Health + Wellness

Cures for the Common Cold: Tips from the Creative Community

by Grace Bonney

Photo by Maxwell Tielman. Tea towel from West Elm Market.

Every year when winter rolls around, we all seem to wake up and collectively realize we’ve got the same cold that our friends/family/significant others have. The Design*Sponge office has already seen the first round of sniffles (starting with me, then Max, then Amy), and we’re hoping to fend off a second round this year. In addition to fervent hand washing and cough covering, we’re trying all sorts of natural remedies to keep ourselves sneeze-free for the rest of the season. Rather than keep these remedies to ourselves, we thought we’d reach out to the creative community at large to see what their favorite cold cures are. The answers were not only helpful, but some were also downright hilarious — and effective. From Jonathan Adler’s fist-bump rule to a delicious recipe for a carrots and brown sugar cough syrup, this guide will offer you dozens of different ways to stay healthy and fight off the cold bug this season. Here’s hoping we can steer clear of the tissue box until spring. xo, grace

The full list of tips and remedies continues after the jump . . .

Jonathan Adler — The Fist Bump! I believe that palms are basically just petri dishes — I avoid them at all costs. I sat next to some 75-year-old dude at a luncheon a few years ago. When I went to shake his hand, he offered me an age-improbable fist bump and told me that when he had a heart transplant 10 years earlier, his doctor told him to never, ever, ever shake hands because they are germ central. Fist bump fist bump fist bump!

Heidi Swanson — Fresh ginger juice! I put it in tea, soups and broths, juices and hot drinks. Simply grate it, peeled, on a microplane and then press the solids into a strainer to extract the juice. If you do a bunch at a time, it freezes well, so you can always have it on hand.

Cheryl Day of Back in the Day Bakery — When I feel a cold coming on, I make a solution of very warm water and salt to gargle, which helps with inflammation and congestion and wards off nasty bacteria, too. You can also buy a saline nasal spray. I follow up with herbal green tea, hot chicken and vegetable soup and a very long nap on the couch with a pile of magazines.

Paul Lowe of Sweet Paul — Lets face it, getting over a cold takes a week, with or without remedies. So just get comfy under the covers, have plenty of tissues and wait it out!

Ginny Branch — I’m a big fan of “letting food be thy medicine,” and I find the more fruits and vegetables I consume, the more I flood my body with the nutrients I need to ward off nagging colds. Colloidal silver is extremely helpful when I feel a little something coming on, and I find vitamin C-enhanced zinc and copious amounts of ginger help rid my body of any sickness.

Victoria Smith of SF Girl by Bay — I’m out every morning at the chilly dog park with Lucy, so one way I’ve finally figured out to stay warm and healthy is to wear a hat with ear flaps. There’s something about keeping my head warm that seems to keep me from getting sick — even if that might be totally in my head (no pun intended) and I look like a ridiculously lost WWII pilot. If I do get a nasty cold, I drink lots of homemade ginger tea, and it makes the cold’s nasty life a whole lot shorter.

Amy Butler — The moment I feel a scratchy throat coming on or a funky headache, I start downing Sambucol and olive leaf extract. Both are excellent for building your immune system back up. Both are proven to shorten a cold by several days! You can also just soak your feet or immerse yourself in a soothing bath. The salts pull infection out of your body and relax your nervous system. I love a bath with plain salts mixed with essential oils like peppermint, spearmint and eucalyptus. These oils in particular are great for opening your sinuses, too.

Katy Elliott I can’t even remember the last time I was sick. About a year ago when I first got pregnant, I started taking a daily multivitamin, drinking at least eight glasses of water a day, eating healthy and sleeping seven to eight hours per night. If I feel a little run down, I take it easy and rest. No coughs, colds or flus in over a year and counting! Take care of yourself, and your body will take care of you.

Ashley English — To ward off sniffles and sneezes, I put a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil in the bath, rub some herbal warming balm on my chest and sip loads of homemade ginger, honey and lemon tea.

We also requested submissions from our readers on Twitter and Facebook. Here are a few of our favorites!


Happy Living Stuffed nose . . . cut an onion in half an put on your bed table. Old fashioned remedy from my grandmom. Works! Downside: your partner may not like the smell in the bedroom:)

Jacqueline Moore — Eat garlic cloves, onion sandwiches, throw out your toothbrush and get a new one STAT. Wash your hands often and never touch your face. Vitamins, water, a hot toddy at night!

