A Magazine About Food, Art & Exchange In Midtown Kingston, Published By The Hudson Valley Current.

Home Remedies for the Common Cold

By Rochelle Riservato

Published in Country Wisdom News, February 2013 issue

In order to properly address a medical issue, such as The Common Cold, we must first obtain a proper definition of such to know what we’re dealing with. Medically defined as a viral infection of the upper respiratory system, a common cold affects the nose, throat, sinuses, Eustachian tubes, trachea, larynx, and bronchial tubes. With more than 200 different viruses known to cause this infirmity, the medical arena states 30 to 50 percent of these colds are caused by a group known as “rhinoviruses”.

Research dictates almost all common colds clear up in less than two weeks, with an average of ten days, without causing any complications. Given time a relatively healthy body will produce antibodies to cure itself of a cold. With cold-season commencing in early autumn and extending through early spring certain circumstances may lead to common cold susceptibility. Catching the common cold can range from being near a sick person who coughs, sneezes or speaks—all expelling tiny fluid droplets containing the virus that is then breathed-in—to touching an infected person or inanimate object that has become contaminated with the virus. [Editor’s note: As this was published in 2013 and pre-pandemic, we’ve all become very aware of the way viruses spread in the wake of COVID-19.]

With the common cold giving rise to a multi-million dollar industry for over-the-counter (OTC) medications and a leading cause of work and school time loss, most colds can be treated with simple natural remedies that you can do at home or are in your home already. 


Initially there’s throat tickle, runny nose, and sneezing. The nasal discharge starts as clear and thin and later changes to a thick yellow or greenish discharge. The common cold also brings along head and muscle aches, chills, a sore throat, nasal congestion, hoarseness, watery eyes, appetite loss and general tiredness. And if there’s a cough, it’s usually intermittent and dry. 

So to make those first four to five days, of the usual ten day total stretch, there are many natural remedies for you to try before running off for an antibiotic. Remember antibiotics do not treat viruses—they are only for bacterial infections.

Natural Remedies

• Drink plenty of fluids, preferably hot, but avoid acidic juices, which may irritate the throat.

• Lots of rest.

• Use saline nasal spray containing purified water and sodium chloride to flush out mucus and bacteria. 

• Gargle with any of the following: One teaspoon salt to 8 oz. warm water; warm water with turmeric powder or astringents such as alum, sumac, sage and bayberry; Warm tea that contains tannins with sage leaves; Licorice tea; a mixture of honey and apple cider vinegar; or a cooled-down steeped mix of raspberry leaves or lemon juice with one teaspoon honey and two cups hot water. Remember children under one year of age should not be given honey.

• A cool-mist room humidifier to ease congestion and sore throat.

• Vaseline or other lubricant under the nose prevents irritation from frequent nose blowing.

• Inhaling a steaming mixture of lemon oil, thyme oil, eucalyptus, and tea tree oil.

• Taking doses of natural coneflower, goldenseal, yarrow, eyebright, garlic, or onion available at health food stores.

• Natural herb loquat syrup for cough and sinus congestion and Chinese ephedra for runny nose.

• Zinc or black current lozenges every two hours.

• High doses of Vitamin C or drink Elderberry juice. 

• Eliminate dairy products to cut down possible mucus production.

• Eat antioxidant-rich, nutrient-dense foods including whole fruits, vegetables, grains and omega-3 rich foods—and don’t forget chicken soup, the most requested food of cold sufferers.

• Blow nose often and correctly; with one finger pressed over one nostril while gently clearing the other. Alternate. 

• Take steamy showers.

• Place hot or cold packs around congested sinuses.

• Don’t smoke.

• Meditate to reduce stress.

• Moderate exercise if feeling up to it. 

• Sleep with an extra pillow to help drain nasal passages.

• Sage extract for mucus removal, cough calming, and as an expectorant.

Note: Be mindful. If one experiences any symptoms other than the ones listed above, please consult a physician. The common cold can produce secondary bacterial infections of the upper respiratory system in people with a weakened immune system, chronic lung disease, asthma or diabetes. A common cold in those subject to any of the above conditions are more prone to secondary bacterial infections leading to middle ear infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, sinus infection, or strep throat.