top of page
  • Dr. Brittany Long

Complimentary Common Cold Treatments - What the Science Says

I am sure you all are often bombarded by many different types of natural remedies when it comes to preventing and treating a cold, but have you wondered which over-the-counter items might be a saving grace versus a bust? Research on the following most commonly used items has continued to grow and here is the data broken down into a digestible tidbit for you!

As always, with using any supportive/home remedy/OTC product always be sure to buy the highest quality you can AND if your symptoms worsen or don't resolve within a normal period of time (and if you have questions about just what "normal resolution time" is) reach out to your primary care or nurse advice line if your insurance covers it!


1. Zinc - Oral lozenges may reduce duration when started within 24 hours. Don't take for more than 2 weeks as zinc can deplete copper, another mineral we need for basic cell processes and overall health!

2. Vitamin C - this vitamin is generally safe except when taken in high doses, the most common side-effect of too high of dosing being diarrhea. Studies have shown taking higher doses of vitamin C only slightly reduced symptom severity and length and did not prevent the common cold.

3. Echinacea - One of the most common tools in any cold-preventing arsenal, some preparations (species of echinacea) are more effective than placebo for treating colds and it can be useful preventatively. It can be immune stimulating so do not take for more than 4 weeks at a time.

4. Probiotics - According to multiple reviews and studies there doesn't appear to be enough research to say definitively whether probiotics help prevent or treat the common cold and little is known about long-term safety BUT we do continue to see more and more research coming out about the ramifications of an unhealthy gut so even if a probiotic might not be the right choice, choosing probiotic rich foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, greek yogurt (dairy or non-dairy is up to you and your tolerance), kombucha, etc. might be a good place to start!

5. Nasal saline irrigation - Not necessarily studied to prevent the common cold but anyone who has used this with a wicked sinus infection or head cold knows it can absolutely alleviate symptoms in both adults and children (though good luck getting a little one to do this)! I would recommend using a gravity assisted nasal saline irrigation device such as a Neti pot (looks like a tea pot) so that you don't get too overzealous with those squeeze bottle types - there are also varieties that are electronic and have the appropriate amount of pressure programmed right into them.

6. Honey - we all think of honey just as honey right? Wrong! Where it comes from does make a difference and research is showing honey from buckwheat flowers is superior to placebo for reducing frequency of cough and improving sleep quality, specifically in children. BUT do not use in children less than 1 years old as it can be dangerous for little ones.

7. Geranium extract - Not as common to find, but this herb may help with symptoms associated with acute bronchitis, acute sinusitis and the common cold and often helps to relieve that scratchy, irritated throat and coughing fits.

8. Garlic - Great as an addition to foods of all kinds but unfortunately, there is insufficient research backing up the purported use of garlic in preventing or treating the common cold.

9. Elderberry - Ah one of my favorites, easy for kids and adults alike to take and plenty of research to back up it's use - elderberry is a wonderful herb that can be used to help resolve symptoms of the flu or common cold AND it can be an easy and effective way to gently support your immune system before you feel that tickle/scratch or cold coming on!



*DISCLAIMER: This document is not intended to treat or diagnose disease. Before implementing any new treatment protocols be sure to consult with a licensed physician. The author has nothing to disclose in regards to supplements or products mentioned within this document and the author does not receive any monetary or other incentive to mention the recommended supplements or products.



bottom of page