6 Common Cold Remedies that Really Work

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Common Cold Remedies that Really Work - Holistic Squid

Conventional medicine claims that there is no cure for the common cold, and while this may be true, it doesn’t mean your body isn’t perfectly capable of fending off illness when given the right ammunition – the right common cold remedies at the right time.

In the previous post – 6 Immune Boosting Foods You May Be Missing – we discussed how to strengthen your body with Real food to create true and deep resilience to illness. But the fact of the matter is that even perfectly robust folks get sick sometimes, and it’s smart to have a few tricks up your sleeve. These common cold remedies can help you fend off a cold or the flu before it takes hold.

In Chinese medicine, we say that “Wind” invades from the “Exterior,” entering our bodies and taking up residence between the skin and the muscles. This creates chills, fever, body aches, and sore throat – the beginnings of a cold or flu.  While talk of weather patterns may seem too poetic to accurately define medical illness, “wind invasion” is actually quite parallel to what happens when free radicals invade healthy cells. The body is left more vulnerable to inflammation from allergens and infection from viruses and other pathogens. That’s where these common cold remedies come in.

Antioxidants are the good guys that escort the riff raff out.

Antioxidants do not directly act against viruses, but greatly reduce cell damage by neutralizing free radicals. When cells are not being damaged by free radicals the body has more fortitude to defend against illness.

Antioxidants are a daily, essential part of good health, but the trick with using antioxidants to fend off cold or flu is to be sure to catch it early. Once you have a full-blown cold, you may slow or reduce your symptoms but you can’t “cure” your illness by taking antioxidants.

Many common foods, especially fruits, vegetables, spices, and oils are rich sources of antioxidants (vitamins C, E, carotenoids, and polyphenoids), each having their own special way of functioning. (source) The best way to make sure your body has the antioxidant support it needs is to consume a variety of antioxidant rich foods and – when necessary – antioxidant supplements.

Here are the common cold remedies in my arsenal and how I use them so they actually really work:

 1 –  Fermented Cod Liver Oil

Fermented cod liver oil (or FCLO as it is often abbreviated) is probably the most valuable immune boosting supplement that is often overlooked in a world of hyper-marketed common cold remedies.  FLCO is an essential daily supplement – you can read more about the benefits of fermented cod liver oil here. But the daily dose can be double or tripled when your body in need of extra immune support.

The omega 3’s in fermented cod liver oil reduce inflammation in all cells of the body (an antioxidant effect). While the rich, naturally occurring vitamins D and A are essential for optimal immune health.

Currently there is only one company that produces this nutrient dense super food, and you can find fermented cod liver oil here. I prefer the orange flavor.

 2 –  Vitamin D

Since my family takes fermented cod liver oil on a regular basis and gets plenty of California sunshine, we don’t supplement with vitamin D daily. However, I keep a bottle of 2000 IU Vitamin D3 (like this one) on hand for the occasion when one of us starts to feel chills, fever, or sore throat.

A high dose of vitamin D3 for no more than three days has been shown to actually halt or at least greatly reduce the symptoms of flu or stomach bug. The Vitamin D council recommends 900IU per pound of body weight (2000IU per kg) for therapeutic flu treatment. (source)

 3 – Vitamin C (Elderberry Syrup & Acerola)

Vitamin C is an antioxidant powerhouse. Nearly anyone you ask will say a glass of orange juice is among their go-to common cold remedies, and I have even seen gas stations selling individual packets of fizzy Vitamin C.

It’s been recently brought to my attention that all Vitamin C is not equally beneficial to the body, and in fact may be detrimental. In a bind, a few powdered Vitamin C packets are not going to kill you, but I wouldn’t suggest downing these on a daily basis.

When taking synthetic vitamin C, you will often need a high dose for efficacy – 500-1000mg for children (depending on their size) and 2-4 grams for adults – spread throughout the day.

Better yet, opt for food-based sources of C every day, including whatever fresh seasonal fruit that your farmer is growing at this time of year. When you use Real food to get your nutrients, you not only get the nutrient itself but also lots of co-factors (such as bioflavonoids) that make the nutrients more effective.

