The Common Cold: Folk Remedies and Cures

Updated on October 20, 2016

I'm Shaking My Fist at You, Common Cold!

Oh, the common cold, such a blight on our society—and yet modern medicine has yet to find a cure. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that I have spent more then enough time battling the common cold this year. I've had it! That's right, I'm shaking my fist at you, common cold!

Not being one who enjoys being sick (I suspect that some people do), I can honestly say that I have tried almost everything the pharmacy has to offer, but to no avail. In fact, I'm not convinced that any of these so called "cold medications," actually work. Sure, most of them have enough alcohol in them to knock you out so that you can rest, but wouldn't drinking a nice, warm hot toddy be more pleasant and do the same thing? Enough with the cold meds, I need real help!

In my frustration and illness I've decided to look to mother nature for some help with my cold. (Let's face it, when we actually work with her she rarely lets us down.) And I have been pleasantly surprised with the wealth of information, cures, and remedies offered up by traditional folk wisdom. Some are downright kook,y and others are so simple I wonder why I haven't tried them before.

So get ready to say "hasta la vista," common cold and hello to some great folk remedies and cures.


The Mighty Onion Can Cure the Common Cold

Many of the folk remedies I have looked into involve an onion somehow. They can cure everything from a colicky baby to the corns on your feet—and they do wonders for the common cold.

In the case of curing the common cold you have a number of options. One folk remedy suggests eating an entire Spanish onion raw as soon as you feel the cold coming on. This is perhaps not the most appetizing remedy, but if it works, I'm all for it.

The second onion option is to slice an onion in half and place it in a bowl, cut-side up, near your head while you sleep. The theory is that the onion will draw the congestion from your lungs. I've tried it, and it works. Your whole room stinks of onion when you wake up, but some of the congestion from your cold should lift.


Wet Socks

This folk remedy for the common cold is one that I see time and time again, so there must be some truth to it. I know it seems counter-intuitive to have wet, cold feet when you have a cold, but hear me out, because there is method to this madness.

Here's what you need to do:

  1. Take a hot bath.
  2. Take a pair of cotton socks and soak them in ice cold water, wring them out, and put them on your feet.
  3. Take a pair of dry wool socks, and put them over the wets socks.
  4. Go to bed for the night

The idea behind this rather bizarre folk remedy is that it forces your immune system into action by increasing blood flow. Your feet need to get warm, so your body responds. It is supposed to relieve congestion and help you sleep.

I have yet to try this one myself, but I have read about it enough times that I am willing to give it a try. Apparently, it is key to have a hot bath first before trying the wet sock cure, or it might make your cold worse. So don't skip the bath!


Coconut Milk and Oil

I'll admit this remedy is a new one to me, but apparently, drinking coconut milk is a fantastic cure for what ails you. Coconut milk is the liquid that comes out when the white nut flesh of the coconut is pressed. This differs from coconut water, which is the clear liquid found inside of the coconut. Coconut oil is also derived from the flesh of the coconut, but it has more concentrated medicinal properties then coconut milk. The cold remedy can be found in the anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties of the coconut. (Wow, that's a lot of "antis.")

To prevent a cold, take 3-4 tablespoons of coconut oil a day or drink a can of coconut milk daily. Including more coconut in your cooking is a good option, as well.This should boost your immune system and help stave off the common cold.

If you have already been hit with a cold and are suffering from a cough and congestion, use coconut oil mixed with a few drops of peppermint or eucalyptus oil as a chest rub. Sore throat? Just melt a few tablespoons of coconut oil into your tea, and it will bring soothing relief.


Ginger, Lemon, and Honey

Combining these three ingredients into a lovely, warming tea is a simple and effective folk remedy. All the ingredients are immunity boosters and are ingredients most people have on hand. The amounts of each ingredient don't matter overly; make it to taste, and drink it often to soothe a sore throat and get you on the road to wellness. Fresh ingredients are always best, and grated ginger root is preferable if you have it.

Some cold folk remedies also call for the addition of cayenne pepper to this tea. Not sure how this combination of favors would taste, but if you like things spicy, give it a try.



Garlic also makes a frequent appearance in folk remedies, especially when looking to cure the common cold. One remedy calls for you to peel a fresh clove of garlic and put it in your cheek. Every once in a while you need to bite it to extract some of the juice. According to folklore your cold should be cured in a day.

Another garlic cold remedy requires you to chop up garlic and put it in a small sack to be worn around your neck for the duration of your cold. The vapors are said to help clear blocked nasal passages. And smelling of garlic will also ward off vampires and unwanted suitors, so win-win.

If you're not interested in smelling of garlic, consider taking garlic tablets from your local health store. Although taking garlic this way may not be as effective, it maybe more practical for you. Follow the dosage instructions on the label, or talk to your natural health practitioner.


