8 Common Cold Cures That Actually Seem to Work

Warm tea, lemon, peppers, marigold, natural treatment vs pillsWinter is nearly here, and it’s getting cold out there. We’re staying inside, cloistered together, sharing bodily fluids, and trading germs. The sun is weak, if it’s out at all, our vitamin D levels are shot, and our immune system is suffering. Many of us are traveling in planes, trains, and automobiles tightly packed with other people in the same immune predicament. It’s the perfect breeding ground for the dozens of viruses responsible for upper respiratory tract infections like the common cold and flu.

What can we do?

People have been catching the common cold for millennia. Hop in your Delorean and travel to any time or place and you’ll hear people complaining about runny noses, sore throats, and persistent coughs and see others hawking cures and treatments. Some remedies are pure hogwash. Some aren’t. Today, I’m going to look at a few of the ones that work.

For each remedy, I’ll present the available evidence and any potential or confirmed mechanisms for its effects. None are dangerous, so feel free to give them a shot. Even if they don’t eliminate your cold, you won’t be any worse off for having eating a bunch of garlic or turmeric. What I won’t do is cover the remedies without any corroborating evidence. You can type almost any food into the search bar and Google will offer “cold remedy” up as an option. So, sorry, apple cider vinegar fans. Tough luck, people who stuff onions in their socks at the first hint of a sniffle. While I support your free will, I’m unable to produce any serious evidence that your remedies work.

Let’s take a look:

Golden Milk

Ayurveda is the traditional Indian system of medicine. Although talk of chakras and levitating gurus lets rational skeptics dismiss it entirely, modern science has vindicated many Ayurvedic therapies, herbs, and concepts. Golden milk is one, and it’s really simple. Add turmeric to milk and it turns gold. In Ayurveda, golden milk is used to fight sore throats, colds, and flus. Does it work?

Well, turmeric is absolutely rife with potent pharmacological effects. It may be able to relieve cough and clear up excess mucus, at least according to animal studies.

Milk might actually be a bigger aid. Research has shown that a combo of two milk components—whey protein and lactoferrin—is able to reduce the incidence of the common cold in people. That was a concentrated supplement, however. Your standard glass of milk doesn’t have nearly as much whey or lactoferrin. Raw milk may be a better option, as it contains more lactoferrin than pasteurized milk, and raw whey provides more glutathione-boosting effects than heat-treated whey. To preserve these benefits, you’ll have to drink your golden milk unheated, of course.

Chicken Soup

People call it “Jewish penicillin,” and they’re not lying: evidence has confirmed that chicken soup eases nasal congestion, improves the function of the nasal cilia protecting us from pathogen incursions, and reduces cold symptoms.

Does it have to be chicken? As most cultures include soup in their list of effective cold remedies, I suspect it’s the goodness of the broth that’s important and any true bone broth-based soup will work.

Spicy Food

Some people, when ill, swear that spicy food helps them “sweat it out.” Maybe, but a better bet lies in its effect on our nasal cavities. Capsaicin, the chili pepper component that produces a burning sensation in mammalian tissue, reduces nasal inflammation. When your nasal blood vessels are inflamed, the walls constrict; the space gets tighter and you have trouble breathing. Studies indicate that capsaicin is effective against most symptoms of nasal congestion.

Cabbage Palm Fern (polypodium leucotomos)

Polypodium leucotomos is native to Central and South America, where it’s a folk medicine typically used to treat skin and joint disorders. Modern research indicates polypodium leucotomos may actually be “sunscreen in a pill,” as oral doses protect human skin from UV damage. That’s cool, but it’s not why we’re talking about it today.

A 2012 paper in hard-charging, elite athletes—the type of people who subject their bodies to extreme hardships and often have the perpetual upper respiratory tract infections to prove it—found that a polypodium leucotomos extract reduced the incidence of viral infections by 75%, improved symptoms, and reduced relapses. Fewer colds, milder symptoms, and, after you’ve recovered, a lower chance of getting sick again? Sounds great.

Vick’s VaporRub

You’re balking. I can tell. But many people don’t realize that Vick’s is essentially just essential oils—of menthol, of camphor, of eucalyptus, of cedar, of nutmeg. That means it’s the latest (and quite possibly greatest) in a long line of natural herbal blends used by humans to clear congestion and improve sleep. It may not “cure” a cold, but few of the remedies mentioned today do. What it does is reduce some of the symptoms and help you get out of your own way so that your immune system can do its job. If you’re not sleeping, you’re not recovering from anything.

I asked a lot of my friends of different ethnicities (Mexican, Filipino, Thai) for some leads on popular folk cold remedies they or their folks might have used, and Vick’s was the one that kept coming up. It just works.

Neti Pots

In Sanskrit, “neti” means “nasal cleansing.” The neti pot is a exactly what it sounds like. You fill a tiny plastic kettle with warm saline water, tilt your head over a sink, and pour the water into one nostril. It flows out the other one, clearing your nasal cavity and letting you breathe again. The scientific term is “nasal irrigation,” and it really does work, albeit only against one cold symptom. But let’s face it: the worst part of a bad cold is the stuffy nose that keeps you up at night, gives you dry mouth, and makes food taste bland. Neti pottin’ can fix that right up.