When you’re deep in cold and flu season, around sick kids, or just starting to feel under the weather, take an extra boost of vitamin C using a natural supplement such as acerola or pure elderberry syrup (recipe for homemade version here). Experiment to find the best one that works for your family’s taste.

 4 –  Probiotics

Because we tend to eat probiotic foods every day at my house, including raw milk, homemade raw yogurt and cheese, sauerkraut, kombucha, and cultured condiments, I don’t go out of my way to take or give my family probiotic supplements unless it seems like our tummies or immune systems could use some extra support.

That said, whenever we are under the weather or a cold or flu seems to be “going around”, I make sure to give everyone a high potency probiotic supplement at breakfast time and during the recovery period from any illness. You can read more about probiotics here.

 5 –  Herbal Blends:

If you walk into a health food store and ask for an immune boosting supplement, you will probably be presented with an entire shelf or aisle. These natural common cold remedies are not snake oil – many can be extremely helpful when used for the correct symptoms during the appropriate progression of an illness.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Yin Qiao San – This classic Chinese medicine formula is extremely effective in treating early cold and flu that presents with a sore throat, IF you catch it in the early stages. At my office I carry a version of this formula for adults and kids and go through cases of it each winter.
  • Ginger shots topped with cayenne & oil of oregano – My new favorite, over-priced juice shop sells immune boosting shots of this concoction bringing together the antioxidant properties of these 3 ingredients. Try this at home by juicing the ginger, topping with a squirt of oil of oregano, and a sprinkle of cayenne. In addition its antioxidant benefits, ginger is a powerful digestive tonic. This combo is particularly effective in warding off an impending head cold.
  • Echinacea & goldenseal – A classic immune tonic combo. The tricks to taking these extracts is to use a potent form (I prefer tinctures) and to use the herbs at the first sign of illness. Once you have a full blown cold, echinacea and goldenseal won’t do much to help you get better.

 6 – Nasal Wash

When you have a sinus congestion from a cold or allergies, the inside of your nose and sinuses become inflamed. Excess mucous production is unable to drain and bacteria and irritants can build up creating more inflammation, swelling, stuffiness, and pain.

Some amount of mucus production from the nasal and sinus lining is normal, but rinsing your nasal passages using a Neti Pot or similar tool (this is my family’s favorite) helps to rinse away excess phlegm, trapped pollens, dust, pollutants, and bacteria. Normal mucosa will then fight infections and allergies better and symptoms will be reduced.

Using a saline solution for the rinse also restores moisture and eases inflammation of the mucous membranes. Be sure to use filtered water to avoid infection from strange bacteria found in tap or well water.

6 Common Cold Remedies that Really Work - Holistic Squid

By the way, I still encourage you to drink plenty of broth and homemade soups, stay hydrated, and eat Real food as your appetite permits when you’re sick. But when you use these common cold remedies properly, you will fend off most bugs with ease.

What common cold remedies do you use to stay well?







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  1. Tabatha says

    Great list! Many of these remedies have worked for me, and I love to have this list to be able to try additional remedies. At the first sign of a sore throat, I begin gargling with salt water or apple cider vinegar, just about every hour until the sore throat is gone. This kills germs in the throat and gives a lot of pain relief. My mom says that it kills the bacteria and helps the cold not to set in as strong. Also, raw garlic. If your spouse can stand it, it is so amazing for so many things, including immune boosting. What do you think about colloidal silver, not so much as a daily supplement, but as an immune booster at the first sign of sickness? In my experience, it helps ward off the cold as long as I take it, but then if I stop taking it before symptoms have completely cleared up, its almost as if the colloidal silver only delayed the onset of the cold, and then the cold gains speed and comes in just as strong (almost like its an antibiotic that I should continue taking for a few days after symptoms are gone?)

  2. says

    Thanks for the reminder! My sinuses have been feeling a little sluggish lately, so I’m going to amp up the vitamin D (no more sun…) for starters! That always seems to do the trick for me.

  3. Elisha says

    This is all great! I do all the above except the neti pot for my kids. Does anyone have any ideas for cleansing a toddlers nasal passages? Is there any way to do this for a toddler?