K.L. Hedberg — A little something before you go to sleep . . . decaf black tea, one jigger Amaretto, one jigger Grand Marnier. Helps you sleep and calms your throat.

Oorbee Roy — 4 drops oil of oregano and a shot of apple cider vinegar. WOW does that work quickly.

Nancy Thornton — Dark beer and corn chips with salsa. The salt relieves the throat. The salsa clears the sinuses. The beer does something.

Sabrina Harris — Sleep. It’s the unsung hero of wellness.


Suggested For You


  • I didn’t get a chance to comment on facebook, but an old doctor in the neighborhood told me to mix 1 tsp orange zest with honey (for adults he recommended adding some fresh ginger too).

  • Ha! This is going to be one hit post! :)
    For me it has always been ginger + honey combinations. My gran always drinks tea with grated ginger. And lately, I’ve been using Ashley English’s ginger+honey+lemon concoction with a twist (advised by our maid) and it’s worked magic!
    Oh and the hot chicken soup filled with veggies and cilantro!
    Am gonna try the different remedies this week; four people at home down with cold!

  • Nice remedies. I have been battling a cold (sore throat, running nose, mild temperature). The other day I found the perfect way to get over with it:

    I brewed a tea from dried raspberry leaves, mixed a teaspoon of honey and about a tablespoon of lemon juice in it. Now my throat feels much better. Works!

    Also I agree with Sabrina Harris: Sleep is the best cure. Sleep and rest.

    Thanks for listing these, I might try one or two of the ideas next time!

  • My immune system leaves something to be desired, thanks to a few genetic health conditions, so I’m a constant cold sufferer. My go to? Spicy miso soup. I make a huge batch of it with wakami seaweed, mushrooms, homemade veggie broth, lots of garlic and ginger, tamari, toasted sesame oil, scallions, millet miso, and a generous pinch of cayenne and squirt of sriracha.

  • Ha! When I opened my Feedly just now and saw your post on top I laughed! I also posted about natural remedies late last night in the search of soothing those darn cold symptoms!

    I’ll make sure I edit my post and add this link for my readers too!


  • I always find a stir fry with tonnes of veggies and lots of chili and garlic will usually sort me out.

    If I’ve got a sore throat too some hot honey and lemon is nice and soothing and a great boost of vitamin C.

    Finally, lots of water and sleep.

  • I just picked up a Cold Warrior from Juice Generation, which is my favorite juice spot in New York. I discovered it when I was sick in the fall. It’s basically every cold remedy I like in one cup: OJ, green tea, echinacea, ginger, vitamin C. I’m sure there’s some other good stuff in there. It’s delicious and hot.

    Does everyone on the East Coast have this cold???

  • I’ve been jacked up on oregano oil all week and it really has helped! Another thing that helps: put your kid in daycare and get every germ known to human kind. The next year, you will be immune. :)

  • When I feel a cold and cough coming, I squeeze out the juice of a 2″ piece ginger and add a tablespoon of honey, it works all the time.
    Another favorite of mine is a shot of scotch or cognac with a tablespoon of fresh aloe sap.

  • Being sick is the worst! Since I’m a freelancer and can work from home, I’ve been trying to stay in as much as possible to avoid the flu. I’m bookmarking these remedies but hopefully I won’t need them this year!

  • “Nancy Thornton — Dark beer and corn chips with salsa. The salt relieves the throat. The salsa clears the sinuses. The beer does something.” Brilliant! I got to try this lol.

  • Made the mistake of going to a yoga class (new year’s resolution): instructor and 3 other participants all coughing and snuffling…ugh. Despite desperate handwashing afterwards, I’ve been down for the count all week. Warm mist humidifier has helped, as did a lemon juice + honey concoction to sooth the throat. Was reminded of fresh ginger “tea” by a client this morning and that hit the spot in the can’t-stop-the-dry-coughing phase. I’m also a freelancer so no backup if I’m sick…I’m never leaving the house again. ; )

  • Gargle warm salt water at the first hint of a scratchy throat. And throw out your toothbrush and replace with a fresh clean one.

  • I swear by echinacea. I start taking it at the first symptoms, and cold only lasts 3 days. BTW, someone mentioned zinc with vitamin c lozenges — I’ve always heard if you take zinc do NOT take it with orange juice/vitamin C. It cancels out the effects of the zinc.

