Home Remedies for Colds

Tea with lemon and ginger

Last week I came down with a nasty cold which put me out of action for a few days. While most people take cold and flu tablets when they have a cold, these generally don’t do anything to make the cold go away. They make you feel better by treating the symptoms, but because you feel better, you may not give your body the rest it needs to recover.

For minor illnesses like colds, sore throats and stomach upsets I prefer to use home remedies and rest and recover. I also keep things simple, since I live alone and so have to look after myself when I am sick. Here are some of the remedies I used for my cold:

“Tea” made from hot water with lemon slices, ginger slices and honey. Lemon contains a lot of vitamin C, ginger stimulates the immune system and honey is antibacterial and soothes the throat. The combination of these great ingredients in a hot drink soothes your throat and sinuses. You could also add a green or herbal tea bag for extra flavour.

Lactofermented garlic

Lacto-fermented garlic cloves. Raw garlic has cold-fighting anti-bacterial properties, and lacto-fermented garlic has the added benefits of probiotics, plus it tastes better! I happened to have a jar of lacto-fermented cloves in the fridge already and ate 2-4 cloves every morning. If you don’t have it on-hand, you can use raw garlic instead.

Zinc tablets. While zinc supplementation doesn’t prevent colds, it has been shown to reduce the duration by between two and three days. I took two tablets every few hours.

Bone broth

Homemade bone broth and soup. Bone broth is a traditional cure-all, and has also been shown to be beneficial for colds and flu. The minerals boost the immune system, which the gelatin soothes the digestive system. Luckily I had a slow cooker full of homemade bone broth when I got sick, so I could just scoop some out whenever I felt like it, but even if you have to make it, it’s just a matter or throwing everything in the slow cooker

Water with lemon or apple cider vinegar. It’s important to drink a lot of water when you have a cold, but unfortunately plain water was the last thing I felt like drinking. By adding some apple cider vinegar or slices of lemon, I made it taste better. Apple cider vinegar is antibacterial and works to thin mucus, while lemon adds some more vitamin C.

Lots of rest. There’s no getting around this one, while TV ads might convince you that the right thing to do is “soldier on”, your body needs rest when you are sick. I was able to take two days off uni and just lay around in bed reading, watching Dexter and sleeping.

Using a combination of these remedies, I was over the worst of the cold after two days and it was completely gone after another two days.

What remedies do you use for colds and flu?

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  1. Sorry you were under the weather! I’m a fan of tea, especially when I am sick–I don’t keep lemon around, but a lemon-flavored tea feels so soothing to my throat! I completely agree about getting rest–even if you can’t take off from work, try to go to bed earlier or sneak in a nap. Sometimes I’ve been able to “sleep off” a cold.

    Ya know, I’ve done the zinc tablet thing a lot, and it does seem to shorten the duration of the cold–but sometimes it seems more like it “puts off” the cold–I’ll think I’m better and then, bam, a week later I have a real blinger of a respiratory infection which seems worse than the original infection. Maybe it’s just coincidence but I’ve had this happen a number of times to me.

    • That’s interesting about the zinc “putting off” the cold – from what I understand it boosts your immune system, so maybe if you stop taking it before the cold is completely gone it comes back with a vengeance.

  2. Wow…what a great list of natural cold remedies. Not sure about the Garlic but I’m sure it works!

    I am also like you, in that I don’t take nay over the counter cold/flu remedies but rather just sleep, drink plenty of water – I love water – and watch a lot of TV.

    And as you stated, rest is so very important for your body to do the fighting it has to do inside. One of the worst feelings I remember about working regular 9 to 5 jobs was feeling I totally miserable, but still having to work. The people around me were also worried that I would be giving my cold to them and it made working a bigger drag than it usually was! I am always grateful every time I have a cold now that I do not have to go through those moments anymore 🙂

    Thanks again for a wonderful post and take care. Hope you feel better soon 🙂 All the best.


    • I watched a fair bit of TV as well, it was actually a nice break 🙂 That people go into work when they are sick (often because they have no choice) and spread the illness to others is a big problem that I forgot to touch on. I’m also lucky because I can take time off, or even work from home.

  3. I take OTC cold meds. Also, I like to make soup with some minced up in ginger and garlic in it. The combination really seems to help soothe me when I have a cold or flu. Also, when I have a bad enough sore throat (along with fever, chills, and all the rest), my mom will make me a toddy of honey, whiskey, and crushed aspirin. Works very well and causes me to sleep – rest is most beneficial when I’m sick. If I soldier on, I end up relapsing and just getting sicker.

    Hope you feel better. I had a mild cold Sunday and yesterday. I think my immune system kicked its arse, though because I feel fine today. :]

  4. You know what they say, treat a cold and it will last seven days, and if you don’t it will last a week. 🙂 I think when colds come, they just have to run their course. However, you want to do what you can so they will not linger and you have given a lot of good suggestions for that.

  5. Other than resting well, I consume lemon, ginger, honey and garlic when I have a cold, too… another thing I would add is chilli. And yeah, soup is always nice!

  6. What a great list of remedies! I’ve never quite gotten into fermented veggies – or I should say, i haven’t yet. But the idea of lacto-fermented garlic cloves is rather appealing! I might just have to give it another go (before next winter!).

  7. I’ve had a cold all week; I just do whatever provides comfort and let it run its course. My doctor will absolutely not prescribe antibiotics for a cold; which is a good thing since they don’t cure viruses! But it’s amazing how many people ask for them and are sure they have bacterial infections. I’ve been drinking lots of herbal teas to compensate because I don’t like drinking water. Rom has made me some hot drinks with black currant jam which used to be his home remedy as a child. But I do find that strong cough drops help when I have a coughing attack!

    • Oh no, I hope you feel better soon! I also think it’s crazy that people want antibiotics for colds, it’s just helping these super-resistant bugs develop. Blackcurrant jam in hot drinks sounds really soothing 🙂

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