Also, it’s better than antibiotics in kids with rhinosinusitis. It even improves symptoms in infants with bronchiolitis, another kind of viral infection.

There were a couple close misses that may be hits in the future:

Ginger and just about anything

Traditional Chinese medicine has dozens of recipes to treat the common cold, and they all seem to involve ginger. There’s ginger with orange peel, ginger with garlic, ginger with scallions, ginger with brown sugar, ginger with brown sugar and scallions. But while ginger is a powerful food, I just couldn’t find any strong evidence that it does anything at all for upper respiratory tract infections.

Vitamin C (till you poop)

This is a tough one. Although I don’t use it for cold relief, prevention, or treatment, there’s the argument that the majority of studies purporting to show inefficacy simply aren’t dosing correctly. Pro-vitamin C researchers argue that attaining the pharmacological benefit for upper respiratory tract infections requires megadosing until the patient reaches bowel tolerance, or that point where you just gotta go.

What do I do?

The foundation for my resistance and response to upper respiratory tract infections isn’t any specific food or supplement, of course. It’s everything. It’s my sleep, my stress, my training, my play. And yes, my food. But it does happen to the best of us, and it’s the worst. We shouldn’t accept being sick. I never do.

I’ve mentioned my common cold medicine: an entire head (yes, a head) of crushed garlic lightly simmered in a mug of bone broth. If I feel a cold coming on, I’ll drop whatever I’m doing and prepare it. This is a potent combination of two of the cold-busting ingredients with the most support in the literature (broth and garlic).

If I have a sore throat, heating up and drinking a blend of lemon juice (lime works too), water, and raw honey in a 4:4:1 ratio always makes me feel better. I tend to use a wild neem honey harvested in India. It’s available at Trader Joe’s and is quite reasonable. I’m not sure if the bees feeding on neem makes a difference, though the plant does possess antiviral and immunomodulatory effects.

What are your cold and flu remedies? How do you stay healthy—or nurse yourself back to health—when a bug’s going around?

Thanks for reading, everyone.

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About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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106 thoughts on “8 Common Cold Cures That Actually Seem to Work”

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  1. Vitamin C is great. I’m no hippie, but Vitamin C has helped me feel better many times.

  2. Very timely as always! I have a bit of a cold for the first time in many years. I have been enjoying broth from our pastured Thanskgiving turkey, and drinking an infusion of fresh ginger, with lemon juice squeezed in after it cools a bit. (I actually just did a post about this on my blog this morning!) And Bragg’s ACV in water, with a little raw honey, is my go-to for a sore throat.
    Bottom line is, your body is telling you something. Listen to it. Slow down and rest a bit.

    1. That’s why when my body always tells me to eat as much delicious, creamy peanut butter I can get my hands on, I make sure I grab my spoon and listen

    2. Put some fresh greens in that broth, and I think it will work even better!

  3. What’s a cold? Seriously though, going on 5 years Primal and only one minor cold so far. I used to get 3-4 a year. I’m still amazed by that.

    Vitamin C has never done a thing for me. Neti pot, turmeric and milk, and bone broth with garlic work wonders. Zinc seems to work best.

    But the best of all has been Zicam. Homeopathic containing ZINC! 9 out of ten times it has worked and knocked the cold out completely after 2 days.

    1. Can definitely back up the zinc recommendation (as zinc chelate). I’ve been taking 25mg a day, 5 days a week, for several years now. Haven’t gotten a serious cold, or any of the opportunistic follow-on infections (sinus, bronchial) since I started.

  4. Sleep! If I feel a cold coming on, or just feel run down, I do everything in my power to get a couple extra hours of sleep. I really believe that many times it works. My husband works outside in the woods and claims that is why he is rarely sick. I used to think he was crazy, but now I know he was truly on to something.

    1. So true! I can nip a cold or cold sore in the bud by going to bed as soon as a symptom comes on.

  5. When suffering with a stuffed nose and/or sinus congestion, i have found relief in horseradish mustard. I use the Beer n’ Brat type, and keep it around the house always for dipping my bratwurst in.

    I understand wasabi does the same thing, but the wasabi sold here in the U.S. is rather tame compared to the Japanese kind. My horseradish mustard is much stronger than U.S. wasabi.

  6. I haven’t had a cold or the flu in decades. I honestly don’t know what to attribute my good fortune to, other than I wash my hands often, although not obsessively, and I eat Paleo 80 to 90 percent of the time. I also take D3 every day (6,000 IU). The only other thing that might be a factor is a homeopathic remedy I take periodically. It’s actually for musculoskeletal issues but might also protect against viruses that cause colds and flu.

    For anyone about to tell me that homeopathy doesn’t work (based on what you think you know, or what you’ve seen on YouTube), please don’t bother. I’ve used it off and on for close to 20 years–for myself, my kids, and my dogs. I know for a fact that the proper remedy prescribed by a competent homeopath definitely DOES work.

