Home Remedies for the Common Cold

Cold season is upon us once again, and I've got a nasty head cold right now, most likely contracted by babysitting some small children (aka cute little cesspools of disease). Since I don't have any cold medicine in the house and can't be arsed to go to the drug store, I thought I would try a few popular home remedies in a completely non-scientific (and desperate) attempt to feel better.

While there is no cure or reliable treatment for the common cold, there are many remedies that will help you feel better and alleviate some of the symptoms. If you think you have a better way of defeating acute viral rhinopharyngitis, let me know in the comments section.

Note: I've ripped off stock photos from the internet rather than take my own, since I don't feel like getting off the couch right now. If I've linked to your photo without your permission, please send an email to [my user name]@gmail.com rather than suing me or changing the image on your server to goatse, etc.

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Step 1: Take a Shower, Wash Your Hands

I always feel better after taking a shower in the morning, and my theory is that the steam will help with cold symptoms by loosening up the mucous plugging up my nose and throat. Showering also keeps you clean, lessening the number of germs your body has to fight off.

Washing your hands is a good idea even if you're not sick, and if you're blowing your nose every five minutes like I am, it's also a good way to prevent transmitting your disease to other people.

Step 2: Vitamin C

My grandpaw was a biochemistry professor for decades, and always swore by ascorbic acid as a general cure-all and immune system booster. Since vitamin C is non-toxic and merely passes through your body, taking huge doses of the stuff can't really hurt you, even if it might not help either.

You can take it in pill form or by eating citrus fruit like lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits.

Step 3: Drink Plenty of Fluids

Water helps you move toxins out of your body, and is the main solvent for all of the biochemical processes in your body. Regular old tap water is good, but I also like tea or kombucha. As previously stated, inhaling the steam coming from a cup of tea can help break down mucous in the nose and throat. My favorite is some good strong English breakfast tea with a little bit of honey.

Step 4: Soup

While there's nothing magical about soup, it makes a great comfort food and provides plenty of water (see previous step).

The traditional remedy is chicken noodle soup, but I think that matzo ball soup (aka "Jewish penicillin") makes a wonderful alternative.

Step 5: Chew Gum

I know it sounds odd, but I've always found that chewing gum makes me feel better when my sinuses are plugged up. Maybe it's the mechanical action of chewing, maybe it's the increased saliva that dissolves the mucous, or maybe it's just distracting me from my symptoms.

Step 6: Whiskey

I found an old bottle of whiskey in the basement, and took a shot. This turned out to be a pretty decent cold remedy, as it made me feel quite a bit better, if only for an hour or so. My logic is that many cough syrups are mostly alcohol, and whiskey tastes much better than that god-awful fake cherry stuff. Of course, you don't need to drink high-quality scotch; rot-gut plastic bottle vodka (or any kind of spirits) would probably still work, but cheap stuff wouldn't taste as good and might give you a hangover.

Please note that this will not make you any healthier. The effects and risks of alcohol consumption are the same (or worse!) if you are sick. Don't drink too much (one shot per hour is plenty), don't have any before driving, and don't drink if you're underage.

Step 7: Sleep

Resting is probably one of the easiest things you can do in order to recover from illness. And trust me, if you have a nasty cold, you will want to sleep (it's either that or the whiskey). I've been feeling out of it all day (again, could be the whiskey, not just the cold), and I think I'll be going to bed early tonight.

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    23 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    you should try the neti pot system to clan your sinuses. Also, i have heard that a more fruity type of alcohol is better for sickness. i love english breakfast tea. im drinking it now. remember that hte caffiene in tea can keep you from getting helpful rest, you want the herbal cleansing benifits of the tea, not the sleeplessness. use decaf.

    3 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Important to note that it is not good to use straight tap water in the neti pots - distilled is best.



    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I've seen the neti pot thing, but it creeps me out a bit. Maybe if I get really congested again I'll get desperate enough to use it.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I typically only drink caffeine in the morning or early afternoon because of this. I'm mostly a coffee drinker, but good strong black tea or high quality oolong is nice too.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Oh, yeah, don't blow your nose too hard too often, or cough too hard/often...

    you wanna lessen the damage to your mucosal lining

    and swallow it... seriously! It helps the immune system*

    * I read that somewhere in journal, but I forget where.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Hey, cute instructible!

