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14 DIY Cold Remedies From Around the World

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woman's hands holding cup of tea
Gulcin Ragiboglu/istockphoto

Feed a Cold

Amid the current pandemic, the thought of having a mere cold almost seems quaint. But why suffer more than necessary? 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-inflammatory. Hot peppers relieve congestion, and cumin is believed to boost the immune system. 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 home remedies could save you money on cold medicines that mask the cold symptoms but might not cure a cold any better than ingredients already in the kitchen. 

Related: 12 Frugal Home Remedies for Fighting the Common Cold

Chicken Soup
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Onions and Honey
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Onions and Honey

Loving abuelitas in the Dominican Republic prepare a cough syrup made from onions and honey as one of their natural cold remedies. 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, one of which also uses lemon juice. Note: With youngsters, honey should be given only to children older than 1 year old as it may contain Clostridium botulinum spores that can lead to infant botulism.

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Ginger and Turmeric Tea
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Ginger and Turmeric Tea

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. You can also use powdered ginger and turmeric — one-third teaspoon for each cup of water.

Black Pepper
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Black Pepper

Simple spices are key to many natural cold remedies. 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, black pepper is thought to lessen the severity of a cold by breaking 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 congestion. 

Related: 15 Simple Ways to Fend Off Colds and Flu

Hot Sake
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Hot Sake

A most unusual remedy comes from Japan, where sake is heated very hot and combined with raw egg and sugar, sometimes with a slice of ginger, to become a soothing and warming tamagozake (egg sake). If nothing else, it can help with the sleeplessness a cold so often brings.

Ginger Soup
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Ginger Soup

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. A recipe from Food.com can be cooked up in less than an hour. 

Related: How to Keep Kids From Getting Sick at School

Pepper and Juice
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Pepper and Juice

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 scratchy 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. (Lemon juice is a good source of vitamin C.) A recipe from the nutritionist Kimberly Snyder uses stevia as a sweetener, but you can use honey instead.

 

Apple Cider Vinegar
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Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is having something of a moment, with one of its uses as a natural cold remedy. A tablespoon of apple cider vinegar added to a glass of warm water is said to help ward off viruses by making the body more alkaline. Although there's no scientific basis for this, it could help you feel better by loosening mucus. 

Related: Ridiculous Health Care Fads 

Garlic Tea
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Garlic Tea

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.

Hot Toddy
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Hot Toddy

Toddies are great winter drinks even for people who don't have colds. A Food.com recipe shows how to make a mug at a time with whiskey (usually bourbon) enlivened with immune-system boosting lemon and throat-soothing honey. It's heated with boiling water to warm the bones as well as clear the sinuses. Naturally, it has other pleasant side effects. Drink enough and you briefly won't care if you're sick — but drinking too much can cause dehydration, which will make cold symptoms worse.

Chili
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Chili

Cumin is believe to boost the immune system, 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 nearly as many recipes for chili as there are people who make it. 

Related: Can You Handle These 15 Hot and Spicy Dishes?

Cloves
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Cloves

Cloves help loosen phlegm and are high in antioxidants — among other potential health benefits. Some people suggest popping a clove in your mouth 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 anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. (Find a recipe on the wellness blog Red & Honey.)

Salt
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Salt

Salt contains plenty of healthful minerals, including zinc, which is said to be anti-inflammatory and able to shorten the duration of some colds, although evidence is mixed. Tapping the power of salt water could be worth a try. Gargling a half-teaspoon of salt dissolved in 8 ounces of warm water is an effective way to soothe a scratchy sore throat. For sinus problems and stuffed noses, mix table salt with distilled or sterilized water and use the salt water solution to ease nasal congestion.

Fire Cider | The Dabblist
Fire Cider | The Dabblist by thedabblist (CC BY)

Fire Cider

This potent and indeed fiery brew infuses ingredients such as garlic, ginger, onion, horseradish, and a hot pepper in apple cider vinegar. A recipe from The Kitchn won't be ready for at least three weeks, so plan to make it ahead of time to keep on hand. 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.