    1. Um, but for those of us who would like to know, what do you do Shary?

      1. 2Rae, happy to answer your question if I can, but you might have to be a little more specific. I don’t “do” anything in particular that I can think of, other than what I mentioned.

        1. After thinking about it, a couple of things I DON’T do: I never get vaccinated–for anything. Years ago a naturopath told me that vaccines suppress the immune system. I don’t know if he was right or not, but avoiding them seems to work for me.

          The other thing is, I didn’t take anything at all for the last few colds or flu I had, which (as I mentioned) were years ago. I used a Neti pot, took hot showers, drank hot tea with lemon, and slept a lot, but otherwise I let my immune system do it’s job without interference. The colds got shorter and milder until I stopped getting them altogether.

    2. I’m with you Shary. Homeopathy has worked wonders for me too. I hate it when the paleo/primal world knocks it.

      1. Eatsleepswim, isn’t it amazing how close-minded people can be?

    3. I LOVE homeopathy! I too have used it for many years. My favorite for colds is a cell salt though. Start dosing before it hits hard and you can knock it out before it sets in.

      1. a 200c dilution ( common in homeopathy ) is the equivalent of diluting 1ml of original ingredient into a volume of water that is the size of the known universe. This is far far beyond the point where there is any reasonable chance of there being even a single molecule of original ingredient left.
        If water has that kind of memory then I hate to think of water that’s been flushed in a toilet – wouldn’t want to drink water that remembers someone’s poo.
        It just doesn’t make any logical sense. Paleo is based on logic and science. Homeopathy is based on placebo effect in my opinion.

        1. Yes. Thanks for putting some sanity into the discussion.

          But (as the above posts attest to), some (many?) people believe what they want to believe, regardless of evidence or logic.

          Homeopathy (like religion) will always have adherents, even if it is based on demonstrably false presumptions or reasoning.

        2. Yep, there’s always one in the crowd.

          I guess you think that medicine has to be taken 3 times a day and have toxic side effects in order to work, or that allopathy is somehow better because that’s what you grew up believing. You know a bit about homeopathy; therefore you assume you know everything about it. Actually, you know very little. But that’s okay. You’re entitled to your opinion, Jacob, even if it’s wrong.

        3. Shary,
          Water has been recycled on this planet for billions of years. I am assuming that every substance known to man has “touched” it. Which in theory means I should be able to drink tap water and get the memory of practically everything., Please explain how diluting a substance to nothing can have any effect and how water from billions of years ago would not contain the same memory?
          I used to be convinced that high carb low fat eating was the right way. I am the first one to admit i was wrong because I have read research and base my “opinion” on millions of years’ of evolution.
          Please enlighten me and make me change my opinion.

  7. I rarely get colds…but when I feel a hint of one coming on, I get a good sweat at hot yoga, eat a meal with plenty of garlic and ginger, and take some Chinese herbs (decocted as tea is best…but the capsules also work if I’m lazy or rushed. A drop of oregano on the tongue is helpful too.

    So far as Chinese herbs, there are literally hundreds of formulas designed to treat various presentations of “colds.” Their effectiveness has a lot to do with taking the right one for the presenting pattern. That being said, my personal go-to is a simple one called Gui Zhi Tang, which features cinnamon as a key ingredient.

  8. The best I’ve found for prevention is eating low carb/paleo. I get to watch everybody catch “what’s going around” and being miserable for a week (or two) while I don’t get anything or feel minor discomfort for a day at most. While it would be nice if people who have “got it” would stay home and not spread it, that seldom works (happens?) in the real world.

    Once it starts appearing in coworkers I take a few extra vitamin C. Extra lemon juice, honey, and a shot of spiced rum (can be any liquor I presume, not liqueur due to the sugar, and obviously not *before* work).

    I wonder if the Vick’s VaporRub would work if sparated from the “rub” part? Use an aromatherapy diffuser and add the menthol,eucalyptus, cedar and nutmeg oils. Set the amount of oils to your personal preference, run the diffuser near your bed, get “freshly applied” Vick’s all night long.

    (Yes, I am aware of the contradiction between not using liqueurs because of the sugar but adding honey to the tea. The difference being I know what type of sugar is in the honey and how much, vs unknown – and usually too much – sugar in the liqueur.)

    1. I agree- I noticed I got a disproportionate number of colds a day or two after big sugar binges. Of course it could also be that an impending cold causes major sugar cravings, but I don’t think so. And then it turns out that blood glucose interferes with (competes with) your white blood cells’ ability to utilize vitamin C to do their work. So I suspected sugar was immuno-suppressive before confirming it years later. I’m sure a non-sugar based diet helps!

  9. Getting back to the Vapor Rub, for some stupid reason putting it on my kids feet is superior to their chests. Dont know why, dont care why, just remember the socks afterward.

    Also, my wife swears by a gargle with a good single malt as well.

  10. Where can I get Cabbage Palm Fern supplements? Google doesn’t help. 🙁

  11. I haven’t had a cold or flu since going primal 14 months ago. But if I do, I like the garlic/bone broth suggestion and have some homemade in my freezer. I also like the lemon, water and honey and have tried that in the past with success.

