Cold remedies: Wives’ tales… or legitimate science?


There are few experiences as universal as catching a cold. And while there are around 200 viruses that cause it, there seem to be almost as many home remedies to combat it.

But do any of them work?

At the core of any home remedy is the idea that it bolsters our immune system. When a virus enters our bodies, it comes up against two systems of defence: the innate immune system tries to flush invading cells out, while the adaptive system targets specific pathogens that the body already has had contact with and creates memory cells of new ones, so the body can fight them off if they return. This is why we tend to get chicken pox only once, whereas the common cold – which changes its appearance as it passes from one person to the next, confusing our memory cells – is something we can experience dozens of times.

It’s well-known that both lifestyle habits and diet affect the strength of our immune systems.

But because the immune system is only impaired when we have a vitamin or mineral deficiency, supplementing our diets with so-called cold-busting foods will make little difference…

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