Wellness Experts’ Tips on Home Remedies for Cold and Cough

There’s no getting around the cold and flu season, unfortunately. 

It’s here and it usually hangs around for about 13 weeks in the United States. Since there’s no going around it, you just gotta get through it if you’re unlucky enough to get sick this season. 

Luckily, there are home remedies you can try to tackle your symptoms and feel a bit more comfortable. With all the viruses floating around, it’s natural to want to kick it as soon as you get it. 

If you don’t want to go into the doc’s office unnecessarily — just to be told “it’s only a cold” — then you’ll love our expert advice below offering home remedies for cold and cough. This post provides insight from medical doctors, herbalists, nutritionists, and other wellness experts to get you feeling back to normal with natural remedies. 

Here’s to feeling better!

How Long Does a Cold Last? How Can I Treat It?

couple in white bed blowing their noses

 

“Because a cold is a virus, it can’t be treated by antibiotics,” explains Dr. Jay Woody, MD, FACEP, chief medical officer of Intuitive Health and co-founder of Legacy ER & Urgent Care. So, how do you know if you’re dealing with a cold and not something else?  

Typical cold symptoms include: 

  • Cough 
  • Fatigue 
  • Headache
  • Sneezing 
  • Sore throat  
  • Stuffy or runny nose 
  • Swollen sinuses, congestion, and mucus buildup 
  • Fever (more common in children) 

“Cold symptoms last for around a week, on average. Colds most often start with a sore throat (which usually dissipates after a couple of days), followed by nasal and congestion issues,” Dr. Woody explains. “A cough often comes after, around the fourth or fifth day. Children are more likely to develop a fever with a cold, but adults can develop a slight one. Colds are contagious during the first few days and are less severe than other infections like the flu.” 

Dr. Woody advises that over-the-counter medications can help alleviate symptoms, like a headache or congestion.  Getting plenty of rest and fluids is key to recovery. And, above all, if symptoms don’t improve after a week, it’s important to see a physician to determine whether extra medical treatment like antibiotics are needed for a different type of infection. 

Natural Home Cold and Cough Remedies Worth Trying 

Salila Sukumaran 

Salila Sukumaran headshot

Ayurveda Health Coach and Founder of Ayurgamaya

Salila Sukumaran is an Ayurveda wellness educator and lifestyle consultant based in Mountain View, CA.

Ayurveda, India's ancient science for longevity, has many time tested remedies to soothe the aching, low-grade fever, and stuffiness brought on by colds.  

As the seasons change, Ayurveda believes that our bodies feel challenged with finding equilibrium and it is important to bundle up, cover the head with a beanie, avoid any drastic change in diet and lifestyle. Not doing so is a big waving welcome sign for colds and coughs.

Once the season is underway, we may take on new diets, switch up the exercise routine, and be perfectly okay even if we occasionally forget the jacket in the car.

Here are some home remedies to beat a cold:

Holy basil tea mixed with a pinch of pepper and a dash of honey, stirred in after the tea has cooled, will soothe the throat, boost immunity and provide vital zinc needed to get back to health.

Those who do not like the sharp taste of holy basil can opt for ginger honey tea with a dash of pepper. Ginger, pepper, and honey have warming properties and will help flush the toxins and clear the sinus passages.

Ginger is known as a universal medicine and has potent congestion and inflammation-fighting abilities.

Those who want to mix things up a bit will benefit from generous portions of warming nourishing soupy meals made of whole grains, bones broths, and seasonal greens laced with ginger, turmeric, and pepper. Turmeric is another superpower medicine from the Ayurvedic arsenal of home remedies. Turmeric is warming, digestive, and an all-star toxin buster.

It is best to avoid dairy, yogurt, and cheeses when recovering from a cold.

KOR Shots Note: Some of the remedies below incorporate honey or bone or chicken broth. If you are on a vegan diet, you can try agave nectar as well to soothe your throat. Veggie broth is an alternative option to try if you’re looking for a warm base for a healing soup! 

Jack Anderson

Jack Anderson

Founder of Sport Fitness Advisor

Jack Anderson is the founder of Sport Fitness Advisor, a leading fitness and sports science blog. He trains athletes regularly and is a fitness expert, strength and conditioning specialist, and sports nutritionist. He has a degree in Sports Science and has been fortunate enough to work with a wide range of people from very different ends of the fitness spectrum. 

