4 Anti-Cold Cocktails That Work: From Ancient China to German Alcoholics and Modern Labs


The 2,000-year old cocktail: it tastes as bad as it looks… but it works.

My back hurts. So does my throat, and I feel like a sumo wrestler is sitting on my head trying to pop my eyes out.

Alas, the common cold has got me. Fortunately, I expect to be rid of it in 48-72 hours.

Like millions this time of year, I have the bug. But, thanks to Chinese and German friends and several helpful doctors, I’ve found a few effective treatments — the closest to cures I’ve experimented with — that can get you back on your feet faster. I suggest you test them in stages, from oldest to newest, as the side-effects tend to increase as we include modern drugs.

The Chinese Cure for the Common Cold–Simple and Direct

Despite some craziness like shark-fin soup and bear gallbladders, the Chinese have had a long time to experiment with the common cold.

In Beijing, I’d doubted the traditional Chinese approach to reducing fevers (bundle you up in winter clothing and force you to drink near-boiling tea or water until you sweat profusely), which ended up working like a charm, so I’ve been willing to test ideas that could have some clinical basis.

The ladies–my five surrogate mothers–at my neighborhood Chinese restaurant suggested the following fast-acting cold remedy (end product pictured in the first photo from this post), which — for me — cuts symptoms like sore throat and sinus pain by at least 50% over 24 hours.

Step 1: Get fresh ginger and the orange rind (peel) from one orange, preferably organic or otherwise not treated with pesticides. Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods will do. The Epsom salts will be explained and is not part of the recipe.


Step 2: Cut the ginger into small pieces and mash them down with the side of a large kitchen knife.


Step 3: Bring water to a low boil (medium setting on my electric stovetop) in a small pot and insert ginger pieces. Wait 20 minutes. Note: to help relieve the muscular pains that often come with a cold or flu, I’ll run a hot bath during this 20 minutes, put in the entire box of Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate), then soak for 10 minutes before coming back to the kitchen for step 4.

Step 4: Add the orange peel sections to the boiling water and wait an additional 10 minutes.

Step 5: Strain and serve. Be forewarned that it has a strong taste and a few dabs of organic honey will help those with girly-man stomachs (I’ll plead girly-man on this one). The liquid/tea/soup stores well in the refrigerator but tastes 10x worse cold.

The German Solution–Alcohol, Of Course!

The German solution I’ve been offered is easier to describe:

1. Get a deep-tissue massage

2. Chamomile Tea

3. Spiced Rum

4. Bed

I suspect the spiced rum could have an effect less from the alcohol and more from the cinnamon typically used to make it spicy. Though generally thought of as being viral, the common cold is often misdiagnosed or accompanied by other types of bacteria and infection.

Cinnamon has been shown to inhibit E. Coli and increase insulin sensitivity, among other things, which is why I take it supplementally prior to meals if I’m cycling off of alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) as an insulin mimicker.

I’ll discuss ALA at greater length another time, but here is a preview from wikipedia: “Lipoic acid has been shown in cell culture experiments to increase cellular uptake of glucose by recruiting the glucose transporter GLUT4 to the cell membrane, suggesting its use in diabetes.”

Modern Non-Prescription Options

Though it’s true that “supplement,” “drug,” and “food” are largely legal distinctions and not biochemical ones, getting prescriptions is both time-consuming and expensive. For shortening the duration of the common cold, I use Zicam oral mist (nasal delivery can damage your sense of smell) every 3-4 hours, along with the following:


Garlic extract (2 capsules, 3x/daily), probiotic acidophilus cultures (one capsule per meal), 3mg melatonin prior to bed, 8-10 grams of vitamin C in 1g divided doses.

I don’t use echinacea because I’ve found the supporting research inconsistent and it upsets my stomach. I’m aware that some researchers dispute Linus Pauling’s conclusions about vitamin C, but I believe it’s because of insufficient dosing and spacing, as it is water soluble and can have a half-life of just 30-60 minutes.

From the non-ingestible standpoint, having suffered from sinus infections since childhood, I’m a proponent of sinus irrigation, which entails driving distilled water mixed with salt and baking soda in one nostril and out the other.

I’ll do this each morning and evening as soon as symptoms appear, and it all but eliminates the intra-cranial pressure and black-eye look so typical of sinus inflammation:


The NeilMed sinus rinse kit.

