14 DIY Cold Remedies From Around the World


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man sitting on living room couch sick with the flu
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Grandmothers all over the world swear by home remedies to help their families feel better when a cold strikes. The therapies take different forms, but the ingredients are similar: Ginger, turmeric, and lemon are considered anti-inflammatories. Hot peppers relieve congestion, cumin boosts immunity, and garlic is antibacterial. None substitute for a doctor's care in the event of a serious illness, nor are they guaranteed to work, but consider trying them with bed rest and plenty of fluids. If avoiding a cold proves impossible, these remedies could save you money on cold medicines that mask the symptoms but might not cure a cold any better than the stuff already in the kitchen.

chicken broth with herbs
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Though often referred to as "Jewish penicillin," this remedy is used in practically every country and culture — probably because there are some studies that indicate it actually lessens cold symptoms. Commercially processed or takeout soup is okay but can't beat the homemade stuff. Make it with plenty of garlic and onions, which are anti-inflammatories and add another boost of health to the deliciousness.

honey and onion syrup
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Loving abuelitas in the Dominican Republic prepare a cough syrup made from onions and honey. Onions have expectorant qualities that loosen the mucus that often accompanies a cold. Honey is a well-known throat soother, as well as an immune system booster. The blog Step to Health has two recipes to try.

ginger root and turmeric root on a table
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To make this tea for colds and stomach ailments, chop up fresh ginger and boil it in water for 15 minutes — 1 teaspoon per cup of water. Add an equal amount of turmeric, which contains curcumin, an anti-inflammatory that has also been shown to have antiviral effects. Sweeten with honey and lemon. Powdered ginger and turmeric can also be used at one-third teaspoon for each cup of water.

milled black peppercorns on table
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In India, a few peppercorns are added to ginger and turmeric tea at the boiling stage for patients who are coughing. In addition to being an antimicrobial believed to lessen the severity of a cold, black pepper is thought to break up mucus in the respiratory tract, helping it be expelled. Black pepper is also put in boiling water so the steam can be inhaled to clear sinus passages.

hot sake being poured into cup
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A most unusual remedy comes from Japan, where sake is heated very hot and raw egg and sugar is added, sometimes with a slice of ginger — becoming a soothing and warming tamagozake (egg sake) that, if nothing else, can help with the sleeplessness a cold so often brings.

carrot ginger soup with ingredients on background
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Taking the cold-curing ingredients of chicken soup and boosting them with ginger is common in China and other places. If a pot of chicken soup is too much, try takeout egg drop soup with a teaspoon of fresh grated ginger added. This recipe from Genius Kitchen can be cooked up in less than an hour.

pepper and juice
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Cayenne pepper is used as an expectorant to help break up mucus (and mixing one-eighth teaspoon in an 8-ounce glass of fresh orange juice can help alleviate a sore throat). It's a major ingredient in "immunity tea" that is claimed to prevent colds and other diseases from taking hold in the first place. Immunity tea also contains ginger and lemon; a recipe on the blog Solluna uses stevia as a sweetener, but honey can be used instead.

apple cider vinegar in jar, glass, and fresh apple
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A tablespoon of apple cider vinegar added to a glass of water makes the body more alkaline, killing off the viruses that cause colds to take hold, a Prevention contributor says. Start drinking immediately, and have frequent doses.

garlic bulbs with garlic cloves
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Some swear by whole garlic cloves for decongestion, but eating garlic is not for everyone. An old Italian remedy is more appetizing: Bring a pot of water (about a quart) to a boil. Add five or more peeled and smashed cloves of garlic and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the juice of two lemons and a bit of honey to make it palatable. Drinking this several times a day will destroy the cold in a few days, nonnas agree.

warm hot toddy with lemon bourbon and spices
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Toddies are great adult winter drinks even for people who don't have colds. A recipe posted on Genius Kitchen shows how to make a mug at a time with whiskey (usually bourbon) enlivened with immunity-boosting lemon and throat-soothing honey. It's heated with boiling water to warm the bones as well as clear the sinuses. Drink enough and you briefly won't care if you're sick — but drinking too much can cause dehydration, which will make symptoms worse.

red chili peppers on wooden table
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Cumin boosts immunity, chili peppers relieve congestion, and, if it's hot enough, chili induces a good sweat, making it an ideal food for people with a cold. There are as many recipes for chili as there are people who make it.

scattered cloves aromatic spice in wooden shovel on vintage textile background
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Cloves help loosen phlegm, are high in antioxidants and help kill of bacteria — among other potential health benefits. Some people suggest popping in a clove at the first sign of a cough and sucking on it until the flavor is gone. Others swear by a homemade cough syrup with clove, honey, and cinnamon, which is an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant. TheHealthSite suggests dry roasting and grinding the clove into powder; the blogger behind Red and Honey simmers instead.

sea salt in bowl on wooden background
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Salt contains plenty of healthful minerals, including zinc, which is said to be an anti-inflammatory that can shorten the duration of colds, although evidence is mixed. Gargling a half-teaspoon of salt dissolved in 8 ounces of warm water is effective in soothing sore throats. For sinus problems and stuffed noses, mix table salt with distilled or sterilized water and use the saline solution for nasal irrigation.

apple cider with cinnamon sticks
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This potent and, indeed, fiery brew infuses ingredients such as garlic, ginger, onion, horseradish, and a hot pepper in apple cider vinegar. The Kitchn says it should be made at least three weeks ahead of time and kept on hand throughout the winter. Take a few tablespoons at the beginning of a cold, or take a shot daily through cold season to ward off illness. If it's too potent, it can be mixed with water.

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