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Home Remedies for Coughs and Colds

Get Rid of Your Cough the Way Grandma Did -- or Not

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Updated May 21, 2014

Pharmaceutical companies don't have the market cornered on all cures for that which ails you. Grandma did her part long before dextromethorphan was supposedly stopping coughs. What we didn't understand until now was that Grandma was getting it right more often than we thought. Doctors are expensive, and Grandma's cures are back en vogue.

Granny didn't always get right, though. Here are some favorite home remedies for cough and cold, along with whatever we've learned about them since Granny first gave honey (or brandy) to dear old Dad.

Got a home remedy of your own? Share it below.

Honey for Coughs

Woman blowing her nose in bed
Brand New Images/Stone/Getty Images
First point goes to Granny. Honey turns out to be better than cough medicine for quelling the hack of winter (or summer). Of course, since the cough medicines don't actually do anything, the bar wasn't set too high. Still, honey helps a little. Just don't give it to the littlest coughers.

Hot Peppers for Stuffy Noses

Sniff ... hold on, I'm eating chili ... sniff ... sure makes my nose run ... sniff ... may be good for a stuffy schnozz. As it turns out, capsaicin (the stuff in red chile peppers) is indeed good for opening up the sniffer and clearing out the gunk. Now if I can only manage to mix honey and chile peppers in an edible dish.

Vitamin C to Beat the Common Cold

This one's hard to pin down. Grandma was right in one sense: you should take your vitamins every day. Taking vitamin C every day seems to reduce the length of a cold once you get it; however, taking big doses of vitamin C after you already have a cold gets mixed results. It wasn't studied in kids, and it worked sometimes in adults. Moral of the story: try it. One things for sure, taking a daily vitamin C helped, so listen to your Granny and chew your orange-flavored cold-beater.

Steam for Croup

Ask almost any emergency department nurse or ambulance paramedic how to treat croup and I'll put up a hefty bet they'll tell you to take your tyke in to the bathroom and run a hot shower. We've all been under the impression that humidity from the steam -- or even the cool night air -- will fix Junior's barking croup faster than Sea Biscuit ran the Belmont. Of course, they will all be wrong. Humidity doesn't do a darn thing for croup.

Echinacea for Colds

It's not a home remedy as much as an herbal remedy, but Echinacea has gotten lots of press for being the way to truly beat a cold. As is often the case with herbal cures, the evidence is weak at best and nonexistent most of the time. It's one of those recommendations that basically says, "If it makes you feel better...."

Sources:

van Rijswijk J.B. and R. Gerth van Wijk. "Capsaicin treatment of idiopathic rhinitis: the new panacea?" Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. Mar 2006

Douglas, R.M., et al. "Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. Jul 18 2007

Barrett, B.P., et al. "Treatment of the common cold with unrefined echinacea. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial." Ann Intern Med. Dec 17 2002

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