4 Home Remedies Your Mom Was Actually Right About

Yes, gargling with salt water really helps a sore throat.

Medically reviewed in January 2021

Try some honey for a cough. Gargle with salt water to relieve a sore throat. Load up on chicken soup to ease congestion. Odds are your mom suggested these home remedies at one time or another.

Turns out, she was probably right—about at least a few of them. Holly Greenfield, MD, from Presbyterian/St Luke's Medical Center in Denver, Colorado, says some home remedies actually work. And while they won’t succeed for everyone, they're often worth a try in addition to consulting with your healthcare provider (HCP).

Gargle with water for a sore throat
Yes, gargling may help reduce the number of colds you get. People who gargled three times a day during cold and flu season had an almost 40 percent lower chance of contracting upper respiratory infections than those who didn’t gargle, according to a 2005 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. And when some of the gargling group did get sick with a common cold virus, the remedy seemed to help reduce the severity of bronchial symptoms.

Experts also recommend using a salt water rinse to relieve symptoms like sore throat and congestion. For best results, mix 1 teaspoon of salt with 1 cup of warm water, then gargle away.

Take honey for a cough
A spoonful of honey can help a sick kid in two ways, by helping them sleep and lessening their cough.

“Hot tea with honey is good for soothing the throat. And taking a spoonful of honey has been found to be as effective as using cough syrup for coughs,” says Dr. Greenfield. Scientists have shown buckwheat honey to be particularly helpful in studies; it can be found online and in many supermarkets.

One caveat: Don’t give honey to kids younger than 1 year old. The honey could contain Clostridium botulinum spores, which could cause infant botulism.

Try ginger for nausea
Ginger may ease a queasy stomach, research suggests. One 2019 review of studies in the journal Phytotherapy Research, for example, found that ginger helped relieve feelings of nausea and vomiting following breast cancer chemotherapy.

“Ginger is a well-established treatment for nausea,” adds Greenfield. While studies have generally shown ginger supplements to be effective, many people have found that ginger ale (if it contains real ginger), raw or pickled ginger, ginger candies and ginger tea are helpful. Just be sure not to overdo it, since large doses may cause side effects such as heartburn and diarrhea.

And if you’re pregnant? While some research suggests ginger is safe, it’s always a good idea to speak with an HCP first.

Eat chicken soup for a cold
There are a handful of studies dating back to 1978 exploring how and why chicken soup affects a cold—and possibly the flu, as well. Some research suggests the hot liquid may help move mucus and clear congestion in your airways, and that the soup’s ingredients could be beneficial, too. One 2012 study in the American Journal of Therapeutics found that a compound in chicken soup, carnosine, may help the body’s immune system fight the early stages of flu. But it’s fleeting: Once the soup is excreted from the body, the benefit ends.

The bottom line: there’s anecdotal evidence and some limited research that chicken soup can help you make it through a cold or the flu, but the jury is still out.

While mom has all of the answers (mostly), if your home remedies aren’t proving effective, a trip or call to your HCP is likely in order.


K Satomura, T Kitamura T, et al. “Prevention of upper respiratory tract infections by gargling: a randomized trial.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2005 Nov;29(4):302-7. 
RD Goldman. “Honey for treatment of cough in children.” Canadian Family Physician. Vol. 60,12 (2014): 1107-8, 1110.
Mayo Clinic. “Infant and toddler health.” July 7, 2020. Accessed January 13, 2021.
Y Panahi, A Saadat, et al. “Effect of ginger on acute and delayed chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting: a pilot, randomized, open-label clinical trial.” Integrative Cancer Therapy. 2012 Sep;11(3):204-11.
MA Babizhayev, A Deyev. “Management of the Virulent Influenza Virus Infection by Oral Formulation of Nonhydrolized Carnosine and Isopeptide of Carnosine Attenuating Proinflammatory Cytokine-Induced Nitric Oxide Production.” American Journal of Therapeutics. January 2012 - Volume 19 - Issue 1 - p e25-e47.
Charlotte Smith. “6 At-Home Remedies to Ease Your Sore Throat.” Penn Medicine. November 10, 2020. Accessed January 22, 2021.
Johns Hopkins Medicine. “The Do’s and Don’ts of Easing Cold Symptoms.” 2021. Accessed January 22, 2021.
H Abuelgasim, C Albury, J Lee. “Effectiveness of honey for symptomatic relief in upper respiratory tract infections: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine, Published Online First: 18 August 2020.
NIH: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. “The Common Cold and Complementary Health Approaches: What the Science Says.” December 2020. Accessed January 22, 2021.
NIH: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. “Flu and Colds: In Depth.” November 2016. Accessed January 22, 2021.
NIH: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. “Ginger.” December 2020. Accessed January 22, 2021.
K Saketkhoo, A Januszkiewicz, MA Sackner MA. “Effects of drinking hot water, cold water, and chicken soup on nasal mucus velocity and nasal airflow resistance.” Chest. 1978 Oct;74(4):408-10.
AS Totmaj, H Emamat, et al. “The effect of ginger (Zingiber officinale) on chemotherapy‐induced nausea and vomiting in breast cancer patients: A systematic literature review of randomized controlled trials.” Phytotherapy Research. June 21, 2019. Accessed January 22, 2021.

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