Remedy or Myth? Cold Cures Examined

Jack Evans - Reporter

There has been a lot of different advice given over the years of how to cure the common cold. In this article we take a look at some of these suggestions to decide whether they are a successful remedy or just a myth.

Sleeping with onions in your socks

One of the most bizarre suggestions is to sleep with chopped onion in your socks to cure a cold. It is claimed that the onions will remove toxins and detoxify your blood, reducing cold related symptoms overnight. Despite these claims there is no scientific evidence to support this method and apart from creating an eau de onion, you should probably remain sceptical.

 Sweating out a cold

Time and time again we have been told that ‘sweating out a cold’ is one successful method to get rid of a cold, in fact it’s a myth. A common cold is caused by a viral infection, the most common is the Rhinovirus. Burying yourself under twenty-seven blankets in an oven baked room does not sweat out this virus or speed up recovery. Putting your head over a bowl of warm water may help to clear a blocked nose however.

 Going to sleep in wet socks

Go to sleep in a pair of cotton socks soaked in cold water and your cold will be eased. This claim does have a deeper level of science involved. As the body counteracts change, your body will want to increase your body temperature due to your cold feet. This means that blood circulation will be increased and in turn so will your immune system, by increasing white blood cell activity. “Increasing your immune system” however is a very woolly phrase and the exact effect on your immune system cannot be validated, so for now we have to put it down as a myth.

 Listening to jazz music

As strange as it sounds, there may actually be some scientific validation to this advice. Studies conducted by Newtopia Health, demonstrate an increase in the compound immunoglobin A after listening to 30 minutes of jazz music. Immunoglobin A is important in fighting infection, it acts as an antibody and helps to counteract viral infection. Other forms of music such as light rock and choral have also shown this trend, so listening to music may help cure a cold.

 Eating garlic

Garlic contains antiviral compounds which may help fight off your cold. Crushed garlic in particular contains a compound called Allicin, which encourages production of white blood cells. The science this time is logical and so has to go down as a valid remedy for helping reduce cold related symptoms. It seems that eating garlic is not just good for keeping vampires away but treating a cold as well.

 Eating chicken soup

It is noted the importance of having plenty of fluids when you feel under the weather but what about chicken soup in particular? Chicken soup will deliver nutrients and is easily digestible, providing you with the energy to ward of the cold. Carnosine is a compound found within chicken and it is thought that this can help reduce inflammation and in turn reduce the level of congestion in your nose/throat. This therefore seems a viable remedy for colds, relieving inflammation and providing important nutrients.

 Vicks VapoRub on feet

Again, like the onions claim there is a lack of scientific validation to this claim. This advice has been widespread over the last few years, especially for the cure of a child coughing and there have been lots of people who have commented on this method working. The actual mechanism by which this remedy works is unclear, whether the child actually inhales some of the vapours through the night or perhaps the feet have a greater part to play. If all of the other methods don’t work, have a go and see for yourself whether this is a valid cure or just another myth.


At the first sign of a cold, a jug of lemons soaking hot water will appear followed of course, by a dash of honey. As we all know the lemons contain vitamin C. The honey also has a part to play, reducing irritation in the throat as it provides a protective barrier. One thing to bear in mind however is that having three gallon of honey/lemon will not miraculously send away a cold, it may help to relieve symptoms but should be used in combination with other methods.

 Having a positive attitude

 Ha! The most optimistic remedy ever, having a positive attitude will dispel the negative thoughts and speed up recovery from your viral infection. Needless to say, this remedy is probably not the most effective method and sitting there willing the cold to go away will not remove your viral infection. Definitely not an effective solution to recommend.

 Exercising – This can help reduce a cold as it makes sure that you are on top form and strengthens your immune system, allowing the cold to be fought. Exercise is probably the last thing on your mind when you are sat there working through your fourth box of tissues, but a low intensity session may help.

The list of suggestions for curing a cold is endless and hopefully you have started to get an idea of some of the methods you could use. As you will have noticed, remedies such as exercise and wet socks are described to “increase the immune system”, though as the exact impact is unknown, it is difficult to observe how effective they actually are.

Surely cold capsules and cough medication is the answer? Perhaps not. A range of cold medications on the market were put to the test and the results were interesting. Most of the medication would help reduce a cough but does not actually get rid of the cough, along with certain oral capsules reducing visible symptoms, not completely solving the issue.

The key here seems to be using a combination of decongestants, cold capsules, cough syrups, honey/lemon and not to forget portions of chicken soup.


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