Home remedies for colds: the most important questions and answers

Hausmittel gegen Erkältung: Die wichtigsten Fragen und Antworten

Using home remedies for a cold is not a new trend. They are based on culture-specific traditions that have been passed down through generations in families. It is scientifically questionable whether home remedies such as garlic, lemons, honey or onions can really alleviate cold symptoms or even prevent you from catching a cold.

In this article we will make it clear to you which of the various home remedies are indeed effective against colds and which ones you should avoid. We will make it clear to you how and when you should use the effective home remedies so that you can reduce the infection of colds and get through the cold phase healthy.

the essentials in brief

  • Home remedies for colds have been around for generations. This area still lacks scientific evidence that both supports and refutes its effects. For this reason, home remedies should only be used as a complementary method in the healing process.
  • Most home remedies do not contain chemicals and are natural substances. Honey, garlic and ginger are known to relieve cold symptoms. Other methods of fighting colds like gargling, nasal irrigation, and steam inhalation are also popular but also go almost unexplored.
  • Many home remedies can also be used on children. In the event that a cold occurs during pregnancy, scientists are still unsure whether the use of home remedies is advisable. You should therefore always seek advice from your doctor before using any home remedy.

Home remedies for colds: what you should know

At the moment, home remedies have become popular in fighting colds. They contain no unknown chemicals and usually have fewer side effects. Their application is relatively simple, safe and in most cases you can decide to use them yourself without a certificate and with little risk.

Are home remedies effective for a cold?

The effectiveness of home remedies for colds is still relatively unexplored. Solid scientific studies in this area are difficult to conduct. Nonetheless, many studies have yielded significant results confirming that some of the home remedies listed here could prevent the common cold. For example, there are more studies on the effects of garlic and honey compared to onions.

In general, regular use of some home remedies could prevent an upcoming cold. Since most home remedies are natural substances and contain important vitamins, consuming them can boost your immune system. It follows that you could suffer less from colds.

Man has a cold and drinks tea

To relieve cold symptoms, the healing process can be supported with herbal teas. (Image source: cottonbro / Pexels)

If you should still get sick, a strong immune system can reduce the intensity of the symptoms that occur and shorten the duration of a cold. So, some home remedies may not only reduce your risk of infection somewhat, they are said to speed up the healing process as well.

Which home remedies to take help to relieve cold symptoms?

Depending on the symptoms that occur, there are various home remedies that you can use. The types of home remedies to fight a cold include foods, herbal teas, and various measures.

In the following we will introduce you to the most well-known home remedies and analyze them in detail so that you know which one you should use.


Honey was traditionally used as a medicine by the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Chinese. It was primarily used for intestinal disorders, but because of its anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antifungal properties, it can kill microbes and soothe the throat. That is why it has since been used to treat sore throat and cough as well (1).

To this day, honey is a popular home remedy for colds. Many studies have shown the beneficial effects of honey in reducing cough and sore throat in children older than 12 months and adults (1,2,13">. Also, some studies found that sleep quality was better after consuming honey , which clearly favors the healing process.

You can take honey directly with a spoon. If this variant is too uncomfortable for you, you can mix the honey with warm milk or tea and drink it that way.


Lemons are very high in vitamin C. Many studies have found that taking vitamin C can shorten the duration of a cold. Symptoms may also be alleviated if vitamin C levels are high enough. If you drink the juice of half a lemon, you already have a third of your daily vitamin C requirement covered (3).

warm tea with lemon juice

You should drink a lot to fight your cold. Warm tea with lemon juice is a popular, effective option. (Image Source: Pompi / Pixabay)

You can buy lemons anywhere for low prices and consume them according to your taste preferences. A popular variation is to mix the lemon juice in warm water or in a tea. You can use honey to sweeten it as it is healthier than regular sugar and also has the potential to help you fight your common cold.


Until now, there has been too little scientific research to support the effectiveness of onions in fighting the common cold (8). There are no reliable studies to support the tradition of onions in socks to relieve colds in addition to onion consumption. Although there are no side effects, a positive effect has not yet been proven.

Like garlic, this vegetable is high in vitamin C (9). This affects the strength of your immune system. Daily consumption of onions can therefore ward off an approaching cold. In addition to vitamin C, onions also contain other immune-boosting nutrients such as selenium, sulfur and zinc. However, you should not eat too many onions or drink them as juice, as this can cause bloating and result in stomach irritation.


Garlic is also a popular household remedy that is used to treat colds in many countries. The use of garlic for colds has often been studied in comparison to other home remedies. It has antioxidant properties resulting from the amino acid alliin that might justify the use of garlic for colds to this day.

Many studies have examined the effectiveness of garlic and concluded that it may delay the onset of a cold (4.5". Garlic may also provide relief from common cold symptoms, as well as speed up the recovery time from the common cold (4.5". ,6.7">.

