5 Home Remedies for Winter Colds and Coughs

Feeling Sick? Take Action With These Tried-and-True Remedies

January 21, 2020
Chicken Noodle Soup
Oksana Mizina/ShutterStock

Feeling tired and achy? Scratchy throat? Queasy stomach? Suspect you may be coming down with that bug that’s going around? Try these home remedies to stave off a cold!

5 Tried-and-True Home Remedies:

If you feel a cold coming on, take action!

  • Ease the pain of a sore throat. Cheap and effective, a warm saltwater gargle (½ teaspoon salt to 1 cup of warm water) relieves a sore throat as well as anything. Astonishingly, Japanese researchers found that people who gargled with plain water three times a day during cold and flu season developed 40 percent fewer upper respiratory infections than those who didn’t or those who gargled with an iodine mouthwash.
  • Relieve congestion. Cheap, effective, and safe, a saltwater nasal rinse is an ancient remedy for treating sinus problems, nasal congestion, or post-nasal drip. You may find the practice a bit challenging at first, but give it a try. (Always be sure to use a sterilized container for any liquid destined for the nose!)
  • Calm a cough. Although coughing is the body’s way to clear mucus from the airways, you may want help in soothing a severe cough, and especially a nighttime one. For children older than 1 year and adults, research has confirmed that a spoonful of honey (with or without lemon juice) works better than over-the-counter cough medicines, without any of the undesirable side effects. Researchers suggest that darker honey may be better. 
  • Quiet a digestive upset. Dried or fresh gingerroot in tea or capsules (or even flat ginger ale) helps to quell nausea as well as any over-the-counter medicine does. (Don’t use ginger if you take blood-thinning drugs, however.) Peppermint and chamomile have been used for centuries to calm queasy stomachs and quiet gurgling guts. I like to grate a little fresh ginger into a pot of peppermint/chamomile tea, add a touch of ground cinnamon, and sip it warm or cold. This quartet of tasty herbs in tea soothes the stomach, tastes good, and helps to keep you hydrated.
  • Soothe aches and pains. My own favorite remedy for the aches and chills of winter infections: a long soak in a hot bath, followed immediately by a long nap. The hot water causes sweating, so to replace the fluid you’ve lost, sip a pot of hot ginger tea while you soak—both to replace lost fluid and to take advantage of the known anti-inflammatory and antibiotic compounds in the ginger.

About That Chicken Soup:

Yes! Stock up! Generations of grandmas in cultures around the world have relied on chicken soup to treat the congestion, fever, aches, and chills of respiratory infections.

University of Nebraska physician and medical researcher Stephen Rennard took his wife’s family recipe into the lab and discovered that chicken soup did indeed have the power to reduce inflammation and congestion in the respiratory tract. (Here’s the recipe and a video of its preparation!) Subsequent research confirmed that almost any recipe for chicken soup should confer the same benefits. But current thinking suggests that you may want to pass up canned soups and stick with homemade to reap the most benefits.

Natural health advocates Dr. Andrew Weil and ethnobotanist James Duke recommend studding your soup with plenty of chopped garlic, onions, leeks, peppers (especially hot peppers), parsley, chopped basil, rosemary, black pepper, and ginger—plants all known to contain a host of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibiotic compounds.

Make Your Own “Fire Cider”

​I learned about this potent potion from a friend. Made from apple cider vinegar and a selection of powerful ingredients—like garlic and horseradish—it’s amazingly versatile: I can take it as an immune-boosting tonic or congestion-fighter, use it to flavor winter soups, and apply it topically as a liniment for aching joints and muscles. 

A Final Word on Home Remedies

​It should go without saying that if you (or a sick family member under your care) don’t get well within a few days on home remedies, or if your symptoms worsen, call your doctor!

About This Blog

"Living Naturally" is all about living a naturally healthy lifestyle. Margaret Boyles covers health tips, ways to avoid illness, natural remedies, food that's good for body and soul, recipes for homemade beauty products, ideas to make your home a healthy and safe haven, and the latest news on health. Our goal is also to encourage self-sufficiency, whether it's relearning some age-old skills or getting informed on modern improvements that help us live better, healthier lives.