10 Natural Cold Remedies

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Colds are common, especially during the colder months of the year. A cold can leave you feeling stuffy, groggy, and unwell, and as they say, there is no cure.

Most colds will go away on their own within a week or two. However, some natural remedies may ease the symptoms, while others may help prevent them.

Remember, the best defense against getting a cold is thorough handwashing. Getting enough sleep, proper hydration, and eating a nutritious diet may also help your immune system function optimally, reducing the likelihood of catching a cold.

Alexa Gozali, MD

Colds are caused by exposure to common viruses that are passed through respiratory droplets.

— Alexa Gozali, MD

"Colds are caused by exposure to common viruses that are passed through respiratory droplets," says Alexa Gozali, DO, family medicine physician with Providence Mission Heritage Medical Group. "Therefore being around others who are sick with symptoms of the cold makes the virus easy to spread to others,"

Natural Cold Remedies

The best remedy for a cold may be more simple than you think. Overall, rest and managing your symptoms are the best way to combat a cold naturally, says Dr. Gozali.

"Staying hydrated helps to loosen the congestion that may develop in the upper respiratory tract," she says. "[While] rest and getting adequate sleep will allow your body to heal and recover—which is essential for your body to naturally fight off infection."

If you are already resting and hydrating, you can try adding some additional natural remedies for cold care to support the recovery process. Here are some options you could try.

Steam

Warm, humid air or steam may help break up congestion and relieve stuffy or plugged sinuses. Try leaning over a bowl of hot, steamy water, standing in a warm shower, or using a clean humidifier.

You can also try a cool-mist humidifier. These devices add moisture to the air without heat, making it a safer option if you have children around.

Essential Oils

Certain essential oils may help clear blocked sinuses when inhaled. You can try adding oils like peppermint, eucalyptus, menthol, or fir to an essential oil diffuser or to your bowl of hot water or shower.

Some research also suggests that essential oils can act as antimicrobials and as anti‐inflammatory agents to ease the symptoms of colds.

Zinc Lozenges

Some research has found that zinc helps reduce the length of time you may experience cold symptoms, as well as how severe they become. Zinc may be especially helpful if you take it within 24 hours from when you first start feeling a cold coming on.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a popular choice for treating colds. But the research doesn't support vitamin C as a preventative supplement in most cases

That said, it may be able to help reduce the duration of a cold. Vitamin C also might be able to help ward off colds in those who perform endurance exercise or who are exposed to very cold temperatures.

Vitamin C supplementation might help reduce the time you have a cold by 8% for adults and 14% for children, according to research. Try taking a daily 1,000- to 2,000-milligram dose.

Honey

Honey is an often-used natural cold remedy, especially for easing a dry throat and coughing. There is some evidence that it may help relieve nighttime coughing in particular.

Honey has been shown to work better than a placebo given for cough symptoms. You can try adding honey to warm tea to help coat and soothe the throat.

Research has shown honey is a superior alternative to usual treatments for symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections. Because honey is easy to obtain and relatively affordable, it's a safe alternative to antibiotics in some cases.

If you show signs of an infection such as a fever, or your cold symptoms worsen or won't go away after a week or two, contact a healthcare provider

Nasal Irrigation

Research shows that nasal irrigation with salt water may reduce the spread and duration of a cold. Saline nasal irrigation is easy to perform at home and can effectively ease sinus congestion that often comes with a cold.

Use sterile water that is distilled or boiled and cooled to make a saline solution, or use a store-bought pre-made one. Follow the instructions on your irrigating device. Neti pots, bulbs, or squeeze bottles are commonly used nasal irrigation tools.

American Ginseng

American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) may help reduce the duration of a cold, although it likely won't prevent you from getting one. In a study, people who took ginseng for 8 to 16 weeks had shorter colds but not fewer than those who did not.

Saltwater Gargle

If you have a sore throat as part of your symptoms, gargling 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt dissolved in 1 cup of warm water may provide some relief. Saltwater may help kill off bacteria, loosen mucus, and reduce inflammation that causes pain.

Hot Tea

Sipping hot tea (not too hot that it burns) may help loosen congestion and soothe sore, scratchy throats. Additionally, some research shows that both gargling tea and drinking tea may help prevent upper respiratory tract infections due to the catechin content.

When to See a Doctor

"You should see a doctor if you notice your symptoms such as runny nose, congestion, cough, or sinus pressure are not improving over time with adequate supportive care, " says Dr. Gozali. "If your symptoms worsen, or if you develop a fever, a cough with productive mucous, or symptoms such as shortness of breath, this could mean progression of your illness or the development of a bacterial infection, which may need more treatment."

A Word From Verywell

Colds are best combatted with plenty of rest and hydration. Along with those lifestyle changes, you can try other natural remedies that may help relieve symptoms, loosen congestion, and help your body fight off the virus.

It is best to stay away from others while you have a cold to prevent spread and be sure to frequently wash your hands thoroughly. If your symptoms worsen or do not improve after a week or two, see a healthcare provider.

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14 Sources
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