The best cold remedies are often the easiest and the most reliable, chicken soup included.
By Sara Calabro
Medically reviewed by Niya Jones, MD, MPH
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 the 10 best cold remedies to try at home that will have you feeling better before you know it.
- Drink lots of fluids. The American Lung Association recommends drinking eight glasses of water or juice per day when trying to get rid of a common cold. Staying hydrated helps moisturize the lining of the nose and throat, which makes mucus easier to clear. But be sure to avoid caffeinated or alcoholic drinks, as they can cause dehydration.
- 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.
- 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. 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.
- Eat chicken soup. The old adage about chicken soup being good for a cold is practically as old as the common cold itself. But it turns out 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, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association.
- 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 trials for the treatment of upper respiratory conditions have shown a reduction in duration of symptoms with echinacea,” says Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD, associate professor at Georgetown University’s Complementary and Alternative Medicine Master’s Program in Washington, D.C.
- 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 that intranasal zinc [zinc nasal sprays] or zinc in the form of lozenges can decrease the symptoms of a common cold.”
- Take vitamin C. It’s up there with chicken soup as far as legendary cold remedies go, and there might be some truth to vitamin C being helpful as well. Some evidence shows that it can reduce the duration and severity of a common cold.
- Give your nose a massage. Research shows that massaging an acupuncture point known as yingxiang, located at the lower border of the nostril, can provide relief from nasal congestion.
- Gargle with water. A recent study in which participants gargled with water three times a day found that the ritual can help prevent upper respiratory tract infections. So gargle away, before that common cold gets any worse.
- 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 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 any 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!