The 10 best home remedies for colds

17 February 2020

woman sneezing into tissue

Famously, there is no cure for the common cold - especially not antibiotics. However, there are some things you can do to shorten the length of your cold or improve your symptoms. Here are the best home remedies to try.

1. Echinacea supplements

Echinacea supplements famously have a myriad of uses, and the ability to fight the common cold is one of them. Take 5ml a day when you first get symptoms, and you might be so lucky as to stop your cold in its tracks.

Take echinacea. I'm super sceptical and I swear it works.

2. Flu stew


Nothing tastes as good as chicken soup when you have a cold – sorry vegetarians. But we think one Mumsnetter's nutrient-packed recipe for a vegetarian Flu Stew comes pretty close.

I make Flu Stew: potatoes, onions, leeks, carrots, maybe swede, maybe finely sliced kale or cabbage, bouillon and as many cloves of garlic as you fancy (the more the better).

3. Honey, lemon and ginger

Some love it, some hate it – but everyone recommends it when you're sick. All three of these have proven medicinal properties, including calming nausea and soothing a cough, so it's certainly worth a shot.

Honey, lemon and raw root ginger in hot water – crunch the ginger to heat up your throat and help kill the virus.

4. Spicy food

We've all experienced that feeling of your nose dripping when you're eating a bowl of spicy food – it helps break down mucus and clear your sinuses, so keep your tissues at the ready. Spicy noodle soups are a particularly good choice, we like Shin Ramyun instant noodles but be warned, they are hot.

Spicy food – if you can tolerate it – such as curry and chilli is good.

5. Hot toddy

hot toddy

Oooh, honey lemon and ginger for grown-ups. The classic recipe includes honey, lemon, cinnamon and whisky but there's no reason why you can't add ginger too. You might remember being given a spoonful of brandy as children, and the hot toddy uses the same logic of alcohol killing the germs in your throat.

Here's my top drink for when you have a cold:

Juice half a lemon and put in mug
Add two cloves
Add several teaspoons of honey (or sugar)
Add one measure of whisky
Fill up with hot (not boiling) water

So scrumptious and all the vit c from the lemon has to be good for you!

6. Vicks

You could go traditional and put it on your chest at night, or you can try the more outlandish method – on your feet, with some soft cotton socks on. Swathes of Mumsnetters seem to swear by it.

I was dying Saturday night. Did the Vicks trick and managed to get through my day out on Sunday. DH is currently on the sofa bed downstairs with feet smothered because he's now got it. I don't know how it works but it does.

7. Saltwater gargle

child gargling

Yes, we know it's disgusting, but it will actually soothe your sore throat symptoms. Use a quarter to half a teaspoon per cup of warm water. A TCP solution of five parts water to one part TCP also works, if you prefer the taste of TCP – sorry, not much of a choice.

I did find persisting with the saltwater gargling the best thing – just recovered from a nasty cold.

8. Steam

Steam inhalation is great for getting all the gunk out of your nose and draining your sinuses – wipe it all up with your tissues. A super hot shower with a steamy bathroom, or your face over a bowl of steaming water with a towel over your head to trap steam should do the trick.

Do a steam inhalation to try and ease the stuffiness in your nose. Also sleep as upright as you can manage without hurting yourself.

9. Zinc

There's have been studies that show that zinc, taken at the first sign of a sniffle can shorten a cold by up to as much as 50%. Seeing as there's actually evidence, we think it's worth a shot. Or if you don't want to spend on supplements, load up on red meat, chicken, oysters, beans and nuts.

Zinc at the first sign of a cold (you're not meant to take it all the time). But it really does work to fend off or reduce the impact if you take it at the slightest sign.

10. Rest

sleeping girl

Not getting enough sleep decreases your immune system, and we all know that a day of rest usually helps you get back into gear when you have a cold. Sometimes it's hard to take a day out of the daily grind without feeling guilty, but it does help.

If you have the chance to rest, do. If you have anyone available to help out till you're better, ask for their help. You only have so much energy and if you're running on empty it's important to recover properly.