Hot Sauce

Has a runny nose got you down? Sick and tired of your cold keeping you in a sea of mucus and dirty tissues? Well break out the hot sauce and take a swig. Okay, maybe not a giant one, but a few drops of a hot sauce, like tobasco, in a glass of water can cure that runny nose and have you feeling fine. Some reports suggest that in as little as five minutes of drinking this concoction you will feel better. So order up the hot wings and drop them in your drink to get the relief you so desperately need.



Of course we know that rest is always the best option when you have a cold, but if you have a stuffed nose that just won't clear sometimes a little strenuous activity can do the trick. Exercise is a natural decongestant. So crank up the tunes, close the drapes, and bust out your funky moves to help clear you head. It just may lift your mood as well, and who doesn't love a pajama dance party?


Scarf, Socks, and Brandy

This is my mother's version of a folk remedy for the common cold, especially ones that effect the throat and cause laryngitis. She swears by it and claims the brandy is key. I'm not sure of the science behind it, but I can tell you that it works. According to her, it is really important to have your feet covered if you have a sore throat. Seriously, the second she hears a a hint of scratchiness in my voice she asks me if I'm wearing socks. (She has an uncanny sixth sense about whether I'm wearing socks or not. Strange super-power, I know.)

Anyway, the long and the short of it is to keep your feet and throat covered, have a snifter of brandy, and get in bed. Not being much a a drinker, this always knocks me out for the night, and I wake up feeling a lot better because of it. And everyone knows: mothers know best.



Drink it, soak in it, take a hot steamy shower in it. Not so much a folk remedy for the common cold as it is common sense; water is the ultimate healer.

First and foremost, when you have a cold it is of the utmost importance to drink a lot of water because it is so easy to become dehydrated. Between the coughing and sweating, you are losing more water then you would normally. So fill up that water bottle and drink as much as you can. Drinking lots of water will also help you flush the toxins from your body.

And everyone and their dog knows that when all else fails, nothing helps with cold congestion like a hot shower. This is definitely not a time to think about water conservation. If your going to get the relief from your cold that you so desperately need, crank up the temperature and fill the room with steam. Your nasal passages will thank you for it.

If showers aren't your style, then hop in a hot bath and feel the muscle ache of your cold ease away. And if you're plagued by a cough, try a few drops of pine oil in your bathwater to quiet your hacking ways.

Folk Remedy Resources

In my search for folk remedies and cures for common cold I found a few resources that warrant sharing. Although you can find almost any information on the internet, if you are serious about using folk remedies to help you with curing the common cold and other ailments then these two excellent books listed below are definitely worth checking out.

Good luck in your quest for health!

1801 Home Remedies

1801 Home Remedies
1801 Home Remedies
A great compilation of tried and true simple home remedies.

Would you try any of the folk remedies listed here?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


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    • mecheshier profile image


      6 years ago

      You are most welcome. :-)

    • Thundermama profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Taylor 

      6 years ago from Canada

      @ mecheshier, thanks so much for dropping in and your kind comments.

    • mecheshier profile image


      6 years ago

      What a very interesting Hub. I do love history and some of the folk remedies are quite interesting. Especially the Wet Socks cure. I have never heard of this one. Thank you for such a lovely post. Voted up for interesting and useful.

    • Cardia profile image


      7 years ago from Barbados.

      I'm currently suffering from a terrible cold - sore throat, runny nose, headaches, the works! This hub is like a Godsend for me right now. Thank you!

      I can definitely vouch for the 'hot sauce' method. It definitely works.

    • Thundermama profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Taylor 

      7 years ago from Canada

      fastfreat, you are a wonder on here. Natural cures are a recent passion of mine and a long time passion of my mother's. I am glad you found some of my tips interesting and who knows maybe your daughter will change her tune about onions after finding out they are the workhorse of the natural healing world.

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 

      7 years ago from Southern California

      As you've guessed by now, "Natural Cures" is a favorite topic of mine, that's why I'm drawn to these hubs. I usually use lemon and honey, but never added the ginger, but now I will. The wet socks one intrigued me, but I'm not sure I'll try that one. I have a daughter who treats onions like the plague, but she loves healthy living. I hope, after reading these three hubs about how onions can cure almost anything, she'll change her mind.

      Again another very good one. Voted up, useful, interesting. Facebooked, Tweeted, pinned, and shared with followers.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Ah, I didn't know about the coconut oil though the rest are familiar. Thanks for sharing these remedies, Thundermama!

    • Thundermama profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Taylor 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Happy to share something new with you precy. The wet sock cure does seem a bit crazy, but a lot of people swear by it. Thanks for share.

    • precy anza profile image

      precy anza 

      7 years ago from USA

      I just learned something new tonight~ the wet socks! And yes, I always have believe it would get the cold worst, but that's interesting to try now that I read about it :) Since a young girl, I've always use garlic and onion for cold and asthma.... chopped both, topped with honey and swallow it. Voted up and shared!