  12. Before going primal I had a cold at least twice a year. Someone near to me had a cold and then I got it, too. This week the sister has a cold and I have nothing at all.

  13. I have had great success with cold-eeze. The zinc seems to work as long as I don’t put it too far up my nose, because then I just sneeze it out.

  14. I think you converted me to Vicks Vapour Rub. My biggest problem when I have a cold is that I can’t sleep. I sleep maybe 2 hours a night for like 3 nights, it’s not great for recovery! Thanks for the tip! (I still cross my finger that I won’t catch any viruses!)

  15. Am I the only person in the world who gets an opposite/negative reaction to using a Neti pot? I’ve tried it twice, and it felt like I had snorted bleach; swollen and inflamed nasal cavities for a full day.

    Yes, I followed directions. Once with the store-bought packet that came with the pot, and once with homemade solution (both at proper temperature.)

    1. OMG Naomi I thought I was the only one this happened to! Like you I use the net pot properly but the pain is something else, even with plain room temp water. Wish I knew what was going on :p

      1. are you using plain water? it needs some baking soda and salt to make it not hurt.

      2. Distilled water is what should be used in a neti pot, not “plain” water. But that said, this does happen in some people. I don’t know why.

        1. Absolutely NOT!
          You need an isotonic saline solution, or you will irritate the heck out of your poor nose!
          Isotonic means just about matching the concentration of salts in your own body fluids. The warm water should taste as much like your own tears as possible. I use about a tablespoon of salt to about a pint of water. Try it on your tongue first.

        2. To clarify, I meant that distilled water should be used rather than tap water in making an isotonic solution.

    2. I tried the neti pot but ended up with water in my ear canal – which became infected. bummer!

    3. Naomi, you shouldn’t use water straight from the tap. Boil it first and let it cool to barely lukewarm. I use a level 1/4 teaspoon of salt to a cup of lukewarm water, to which I’ve added a tiny pinch of baking soda.

      @Marge, a tablespoon of salt to a pint of water will be WAY TOO SALTY for most people.

      The temperature of the water and the correct amount of salt are crucial. Tip your head to one side (while standing over the sink) and slowly pour the solution into one nostril WHILE BREATHING THROUGH YOUR MOUTH. Let it run out the other nostril. Then tip your head to the other side and do the same thing. NEVER SNORT THE SOLUTION UP YOUR NOSE!! Very little should run down your throat or into your mouth, but you can spit it out if it does. Gently blow your nose when finished.

      Using a Neti pot correctly does take a bit of practice.

  16. Great resource

    Since going primal, my colds are few and so mild they are barely noticeable. Even when I have one, I can still breath easily through both nostrils. The winter before going primal was one long series of colds and flues.

    When I (rarely) or my non-primal housemate starts to come down with a cold, I always make “Thai penicillin” – Thai chicken soup. If you go to the link in my signature, you will find my non-traditional recipe.

    Mark, when you make your crushed garlic in bone broth remedy, I assume that you let the garlic sit for 10 minutes to preserve the good stuff.

  17. I am fortunate that I rarely get sick. I found one of the keys to not getting sick is to not touch your face with your dominate hand. I am right handed so everything I do (shake hands, open doors, etc.) is with my right hand. If I have to touch my face I use my left hand only. It takes a bit to make this second nature, but it seems like I am constantly around people with colds and I rarely ever get sick.

    1. Brian,
      That is brilliant. What a simple thing to do and yet, I’m sure it cuts down by at least 50% (probably more) the germs that get transferred to your face from your hand. (And of course…if this is placebo, or mind-over-matter, who really cares as long as it works?)

  18. Outside of spicing food, what’s the best way to increase intake of turmeric?

    1. You may not be a “supplements” person like me, but do an internet search on “curcumin BCM-95”. It is one of my go-to supplements (BCM-95 is a processing trademark and is used by multiple companies as part of their formulation).

    2. I’ve been putting a combo (remember Mark’s pairs of foods article?) of tumeric, pepper, cumin, and coriander (can be bought that way at Indian grocery stores) in my daily bone broth. (Along with fresh grated ginger) That way I get tumeric daily. I’ll sneak it into other foods when I can. The taste is mild and it hides well–more so with meat than veggies. But it stains clothes!

    3. Drop a shake in a smoothie, I do that every day as well as a shake of cinnamon.

  19. Vicks smeared on the FEET–then apply socks–stops coughing! Let’s you sleep! TRUE! Try it!

  20. In my experience here are a few tips.
    Vic’s rubbed on the feet at night (then socks over top or not) will curtail the coughing of both adults and children
    Clogged nasal passages are cleared by steaming water with vinegar in it, if you have a small house it will work thoughout the house, otherwise in a room you are in works best. LIKE MAGIC!!!! People who are pregnant or otherwise can’t take the OTC stuff will LOVE this one.
    Feel a bug coming on – Take a hot bath (like the ones that make your feet bright red and you have to take your time getting in fully) make yourself sweat there for as long as you can in the hot bath. Dry off, keep warmed up and go to BED!!!
    Dry patch in you throat – a few chocolate chips melted on your tongue, well, probably that 85% chocolate will do now that I have that but I haven’t had a dry throat in several years.
    Inflamed sinus’ – take some aspirin.
    in years past I’d buy the “cold remedy” stuff but the whole jumping out of my skin side effect wasn’t worth the small bit of help they offered.

