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5 Home Remedies Your Mom Was Actually Right About

5 Home Remedies Your Mom Was Actually Right About

Yes, gargling with saltwater really helps a sore throat.

Keep warm to avoid a cold or gargle with salt water to relieve a sore throat—these are just a few of the remedies your mom has suggested at one time or another.

Turns out, she was probably right about at least a few of those home-tested remedies. We asked Holly Greenfield, MD, from Presbyterian/St Luke's Medical Center in Denver, Colorado to talk about remedies that actually work.

1. Gargle with water for a sore throat. Yes, gargling—even with plain water—may help reduce the number of colds you get. One study found that people who gargled three times a day during cold and flu season had almost a 40 percent less chance of contracting upper respiratory infections than those who didn’t gargle. And when some of the gargling group did get sick, the remedy helped reduce the severity of symptoms.

Experts also recommend using a salt water rinse to relieve symptoms like sore throat and congestion. For best results, gargle with saltwater that is as salty as tears, recommends Dr. Greenfield.

2. Bundle up to prevent a cold. There might be something to mom’s advice to dress warmly to prevent a cold. A lab study suggests that your immune system is better equipped to fight the cold virus at warmer temperatures. Researchers also found that warmer temperatures may help prevent the spreading of common colds.

3. Honey for a cough. A spoonful of honey can help a coughing kid twofold 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 Greenfield.

One caveat: Don’t give honey to kids younger than one year old because the honey could contain C. botulinum spores, which could cause infant botulism. 

4. Ginger and peppermint for nausea. Raw or pickled ginger can help with feelings of nausea, according to research. One study looked at a group of 100 women with advanced breast cancer and found that ginger helped relieve feelings of nausea following chemotherapy. 

There’s some evidence that peppermint oil may help ease feelings of nausea or vomiting, too.

“Ginger and peppermint are well-established treatments for nausea,” adds Greenfield. You can opt for ginger ale (if it contains real ginger), raw or pickled ginger, ginger candies or ginger tea. As for peppermint, try sipping on tea or deeply inhaling peppermint oil for relief.

5. Chicken soup for a cold. There have a been a few studies—dating back to 1978—about how or why chicken soup works for a cold. One particular study from 2012 found that one 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 some anecdotal evidence that chicken soup can help a cold, but the jury is still out. 

And while mom (mostly) has all of the answers, if your home remedies aren’t proving effective, then a trip to the doctor might be in order.

Medically reviewed in March 2018.

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