  • Echinacea/goldenseal and extra Vit C if I feel a cold or sore throat coming on. If the sore throat takes hold, I drink Throat Coat Tea by Traditional Medicinals. It actually sooths the pain and has a very nice flavor. To avoid the viruses, which are epidemic this year, I am trying not to touch public doorknobs, handles, elevator buttons with my hands/skin. I will put my sleeve over my hand, use my elbow, back through bathroom doors, whatever it takes. Stay well, everyone.

  • If I feel something coming on flushing out my sinuses really helps (I use Hydrasense it has quite a strong jet stream so the saline can really get itself up into your actual sinuses), it’s quite common sensical actually as it literally gets rid of all of the gunk in there (morning and night is enough). And I absolutely swear by Echinacea throat spray, you can carry it in your purse and use it throughout the day when gargling is inappropriate or inconvenient. It works miracles. I now have a favourite brand; Botanica Throat Spray which I purchase at Whole Foods.

  • First sign of a scratchy throat, nose that won’t stop running, etc., I start taking echinacea. Small amounts every couple of hours. It usually stops it before it gets hold!! In summer, rosehip is great to have as well, lots of Vit. C. If you DO get it anyway, keep up with the echinacea (& rosehip) every couple of hours. It’s usually gone the following day.

  • I try to rest, rest, rest! Lots of tea, hot soup (I especially like a spicy pho), and coconut water for electrolytes. I use a Nasaline nasal salt system and it works really well, too. I also get the flu shot every year.

    But I have to say, colloidal silver is really dangerous! Kidney problems and other serious illnesses can occur.

  • Despite the belief that it will cure your cold, please do not consume colloidal silver! Like many other heavy metals, colloidal silver kills bacterial and other microbes. However, the flu is not microbial, but is caused by a virus. Colloidal silver will actually kill the bacteria used by your body to fight the cold. Also, excessive use of colloidal silver may cause a skin condition known as argyria, a silvery-blue skin discoloration. The best way to cure the cold is rest, lots of fluids, and vitamin C. Also, natural remedies such as goldenseal or echinachia can help the immune system. Since the flu is mainly a respiratory illness, breathing stream will help. If you are sick, try to cover your cough with a tissue as to avoid getting others sick!

  • Years ago i was with a terrible cold in India. After asking everyone at the hostel about a doctor without any success, i agreed to take their remedy. They told me to drink a tea they prepared for and wait for the night. The man said: “if tomorrow you want doctor, tomorrow you go doctor, tonight have tea”. ha ha… so i did. I had no hopes but there was nothing else to do. It was MAGICAL. They sent me about one lt. of tea and i drank it all before going to bed. I started feeling less ill. The body aching was not that awful and i went to bed. Next morning i felt much better and asked about the tea. It was GINGER + lemon + honey. The better the ginger is the better the remedy. After a second glass with breakfast and a few hours i decided not to go to the doctor because i didn’t feel bad anymore. Ever since (this happened in 2006) i take it at the first signs of cold and i don’t get it. I haven’t experienced a full cold ever since. So do it!! On liter of water – ginger peeled and chopped to the water and let it boil. After its color has changed and it smells like ginger, it’s done. Mix it with lemon juice and honey. You can either leave the ginger or take it out. I leave it cause i like it.

  • THE CURE for the common cold

    Discoverer: Mihaita din Romania
    Discovered: 06 March 2013
    Published: 08 March 2013, here and on other websites

    This treatment must be followed exactly and then it will make your cold symptoms disappear very fast:

    Go to the grocery store. Look for the fruit section and find the … pineapples. Purchase one pineapple that is not too ripe, but also not too green.
    Consume about 2 regular slices of fresh pineapple fruit every 7-10 hours for 2-3 days and the common cold will be gone.

    I discovered that this works because pineapple apparently contains (according to wikipedia) this system of vitamins:

    B1 B2 B3 B5 B6 B9 C

    or with more detail,

    Thiamine (vit. B1) 0.079 mg (7%)
    Riboflavin (vit. B2) 0.031 mg (3%)
    Niacin (vit. B3) 0.489 mg (3%)
    Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.205 mg (4%)
    Vitamin B6 0.110 mg (8%)
    Folate (vit. B9) 15 μg (4%)
    Vitamin C 36.2 mg (44%)

    In order for the treatment to work, the combination of these vitamins MUST be taken from the fruit – thus having the right qualities, proportions and interactions – and not from a bottle or box.

  • Nice methods I have tried honey and it did work for me.. Having steam and cleaning nose often can help as well..Since cleaning nose can help in expelling the cold virus out from your body.