    1. I’ve used the method of getting into a normal tub of bathwater and then run pure hot at just a trickle, using my hands to circulate the water until it is as hot as I can manage. Lessens the slip-and-fall window if you’re holding at part way in vs just getting in normally. This only works though if you have independent hot water valves. The single knob that moves up for ‘on’ and left/right for temperature also works. The single knob that turns, farther for hotter water, does not work as ‘all the way’ gives water too fast. And worse if it is a “safety” valve, they limit the water temp as well.

      I’d keep separate units for bath and kitchen, but a sous-vide circulator might work for bathwater that never gets cold. Take it out of the water if you do anything with soap and float a layer of ping pong balls on the water for insulation

  21. Maybe I asked my question the wrong way…. Is there a way to supplement with turmeric that isn’t involved with food/drink, ie at a supplement/vitamin store?

    1. Costco has them in a square bottle. They have black pepper and olive leaf extracts in them.

  22. I’m reminded of the old joke, “modern science can treat a cold in seven days. Otherwise, it takes Mother Nature about a week.”
    : )

    But seriously, the best way to prevent catching a cold is to keep your hands outta yo face. The second best way is to avoid children. I speak from experience.

  23. thanks for this great resource!

    i have an immune deficiency, and autoimmune paleo plus home remedies have kept me healthy for years! when i feel a cold coming on, this is my plan of action:

    -vitamin c flush (i’m new to this, but it’s been working wonders! key is to take enough to make you go…)
    -neti pot then immediately…
    -steaming with oregano oil and/or eucalyptus
    -good old salt water gargle
    -love me some olba’s nasal inhaler (similar oils to vick’s vapor rub)
    -adding apple cider vinegar to everything i drink
    -if persistent, i’ll use a colloidal silver nasal spray

    healthy winters to you all!

  24. This article misses the most effective means of cold prevention — hand washing. Cold virus can live on dry surfaces for several days. If you touch that surface and then touch your face, you transfer the virus to your mucus membranes where it proliferates. So wash your hands! When you come home, wash. When you finish at the gym, wash. When you are ready to sit down for a meal, wash. Don’t touch your face out in public. I don’t follow any of the above suggestions and I go years between colds, just thanks to careful hand washing.

    1. About once a month I clean all my keyboards, phones, door handles, etc. around the house. That makes me feel better.

  25. Even though there’s no magic pill to cure a cold…I think that Source Naturals Wellness Formula is about as close to a magic cure pill as you can find. It’s truly amazing, chock full of just a lot of natural things, in high amounts, that I swear you can feel battling the cold bogies almost immediately.

    It’s so powerful a dosage that it actually can cause indigestion problems if not taken with a good-size meal. Works best when started at first symptoms. I like to always have it on hand so I can literally down some the very moment I feel that funny throat feeling. For me, it really lessens severity and duration. Instead of a 5-7 day cold that makes me feel awful for the better part of a week, with Wellness Formula I just feel a little off, maybe a little sneezy, but still able to do my normal routine, for 2-3 days.

    You can get it at Whole Foods, most other natural food stores, and also Amazon.

  26. Back in the day, I’m 59
    I had a very bad sinus infection, very low income and averse to antibiotics. So I tried snorting garlic juice. It put me to the floor it hurt so bad,and the world smelled like an Italian restaurant for a week. However, no more sinus issues for months. Now I eat a lot of garlic, that and echinacea, seems to, at the least, lessen the severity of a cold or sinus infection.

    1. My goodness that is funny. Chop some garlic on a mirror…and line it up, snort! Cold gone.

  27. Thanks for this list!! My vote is for vitamin C therapy. I do it for every cold/flu, and it really works. I do 4,000 mg per hour until the bug gives up and goes away. In fact, I just used that method this past week. I also second the Vicks Vapor Rub on the feet (with double socks) at night to stop a cough. It’s wonderful!

    Awesome blog, Mark – keep it up!

  28. There’s one recipe I really like adapted from Stephen Buhner’s Herbal Antibiotics, an interesting read. It’s not too exotic and is very widely applicable:

    Take a few inches cubed ginger, puree or mash, steep in cup of boiling water with half a lime/lemon’s worth of juice, some turmeric and cayenne/black pepper. Decoct as long as you have patience for and cool enough to dissolve (without cooking) a healthy spoonful of raw honey of your favorite variety (I do local wildflower).