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Kitty Fields 

      7 years ago from Summerland

      I've heard of all of these folk remedies, minus the wet sock thing...weird, right? Very cool learning about folk remedies. Blessings!

    • Thundermama profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Taylor 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Hi shining, hope you feel better soon. These remedies aren't for everyone, I have yet to try the wet sock one, I just can't bring myself to do it. Who knows though if I get another cold I just might be desperate enough to do it.

    • Thundermama profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Taylor 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Hi iguide, appreciate the comments. I know it seems counter intuitive to most people to exercise when they are sick, but you're so right when you say it makes sense to "shake off the cold." Thanks for stopping by.

    • iguidenetwork profile image


      7 years ago from Austin, TX

      I like your ideas.. especially with dancing, which I think is an unlikely cold remedy. But it's a bit logical that exercise or any form of movement will literally shake off the colds, and besides it's fun!

      Up useful and interesting. :)

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      7 years ago from Upstate, New York

      As I write this I am suffering from the flu and feel miserable. I agree that the most the over the counter cures do is knock you out, which is a Godsend considering it takes me away from the horrible feeling for a bit. Not sure I would be in too big a hurry to try the onion, garlic, hot sauce and wet socks right away! I did get a reprieve while reading this as it was ver interesting and "took me away" for a bit.

    • Thundermama profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Taylor 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Hi glimmer, thanks for reading and commenting. I agree, the longevity of these folk remedies suggests there must be something to them. And I'm all for everyone finding a system that works for them when they are ill.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      7 years ago

      Interesting hub with cold remedies. I believe in a lot of these folk remedies. There is some sound reasoning behind some of them and hey, if they did not work at some level, they would not still be around. Of course, I still like some modern meds too.

    • Thundermama profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Taylor 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for dropping by teaches. Hope your husband feels better soon. Nothing beats a warming cup when you have a cold.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      I just made lots of honey, lemon and ginger tea for my hubby who had a cold. It works so well. I also love your garlic and dancing suggestions, both of which I enjoy. Next time, I will be doing a lot of dancing around here.

    • Thundermama profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Taylor 

      7 years ago from Canada

      YAS you are very lucky. I seem to have at least one epic battle with a cold once a year. A hot buttered rum sound wonderful. I think you should write a recipe hub about it if you haven't already.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I think I'm lucky as I don't really get colds all that often, but when I do I have a great recipe for a hot buttered rum. It doesn't cure the cold but it sure knocks you out and makes you sleep like a baby.

    • Thundermama profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Taylor 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Moon, Alecia, thanks so much for stopping by. I've heard of quinine too. Every generation has the catch all remedy.

      And yes the wet socks are a hard sell. Onions might just do the trick.

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 

      7 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Anything to avoid the doctor is what I am in favor of. I recently read that onions absorb germs and can easily help rid cold and flu virus, so I might try that one.

      But wet socks? I can't get that one. Interesting hub!

    • moonlake profile image


      7 years ago from America

      I guess we will never really see the cure for the common cold. My grandmother use to use quinine for everything when her kids were little. I have no idea if it can even be bought now. Interesting hub thanks for sharing. voted up.

    • Thundermama profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Taylor 

      7 years ago from Canada

      I know, the wets socks remedy doesn't appeal to many people. I have a cold right now and am seriously thinking about giving it a try. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 

      7 years ago

      Wet socks? Not sure if I want to try this method LOL It's very intriguing, though. Your explanation also makes this folk remedy sound somewhat plausible. Thanks a lot for sharing this info. It was an interesting read. Rated up!

    • Thundermama profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Taylor 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Kids crafts thanks for stopping in. A friend of mine swears by oregano capsules too. I will give them a try. And I am with you, wet socks don't sound appealing at all. I will need to be desperate to try that one.

    • kidscrafts profile image


      7 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      I eat a lot of onions and garlic in my diet, I drink coconut mild on a regular basis, when I feel something coming I take hot water with lemon juice with honey and cayenne pepper. So I follow several of your advices :-) I must say as well that when I really feel the attack of the bugs of the cold or flu coming, I take oregano oil gel capsules... that kills a lot of things!

      I should add more exercises like you suggest with the dancing. I don't want to try the wet socks because just the idea to have my feet wet makes me sick ;-) I don't like to be in wet clothes.... and I love swimming.... a little contradiction I know!

      Voted up and interesting!

    • Thundermama profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Taylor 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Thanks so much bb! Nothing beats a nice bowl of chicken noodle when your sick.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Garlic and water...those are the two I have heard most often. For myself, I go with chicken noodle soup each and every time. I have no idea if it helps physically, but it definitely helps me emotionally. :) Good job my friend and have a great weekend.


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