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1. Lukewarm salt water.

A sore throat is one of the first signs that a week of misery is coming. You’ve probably heard that gargling salt water can help ease a throat, but does it work? Salt water is indeed effective for relieving a sore throat and for loosening up mucus trapped in the throat, so it can be more easily coughed out. Studies1 have also shown that gargling salt water at first sign of a sore throat may actually be effective for preventing upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) in healthy people. 

Next time you feel a cold coming along, try this cost-free and easy cold remedy. Simply mix a teaspoon (or two) of salt into a cup of warm water, tilt your head back, gargle the salt water around the back of the throat, and spit it out. Repeat this several times throughout the day.

2. Chicken soup.

Nothing soothes the soul like a hot bowl of chicken soup! Not only does a bowl of chicken soup have a ton of healthy ingredients like vegetables and herbs, but it’s also hot and steamy—perfect for opening up your sinuses. Research suggests2 that having a bowl of homemade (or canned) chicken and vegetable soup may inhibit neutrophil movement. Neutrophils are types of white blood cells in your body that rise in response to an infection. It is thought that by suppressing neutrophil action, chicken soup may play a role in minimizing cold symptoms. 

3. Ginger.

Ginger comes in many different shapes and sizes—from ginger root to ginger candy and ginger powder. Ginger is a spice that’s known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory3 properties. If you’re suffering from cold symptoms, adding a slice of ginger into your water or tea may help soothe your sore throat, improve nausea, and reduce inflammation. 

4. Honey.

Constantly coughing throughout the day? Try eating a teaspoon of honey or drinking some hot water with honey and lemon. Apart from being delicious, honey can also help with cough and sore throat. A study following children (ages 2 to 18) with URTIs found honey to be a preferable treatment4 for cough and sleep difficulty due to cough.

5. Echinacea.

Echinacea is an herbal medicine that has been used for centuries as a treatment for the common cold and other respiratory infections. The actual effectiveness of this herb for preventing and treating the common cold varies among studies5 —with echinacea sometimes showing a significant effect compared to placebo and sometimes showing no difference compared to placebo. Regardless, a nice hot cup of echinacea tea can be a great supplement to your cold regimen.

6. Vitamin C.

When thinking about the cold, vitamin C is probably the first vitamin that comes to mind. Studies have not been able to conclude that vitamin C actually prevents a cold. However, vitamin C supplementation may slightly decrease the duration and severity of colds6 . The verdict? Definitely worth a try!

7. Zinc.

Zinc is a nutrient that plays a role in your metabolism and immune function. Your body doesn’t naturally produce zinc, so it’s important to get enough zinc through food or supplements. Foods rich in zinc include: whole grains, milk products, oysters, baked beans, nuts, red meat, and poultry. How can it help with a cold you ask? Research suggests7 that zinc, if taken within 24 hours of symptom onset, can reduce the duration of cold symptoms in healthy people. If you do try this remedy, consider taking at least 75 mg of zinc daily throughout the duration of your cold. 

8. Spicy foods.

Need a break from nasal sprays? Try spicing it up. Some foods8 that can help naturally relieve congestion include: horseradish, ginger, onions, mustard, radishes, chili peppers (capsaicin, found in chili peppers, is a natural pain reliever), and garlic.

9. Steam.

Steam therapy can help moisten the air and loosen up congestion in your nose, throat, and lungs. Try catching some steam from a hot shower, a hot cup of tea, or a vaporizer. Avoid steam that is too hot, as that can quickly cause burns.

10. Bonus Remedy: Hot cola with ginger and lemon.

Boiling 1 can of coke, 1 inch of ginger, and ½ lemon is a common Chinese cold remedy. Many swear by this homemade cocktail for cough and congestion relief.