Natural Cold Remedies: Do They Work?

cold natural remedies

The common cold has no cure, but there are plenty of ways to shorten its lifespan and lessen your symptoms. Plus, living a healthy life can reduce your chances of getting sick. Reader's Digest sorted through popular home remedies and found what works and what doesn't.

Meditation: Does it work? Adults who meditated for eight weeks had about one third fewer colds over the winter compared with a control group, an Annals of Family Medicine study found. Downside? Too busy feeling Zen to report any issues.

Exercise: Does it work? The same Annals study found that people who began a moderately intense exercise program had 29 percent fewer colds than a control group. Mild exercise may relieve symptoms like congestion. Downside? Take care not to overexert yourself while feeling sick.

Sleep: Does it work? People who got fewer than seven hours a night were nearly three times more likely to develop symptoms when exposed to a virus than those who got eight or more hours, research found. Downside? None — head to bed, and sleep tight.


Zinc: Does it work? Worth a try. This mineral shortens illness by about a day (it stops the virus from replicating) if you take it within 24 hours of feeling sick, a 2013 Cochrane review of 18 randomized controlled trials found. Downside? Lozenges may leave a bad taste or cause nausea. Avoid nasal sprays, which can damage your sense of smell.


Probiotics: Does it work? Not our favorite natural cold remedy; they may prevent colds. A 2011 analysis of ten studies found probiotics decreased the number of people who had at least one cold. But not all studies show benefits. Downside? They may cause bloating at first. Strains vary, but some studies used those in OTC brands, such as Lactobacillus.

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