    You can dress up the decoction with your favorite spices like cinnamon, licorice, anise, whatever you like, in the spirit of do-no-harm medicinals, or throw tonic extracts in, even some tea, go crazy, etc. I like to add a sprinkle of sea salt too for “electrolytes”. 🙂

    It makes a really good base for your favorite tonic recipe, and has some likely benefits on its own. The turmeric is obvious and cayenne/black pepper are there mostly for synergy/absorption, but each has its own verified properties as mentioned above or in other articles. The ginger is lacking proof for the cold as you mentioned, but it has known synergy with many substances (especially honey), at least due to its circulatory effects, and I vaguely remember it assisting honey intestinal absorption. Ginger especially has proven analgesic, appetite, and anti-nausea effects, great for many symptoms which could interfere with sleep.

    I wonder if the lemon/lime is there for acidic extraction, some nutrients, or just flavor. 🙂

    The ginger can be filtered and reused for a longer decoction, or you can obviously drink it if you like eating straight ginger! May be some good fiber in there!

  29. Maybe it is a Canadian thing, as the creator was in Canada, but at the first sign of a cold, usually a throat or nose “tickle” I take Cold FX. I get out of bed in the middle of the night to do this. I may still have some very mild cold symptoms, but rarely get sick. Actually I rarely get sick anyway, like so many of you, but I swear by ColdFX which I believe is some sort of ginseng extract. On those occasions when I didn’t have any handy, cold symptoms set in and took the usual length of time to go away. I also wish people who are sick would just stay home!

  30. I’m thrilled to read so many others who never get sick since going primal. I have had only one cold in the past 4 years since being primal/paleo. I got sick when I fell off the primal wagon and worn myself down otherwise, I attribute my fortunate good health to my diet and my beliefs. I constantly touch my face with my hands. I don’t believe my hands have picked up a “germ” somewhere that has made it’s way into my body to create the cold/flu. I am a tactile person, so hands to face, then to eyes and the mouth is the norm for me. What you believe is what you see. Oh, and what you eat.

  31. A couple of drops of hydrogen peroxide in the ear does the trick. it bubbles and fizzes at first. Leave it in for 10 minutes then switch to the other side. Google it for exact instructions.

    1. I do this exact thing for my family. It does work, I understand from some of my scientific type friends that it cannot work as the ear canal is a closed system? O well like the bumblebee, scientists say they can’t fly but if you are a bumblebee who ya gonna believe?

  32. Believe it or not, when I feel the beginnings of a cold – the itch in the back of your throat, or your ears closing up, that feverish feeling – I have a glass of dry red wine, and go to bed early. That usually seems to do the trick, and the cold never actually lands!
    Once a cold HAS gotten you, though, my favorite cure is a simple bowl full of hot broth (REAL broth, preferably chicken, HOMEMADE ONLY – I always keep some frozen), with a clove of garlic crushed into it, and a handful of fresh greens. That seems to speed the healing like nothing else!
    And sleep is king, for all stages of a cold.

  33. By the way, about these neti pots that seem to be sold everywhere for a ton of $$$… You don’t need a neti pot to rinse the nasty infected stuff out of your nose.
    I simply mix about a pint of warm water with about a tablespoon of salt in a bowl. Then (this is important!), lean way over a low sink, hold one side of your nose closed, and pull the water up the other nostril until it comes into your mouth a bit. Then blow it out your nose into the sink. Repeat for each nostril, taking turns, until you have about emptied the bowl. Wash off your face, and start breathing again!
    If you do not lean far enough forward, the water will go down your throat, and you will feel like you are drowning! Don’t let that happen!

  34. I remember a long time ago I decided to try mega dosing vitamin C after I read about it when I had a cold, and it really did seem to help a lot. As in, my cold went away almost immediately.

    I’ve been mega dosing vitamin C again with this cold I just came down with on Sunday night and I seem to be managing it pretty well yet again, but I of course can’t say for sure whether or not it’s because of the vitamin C. I wish I had an alternate dimension version of myself where I didn’t take vitamin C so I could actually know! (Or maybe they could just do some studies on this? C’mon…)

  35. My kids have colds all winter. I’m pretty sure this is because their mom sometimes puts oatmeal in their sugar in the morning. When they do I have a grapefruit for breakfast on the premise that grapefruit is in season during cold season. This seems to be preventative. I also add copious thyme and garlic to chicken bone broth this prevents head colds for me. If I get a hint of strep throat, I gargle with real fermented pickle or kraut juice. This clears it up right away.

  36. I’ve had really good results with Airborne and its generic knockoffs since I learned about them a couple of years ago. Two fizzy tablets per day, one in the morning and one before bed, at the first sign of a cold, and it goes away without ever really getting to the point where I feel actually sick.

  37. Stay home if you are sick! You need the rest anyways. Anyone ever heard of using oil of oregano to prevent and get over a cold or flu? Love that don’t touch your face with dominant hand idea! Washing hands often seems to help. Bone broth,rest and hydration:-)

  38. 60,000 I.U. of Vitamin D3
    Will not “Cure” the Virus, but I have found that it clearly reduces the days of misery by about half.