The Last Resort–Heavy Prescription Artillery

The common cold, as mentioned earlier, is generally thought of as a viral infection and attributed to any number of rhinoviruses and friends: “Common colds are most often caused by infection by one of the more than 100 serotypes of rhinovirus, a type of picornavirus. Other viruses causing colds are coronavirus, human parainfluenza viruses, human respiratory syncytial virus, adenoviruses, enteroviruses, or metapneumovirus. Due to the many different types of viruses, it is not possible to gain complete immunity to the common cold.”

Diverse as the causes might be, there is one combination of drugs–my personal holy trinity–that seems to kill off most variations of cold-related upper-respiratory issues if all else fails:


From left to right: the “Zmax” or azithromycin, an antibiotic (don’t use this and acidophilus at the same time); Flonase or generic fluticasone propionate, an anti-inflammatory nasal stray with little systemic absorption of the glucocorticoids; and Pseudovent, a decongestant and expectorant not unlike Primatene tablets.

These drugs all have side-effects and should not be used without medical supervision. If your HMO or doctor seems clueless, however, feel free to make suggestions.  Please note also that I use antibiotics only when warranted, as in the case of severe and recurring sinusitis with related causes.  Uninformed overuse of antibiotics can do more damage than anabolic steroids, so caveat emptor.


The common cold has been with us for millenia and will likely be with us for millenia to come. Is doesn’t mean you have to lay down and take it. Test some of these options, with the guidance of a doctor when needed, and perhaps we can save one more casualty from flu and cold season.


Odds and Ends: Fixed Gibberish

I had the strange marks and nonsense fixed on the popular “Top 5 Reasons to Be a Jack of All Trades” post. It’s now readable again 🙂

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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202 Replies to “4 Anti-Cold Cocktails That Work: From Ancient China to German Alcoholics and Modern Labs”

  1. I haven’t had a cold or the flu in years except for some occasions when visiting grandchildren; probably no immunity to their germssince we don;tlive close. When that happens, I take two aspirin and 500 mg. Vit. C, – four hours later the same. Usually it takes only two doses.

  2. Here is a recipe my husband uses who use to have sinus infection for 15 years and taking antibiotics every other month.

    Fill a glass with warm water, dissolve 2 tea spoons of sea salt and breathe water through the nose and spit out though your mouth. Bend and wait until all water comes out of the nose. He does this every day and never has sinus infection for last 3 years. If he gets a cold then after procedure with the nose he sprays silver water and still avoids sinus infection. For my kids, sambucol,umcka and airborne works like a charm. Hope this helps.

  3. THis is my 2nd post. My first one I should’ve posted under Dance, but I think I accidentally posted it under your most recent blog on GOING GREEN.

    I forgot to add this so this time it should be posted under the correct topic! Hopefully the moderator will post it correctly. But then will you read them if posted other than the most recent blog?

    I’ve also been into holistic medicine for over 20 yrs. My husband has been getting a lot of colds recently. He has a history of bronchitis so bad that he had to skip a whole year of school as a kid. Now he just gets colds. I hardly catch anything. This last one even I had to fight it. I didn’t have the drainage just itchy throat and muscle aches. But we tried everything…Homeopathic Zicam (good if catch at the beginning), NOW’s Golden Seal/Echinachea, NOW’s Garlic, Orange peels also from our tree and some ginger too but not like how you described. WE do the baths also but not the whole box so next time will do that also! We also tried Nature Sunshine’s garlic and VSC. The VSC (Chinese herbs) seemed to help me. I’m sure all did. But this formula seemed to do the best for ALan:


    Don’t know if you heard of Dr Christopher’s formulas?

    It says: (can delete this if comment too long:)

    Chest Formula contains: Bayberry Bark, Cloves, Ginger Root, Cayenne and White Pine Bark. All encapsulated products are in a pure 100% vegetable based capsule.

    Chest Formula is effective in breaking up colds, flu, etc.

    As a remedy in colds, beginning of fevers, flu, hoarseness, sluggish circulation, colic, cramps, etc. We believe it has done more good than any other single preparation ever known to man. If this compound were kept in every home, and used as the occasion arose, there would be far less sickness.