Cold season is among us. Although it’s unlikely you will be able to cure your cold in a day, there are many different remedies to try at home! These natural ingredients can help boost your immune system, weaken your symptoms, and cut your cold in half. 

Warm liquids are a common at-home remedy to relieve cold symptoms. 

Ginger tea is an ideal beverage for helping heal a sick and stuffy head. Warm water paired up with the natural healing properties of ginger is a quick combination for relief. This concoction can help to dry a runny nose and loosen phlegm from the chest and sinuses.

Saltwater is another common at-home remedy for cold and specifically cough: 

Gargle a mixture of 8 oz warm water, ¼ teaspoon turmeric and ½ teaspoon of salt. This will loosen mucus from the back of the throat and reduce the urge to cough. Turmeric is also known for its healing properties and can give a real boost to the immune system.

Julie DeMaio

Julie Demaio headshot

Clinical Herbalist at BK Apothecary 

A graduate of Arbor Vitae School of Traditional Herbalism and Twin Star School of Herbal & Energetic Studies, Julie’s background focuses on Western Herbalism and Traditional Chinese Medicine. This is in addition to her degree from The Academy of Healing Nutrition where she studied Nutrition and Food as Medicine. Julie’s also a RYT-200 certified yoga teacher.

Onion + Ginger Syrup

Onions are a great folk remedy for phlegmy coughs. When combined with the antimicrobial and antibacterial properties of honey and ginger, together these ingredients do a great job supporting the immune system and clearing congestion.  

To make: Add one large, thinly sliced onion and a 2-inch piece of grated ginger to a pint sized mason jar and cover with raw honey.  Let sit for 4+ hours until onions soften and become translucent.  Take one teaspoon every 2-4 hours when the first symptoms of colds or flu appear.  Good for adults and kids alike.

Garlic Lemonade 

Sounds kind of gross, but it's really quite tasty. Combining the antiviral, antimicrobial and antibacterial properties of garlic and raw honey, this is something even picky kids will enjoy to help fight oncoming colds.  

To make: Add 3 cloves of chopped garlic to a quart size mason jar and cover it with freshly boiled water. Let sit for 15 minutes and then add the juice of one organic lemon and raw honey to taste.  Drink hot, up to 4 cups per day.  Safe for kids over 2 years old.

Elderberry Syrup  

One of the best herbal remedies to have on hand for the cold and flu season.  A single batch should last the entire cold and flu season for a family of four.  It’s easy to find dried elderberries online at retailers like Starwest Botanicals or Mountain Rose Herbs. Studies have shown that when used in the first 48 hours in the treatment of flu, elderberry helps to reduce the severity and duration for flu, with similar benefits for colds as well. Adults and kids over 12 should take 1-2 tsp every 4 hours at the first sign of cold or flu.

To make: Add 1 cup of dried elderberries to a saucepan and add 2 cups filtered water and bring to a boil.  If desired, add some ginger, cinnamon or cloves.  Simmer at a low boil for about 30 minutes, or until liquid is reduced by half.  Let cool at least one hour and when it is comfortable to do so, strain the elderberries and SQUEEZE out all the juice before discarding.  Add one cup of raw honey, and pour into a clean bottle or jar.  Store in the fridge.

When you’re sick, it’s also important to avoid refined sugar (it suppresses the immune system) and dairy (which can increase congestion and mucous). To support your body, eat plenty of nutrient- dense whole foods like seasonal fruits and vegetables, pastured eggs or meat, homemade bone broth, and healthy fats like olive oil and avocados.

Dr. Lina Velikova

Dr. Linda Velikova

MD, Ph.D., and medical advisor at Supplements101

Dr. Lina Velikova’s journey into the world of medicine started in 2004. After her graduation, she became motivated to become an immunologist. She has extensive experience as a scientist and author of scientific papers. Her areas of expertise include autoimmune diseases, sleep medicine, transplantation medicine, immunotherapy, and pediatric immunology. 

With the winter approaching, most of us can easily catch a cold and during these times it's especially important to make your health a priority. The good news is,  you don't need to visit a doctor for mild symptoms that can easily be taken care of through natural means in your own home.

Here are some easy home remedies that are effective in soothing cough and cold symptoms:

Ginger tea

Ginger is known to have powerful antibacterial properties and has been used as a herbal treatment for various illnesses including cold and sore throat for centuries. It also effectively reduces congestion and inflammation, opening up your breathing passageways. You can make raw ginger tea by adding a teaspoon of grated ginger in hot water along with lemon and a spoon of honey.

