This woody aromatic herb in your culinary closet has secret powers besides flavoring oatmeal and cookies, and deserves to be on your list of natural cold remedies. Because of cinnamon’s antifungal and analgesic properties, Dr. Fratellone uses it to treat bronchitis. It tends to be warming for the body, and it dilates your blood vessels, he says. (Cinnamon also lowers blood sugar concentration and improves insulin sensitivity, which is why it is also being used to treat people who have diabetes.) If you’re looking to fight a bug with natural cold remedies, create a cinnamon tea by pouring boiling water over the herb into a cup. Dr. Fratellone recommends one cup two or three times a day. You can also sprinkle it on your food or in your latte.
This stinky plant does way more than flavor your tomato sauce. Garlic is antibiotic, antimicrobial, and antibacterial, says clinical herbalist and New York City–based founder of Urban Herbalist Steve Sietos. “When you have yellow or green phlegm, reach for that garlic. It’s highly antiviral, immune stimulating, and it’ll kill any upper respiratory infections,” he says. Garlic is great medicine for yeast infections and urinary tract infections, too, according to research from the Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences in India.
To use it as an elixir, take a clove of fresh garlic. Press or chop it, and let it sit for 15 minutes. When the garlic reacts with air, a chemical reaction transforms the clove into a powerful antibiotic, says Sietos, who also treats pets with herbs. He says that if you spread garlic and olive oil on a piece of bread or mix it with olive oil, it’ll knock out any upper respiratory infections. Here are 14 more of the best foods for a cold.
Ginger is a muscle relaxant, or an antispasmodic, which means it may have the power to stop the spasm of coughing. It also stimulates the immune system. “When you have a clear phlegm, not green or yellow, take ginger to warm up the system,” Sietos says. Slice fresh ginger into silver-dollar slices and simmer it in fresh water for 20 minutes; then drink it like tea. Add a cinnamon stick or a squeeze of lemon. “You’ll notice the cough goes away pretty quickly,” says Sietos. And if your stomach is feeling queasy, ginger can help with nausea, too, according to a study in the British Journal of Anesthesia. Also try these other natural cough treatments for relief.