  4. Elisha says

    This is all great! I do all the above except the neti pot for my kids. Does anyone have any ideas for cleansing a toddlers nasal passages? Is there any way to do this for a toddler? Another thing I keep on hand for cold season is fenu-thyme (capsules that are a mix of fenugreek and thyme) if the cold has set in and there is excessive mucous. It really dries up excessive mucous like nothing I have ever used before. I wish I could get it to my kids, but its a capsule form that they can’t swallow, and the flavor is very strong and bitter if the capsule is broken and mixed into something like a smoothie. For adults, it’s great, though!

    • says

      I bring my toddler into the shower, or better yet into a enclosed bathroom w the shower steam running hot w a few drops of certified pure therapeutic grade essential oils like thyme, eucalyptus,lemon, and lavender into the stream w the drain closed and create a steam environment for both of us to inhale. I agree w the “not happening” neti w the toddler and have found this to be just as effective. I would be happy to recommend sources if you contact me at dear.ionoils@gmail.com , put holistickid in the subject line and I will get right back to you!

    • says

      Hi Elisha – In my experience, neti pot and young kids are not a great combo. It was torture getting my 5 year old to do the Neil Med, and eventually I gave up. It is much easier to swab the inside of their noses with some saline or coconut oil, but this won’t wash out the snot. 😉

      I wonder if you could mix the fenugreek and thyme into a spoonful of raw honey? It’s the Real food version of “a spoonful of sugar”.

  5. says

    Love this list of natural remedies for the cold and being sick in general! People have no clue and run to the cold meds far too fast!

    And thank you so much for linking up with Healthy 2day Wednesdays as always! Hope you have a blessed week and hope you’ll be linking up this week! I also wanted to let you know we are looking for another person to co-host H2W’s with us if you are interested! (just email me!)

  6. says

    I love these suggestions to assist in keeping ourselves resistant to colds/viruses and low level vibrations and have found this blog to be an incredible resource of valuable information. In my healing practice and in my home we attempt to boost immunity with certified pure therapeutic grade essential oils. My fave blend is from doTerra, called OnGaurd, safe to take internally, diffuse in a humidifier or better yet a nebulizer. On my infant we put a drop of OnGaurd on the bottom of the feet ( large pores increase absorption, and also by-passes the liver) with a bit of organic raw coconut oil massaged in to slow absorption rate. This particular blend has been clinacally proven to kill MRSA and is used in Vanderbilt University Hospital as well as other prominent research hospitals. Drop by drop using EO’s is a cost effective way to circumvent the common cold and school based illnesses our family can be susceptible to, though through enhanced immunity functions do not fall privy to. There are also specific oils that can be used to assist in emotional trauma release, which in our kiddos can be a Godsend. All I know is that I have witnessed profound results in the use of Pure essential oils. I am always happy to answer any questions and share information of my experiences over the past 13 years. I may be reached at dear.ionoils@gmail.com Be Well, Denise

  7. Melissa says

    Thanks for the great tips! I bought some Gaia Black Elderberry Syrup for my 15 mo old son who is starting a cold with a cough. The dosing is for children age 2-12: 1/2 teaspoon once-twice daily. How much do you usually give at that age? I got some liquid Vitamin D3 1000 IU to do also. We’ve already been doing the FCLO and probiotic daily (gave a little extra FCLO since congested and started humidifier). Thanks so much!

  8. Mindy says

    Great post! Just what I was looking for as I snuggle my once again cold-ridden babes on the couch :) What are your thoughts on colloidal silver? Especially for pregnant/nursing women and kids?

    • says

      Hi Mindy – I think colloidal silver can be great (and safe) but I tend to use it as a last resort for lingering symptoms or stubborn infections. Because it is acts as a non-specific anti-microbal and anti-fungus, I use the same caution with colloidal silver that I would with antibiotics – ie – use only when needed and follow with a therapeutic course of probiotics.

  9. AnnaMarie says

    Raw garlic and raw ginger work the best in this family of 5. I boost the intake if there are signs of a cold but that is rare. I use the garlic and ginger daily in different ways. In addition, eating nutrient dense foods, drinking plenty of water and get outside for regular hikes. Personally, my attitude is improved since taking care of my health. Its a win/win.

