DIY Cold Remedies

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Sore throat, congestion, a cough that sounds dangerously whooping, and more phlegm than you can shake a stick at comprise my current state of existence. I’ve basically been dying since Monday, but I’m using all my energy to emerge from a mountain of used tissues and Halls wrappers and help those of you who might be in a similar illness situation, now or in the future.

You already know how to avoid getting sick and/or to keep your cold from getting worse, but let’s suppose you fuck up and don’t wash your hands (gross!), stay out late drinking sake bombs too many school nights in a row, or touch any surface on the bus. Now you’re in the trenches, and all the hand-washing and zinc drops in the world can’t save you now. And if you’re broke, you might not have access to a “real doctor,” or whatever. Here are some ways to suffer a little bit less when you’ve got a bug:


I mean, duh. But in addition to hydrating your body while it works overtime to kick your cold, fluids keep your throat lubricated when you’re hacking up a lung. Everyone knows (or believes—studies say it doesn’t really help, but anecdotal evidence indicates to the contrary) that vitamin C promotes health, so orange juice is a good bet. I find water and hot drinks help me the most, so I’m having a lot of tea, hot water, soup, cold water, and Theraflu (leftover from last time I was sick because I sure as hell couldn’t afford to buy some now).


Not only does ginger soothe your tummy when you’ve got indigestion of some sort, but it is also anti-inflammatory and supports your immune system. And I’m not talking about the ground ginger languishing in your pantry after last year’s ill-fated gingerbread cookie-baking attempt. I think the best way to take ginger is in a tea: Peel a knob of fresh ginger, and cut into tiny pieces. Drop that into a cup of hot water or premade tea, steep, and drink. Feels good goin’ down, don’t it?

Raw garlic

Garlic is antifungal and antibacterial (Unrelated: Did you know you can pop a peeled garlic clove in your vag at night to cure yeast infections?). It also smells amazing, and it tastes awesome when cooked or combined with other foods. However, we’re not going to use this brand of garlic. We’re going to eat the raw, crushed clove all by itself. It’s going to be awful, and you’re going to hate me, but you’re also going to feel better after you swallow. Some people say to spread it on a cracker with some honey to make it go down easier, but that sounds like the easy way out. If you’re stuffed up enough, you might not even taste it!


Something had to help ancient civilizations recover from illness before the advent of pharmaceutical companies. Some such hippie remedies still work today. You can get dried hyssop from a natural foods store, an herbalist, or your own front yard (it looks like this). Add a teaspoon to a cup of hot water and steep for a while—the longer the better, I always say. Drink it hot if your phlegm is trapped in your sinuses, or let it cool completely before drinking if you’re coughing shit up. Another herbal option is slippery elm. If you can find it, take the maximum dose recommended by the bottle. In the past, slippery elm has cured my sore throat overnight, so if anyone wants to deliver me some right now, that’d be tight.

Salt water

Put a little warm water (a couple of swallows’ worth) into a cup. Add as much salt as the water can take, and stir. You’ll know the water can’t absorb any more salt when it starts gathering at the bottom of your cup. Grab a mouthful of the vile solution, tilt your head back, and gargle for as long as you can. Repeat as many times as you like. Salt draws water out of your raw throat and helps reduce swelling, making it less sore and irritated.

Hippocrates’s health drink

I’m borrowing this tonic from How It All Vegan, which asserts that the father of medicine treated his patients with apple cider vinegar. Trust me when I say this shit is nast. But it’s a powerful germ-fighting drink, and it’ll drain the snot from your nose all quick-like, so I think it comes out ahead in the cost-benefit analysis. It requires maybe eight minutes of preparation, so if you can get out of bed for that long, you can make this drink. The best part is that if you ever cook at all, you probably have all the ingredients on hand.

1/2 fresh lemon, sliced
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. liquid sweetener (maple syrup, agave, honey…)
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups water

Throw everything into a saucepan over medium heat, and bring to a boil. Simmer for five minutes, stir, and strain into a big-ass cup. Drink it down. Feel better.

Photo credits: Scientific AmericanCan You Dig It, First Science, and Greek Living

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Sarah M. Smart - Red-Light Special

Sarah M. Smart - Red-Light Special

Sarah M. Smart was summoned into being on a distant ice cream planet
through an unholy union of Two-Buck Chuck and unicorns. They sent her to Indianapolis and then the University of Missouri's School of Journalism
to spread peace and big hair. Perpetually in mourning for the comma, she
has worked for a variety of print media, including Indianapolis
, Global Journalist, and Vox. Since moving
to San Francisco for the booming dumpster-diving scene, she has been an
online operative for such fine folks as , Neo-Factory, and
Academy of Art University. After a day of cat-feeding, hat-making,
dog-walking, vegan baking, and daydreaming about marrying rich, all she
wants is a margarita as big as her face.