13 Must-Know Home Remedies for Colds and Flu

Coming down with a cold or a bout of flu is never fun. Symptoms such as body aches, nasal congestion, fever, chills, and fatigue can really get a person down and make you feel horrible. Fortunately, they usually do not last long. Moreover, there are many treatment options available to minimize ailments and discomfort.

Over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines, acetaminophen, decongestants, and NSAIDs are generally effective at treating colds and flu and can speed up recovery. For people who prefer more natural options, though, many home remedies can offer the same or similar benefits – without the costs.

Keep reading for 13 tried and tested cold and flu home remedies…

Salt Water

When you have a cold, gargling with salt water can decrease the severity of symptoms like nasal congestion and a sore throat. Salt water gargling may even help to prevent upper respiratory infections.

It’s a quick and easy home remedy: Simply add a teaspoon of salt to a glass of water (standard size) and stir. Then, sip, gargle for a few seconds, and spit out. Repeat until the glass is empty.


Breathing in steam when you have the cold or flu virus can provide symptomatic relief. The steam from the water moisturizes the nasal passages and helps to clear a blocked nose.

You can clear a stuffy nose by breathing deeply through the nose while holding your head over a bowl of hot water for a few minutes. Alternatively, you can breathe in the steam from a hot bath or shower.

Chicken Soup

Chicken soup is a great option any time, but when a person is sick, a bowl of chicken soup with veggies can slow down the movement of a white blood cell called neutrophils, speeding up healing.

Researchers have found that chicken soup is particularly effective at reducing respiratory infection symptoms. Of course, it also hydrates the body, which is important for overall health.


The roots and herbs of echinacea have long been used for treating and preventing infections of all kinds. In fact, native Americans have been using echinacea medicinally for well over 400 years.

Echinacea is effective because it is high in flavonoids, known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory health benefits. Take 1-2 grams of the herb or root as tea three times daily.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant that strengthens the body’s defenses. Thus, increasing your intake of oranges, grapefruits, and leafy greens is smart, especially when you have a cold or the flu.

Lemons are another great source of vitamin C. To reduce phlegm and boost your immune system, simply add fresh lemon juice to a cup of hot tea with some honey. Drinking lemonade can also be helpful.


What’s low in calories and highly nutritious? Garlic. And when it is cut or crushed, the alliin it contains converts to allicin, a compound with antimicrobial properties that can relieve cold and flu symptoms.

Because garlic can be hard to consume raw, consider adding a garlic supplement (with allicin) to your diet to reap the health benefits. Or, you can make a garlic soup or add it to meals.


Gingerol, the main bioactive compound in ginger, is known to alleviate cold and flu symptoms. It’s especially effective for soothing a sore throat, relieving headaches, and warding off nausea.

For cold and flu symptom relief, experts recommend adding 2 tablespoons of fresh ginger to a cup of boiling hot water and allowing it to stand for a while. Drink two to three times daily.


Honey has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties that can soothe a sore throat. Research also suggests that it is an effective cough suppressant, although honey should never be given to infants.

Take advantage of honey’s curative properties by mixing 1-2 tablespoons into your tea or warm lemon water twice daily. Or, simply consume a tablespoon or two straight from the jar.


Eating yogurt is associated with many health benefits, including relief from cold and flu symptoms. This is because it contains probiotics that can help to strengthen the immune system and gut.

Not all yogurts contain live probiotics, though. In some products, the live bacteria have been killed during processing. For this reason, look at the labels and choose yogurts with live or active cultures.


More than just an aromatic turkey seasoning, thyme is great for breaking up mucus and treating respiratory infections and scratchy coughs. It’s also good for relieving gas and stomach issues.

Thyme for cold and flu symptoms can be had as tea. Just add 2-3 teaspoons of fresh organic or dried thyme to a cup of boiling water and cover. Steep for 10-15 minutes before drinking.


An herb in the mint family with a pine-like flavor and aroma, sage is highly regarded for its culinary properties. Yet, it also has many medicinal uses, such as fighting cold and flu symptoms.

Sage is ideal for relieving sore throats and coughing. It also works well for congestion. Add 3 teaspoons of fresh sage to a cup of boiling water to alleviate symptoms.

Note: Avoid sage if pregnant or breastfeeding.

Cayenne Pepper

The component in cayenne that gives its fiery flavor – capsaicin – is an excellent natural decongestant. Additionally, it can relieve fever, lowering body temperature by stimulating sweat glands.

In general, cayenne can help to prevent colds and flu, as well as shorten their duration. A cup of hot water with a pinch of cayenne mixed in will normally do the trick. Drink three times a day.


Onions may not be able to absorb flu virus pathogens (an urban legend), but they do have illness-fighting properties that can help with cold and flu symptoms like coughing and labored breathing.

Ready to try an onion tea? It’s really easy to make. Just pour boiling water into a cup or mug containing a slice of raw onion. Then drink the infused liquid after straining and letting it cool slightly.