    Give it freely in your practice and your patient will bless you. Look over the ingredients, and consider how it will clear canker, ease cramps and pains in the stomach and bowels, raise the heat of the body equalizing the circulation, and remove congestions. It is safe. It is effective. We have on numberless occasions given a cup of composition tea every hour as warm as the patient could drink it, until the patient has perspired freely, and after four or five doses have seen our patient in a free perspiration, thereby removing colds and febrile trouble.” This Composition Powder is safe for anyone, children and adults alike; it’s very effective in breaking up colds, flu, etc. All encapsulated products are in a pure 100% vegetable based capsule.

    Ailments historically treated: Blood Poisoning, Bronchitis, Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (COLD), Colic, Common Cold, Dementia, Fevers, Flu, Gingivitis, Influenza, Laryngitis, Polyps (Adenoids), Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Respiratory System (COPD), Sore Throat, Throat (General), Upper Respiratory Infection.

    To beating the cold! Debbie

  4. Hey, you recommend using azithromycin for a cold but I think that is a bad idea. It has no affect on viruses (i.e. colds) and can even be a bit of a bad idea what with the resistance bacteria build to each exposure of antibiotic.

    Better to load up on the ginger root/orange peel tea with Vitamin C (the pill, not the singer… that would just make the pain worse) and get some rest. I throw continuous cups of green tea at it as well (Dragon’s Well tea from Hangzhou, China. The best green tea on the planet) which seems to make a difference.

  5. If anyone is farmiliar with “Toms of Maine” its a pretty much all natural brand of toothpaste and such, well they make something very similar to the first concoction on this page, its called “TONIC” its made with orange and ginger, I recently had an aweful cold, though it doesnt cure the cold it sure helped me a lot with my sore throat and groggieness. HOPE THIS HELPS. Not quite sure where u can get it though, but probably ur average store like CVS, or Stop and Shop, or something.

  6. Wow the ginger and orange peel works! I’m drinking the last of it right now and already I feel so much better. It is really gross! Tastes like I’m drinking liquid pepper (at least that’s what I taste with my cold). After the first half dozen sips my nose stopped running, a few more sips and my sore throat went away. After a half a cup my sinuses started clearing up.. this is something the doses of over the counter medication didn’t do!

    I’m going to doubly dread getting a cold now because I not only feel sick, I know the cure involves drinking liquid fire! 🙂 Thanks Tim

    1. Liquid pepper, 😂😂

      As bad as I feel that made me laugh.

      I’ve been eating ice cubes I made with juiced ginger root, lemon, and orange with the peel.

  7. Great info, Tim! I am lucky enough to guzzle Emergen-C for a few days and be fine. My dad however, has suffered immensely from sinus problems for decades. He’s allergic to pretty much every plant, pollen and tree known to man. Going into his 3rd sinus surgery, he found a doctor using more accurate laser technology along with CAT scan measurements and has been great ever since. If you’d like more information, let me know, and thanks for the recipes!

  8. Another common cold/flu/sore throaT cure: feel a cold coming on take 100,000 iu of Vitamin A gels; 1-3,000mg vitamin C; and 15-50 mg Zinc at bedtime……..pregnant womena use reduced Vit.A dosages 20,000…….the next day if symptoms not gone continue each day.

    Works even if you missed the sublte onset signs of the illness…….

    best to you Uncle Tim.


    Vitamin A Dosage

    We have pointed out that concerns about vitamin A toxicity are exaggerated. While some forms of synthetic vitamin A found in supplements can be toxic at only moderately high doses, fat-soluble vitamin A naturally found in foods like cod liver oil, liver, and butterfat is safe at up to ten times the doses of water-soluble, solidified, and emulsified vitamin A found in some supplements that produce toxicity.(1) Additionally, the vitamin D found in cod liver oil and butterfat from pasture-raised animals protects against vitamin A toxicity, and allows one to consume a much higher amount of vitamin A before it becomes toxic.(1-3) Liver from land mammals is high in vitamin A but low in vitamin D, and should therefore be consumed with other vitamin D-rich foods such as lard or bacon from pasture-raised pigs, egg yolks, and oily fish, or during months in which UV-B light is sufficient to provide one with adequate vitamin D.

    As a general guideline, we recommend the following doses of vitamin A from cod liver oil, along with a nutrient-dense diet that contains other vitamin A-rich foods:

    Children age 3 months to 12 years: A dose of cod liver oil that provides about 5000 IU vitamin A daily

    Children over 12 years and adults: A maintenance dose of cod liver oil that provides about 10,000 IU vitamin A daily

    Pregnant and nursing women: A dose of cod liver oil that provides about 20,000 IU vitamin A daily

    Individuals under stress or wishing to use cod liver oil to treat a disease condition may take much larger doses, even up to 90,000 IU vitamin A per day, for a period of several weeks.