You can ingest garlic in a number of ways. It can be eaten raw, although the taste is not particularly pleasant, taken as a powder, oil or in the form of an extract.


As with many medicinal plants, much information about ginger has been passed down orally with little scientific evidence. Ginger has significant antioxidant content compared to other fruits and vegetables (10). Up to now it has mainly been used against nausea and vomiting, especially during pregnancy.

In general, these foods do not have any clearly dangerous side effects and should be consumed regularly even if you do not have a cold.

Ginger has recently been used to treat sore throats associated with colds (11). It also has powerful antibacterial and antiviral effects that could be useful in fighting the common cold. However, these effects of ginger still need to be scientifically investigated. However, there is no harm in drinking hot ginger.

Which home remedies can be used to combat cold symptoms?

You can also use some popular methods instead of the foods mentioned to directly treat your symptoms. In the following we have described the most well-known of this type of home remedy so that you know exactly when you can use them effectively.

cold bath

The cold bath is a warm full or three-quarter bath that should not exceed 38 degrees. You can add aesthetic oils of thyme, peppermint, eucalyptus or sage, which when inhaled have a disinfecting effect and open up your airways. The bath should last between 10 and 20 minutes, after which it is advised that you dress warmly and lie in bed for a few hours.

You should only use this home remedy if you have not yet had any cold symptoms. It promotes blood circulation, relaxes your muscles and helps treat body aches that are typical when you are about to catch a cold. Such a typical bath with oils is not suitable for children younger than six years old.

steam inhalation

If you suffer from a severe runny nose and cough, inhalation can relieve your symptoms. An inhalation of pure water vapor, or with another additive, will moisten your airways so that the mucous membranes are maintained.

Depending on the symptom, various additives can lead to a better effect. If you have a bad cough, you can mix chamomile or eucalyptus into the water. Quendel and thyme are more suitable for colds. The course of a steam inhalation without an electrical device is as follows:

  • Prepare the water mixture: In general, you have to boil the water until enough steam is produced. If you use additives, you should only put them in the water after it is hot enough and wait a few minutes for it to soak.
  • Inhalation: After the pot has cooled slightly, hold a towel around your neck and lean over the pot or bowl so the steam flows directly into your face. Breathe in this vapor with your mouth open.
  • Duration of implementation: An inhalation therapy can last between 5 and 20 minutes. You can do it one to three times a day.

After inhalation, you should wash your face with cool water, especially if you have used herbs and oils. If your skin feels dry, you can also apply a moisturizing cream. For children, allergy sufferers and asthmatics, the use of aesthetic oils is prohibited and only recommended after consultation with a doctor, because their airways are very sensitive.

nasal rinse

A nasal rinse cleans the mucous membrane, removes pathogens and allergens from your nose. If you already have a cold, you can rinse your nose up to three times a day. This can reduce nasal spray use.

Make sure you clean your dishwashing pitcher after each use.

It is still unclear whether long-term use of nasal irrigation is actually beneficial, but several studies have examined and supported the effect of nasal irrigation during a cold (12).

Nasal rinsing is usually carried out using a nasal douche or a nasal rinsing pot. The salt is completely dissolved in lukewarm water before it is put into the pot. You can use regular household salt or special nasal rinse salt. After rinsing your nose, you may experience a stinging sensation in your nose and, in very rare cases, nosebleeds.


The different types of wraps are popular for pain relief and fever reduction. Unfortunately, there are no studies on the effectiveness of this method with significant results that prove the effectiveness of wraps for limb pain relief.

kind Application
neck wrap Warm neck wraps are useful for relieving a sore throat, inflammation, and difficulty swallowing during a cold. The wrap can be wrapped with additives, however, the effectiveness of these has not been scientifically proven until now.
chest wrap These warm compresses can be used to treat a spasmodic cough. The resulting heat from the chest wrap loosens mucus from the airways, making it easier to cough.
calf wrap The cold in the calf wrap can draw heat away from the body and thus reduce the fever. Symptoms associated with fever can also be eliminated. You should avoid them if you feel cold or chills.

However, the use of wraps is popular because, when used correctly, they have no proven side effects and various personal reports point to their effectiveness. However, you should definitely not rely on them to treat your cold, as no scientific studies support the effectiveness of wraps to date.


Gargling with a mixture of a warm glass of water and a teaspoon of salt can relieve a sore throat (13). If you gargle for a few seconds, the mucous membrane in your throat will be loosened and bacteria and allergens can be removed.

Alternatively, you can gargle with herbal tea. This type of gargling can also relieve a sore throat and eliminate possible inflammation. This method is practically free and actually has no health side effects.

What home remedies can be used for colds in children?

Most of the presented home remedies for treating colds can be used in children. However, you should refrain from using aesthetic oils, as they irritate the mucous membranes, which can lead to shortness of breath.