    I studied a closely related virus in my PhD project which causes sort of the common cold in horses (would you believe): equine rhinitis B virus, ERBV.

    Through direct experimentation and literature reviews, I've found that re. the human 'common cold':

    - Often caused by the human rhinovirus HRV, but not always
    - HRV has no lipid envelope, so detergents are ineffective at killing it as such, but good for cleaning surfaces, hands, etc anyway
    - HRV very sensitive to acids like dilute vinegar
    - HRV causes that watery runny nose for 2-4 days or so, but stays in the nose, upper throat, but not the lungs, because it grows at 33'C or so and doesn't like growing at 37'C (body temperature... I don't 'do' 'F... )
    - usually, a cold goes from the virus infection to a post-viral bacterial infection after a couple of days... all that thick greeny snot... because the virus has 'messed up' the nice lining of the nose and throat, allowing bacteria to invade
    - HRV and some bacteria don't like growing with Zinc ions, and your body likes Zinc, vit B12 to make new cells inc. immune cells,
    - the body uses vit C and E as antioxidants to help prevent 'friendly fire'... the powerful superoxides your immune cells use to kill invading nasties can hang around and damage your own cells too. Vitamin C and E can help mop these up.
    - a head-cold is very very different to the 'flu. A cold is like 'cough cough, ooo I feel a bit unwell, runny nose, slight fever maybe, green snot maybe...wonder what's for dinner?' for the last 3 days maybe

    A 'flu is '....... I want to die.... just shoot me now... my knees hurt, my eyes ache, and have been for the last 5 days...nose not so runny and no real cough as such... I've a high fever and feel too hot then suddenly too cold, then too hot and sweaty...couldn't possibly eat a thing... I'm just gunna lie here and do nothing for the rest of time, hokay?'

    My old micro prof, Ian Holmes, said a person that has had the true 'flu NEVER confuses the two ever again...

    What has worked for me is:
    PREVENTION- i.e., normally, when not sick
    - taking a slow absorbing multivitamin tablet every few days,
    - rest, be sensible
    - eat good
    - don't stress
    - wash your hands regularly, ideally with 'skin pH' body wash, pH 5.5 or so. It's good for your skin
    - don't stick unwashed hands in your nose, eyes, mouth
    - if someone near you is sick, begin quietly taking more Zinc, especially those lozenges with Zinc gluconate in them... suck slowly and don't eat or drink for a long time afterwards. Does make things taste funny, but knocks off nasties.

    - more Zinc, vit C, but not too much (it'll give you the 'runs')
    - Patented cure-all: juice of 1 lemon, honey, garlic, ginger, some fizzy aspirin, shot of whisky, hot water.

    PS 'man 'flu' has been proven as real!

    Win Guy

    8 years ago on Introduction

    I <3 the intro image! lol. 5/5 Great 'ible!
    Win Guy


    8 years ago on Step 3

    airborne works well before the cold strikes hard, and after to really boost the immune systems kickbutt power.

    Whiskey is nice! I've got a bottle of Buffalo Trace bourbon on my desk right now. Cough syrup might be more effective, but whiskey tastes better.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I have found a way to AVOID getting colds in the first place... this method works for me.. i used to get several colds a year, now only get one every couple years.  What i do is simple.  One day I noticed that during the night before getting the cold, my throat would feel "dry" and scratchy whenever
    i woke up.  If i get up to use the restroom, and notice my throat has this "dry, scratchy" feeling, I just spray a tiny bit of chloraseptic or just  mouthwash in my mouth, then go back to bed.  I think this works because while sleeping, our throat drys out from breathing dry air and the throat drys out, and germs/viruses set up shop.  If the scratchy throat is ignored, then next morning you have a cold.  If a cold does get me, I get rid of it quick by keeping a small heating pad near my feet while sleeping.  keeps me from getting "chilled" and having sneez-attacks.... These 2 strategies really work very well for me.  I hope this helps others, along with all the other good suggestions in your fine instructable....

    1 reply
    The Jamalam

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Hold on... you suggest rest but you have a bad headcold while you are making this instructable. Wouldn't it be better to write this after lol