  10. Bebe says

    At the first sign of cold or flu I get in as hot of a bath as I can stand. I add Epsom salts and essential oils, either thieve’s oil blend (homemade) or individual eucalyptus, rosemary, peppermint, grapefruit or a combination, and soak for at least 20 minutes or long as I can stay in.
    Here is a protocol from my DNP that we’ve used successfully for years: 1000 iu D3 per pound of body weight and 100,000 -200,000 units vitamin A, all at once, for three days. In addition to these take vitamin C: 1,000-2,000 mg every 2-3 hours until bowels start to feel gassy, then cut back. Zinc:90 mg a day for 7-10 days and echinacea tincture, 1 teaspoon 3 times a day, until better. Keep alcohol, sugar and caffeine to absolute minimum.
    I seem to have a zinc issue where it keeps me awake like caffeine so I skip that but I do like to eat raw oysters when I’m feeling something coming on.
    I made an elderberry syrup this year and a honey, ACV, ginger and cayenne syrup as well. We take those 1T at a time a few times a day. The elderberry is a new addition and I forget about it sometimes. The ACV and honey syrup feels good when a sore throat or cough are presenting. It’s a little spicy but I like spicy, as do 3 of my 4 teenagers.
    In addition we drink more hot herbal teas, brothy soups and use honey and lots of cinnamon on toast.
    If we are already stuffy I like to use the same essential oils, with a little coconut oil to avoid burning, on the inside of nostrils, on chest and back and on soles of feet.
    I used nano-colloidal silver last year when one of my daughters was battling a terrible case of mycoplasma. I think it helped but the first real apparent breakthrough, after six months of coughing, came after trying acupuncture. My daughter slept through the night for the first time in months after the first treatment! We followed with three more treatments.

  11. Katie says

    When anyone in my family even think we might be getting sick we grab some hot & sour soup from a local Chinese restaurant. We’ve been regulars since they opened over 20 years ago and they make it extra hot for us to fend off any “bugs”. It used to be medicine and I didn’t even like the taste of hot & sour soup…now I love it! I haven’t had a full-blown cold or flu in years (knock on wood!)! The only down fall is I haven’t found another restaurant with a hot & sour soup even comparable to my normal place & I’m moving out of the area! I’m going to have to figure out how to make this for myself!

  12. Tijana says

    Hi Emily,
    Thanks for this post! I recently discovered your blog and love it! Could you tell us more about the Yin Qiao San formula? Where do you get it and do you have a recipe (if possible to make at home)?
    Thank you!

    • says

      Hi Tijana, thanks for your question. Yin Qiao San is a classic Chinese herbal formula for “wind heat” infections with sore throats. Though Chinese herbs are typically prescribed via a practitioner, this formula can often be found at well stocked health food stores or online.
      Unlike western herbs that are used alone or in small combinations, most Chinese herbal formulas are more complex and don’t lend themselves to DIY.

  13. says

    Cold remedies we use:
    Vite D3 :12k-20k IU (untill 1 day after symptoms are gone)
    Vite C Ascobic Acid: 5k-20k mg.
    Garlic Powder 5k-10k mg. (broad spectrum antibiotic)
    Zican Rapid Melts: containing, Zincum Aceticum, Zincum Gluconicum
    which product disallows the nasal infection to adhere to the skin cells
    not allowing the infection to grow (as far as we understand, very effective when a cold starts
    in the nasal area)
    For the five of us, not a single cold of that last 10-15 that we have had has lasted more than 4 days.
    – Ed

  14. Dhalia says

    Hi Emily, thanks so much for the fantastic info! Just wondering if you could provide some links for babies under 1. What they can take and the best way to boost their immune system ect :) TIA

  15. Ashley says

    Ramen, maybe not natural but the broth just did wonders opening up my throat just now and it’s not as sore. Probably the overload of salt but I’m not done yet. Got my green tea with local honey to wash it down next. I hate colds, especially in the middle of summer.

  16. bren says

    Please tell me what sort of oil of oregano you use? Can you provide a link? Is this an essential oil, and is it safe to take internally, for kids as well? Thanks

  17. dawn says

    Do u have any recommendations for someone with lupus? I have to stay away from most immune boosting supplements.

    • says

      Hi Dawn, unfortunately I don’t have any recommendations for you. I think it would be prudent for you to work with a holistic practitioner who would be able to help find ways to fortify your immune system without using supplements like these that would boost your immune system too much.

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