Nothing cures the common cold, so the best you can do is relieve the cough, sore throat and stuffy nose that come with it. But you don’t need to buy over-the-counter products — and shouldn’t in the case of children, who may have serious, even life-threatening reactions. The jury is still out on zinc and Vitamin C, but many of the homemade remedies your grandmother use to push really do help relieve cold symptoms. Here are a few to try the next time you get stuffed up:
Hot drinks A nice cup of tea is more than just soothing when you’ve got a nasty cold. It can provide immediate and lasting relief from all of the major cold symptoms — runny nose, cough, sneezing, sore throat, chills and fatigue — according to a 2008 study from Cardiff University's Common Cold Centre.
Liquids Drinking fluids won’t flush the cold virus out of your system, but it will help loosen congestion and prevent dehydration, according to the Mayo Clinic. Water, juice, clear broth, and warm lemon water with honey are good options.
Honey Research has shown that honey has properties that fight bacteria, but it works wonders on viral cough symptoms, too. A 2007 study by Pennsylvania State University’s department of pediatrics found that children with coughs due to colds experienced less coughing and better sleep when they ate small amounts of honey before bedtime. (Note: Honey is not safe for children under 2.)
Salt water Gargling three times a day with warm salt water can temporarily reduce sore-throat pain, according to a study in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine. (It also cuts your chance of getting a bacterial infection by 40%.) Dissolve 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt in an 8-ounce glass of warm water.
Spicy food and antacids Dishes that contain hot peppers or horseradish may help clear sinuses, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. And if they should happen to give you indigestion, a teaspoon of liquid antacid can do double-duty. In addition to soothing your heartburn, it can help soothe sore throats due to post-nasal drip by coating the throat and neutralizing the acids in mucous.
Chicken Soup Yup, it works … and science has discovered why. Chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties that stop the movement of white blood cells called neutrophils. Neutrophilic activity causes the release of mucous, according to research by University of Nebraska Medical Center. So it’s no wives’ tale that Grandma’s favorite recipe really does soothe sore throats and other cold-related ailments — at least as well as anything from the store would.