It’s That Time of Year Again: Cold Remedies

I’m currently recovering from my first cold of the season. Yechh. It’s a chest cold, with a lingering cough. I hate those. Sneezing can be kind of fun; coughing never is.

Cold RemediesI’m not big on taking over-the-counter cold medicines. It seems to me that they just prolong the cold and, in the case of a cough, keep your body from doing what it can to get rid of the congestion. You don’t want to suppress a cough and then end up with a bunch of dried up crud in your pipes (sorry for the image). I’ve taken cold medicine when I absolutely HAD to function, but now that I’m retired and don’t ever HAVE to function, I don’t do it.

That doesn’t mean I don’t want relief. But my relief these days comes in the form of innocuous, but effective, home remedies. Here are a few of my faves:

1. Honey/Lemon/Ginger/Garlic Tea


5-8 cloves of garlic, crushed and peeled
1/4 – 1 tsp of grated fresh ginger (start little if you are not used to taking raw ginger)
2 cups of water
1 lemon
Raw honey


Boil 2 cups of water. Put in garlic and ginger and let it sit in boiled water for 10-15 minutes. Add the juice from one lemon. Add honey to taste.

Drink it throughout the day. Best when served warm. You can put it in a thermos to keep warm.

2.  Breathe easy with steam

Pour just-boiled water into a large bowl. Drape a towel over the top of your head to trap the steam, and breathe in through your nose for five to 10 minutes. Don’t lower your face too close to the water or you risk scalding your skin or inhaling vapours that are too hot. To make steam inhalations more effective, add five to 10 drops thyme oil or eucalyptus oil to the water. Keep your eyes closed as you breathe in the steam, since both essential oils and steam may irritate your eyes.

Or just take a long, hot shower and breathe as deeply as you can.

3. Elderberry Syrup

At the first sign of the flu, take 20 to 30 drops of elderberry tincture three or four times daily for three days. Elderberry has been used in Europe for centuries to fight viruses. Tea made with the syrup is good for a cough as well.

4. Zinc Tablets

At the first hint of a cold, suck on a zinc gluconate lozenge every few hours. I do this mostly for colds that start with a sore throat. If you start zinc when you first feel a tickle, you can often stop a cold in its tracks. Don’t take it on an empty stomach, though.

5. Goldenseal

Goldenseal stimulates the immune system and has germ-fighting compounds that can kill viruses. As soon as you begin to feel sick, take 125 mg five times a day for five days.

6. Oil of Oregano

I haven’t used this myself, but apparently it’s magic for sore throats.

7. Homeopathics

Again, not speaking from experience, but apparently  Oscillococcinum, commonly called Oscillo, is widely recommended by naturopaths and herbalists to reduce the severity of flu symptoms. Be sure to use it within 12 to 48 hours of the first appearance of your symptoms.


8. Chicken Soup

No article on cold remedies would be complete without mentioning this remedy-for-what-ails-ya. Chicken soup is a time-honoured remedy that is tried, tested and true. Chicken soup stops certain white blood cells (neutrophils) from congregating and causing inflammation, preventing large amounts of mucus from being produced. The hot soup also thins the mucus. Adding freshly chopped garlic to your soup gives the system a powerful boost. While garlic kills germs outright, it also appears to stimulate the release of natural killer cells, which are part of the immune system’s arsenal of germ-fighters. Spike your soup with red (chili) pepper flakes to increase the broth’s decongestant power.

And here are a couple of remedies I’ll try next time. They sound just crazy enough to work.

Wear wet socks to bed

Believe it or not, this soggy strategy can help ease a fever and clear congestion by drawing blood to the feet, which dramatically increases blood circulation. (Blood stagnates in areas of greatest congestion.) Best method: Warm your feet in hot water. Then soak a thin pair of cotton socks in cold water, wring them out and slip them on just before going to bed. Put a pair of dry wool socks over the wet ones. The wet socks should be warm and dry in the morning, and you should feel markedly better.

Cut short your cold with a blow-dryer

As outlandish as it sounds, inhaling heated air may help kill a virus working its way up your nose. Set your hair dryer on warm (not hot), hold it at least 45 cm (18 in) from your face, and breathe in the air through your nose for as long as you can—at least two or three minutes—preferably 20 minutes.

What remedies do you use? Please share.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *