Is conventional medicine necessary to relieve symptoms of common cold?

Is conventional medicine necessary to relieve symptoms of common cold?
By Elzbieta Milko

Most people reach out for an over-the-counter medication with the first symptoms of cold. However, there are simple and healthier options. I’m talking here about natural products that you can find in kitchens of most households.


Garlic / Allium sativum
One of the oldest remedies, garlic is a potent internal and external antiseptic. Its antibacterial, antimicrobal properties relieve cold symptoms and help immune system to fight off infections.

Garlic can be consume raw or cooked or as garlic flavored oil or vinegar. It is a flavorful addition to many dishes. For those that want to avoid “garlic breath”, add fresh parsley leaves to your dishes. You can also make a garlic syrup cold remedy, just as the recipe below. This syrup will not give you a typical “garlic breath” and it has the benefits of all ingredients which together make a powerful potion to fighting off cold.

Garlic syrup
8 gloves of garlic
1 lemon
2 teaspoons of honey
1 cup of warm water

Cut half lemon in slices, squeeze juice from the remaining half of lemon. Put diced garlic into a dark glass jar, pour 1 cup of warm water, add lemon and lemon juice. Mix it together and cover the jar. Leave it in refrigerator for 24 hours. After that strain the liquid and add honey. Take the teaspoon of syrup when needed.

Onion / Allium cepa
Onion is commonly used in culinary preparation. However, it has a versatile applications due to its curative properties. In cold, onion stimulate immune system and along with its antibacterial and cough suppressing properties promotes faster recovery.

Onion can be consumed raw or cooked. You can make an onion cough suppressant by dicing onion into small pieces and adding some of sugar, and leave it in a warm place. Sugar will help onion juices to create. I believe that you might substitute honey instead of sugar, although I haven’t tested that yet. After a couple of hours you can strain the liquid and take a teaspoon of it when needed. This syrup is sweet tasting and does not have a typical onion flavor ,and fragrance.

Onion-garlic syrup
1 big onion
a few cloves of garlic
brown sugar

Dice onion and garlic, put in a jar alternating layers of onion and garlic. Cover all with sugar and close the jar with lid. Leave for 2 days. After that strain the liquid.

Ginger / Zingiber officinale
This is a powerful and versatile plant that is used medicinally and culinary. I’m talking here about fresh ginger and not a powdered substitute. Ginger anti-inflamatory and anti-viral properties help with reducing cold symptoms. Moreover, ginger relives pain and its warming, decongesting properties help sooth cold symptoms.

Ginger can be added to many dishes or it can be taken with a tea, but for treating cold I like to make a ginger infused honey. Peel fresh gingerroot, grate it and put in a pan. Add natural honey and simmer on low flame for 15 minutes. After that pour ginger honey to a clean jar. You can strain ginger if you prefer. This ginger honey can be taken with tea, or yogurt, on a toast or just straight. It’s a delicious way to help your body feel better.

Linden flower / Tillia cordata
Linden flowers are very commonly used to reduce fever. Also, linden flower relieves congestion and headaches. Their diaphoteric (perspiratory) and antipyretic (reducing fever) properties make them a great remedy for winter colds.

When I was growing up, we always brew pots of linden flower tea in winter. My grandfather collected the herb when the flowers where in bloom. I love the fragrance of linden trees and the memories of childhood that it brings.

To prepare the decoction fresh linden flowers should be simmered in water for 15 minutes. They can be drunk as a tea with addition of an herbal honey (ginger honey would be a great option here).

Yarrow / Achillea millefolium
Yarrow is known to reduce fever, it is anti-inflamatory and diaphoretic. Also, yarrow is one of potent herbal antibiotics. All this makes it a perfect herb to have on hand when cold strikes. Yarrow can be taken as an herbal decoction to help and elevate symptoms of cold. Steep dry yarrow in water for 10-15 minutes, strain the liquid and add honey.

Sage / Salvia officinalis
Sage is more commonly used in culinary world as an addition to many dishes. However, it is a remarkable herb which antiseptic and astringent properties due to tannins which make it an important herb to utilize during cold.

Sage can be taken as tea and it makes a wonderful gargle to sooth a sore throat. Just make an herbal infusion and let the sage do its work.

Chicken broth/soup
Having a chicken soup during cold may drastically help to reduce cold symptoms. There have been research done to prove benefits of chicken soup in fighting off common cold. Apart from loosing up mucous due to having hot soup and relieving congestion, chicken broth warms up entire body. Anti-inflamantory, carnosine in chicken soup helps immune system to fight off flue. More benefits with added vegetables and herbs (for example, fresh parsley leaves contain vitamine C).


Antibacterial, cough suppressing qualities of honey and its sweet flavor make it a wonderful addition to common cold remedies. These properties apply only to natural, made-by-bees honey.

Honey can be taken as is or it can be combined with herbs and plants to enhance and strengthen medicinal qualities.
Moreover, when during cold you suffer from dry and chapped lips, dub a little honey on them and leave it overnight. Honey is also known for wound healing and will make your lips soft again.

Apart from relieving symptoms of cold all the above-mentioned herbs and plants possess other qualities that make them very beneficial for health. So when the next cold strikes reach into your cupboards for medications.
Please keep in mind that all herbal products should be used with care and their use should be consulted with doctor for all those taking medications as some herbs and plants might reduce or increase results of particular medications.


Elzbieta Milko is an architect from profession and an herbalist at heart. Currently she is pursuing her Master Aromatherapist Certification at
“Zdrowie i Uroda” (Health and Beauty”) magazine, 2-5-2012

Rosemary Gladstar “Medicinal Herbs”

University of Nebraska Medical Center, Research Article “Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro”,

Daily Mail, UK “ Souper broth! An old wives’ tale? No, chicken soup really CAN fight a cold, say scientists“, by Ian Marber,