The best cold remedies are often the easiest and the most reliable — chicken soup included.
It turns out that your grandma was on to something. Soothing the common cold can be as easy as gargling with salt water and spooning down the chicken soup. Here are 10 cold remedies to try at home that will have you feeling better before you know it.
1. Drink Lots of Fluids
Good hydration helps moisturize the lining of the nose and throat, which makes mucus easier to clear. Aim to drink more fluids than usual. But be sure to avoid caffeinated or alcoholic drinks, as they can cause dehydration.
2. Use an Air Humidifier
You can also help keep nasal and throat passages moist by using an air humidifier, particularly in the winter months when heating makes the air inside your home very dry. Be sure to follow the instructions to keep it clean if you are using it infrequently.
3. Try a Neti Pot
Another way to prevent nasal dryness is with a neti pot, a nose-rinsing device found in drug and health-food stores (just make sure the device is clean and you’re using it properly to ensure that it’s safe and effective, according to the FDA). These pots are filled with a saline (salt water) solution and are inserted into one nostril while the user tilts his or her head to the side to allow the solution to flow up the nasal passage and out the other nostril.
4. Eat Chicken Soup
The adage about chicken soup being good for a cold is practically as old as the common cold itself. And there’s some truth to what your grandmother has been telling you all these years. “Chicken soup is nice for the common cold because it loosens up your mucus,” says Norman Edelman, MD, a professor of preventive medicine, internal medicine, and physiology and biophysics at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and a senior scientific adviser for the American Lung Association.
5. Take Echinacea
Evidence is mixed on the effects of echinacea on the common cold, but some experts say it can be helpful. “Echinacea does not prevent infection, but several studies have suggested that echinacea helps reduce the duration of upper respiratory infection symptoms,” says Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD, a professor of pharmacology and physiology at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC.
6. Reach for Some Zinc Lozenges
Like echinacea, the mineral zinc gets mixed marks when being assessed for its effectiveness against the common cold. “I have not seen any evidence for prevention,” says Dr. Fugh-Berman, “but there is some evidence — according to a review article published in the June 2013 issue of the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews — that zinc in the form of lozenges can decrease the symptoms of a common cold.”
7. Take Vitamin C
It’s up there with chicken soup as far as legendary cold remedies go, and there may be some truth to vitamin C’s being helpful. Get it as a supplement or by upping your intake of vitamin C–rich foods, like citrus, green peppers, dark leafy greens, and kiwi fruit. Several studies show that it can reduce the duration and severity of a common cold, according to research published in January 2013 in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
8. Give Your Nose a Massage
Try massaging the acupuncture point known as yingxiang, located at the lower border of the nostril. Scientific research on the effectiveness of this technique is limited, but an older, small study published in the American Journal of Rhinology did find that this type of nasal massage can provide relief from nasal congestion.
9. Gargle With Water
Research suggests that gargling with water three times a day can actually help prevent upper respiratory tract infections. So gargle away, before that common cold gets any worse.
10. Stock Your Medicine Cabinet
Not exactly a home remedy in the traditional sense, but there’s no denying that over-the-counter (OTC) cold remedies — such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Mucinex (guaifenesin) — can provide temporary relief. The American Lung Association recommends that these medications be taken as soon as common cold symptoms arise. If you have high blood pressure, though, talk to your doctor about OTC cold medications you should avoid.
And of course, there’s no substitute for eating right and getting plenty of rest to keep your immune system strong so that you’re in prime shape to keep those colds at bay!