Curious cold remedies

Chattering teeth and dreary evenings are often the least of our winter worries, as snotty noses, aching bones, scratchy throats and hacking coughs become the number one challenge of the changing seasons...

Curious cold remedies

Prevention is indeed better than cure, and eating plenty of fruit and veg will ensure you're getting enough vitamin C to keep your immune system fighting fit. You can give your body a further helping hand by topping up levels of vitamin E (oily fish, avocados, brazil nuts), zinc (wholewheat, oats, soya) and B vitamins (lean red meat, dairy, lentils) - all vital for keeping the winter blues at bay.

What do you do however, if you've let your forward planning fall by the wayside? If you're loath to reach for the Lemsip and prefer a completely natural approach to banishing bugs, then read on for some of our favourite cold-quashing old wives' tales, some of which are more on the mark than you may expect.


Old wives' tale: Crush garlic into a glass of milk...

Garlic bulbs

The facts: Yes...this is as disgusting as it sounds and although generally considered quite an old fashioned remedy some still swear by it today. Garlic is thought to have anti-bacterial properties that help the immune system fight infection and is packed with antioxidants to help stop your colds in their tracks. 

Next time you're feeling under the weather (and you can't face downing such a blood-curdling concoction) try using garlic in warming suppers such as braised beef & roasted garlic pie, pepper-crusted salmon with garlic chickpeas or rosemary roast chicken thighs, new potatoes, asparagus & garlic - and keep your milk for your cereal!


Old wives' tale: Stay in bed for the duration...

SleepThe facts: If you have a fever or are experiencing fatigue, a deep cough or any kind of chest pain then rest, and lots of it, is probably the best option. However, with a common cold when no fever is present, a little light exercise can actually boost the immune system.

Don't go too far though, heavy workouts have been shown to have the opposite effect and can slow down recovery. So enjoy some gentle exercise while keeping energy levels up with low-GI dinners such as crab-stuffed avocados, Italian-style beef stew or jerk sweet potato & black bean curry.


Old wives' tale: Cut an onion in half and put one half in each sock...Onions

The facts: this concept brings a whole new meaning to smelly feet! Many believe onions draw toxins away from the body and still use this or similar methods today. To avoid the inevitable pong (and strange looks) test the theory by leaving half an onion by your bed overnight - or, to adopt a more practical approach, simply reap the benefits by enjoying the vegetable in comforting French onion soup, onion tart or healthy cannellini bean, cherry tomato & red onion salad, packed with three of your five-a-day.


OrangesOld wives' tale: Vitamin C will get rid of your cold...

The facts: Vitamin C acts better as prevention rather than a cure as it strengthens your immune system. However, many believe the fruit's high sugar content can do more harm than good to a sickly body. Sugar can impair the immune system and so, if you insist orange juice helps you feel better when under the weather, be sure to buy 100% freshly squeezed and check there are no nasty additives in there.


Old wives' tale: Drink until you see double...Chicken-soup

The facts: Whisky or brandy is said by some to, in very small amounts, have a positive effect on grown-up cold sufferers as it is thought to have an anti-inflammatory effect on mucous membranes and can help to reduce a fever. We're talking a dash of alcohol in a hot drink before bed, which may help to relieve symptoms temporarily, but fresh fruit and veg, comforting chicken soup and warm fruit cordials are always preferable.

The above should not be considered personal medical advice or instruction - if you feel unwell always consult your doctor. 

Let us know your hints and tips for keeping those colds at bay...

All health content on is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact  your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

Comments, questions and tips

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23rd Jun, 2014
I think the key themes boil down to how we talk to ourselves, how we respond to things, how we make meaning, who we spend time with, and how we make the most of what we’ve got. The other key thing is that happiness is dynamic and it’s not a static state. It’s about living, learning and growing, and rolling with the punches. I also think it’s important to think of happiness as a skill. Drive from happiness. For durable happiness, lead your happiness from the inside out. Soundcloud
14th Oct, 2013
please can you give advice for cooking for someone with chronic fatigue syndromme
Kerry Torrens's picture
Kerry Torrens
4th Jun, 2014
Hi there, thanks for your question. For those with CFS when you’re feeling well and energised aim to do a big cook – batch cooking and freezing in portions can help keep you nourished when your energy levels are low. Specifically aim to include the healthy omega-3 fats from the oily varieties of fish like salmon, trout and mackerel. A handful of unsalted nuts and seeds as a snack or added to meals can also provide important energising nutrients like the B group of vitamins and valuable minerals like iron and zinc. A recent study suggested that a small portion of dark, high cocoa content (85%) chocolate can be effective in reducing fatigue in those with CFS.
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18th Nov, 2013
My Grandma used to chop a large onion, cover it with water, and boil until almost all of the water had reduced, and you were left with a thick onion 'soup'. Put into a soup bowl with pepper and a great dollop of butter. Eat (hot) at bedtime, retire. Next morning cold symptoms did seem to have bated somewhat. One more night of the same should see it off.
5th Aug, 2013
I make elderberry rob every autumn. At the first sign of a cold, I make a hot drink with it by combining 1/4 elderberry rob with 3/4 boiling water. More often than not, the cold disappears overnight. Elderberries are said to boost the immune system, as well as being a rich source of vitamin C. The hot drink is not unlike mulled wine in taste. Recipe: 1.8 kg elderberries (on stem – but remove large stems) 2 5cm pieces of cinnamon 1 piece ginger root ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 1 teaspoon allspice berries 1 teaspoon cloves 275 ml water granulated sugar 1 small glass brandy (optional) Bring elderberries to boil with the water and the spices. Simmer for about 20 minutes, then turn off the heat and let it cool completely in the pan (overnight). Wearing gloves (unless you want your hands to be bright red for the next week!), pour some of the mixture into a colander lined with a cotton cloth and squeeze out all the juice into a clean pan. Remove the ball of dry mixture from the cloth and repeat with more mixture until you have finished the lot. Measure the liquid and pour back into the pan. For every 500 ml of liquid, add 225g granulated sugar. Bring to the boil and stir so that all the sugar is melted. Turn off the heat and when the mixture stops bubbling add a small glass of brandy at this stage, if using. Using a funnel, pour into hot sterilised bottles and seal. This will keep, unopened, for a year. Keep in fridge once opened. Makes about 1½ wine bottles of elderberry rob.