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Remedies for the Common Cold

By Gwen Bruno ; Updated August 14, 2017

An irritated nose and scratchy throat, quickly followed by sneezing and a watery discharge from the nose, are the first signs that you are coming down with the common cold. Although nothing other than time will cure your cold, there are remedies that may possibly reduce the severity of your symptoms or the duration of your illness.


Echinacea is an herbal treatment prepared from the echinacea plant. Although its efficacy is still being reviewed, many believe echinacea can actually prevent you from getting a cold in the first place. Studies have shown that echinacea taken at the first sign of a cold may help relieve symptoms and even shorten the duration of a cold. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) website warns that this medication can vary widely due to the use of different strains, plant parts and preparations of the echinacea plant.


Many people believe that zinc, when taken in the form of a nasal spray or throat lozenge at the first sign of a cold, may help reduce symptoms. In 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned against the negative effects of zinc nasal sprays, which can cause loss of smell. A 2009 review of research on the use of zinc for a cold treatment reports that zinc lozenges in doses of more than 70 mg daily consistently reduced the duration of colds.

Vitamin C

A 2007 analysis of clinical trials showed that although taking vitamin C on a regular basis did nothing to prevent colds, it did serve to reduce the length and severity of symptoms. The NIH reports that the research on the effectiveness of vitamin C taken for colds is inconclusive and requires further study. Vitamin C is considered safe in small doses, but high doses can cause side effects.

Chicken Soup

Probably the most famous cold remedy of all time is hot chicken soup. Science has proven that the effectiveness of chicken soup is more than just an old wives’ tale, according to the Mayo Clinic. The soup acts as an anti-inflammatory agent by neutralizing the movement of the immune system cells called up in response to inflammation. Chicken soup also causes a temporary increase in the flow of mucus through the nose, which reduces congestion and limits the amount of time viruses stay in the nasal passages.

Other Home Remedies

Salt is another safe and natural home remedy for colds. Using warm salty water as a gargle several times a day helps relieve the sore throat that often heralds the onset of a cold. Warm water with lemon and honey also soothes a scratchy throat and helps prevent dehydration from lost fluids.

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