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Natural Remedies for Colds/Flus: Dos, Don’ts and Maybes

Natural Remedies for Colds/Flus: Dos, Don’ts and Maybes

By Rupinder Flora, MD November 03, 2022 Posted in: Family Medicine

Maybe it’s been awhile since you’ve suffered through a cold. You might have forgotten some natural remedies, or you might be interested in trying a new one. Will they offer relief? Check this Do, Don’t bother and Maybe try list first. 


Chicken soup. Some research has shown chicken soup helps relieve cold symptoms. Warm fluids in general help thin mucus and soothe sore throats. 

Honey. Adding a teaspoon to warm water or tea coats your throat while providing the antioxidant and antimicrobial benefits. But don’t use this remedy for children younger than 1 year of age, because honey contains bacteria that can produce toxins in their intestines and cause a serious condition called infant botulism. 

Ginger. Sipping ginger water can help soothe coughs and sore throats and may help ward off nausea if you have the stomach flu. Boil a few slices of raw ginger in water, remove the slices and then cool it down. 

Saltwater gargle. Help relieve a sore or scratchy throat by gargling 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt in an 8-ounce glass of warm water. It can also rinses out germs and irritants. Try it four times a day, but use caution with young children who may not be able to gargle properly.

Neti pot. It might feel awkward at first, but pouring distilled or sterilized water into one nostril and out the other can ease congestion, stuffiness and thus reduce pressure and facial pain. Just be sure to follow neti pot instructions to keep it sterile. 

Saline nasal drops and sprays. If a neti pot is too much for you, try over-the-counter saline nasal drops and sprays. They can also help relieve stuffiness and congestion.

Don’t Bother

Vaporizing rub on feet. This remedy has no basis in science. It’s thought to have originated from a nonexistent organization (the “Canada Research Council”). On the other hand, putting vaporizing rub on your chest can help relieve nighttime coughs.

Raw onion on feet. This old wives’ tale dates back to the 1500s, but there’s no scientific evidence this practice has any impact on colds or flus.

Maybe Try

Probiotics. These have been trendy for keeping your gut and immune system healthy. Some research has shown probiotics help reduce incidence of upper respiratory infections. 

Apple cider vinegar (ACV). There’s no conclusive evidence it works, but some try mixing ACV, cayenne pepper and honey with water for sore throats or to break up mucus. The downside is the acidic nature of ACV can irritate throats and damage tooth enamel.

Vitamin C, echinacea, zinc and garlic. Some studies show no benefit of these supplements while others found some reduction in severity/duration of cold symptoms – especially if taken at the earliest stages of a cold. While we all need adequate vitamin C, there can be dangers to taking supplements without medical advice. Echinacea can interact with other medications, high doses of zinc may cause indigestion, headache and vomiting, and intranasal zinc has been linked to the long-term/permanent loss of smell. Check with your care provider before taking these or other supplements.

One sure way to feel better? Get more rest. Adequate sleep helps your immune system fight cold and flu bugs. 

Rupinder Flora, MD

Family Medicine - Primary Care Clinic

Rupinder Flora, MD
Rupinder Flora, MD

Rupinder Flora, MD is a primary care provider with CHI St. Alexius Health.

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