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Immune System

10 Natural Home Remedies for Colds That Work

10 Natural Home Remedies for Colds That Work

It’s happened to all of us: one day, everything’s fine. The next, you’re hit with a foggy head, congested sinuses, a stuffy nose and a cough that keeps you up all night. Going to the doctor almost seems futile: you know it’s a common cold.

We’re all painfully aware that there is no cure for the common cold. What you may not know is that there are some incredible herbs for colds that may help alleviate your worst symptoms.

So what can you do to ameliorate your symptoms, get some relief and get back to real life? There are plenty of ways to start feeling better with a natural cold remedy. Below are our top 10 natural cold remedies to try at home.

#1 Steaming

One of the best ways to clear that stuffy nose and nasal congestion is by using steam to speed up the process. While a hot shower or bath will help, there are faster ways to reap the benefits of a good steam.  

The best thing about steaming is that you can do it multiple times per day without getting your hair wet. Never used steam to clear your airways? It's as easy as boiling water!  Follow these easy instructions:

  • Fill a large, heat-proof mixing bowl ¼ full with clean, hot water
  • Add 2-4 drops of thyme, mint or eucalyptus essential oil
  • Lean over the water, placing a towel over your head to trap in the steam
  • Breathe deeply for 3-10 minutes, taking breaks as needed

Keep a box of tissues nearby, as this tends to bring up significant phlegm. It may be a little messy, but you’ll get some much-needed relief afterwards.

#2 Salt Water Gargling and Neti Potting

Salt water is a potent ally when you have a cold.

Why does it work? Salt pulls mucus and fluid out of tissues, helping dry out your sinuses. It won’t cure your cold, but it could definitely diminish the symptoms.

Depending on your specific complaint, you may find it helpful to do either of the following:

  • Gargle with tolerably hot water mixed with ¼ tsp salt. Repeat 3+ times daily to relieve your sore throat and soothe coughs.
  • Fill your neti pot with heated, distilled water and ¼ tsp salt. Pour into one nostril and tilt your head towards the open nostril. Salt water will pour out of the neti pot, through your sinuses, and escape through the open nostril. Switch sides repeatedly until the neti pot is empty, 3+ times daily.

If you’re new to the neti pot, you may be a little skeptical of pouring water through your nose. While the sensation might be slightly off putting, it is more pleasant than clogged sinuses and headaches.

#3 Use Healing Herbs

We mentioned that there are herbs that  can aid with cold symptoms -- we’re talking more than elderberry cough syrup and hot tea with raw honey.

We have a variety of doctor-formulated products, made with herbs and antioxidants to support your immune system

    Several of these plants have demonstrated antibacterial and antiviral properties in in vitro studies that demonstrate their benefits in soothing cold symptoms.  

    #4 An Herbal Chest Rub

    Did you grow up with Vick’s Vaporub? For many, the thick texture and medicinal scent is pretty nostalgic!

    If you’re looking for an all-natural alternative, there are plenty on the market. All of them work because of a few similar key ingredients:

    • Camphor
    • Eucalyptus
    • Mint

    Look for these airway-opening essential oils, which can help you to feel cool and breathe deeply. You could even make your own version at home if you’re crafty! Or you can use Balm+Relief, our CBD balm for pain, which contains Indian peppermint and camphor.

    #5 Vitamin C 

    When you don’t intake Vitamin C, you can come down with scurvy. Though more commonly associated with pirates and walking the plank, scurvy is a real condition that causes gums to bleed, cuts unable to heal and old wounds to reopen.

    Needless to say, vitamin is an essential nutrient for cellular and tissue repair.

    If you’re suffering from raw sinuses, a scratchy throat and other physical discomforts, Vitamin C might be in order, STAT. After all, there are many studies that show it can help to boost immunity.

    Load up on the benefits of vitamin C with Vitamin C rich foods or take it as a supplement to ensure  your body is nourished with this vital substance.

    #6 Garlic

    Vampires beware: one of the most popular home remedies for cold symptoms is a clove of garlic -- eaten whole or added generously to your favorite savory recipe 

     Studies have shown that:

    • Garlic can improve immune system function
    • People who consume garlic daily may have cold symptoms for 60-70% less time  than those who don’t
    • Garlic may even reduce your chances of coming down with a cold in the first place

    So go ahead, eat some garlic. Dip it in agave and eat it whole, or add it to your recipe of choice. 

