It appears that I am very much a creature of habit when it comes to getting ill. I catch a cold at Christmas; it settles into my chest and eventually becomes bronchitis, which requires some antibiotics. I joke with my friends about always toasting the New Year with cough syrup, rather than champagne, but it’s also true, unfortunately. And I’m really, really tired of it, not to mention the expense of trying to find something that makes me feel human again. Last year, I began doing some research and experimentation with natural cold remedies that helped ease my suffering (and red nose) better than fancy store-bought syrups and pills.
With Christmas around the corner, I thought now was a great time to share some of these low-cost and effective natural cold remedies with you. Last year, several members of my family came down with various colds at Christmas, including me. I started using natural cold remedies at the first sign of a tickle in my throat, and to my surprise and great pleasure, the bronchitis fairy didn’t visit me. Nor did she visit me when I caught a summer cold.
I don’t miss her. At all.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m not a doctor, obviously. I found these remedies to be helpful, but they will not work for everyone. Always check with your doctor first, and if your symptoms persist or get worse, stop treatment and visit your doctor.
Low-Cost Natural Cold Remedies that Will Help Ease Your Suffering
Christmas may be about giving, but no one wants to receive the gift of a cold. But if you do catch one, now or any time during the year, I strongly encourage you try some of these natural cold remedies to manage your symptoms.
Onion Juice for Ear Aches or an Ear Infection
Weird. I know. Sounds like something they would have done years ago, before antibiotics existed. Oh wait. That’s exactly what they did. The humble onion is pretty amazing. It’s an all-natural antibiotic that fights viruses, fungus and inflammation. Plus, they’re dirt cheap.
How to Use: Grate 1/2 a fresh onion into a microwaveable bowl. Heat for about 10 seconds. Using the back of a spoon, press against the grated onion to release the juice. Strain juice from onion. Juice should still be warm, but not hot. Take a cotton ball and soak up some of the juice. Lie down on your side, and place cotton ball in the exposed ear. Gently pinch cotton ball, so a drop or two of onion juice drains into your ear. Stay still for about 15 minutes. Repeat with the other ear.
I was hesitant to try this because it sounded so strange. But it works. The pain goes away almost immediately. I’ve used it several times and it’s a go-to for me.
Onion Poultice for Chest Congestion
Sticking with our amazing onion, this is great for chest congestion, which means this is one of my most used natural cold remedies. It’s super cheap, easy (which is important when you’re not feeling well) and effective.
How To Use: Take a fresh onion and cut it into thick slices. Wrap onion slices in a thick towel. Lay down and place towel on your chest, then top with a hot water bottle or rice pack. It should be warm enough so you feel the heat through the towel, but not hot enough to hurt or burn you. Keep the onion poultice on for 1-2 hours.
I won’t pretend that your bedroom won’t smell like an onion and you may stink like one too. But I strongly credit this from keeping my cold from settling into my chest.
Sore Throat Tea
Drinking plenty of liquids is really important when you have a cold and/or sore throat. While you can and should drink plenty of water or orange juice, this mock tea is also very soothing and full of get-well-soon ingredients, like honey, lemon, vinegar and cinnamon, that will also aid in your recovery. I pretty much drink this all day whenever I have a sore throat.
How To Make: Mix 1 cup of hot water with 2 tablespoons of honey, fresh squeezed lemon juice and apple cider vinegar and a dash of two of cinnamon.
This does have a strong taste, thanks to the vinegar, so kids (and some adults) probably won’t like it. I found it to be effective and worth the bitter taste.
DIY Cough Syrup
My colds typically include a pretty harsh cough. Like, non-stop coughing that annoys everyone around me, partly because they fear I am contagious and the hacking is noisy. I’ve tried various cough medications and nothing really helps. This, for me, doesn’t stop my coughing, although it apparently does for some users, but my coughs were productive (TMI, I know) and I stopped coughing after a week or so. For someone used to coughing for up to a month, that’s pretty miraculous.
How To Make: Combine 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons water, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper and a 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger in a small container with a lid. Adult dosage is 1 tablespoon. Take as needed.
This is similar to the Sore Throat Tea and I use both. Again, it is strong-tasting. You can give it to kids (1 teaspoon), but I would try it yourself first to judge whether they will be able to withstand the heat/bitter taste. Recipe source: Barefeet in The Kitchen.
Sore Throat Toddy
This is for adults only as it does contain vodka. This is particularly good to take right before bed, as it should help you fall asleep. I store my vodka in the freezer, so it’s really cold, which feels great on a sore throat. I make a half batch (full recipe is below), down the whole thing and then I go to bed.
How To Make: Combine 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice, 2 tablespoons honey and 2 tablespoons vodka together. Store in an airtight container. Dosage is 2 Tbsps (adult only, although I take more since 1 Tablespoon of vodka really isn’t that much). Recipe source: Yesterday On Tuesday.
Full disclosure: when my cold is at its peak, I do opt for one of those sleepy-time cold medicines over the toddy (do not take both). Those medicines knock me out, so I sleep deeply and for 8-10 hours whereas the toddy wears off, for me, after a few hours. When I start to feel better, I switch to the toddy because it does not make me feel like a zombie in the morning, which the sleepy-time medicine does.
Add These Natural Cold Remedies to Your Medicine Cabinet
These are some of my favorite and most effective natural cold remedies that I use whenever I catch a cold. You likely have many of the ingredients on hand or can easily pick them up at your grocery store. They cost very little in comparison to store-bought medications and do a better job in my experience.
Do you use natural cold remedies? If so, please share your experience with us.
Jana @ Jana Says says
I tried to use one last year when I got a cold. It was so disgusting I couldn’t even choke down 3 sips. I stick with my tea–similar to what you describe here–and my trusty NyQuil. And lozenges.
Yeah, some of the natural remedies are little yucky tasting. 🙂 I use NyQuil to sleep at night but I can’t use it (or DayQuil) during the day. It either makes me fall asleep on my feet or too jittery.
I will have to remember this post for the next time I get sick, which unfortunately will happen without fail, because having kids means they bring home all sorts of wonderful surprises 😉 Although the onion thing I will definitely pass on because I hate onions 🙂
Oh man, I love onions, which is probably one reason I was able to use those remedies because you definitely reek of onion afterwards. But they worked for me, so it was worth it! But I understand why you might prefer to avoid them. 🙂 I suspect one reason I tend to get sick when I go home is because I interact with a lot more kids and am exposed to their germs. Plus, the whole flying in a metal tube, seems like another breeding ground for germs.