  39. Vitamin C is great in slow-release form. More exy but worth it. Helps me recover from coldes more quickly.

    I’ve read a theory for its efficacy lies in its similar structure to glucose (in fact, other mammals can derive vitamin C from glucose but humans lost that ability). Apparently the cold germs are tricked into accepting Vitamin C in place of glucose. Same theory behind Vitamin C therapy for cancer; constant megadoses required but it starves the cancer while having no side effects on normal cells… so I read (couldn’t say for sure if it’s true).

  40. I take a steaming hot mug of water and add 1 drop each of Oregano, Lemon, Melaleuca and Peppermint essential oils. I breathe the steam through the nose and through the mouth until the steam is gone. Works like a charm every time, stops the cold in its tracks.

  41. For cold prevention: meditation. From summary of 2003 study: “These findings demonstrate that a short program in mindfulness meditation produces
    demonstrable effects on brain and immune function. These findings suggest that meditation may change brain and immune function
    in positive ways and underscore the need for additional research.”

    Link to study: https://www.investigatinghealthyminds.org/ScientificPublications/2003/DavidsonAlterationsPsychosomaticMedicine.pdf

    I believe this research has been replicated in the years since but I did not dig around for it.

    This is enough to keep me committed to my practice regardless of the other benefits.

  42. What about elderberry? That seems to be nipping our colds in the bud. Or maybe the mainly paleo diet is making the cold minor and the elderberry does nothing. But that’s not an experiment I want to test. I want to find where the plants grow wild near me and make my own syrup.

    Also, we take Thieves from Young Living if we’ve been around sick people or feel a slight sniffle. Seems to help, but once again we don’t know what it’d be like without it. Sounds like Thieves has a lot of the same oils as Vicks. (And no we don’t sell Young Living; we just like their Thieves oil.)

    We like lavender essential oil on the pillow if things get worse, which rarely happens now.

    Interesting someone else commented on getting sick after sugar. I always thought my daughter got a cold after holidays that involved sugar, though I minimized her sugar as best I could. After going gluten free, she’s been nearly cold free, however. Just minor ones, like mentionned above. (And no seasonal allergies)

    1. Elderberry does work. I was taking that for colds and flu long before going primal and there have been some studies done on its effectiveness.

  43. For the sore throat feeling — I’m an opera singer, and let me tell you, my colleagues have some STRANGE remedies that they swear by, but here are the things that I’ve found to work:

    Traditional Medicinals Throat Coat tea, or anything with licorice or marshmallow. The mucilaginous roots help to literally coat the throat and soothe irritation. Better with some raw honey after the tea has cooled enough not to kill off the active enzymes.

    Warm bone broth with ginger and cayenne. A serious kick of cayenne, it doesn’t feel great going down, but soothes the pain for a few hours after you finish it.

    I’ve also got a great soup recipe that uses chicken or bone broth, tons of onions and garlic (and I typically garnish with some raw garlic after cooking), white wine, honey, and a ton of French herbs. Super delicious, and helps with all related symptoms.

  44. If I feel a cold coming on I take chinese herbs.. called yin chiao. Since I’ve started doing this I never get sick. If already down with a cold I’d take chuan xin lian, if flu like symptoms gan mao ling.. I was a heavy skeptic at first but after taking and symptoms abating I fast became a believer. Ever since I was a child anytime I’d get a cold I’d come down with a sinus infection that wouldn’t go away without antibiotics. The initial test for me was with chuan xin lian after a cold went into a sinus infection, yellowish mucus persisting for a couple weeks, went away within a cfew days after taking jt. Research it and give it a try;)

  45. I always keep a couple of bottles of elderberry syrup on hand and my children, my husband and I all take it at the very first sign of any cold or flu virus. Last year, I felt flu-like symptoms coming on, took two teaspoons of elderberry syrup once every 3 or so hours and the symptoms were completely gone within about 36 hours (and they gradually and steadily dissipated within that time period, as well. In fact, I felt much better just after the first dose!). This stuff is absolutely amazing and I keep a bottle or two on hand at all times!!

  46. Elderberry capsules. 2, twice a day at the first sign of a cold. Works every time. I get Nature’s Way capsules online at Swanson vitamins. Capsules are stronger than the syrups out there. I forget how many mg they are but I don’t think you can hurt yourself taking them 2-3x/day.

  47. I get colds all the time, i think its because i have a suppressed immune system. I have psoriasis and started taking solaricare for that with pretty good results. Its not completely gone but dramatically reduced. It wasnt till i realized that i have not had a cold yet this season. I usually have had my second battle by now but have not. If its the Solaricare that is doing it, i will be very impressed.

  48. Umckaloabo. Works wonders and the herb pharm one is not too expensive. It has a compound class called prodelphinidins that keeps the virus from attaching to the respiratory system.

  49. Hot shower or bath, then sleep, and fast. Not a daily IF window, but a liquid fast for 2-3 days if necessary.

  50. Echinacea and some C at the first sign of a cold. Works for me – very rarely does the initial start of a cold actually materialize to a full blown cold!

