fend off dehydration and can also help clear up congestion. And if you're going the broth route, might we suggest a nice bowl of chicken soup? It came by its reputation honestly, and there aren't many better choices when you're not feeling your best. Sipping warm liquids (or taking a hot shower) can help ease congestion. If you've got a sore throat, gargling with salt water can help. Just add half a teaspoon to a glass of warm water—and interestingly enough, regular gargling might even help prevent your next cold!

Don't keep all the hydration to yourself, either. Running a humidifier might help with congestion and keep you comfortable.

Raid your pantry

A Hot tea with honey, lemon and ginger is a cold remedy
Your pantry has more cold-fighting power than you might think

Sorry, we're not reaching for the donuts here. But you've likely got a number of herbal cold remedies already on hand, whether you know it or not. While you're heating up your chicken soup, you might also want to try a few of these:

  • Honey. Brew a pot of tea, add some lemon and honey, and you've got a hot drink ready to help you battle your cold. It can help ease a sore throat (and taste better than the saltwater gargle) and can also help suppress your cough.
  • Garlic. Not only will adding a little garlic to your dishes help ensure you'll be able to taste them when you're stuffed up, but it may also have some immune-supporting and antimicrobial properties thanks to its allicin content.
  • Ginger. This root is another excellent option for a tea that should help soothe your sore throat and cough.
  • Hot Toddy. This is a classic remedy for a reason (though the fact that it shares most of its ingredients with honey tea is not a coincidence). Mix a little whiskey or brandy with honey, lemon, cinnamon and hot water, and sip away at your symptoms. It'll help clear your congestion and, like the teas, should work on your sore throat and cough as well. But keep it to just one. Alcohol is best avoided when you're sick; too much and you'll just end up feeling worse, and while you might think it will help you sleep, it won't be the restorative sleep your body needs.

Get your vitamins and minerals (and even probiotics!)

Ensuring you're getting enough of a wide spectrum of nutrients is one of the best strategies for overall health and wellness, and it's just as effective for getting well as it is for staying well. And when you're worried about getting sick, increasing your intake of specific vitamins and minerals that support your immune system can do wonders for common cold prevention and treatment of symptoms.

  • Vitamins C & D. Vitamin C gets all the press when it comes to boosting your immune system, but vitamin D is well worth including in your targeted nutrition regimen. Both will provide year-round immune support, helping increase your chances of not needing any remedies at all.
  • Zinc. There is research to suggest that zinc, particularly zinc acetate that releases ionic zinc, taken several times a day at the first sign of symptoms can shorten the duration and severity of a cold.
  • Probiotics. These microscopic helpers aren't just for your digestive health. You might not think there's a connection between probiotics and the common cold, but the right strain can also help reduce the severity and duration of your cold symptoms.

There's no cure for the common cold, and you can't expect it to go away overnight, but with the right approach you'll be on the road to relief and recovery sooner than you expect. Even better, you just might stop the next cold before it starts.