It's best to talk to your doctor before trying a method like cold soaks or steam inhalation on your child. You should also avoid honey treatments for younger children under the age of 12 months. Honey contains some bacteria that could be toxic to young children.

How safe are home remedies for colds during pregnancy?

The studies are highly controversial regarding the effects of home remedies during pregnancy. On the one hand, some claim that you shouldn't worry about using home remedies during pregnancy. On the other hand, several studies advise that you should be careful when using home remedies.

You should only use home remedies during pregnancy if you are used to them and after consulting your doctor.

Most home remedies are based on natural substances and contain no chemicals. If you take these home remedies correctly and as long as your tolerance is not affected, there should be no side effects. However, there is some risk as this area is fairly unexplored and there are almost no studies on long-term effects for most remedies.

woman sleeping

In the case of a cold during pregnancy, home remedies could support the healing process in addition to resting. (Image Source: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels)

In some pregnancies, consumption of ginger has caused nausea and stomach pain. For others, taking ginger has reduced morning sickness. You definitely need to talk to your doctor before using home remedies. Pay particular attention to the dosage if you have never used the home remedy before.

What are the side effects of taking home remedies for a cold?

Home remedies are mainly based on natural substances, which significantly reduces the associated risk of side effects. Side effects could still occur, depending on the drug used and the individual health situation:

  • Honey: The high calorie content and the increased formation of caries on the teeth can be problematic if you take too much.
  • Lemons: Lemons don't actually have any side effects, but some people may be allergic to lemon oil.
  • Onions: This vegetable could cause bloating and stomach irritation if consumed in excess.
  • Garlic: Blood clotting disorders and stomach problems can occur if excessive amounts are taken.
  • Ginger: Too high a dose can cause bloating and stomach pain.

The long-term side effects have not yet been studied. However, since these are natural foods, the risks associated with their intake are relatively low compared to other home remedies, and they should definitely be consumed regularly in moderate amounts.

What should you consider when treating your cold with home remedies?

The effect of home remedies even for mild colds has not been scientifically proven to this day. Some home remedies can improve the healing process and give you relief, but you shouldn't rely solely on such remedies to treat your cold.

Home remedies should only be used as a supplement, as their effect has not yet been proven.

In general, you should avoid consuming caffeine and alcohol because you need to stay hydrated during the recovery process and such substances cause the opposite effect. You also need to get a lot of rest, and caffeine consumption doesn't help with relaxation at all.

If your symptoms are too severe, you should contact your family doctor or pharmacist directly and get advice from them. Under no circumstances should you do without medical help, especially if your cold symptoms do not improve for a few days after treatment.

What alternatives are there to home remedies for a cold?

Since the effects of home remedies is still a fairly new area of ​​research and there are no reliable studies on most remedies, the following alternatives may be more suitable for you.

homeopathic remedies

Homeopathy includes a medical treatment system that was developed in Germany. It is based on the concept that the body can heal itself. Various plants and minerals are used to promote the healing process of various mental and physical symptoms.

Almost 60% of the population in Germany use homeopathic remedies and achieve a positive effect.

There are clinical studies in homeopathy that support its effectiveness in treating colds. Most studies have found in children and adults that the use of homeopathic remedies as adjunctive medicines can lead to earlier symptom relief and reduced drug use (14,15">.

In addition, they are relatively well tolerated with few side effects such as abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea (14). But you have to talk to an expert when it comes to dosing and choosing a suitable remedy, because the different oils and capsules are quite specific in their effect.


There are no vaccines for the common cold. There is always a seasonal flu vaccine that young children, the elderly, and anyone with weakened immune systems should take especially (13). This significantly reduces the risk of catching a cold and, if you do catch a cold, the symptoms are often milder and the duration of the cold is shorter.


The classic means of fighting a cold are still drugs today. You can buy over-the-counter medicines at any pharmacy, which are usually sufficient for a mild cold. In this case, it is best to get advice from your pharmacist which exactly suits your symptoms.

It is important that you read the accompanying description so that you know exactly how to take the drug correctly, who it is suitable for and what side effects it might have.

If your cold symptoms are too severe and last too long, you should see your family doctor immediately. You may be given a prescription for medication, and in some cases even an antibiotic. However, you should be aware that most colds are caused by viruses, so antibiotics are relatively ineffective against them.


Now you know that home remedies, in addition to conventional remedies, can fight a cold well. They are based on natural substances and therefore have almost no serious side effects. Nevertheless, children and pregnant women should be careful when taking such remedies.

The home remedies to be used can also help relieve symptoms of a cold. However, there is almost no scientific evidence for the positive effect. You should definitely not just rely on home remedies for a cold, as their effectiveness has yet to be clinically proven.


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  12. US Food and Drug Administration (2017). Is Rinsing Your Sinuses With Neti Pots Safe?
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