Honey

One of the most underrated natural remedies, honey, boasts both anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. Adding honey to your tea or taking a tablespoon of honey first thing in the morning can soothe coughs and provide relief from congestion. However, just keep in mind never give honey to children under the age of one. The botulinum spores present in honey are harmful to infants as their immunity is not yet strong enough to process them.

Steam

Taking a steam bath and inhaling moist air is effective in thinning the mucus, thus relieving congestion. Additionally, you can add some drops of essential eucalyptus oil in a pot of hot water and inhale the steam with a towel around your head. Always try to drink plenty of fluids when you have a cold in order to avoid dehydration and to help keep your phlegm thinner.

Tsao-Lin Moy

Tsao-Lin Moy headshot

L.Ac., MSOM, LMT, C. SMA, founder of Integrative Healing Arts 

Tsao-Lin, has over 18 years of experience as an expert in alternative and Chinese medicine. She is the founder of Integrative Healing Arts which utilizes Chinese medicine, acupuncture, herbal medicine and energy healing to treat patients. Additionally, Tsao-Lin has been featured on the Dr. Oz Show with Dr. Andrew Weil. 

Knowing which herbs, spices and plants that are antiviral and medicinal can help keep you and your family healthier and protect yourself from the flu and viruses. Including them in recipes is a way to maintain good health and also create your own natural medicine cabinet. You can find them in your cupboard at home.

  • Raw Honey: It is antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-fungal it helps soothe sore throats and can be used for wound disinfectant and healing. Manuka honey comes from the Manuka tree that is in the tea tree family. Add to tea, hot water and lemon.
  • Thyme: Thyme for bronchitis. Studies showed thyme along with primrose helped with cough and bronchitis and was far superior for treating bronchitis compared to a placebo.You can make thyme-flavored water, by taking fresh sprigs and bruising to release the oils in the herb and infusing water. You can keep it cooled in the refrigerator. If you don’t have fresh thyme, you can make tea with dried thyme, add 2 tsps to a cup of hot water and let it steep. 
  • Tulsi tea: (holy basil) Research shows it is a “super herb” that has antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, the list is long for its healing properties. It is ideal for immune support and easy to keep with you in tea form or as an essential oil. Tulsi is excellent for asthma and coughs, it can be inhaled by using essential oil in a diffuser or a couple drops in the palms and taking a couple of deep breaths. You can purchase tulsi tea in the supermarket or online.

For coughs and bronchitis: 

 Poached pear recipe: This adaptation of a classic Chinese remedy for dry cough, bronchitis and sore throat also boosts the immune system. The original is poached pears with rock candy, but instead substitute with honey.

Ingredients: 

  • 2 pears (Asian pears preferable) 
  • Ginger
  • Lemon
  • Honey

Directions: 

  • Cut the core from the pear, place in water with sliced ginger, bring to a boil, then let simmer for 15-20mins, then add lemon and last honey.
  • The pears will be infused with ginger and lemon and can be stored in the refrigerator; drink the juice.

  • Pears contain high levels of antioxidants, including vitamin C, vitamin K, and dietary fiber. The natural properties from the pear (pectin) soothes the throat and moistens dryness of the cough and reduces the phlegm. Poached pear helps to keep your respiratory tract hydrated, soothe throat irritations, alleviate dry coughs

 

Jolene Caufield 

Jolene Caufield headshot

Senior Advisor at Healthy Howard 

Jolene is a Master of Science in Professional Health Studies and Oriental Medicine specializing in healthy living, healthcare, and healthy diets.

There's nothing wrong with going for an all-natural alternative to OTC drugs for cold and cough as they cost a lot cheaper. 

 What's better than cheap is free: Simple home remedies that work effectively on common colds and cough may just be the best. Note that the main reason why a person catches a cough and colds easily is because of a weakened immune system; an otherwise strong immune system will fight to prevent this common cold and cough viruses from infecting your body.

With that said, drinking fresh orange juice will give your immune system the strength it needs to expel the infiltrating virus from your system. This is basically the ultimate vitamin C boost for your body — just make sure you use a fresh, raw orange. If you prefer teas over juices, lemon tea is a good choice as it is also rich in vitamin C that can contribute to the immune system's defense. Ginger is also a good choice as it effectively helps cure cough and common colds. It is loaded with antioxidants and is even eaten raw by some people, but ginger tea would work just as fine.