    #7 Hot Soup

    Chicken noodle soup isn’t just for the soul. 

    The idea that soup can help cure a cold may seem  like an old wives’ tale. However, science actually backs up this home remedy: hot liquids aid the movement of nasal congestion.

    And chicken soup isn’t the only game in town.

    • Mushroom pho is hot, spicy, vegan -  and if you’re lucky - packed with powerhouse oyster or shiitake mushrooms that can also help kick your immune system into high gear. These shiitake mushrooms are packed with mushroom supplement benefits that have added health benefits not exclusive to cold remedies. 
    • Carrot ginger soup is full of antioxidants, including Vitamin C. Make sure yours is packed with garlic to experience its beneficial effects, too!

    #8 Ginger Tea

    Ginger chews, cough drops and teas are common health aids much like other supplements for immune system. One of the oldest medicinal foods, ginger is known to be antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory. 

    This root has unique compounds, including gingerols and shogaols, that may help to:

    • Reduce congestion
    • Soothe sore throats
    • Provide energy

    With effects like these, ginger may help soothe some more pressing cold symptoms. You can incorporate it into recipes, eat it raw or drink it in a tea.

    As we already know, hot liquids can help move phlegm. This is another reason why ginger tea should be a go-to beverage when you’re feeling under the weather.

    #9 Probiotics

    Your gut health plays a significant role in your overall health.

    Your immune system is made up of lymphatic tissue, white blood cells, and organs including the skin, thymus and spleen. Our gut contains gut-associated lymphatic tissue (GALT), and a host of bacteria, viruses and fungi that help us digest food and absorb nutrients.

    In short, the health of your gut can greatly affect your overall health and immunity.

    When you’re sick, the composition of gut bacteria stops functioning the way it should for healthy digestion. This is especially true if you’re taking antibiotics, which may wipe out beneficial bacteria along with the pathogens they’re targeting.

    Taking a probiotic can help you to maintain a healthy gut microbiome and keep your immune system functioning in peak form.

     #10 Rest

    When you’re feeling ill, you need plenty of sleep. Of course, when you can’t breathe through your nose and can’t stop coughing, that can be easier said than done.

    Try out the following tips:

    • Run a humidifier –This is the same principle as the steaming technique mentioned above. For bonus points, get a humidifier that does double duty as an essential oil diffuser. Pro tip: don’t place essential oils in your regular humidifier unless the manufacturer explicitly okays this practice!
    • Use an extra pillow – Ideally, your neck is in line with your spine during sleep. However, when you’re congested, elevating your head a bit more can help your nasal passages drain more effectively.
    • Try CBD – Safe and non-psychoactive, CBD helps many people to fall asleep, stay asleep and wake up refreshed. If a restless mind is part of the problem, soothing CBD oil tinctures might help quiet your thoughts. You can also apply CBD topically to soothe sore muscles.

    Plant People in Sickness and in Health

    At Plant People, our goal is to reconnect you to your true nature  through the power of unique and innovative botanical formulas. Our passion for making advanced wellness more accessible led us to create a line of organically grown, sustainably sourced products that help people feel their best everyday.

    Now, we’re honoring time-tested traditional modalities with immune-boosting blends that can help prepare your body for the cold and flu season. We have products specially formulated to fight off pesky fall-and-winter illnesses, as well as year-round pathogens.

    Try out Advanced Lung Guard to help you breathe easier or Advanced Immune Power to experience the best of functional mushrooms and Vitamin C.

    Formulated with vegan ingredients and sustainably farmed in the U.S.A., it’s in our nature to help you thrive. 


    Reviewed by Gabe Kennedy

     Co-Founder of Plant People, Gabe Kennedy is an acclaimed chef and entrepreneur. Growing up in a house of healers and herbalists, he is passionate about the power of food as a tool for health, and actualized this passion and belief system into his company, Plant People. Named to Forbes 30 under 30 Gabe has shaped menus and cooked his way around the world with his mission to promote a more communal, green and healthy world.

     Gabe is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. You can learn more about his work at his website.


    WebMD. Does Gargling With Salt Water Ease a Sore Throat?

    Healthline. How Garlic Fights Colds and the Flu.

    Medical News Today. How Ginger Can Help With a Cold.

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