  51. I took your advice and made a mug of bone broth with a whole head of garlic. After drinking 1/3 of the mug, I felt immense heart burn. My reaction? Fuck it, if Mark knows best. Drank the contents of the rest of the mug and immediately felt like my chest and stomach were infested with sulfuric acid. This magic potion released lingering bouts of what I can only describe as dragon breath. A minute and a half later I threw up all the contents of my stomach and had a good laugh about it with my brother. Probably should’ve trusted my instincts, oh well. Perhaps the garlic heads in Denmark are much bigger? I doubt it, be careful guys. 🙂

  52. I’d also like to know where to find the cabbage palm fern. No one in DC stocks it.


  53. I use what I call Cyclone Cider, I have been using it for more than 15 years (I am 64 now) and I have had no colds/flues lasting more that a couple of days and I average less than one a year. This year I made 3 liters as more family and friends ask for some every year. Personally I take a teaspoon full a day, more if I am travelling.
    Here is the recipe, if you decide to try it, ensure you use apple cider vinegar with the mother and all organic products if at all possible.

    Grab a few handfuls of the following, all fresh: ginger, onion, horseradish, garlic, parsley, hot peppers, & lemon. Roughly chop them up and pack into a canning jar, leaving a few inches at the top. Add anywhere from 1/2 to 2 teaspoons (or more if you like it really spicy!) of cayenne pepper. Cover with organic raw apple cider vinegar. Cover the top of the jar with a square of waxed paper before placing lid on, then seal. This is to stop the acid in the vinegar corroding the metal lid.

    Shake well and leave on your kitchen counter, out of direct sunlight. Every time you walk by that jar, give it another shake. You may also want to talk to it, sing, recite poetry, smudge sacred herbs, dance, and tell it a good joke or whatever you like to make your medicine more potent…haha

    For two weeks, shake the jar and do your magic. At the end of two weeks, pour it through a kitchen strainer, wash your canning jar out well, and return the liquid to the jar. You may want to add, at this point, a few tablespoons glycerin (which will give it a pleasant sweetness, a nice foil for the hot, tart taste) or honey. If you add honey, you’ll need to refrigerate it, but glycerin requires no refrigeration. I strongly recommend buying some 2 ounce dropper bottles because you’ll want a bottle at your desk, in your kitchen, by your bedside, and in the car. Use liberally to boost immunity, fight infection, soothe the throat, open the sinuses, stimulate circulation and energy, and generally improve health. Add to soup or salad to spice them up and give a boost-though I usually just drop it directly into my mouth.

  54. I make a soup of many garlic cloves…..loads of shitake mushrooms…ginger…and the hottest chilis you can tolerate. Drink the soup. It works for me.

  55. Mashed raw garlic and manuka honey mixed together and taken on a spoon several times per day work quite well. I’d rather use essential oils than Vicks. Oil quality is important.

  56. my mum who is 61 years old but 30 years old in her mind, has was diagnosed with severve copd, she was admitted into hospital in june 09 with an exberation of copd, she was hospitalized less than two months later and i must say alot lot worse, her sats dropped to 47 and me (her daughter) my brother and sister were called as things turned for the worse.she has to go home after a someone in the hospital recommended herbal clinic to us thankfully after three weeks and the shere determination of my mums will to live shes home, she was connected to oxygen 24hours a day, very tired,cant do things for herself. but shes alive!! this is a horrible condition for any human being to have to go thru but i can proudly say she is fully cure of COPD diease,for anyone in this condition must contact (totalcureherbalfoundation gmail com / https:// totalcureherbalfou . wixsite . com/ website)

  57. I know this is years old- but just wanted to get some advice from Mark and the worker bees:

    I have glandular fever (thank you college) And am wondering gown how best to boost my recovery, and also how to keep my fitness levels up given I am dead tired and also supposed to be resting in bed for the next 4-6 weeks…

    Any advice would be great, also is keto style eating still recommended even with my immune system in such a flared state?

    If by some miracle you see and answer this Mark- thank you!


  58. I had the good luck to meet Dr Linus Pauling in Menlo Park at a workshop back in the 1970’s and he explained why the Vit C studies are so difficult to get consistent results. Every single participant had to be taking it to his or her body tolerance. That means different doses for everyone which is not how studies are done. He taught me how to take ascorbic acid crystals to body tolerance. That means until urine turns yellow, not until you get diarrhea. I have had 2colds in the last 40 years and those I cured overnight. During the winter I take 2 grams of ascorbic acid powder in grapefruit juice daily. I worked in a hospital and was around sick people all day. I got sick the two times because I was traveling and forgot to take it. If you are sick or feel the symptoms of a cold, flu etc., take 4 grams of ascorbic acid powder in water or juice. In 2_hours take 2 more grams. I continue to do that until urine turns yellow. Stop taking it or you will get diarrhea. After 6 hours, take another 2 grams. If urine is yellow stop taking it until 8-10 hours later. I also take a zinc tablet once a day. I once went to 50 grams before reaching tolerance level when I first learned about this method. I had bronchitis, sinus infection, cough, sore throat etc. The next day my tolerance was 35 grams and fever was gone. The following morning I was well.

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