All in all, drinking lots of fluid and getting enough rest can greatly help your body heal faster.

Dr. Samantha Radford

samantha headshot

Exposure scientist, founder of Evidence-Based Mommy blog

Dr. Samantha Radford is a chemist researcher-turned-communicator. She owns Evidence-Based Mommy, where she combines science and wellness to help parents and their kids thrive. 

I have found that chicken bone broth is one of my favorite remedies for when I'm feeling under the weather. I thaw out a mugful of broth (this is how to make broth easily), and add a slice of ginger, a crushed garlic clove, and a little turmeric. This soup soothes my throat, helps me hydrate, and nourishes when I don't feel like eating. 

The easiest natural cough remedy is a spoonful of honey. In fact, honey has been shown to be just as good or better than dextromethorphan at suppressing cough.  

Elderberry syrup is a great antiviral and antimicrobial natural remedy. I give my kids and myself a spoonful a day during cold and flu season.


Katy Willis

Katy Willis headshot

Master herbalist, Fellow of the Complementary Medical Association, founder of RealSelfSufficiency.com

Katy is a certified master herbalist and member of the Complementary Medical Association. She's a keen homesteader and loves growing and foraging medicinal herbs.

My #1 at-home remedy for coughs and colds is my super-charged elderberry syrup. It's easy to make, only requires a handful of ingredients, and it stores well in the refrigerator. 

My #2 recommendation would be a simple ginger, lemon, cinnamon, and honey tea. It's potent, really easy to make, and only uses common kitchen ingredients.

My third recommendation would be, if you're in a pinch, don't have these other ingredients available, or are too unwell to make something — take a spoonful of honey for a cough. You can take it in hot water, but it works just as well alone (in fact, if it's natural, raw honey, it's more effective on its own at room temperature. If you heat it with boiling water, you kill off many of the beneficial compounds.


Dr. Anna Cabeca 

Dr Anna Cabeca

 

Triple-board certified OB-GYN, author of The Hormone Fix, founder of The Girlfriend Doctor

Dr. Cabeca has worked with thousands of women one-on-one to help them understand and improve their health and manage their hormones. Dr. Cabeca has been featured on CBS, NBC, ABC, Reader’s Digest, and more.

Good nutrition 

 Eating a variety of vegetables (a nice colorful mix) and fruits each day to keep your body alkaline. And the fresher and more “in season” they are, the more benefits your body reaps! Eating healthy proteins and fats. A body that is too acidic is a prime breeding spot for inflammation and many diseases. So we want to avoid that as much as possible.

Rest

Rest and relaxation are crucial for staying healthy. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Don’t be afraid of taking naps either. The human body works to heal itself during sleep; it’s crucial in this process. Lack of sleep can increase inflammatory compounds associated with conditions like asthma and allergies. It can also lead to an underproduction of cytokines (immune proteins) and other protective immune cells that you need to fight infections.

Immune Booster Supplements 

Help build a healthy immune system with these natural supplements:

  • Vitamin A is a common deficiency in the general population. And when levels are low, it can affect your immune system. Vitamin A is found in orange vegetables like pumpkins, squash, sweet potatoes and carrots.
  • Vitamin D can help with acute respiratory tract infections and is a real key player in boosting the immune system. Vitamin D increases key antimicrobial proteins that help to keep the germs away.
  • Vitamin C and zinc are great preventative vitamins to add to your daily diet this winter. They help to boost your immune system, making it a preventative measure before you catch a cold or flu. Unfortunately, while they don't heal you when you’re already sick, they can be beneficial for a speedier recovery.

Final Cold & Flu Prevention Tips

To prevent the spread of the cold and other illnesses: 

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water. 
  • Clean your countertops with disinfectant, especially when someone is sick. 
  • Sneeze and cough into tissues and discard them immediately, then wash your hands. 
  • Don’t share dishes with other people when they are sick. 
  • Avoid people with colds. 
  • Eat a healthy diet, exercise, get plenty of sleep, and manage your stress. 
Tips from Dr. Jay Woody, chief medical officer at Intuitive Health and co-founder of Legacy ER & Urgent Care 

Want to keep yourself healthy this cold and flu season? Check out our post Here’s How to Boost Immunity the Natural Way.


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