  9. WOw, that was quite possibly the most disgusting thing ive ever ingested. I do feel better though. And my drink came out greenish, as opposed to the brown orange drink in the berkeley mug. Nasty nasty nasty. But i think i feel better haha.

  10. a suggestion. chasing it with diet coke. i started that half way. It sped up the rate i drank it at by at least double. still very gross, but a LITTLE bit more palatable.

    Try putting some diet coke or other soda in your mouth, drinking the drink, and then more diet coke.

  11. You will not – in any way – affect the common cold virus with azithromycin or any other antibiotic for that matter. Flonase and decongestants – sure, they’ll ease your symptoms. However, taking an antibiotic for a virus is pointless and only contributes to humban beings building even more immunity to the effects of these drugs.

  12. Tim–I’ve recently read your book and I love it as well as your blog. That being said I wanted to share with you information on zith. If and when a bacterial infection is present (which can occur as a secondary infection post cold or influenza due to opportunistic environment-i.e., viral invasion into host (you) results in inflammation of membranes in the sinuses for example, then the cilia which normally move “stuff” through your sinuses and nose get a build up of mucus and cannot perform their job, this results in normal bacteria present now swimming in mucous which creates the opportunistic environment for them to grow and overproduce in the trapped environment resulting in bacterial infection) then an antibiotic may help. The Sanford Guide is a Bible of sorts for doctors who are treating sites as well as bacteria in different patient populations. Recently (2008) The Sanford Guide recommends a dramatic change in protocol. If you look at Community Aquired Pneumonia for instance you will see that it says if you are looking at a local resistance pattern for Strep Pneumo (the #1 causative pathogen for CAP as well as Acute Bacterial Sinusitis) is greater than or equal to 25% then you should abandon zith and use a resp FQ. In the case of CAP any recent antibiotic activiity for any reason within 3-6 months, and or cormorbid conditions definately resp FQ. The national avg of strep pneumo resistance is greater than 30%. Locally in my area based on antibiograms of hospitals including outpatient isolates , zith is as high as 63% resistance with 38% intermediate resistance. This information also can be found on the CDC website for tracking resistance patterns in the US. Often patients are prescribed an antibiotic prior to bacterial infection based on sx. which are viral. No bacterial infection is present (note greenish d/c is not always indicitive of bacterial infection nor is fever). Doctors have been afraid from a business standpoint to tell a pt no, because they will just go elsewhere to get an rx. Pt’s should be told that adjunctive therapy including netipot usage and pseudoephedrine (note that allegra d has psuedo in it but the allergy portion of it and other allergy meds can actually eventually thicken mucousa overtime which sets u up for chronic sinus infections due to opportunistic environment). All that being said, zith isn’t the only anti-infective that is affected with resistance issues by being overprescribed. The bug (strep pneumo) easily learned how zith worked (even zmax) because zith and zmax are bacteriostatic. First, you must reach the mic necessary to kill the bug in the area of the body. Zith enters the body and achieves mic initially, however it stays in the body for a long time and the mic of the drug drops continually. Strep bug is not fully killed off (even zmax dose which can cause sever vomiting due to mega dose) and zith is in the body and the bug learns how to overcome it by a variety of methods and then you have a new resistant strain of zith. Now here comes the second problem with this. Not only will zith continue to decrease in susceptabilities due to it’s lingering in the body below effective mic, but taken again will be trying to kill a resistant strain. The cycle continues. Then when a patient takes another drug like trimeth sulfa, or penicillin, or augmentin etc… you have a bug resistant strep pneumo in pt population that now has learned how to overcome all of these drugs. You end up with a patient population that not only has res to zith but now has a strain of strep pneumo known as multidrug resistant strep pneumo which is on average a 3rd of patient population and rapidly growing. Thus the Sanford Guide says to pay attention to your local issues and instead of reserving certain classes like fq to use them up front in a suspected bacterial resp infection to rapidly kill the bug which resp fq like levofloxin are indicated for both strep pneumo and mdrsp. To get the resistance undercontrol. Certain fq are not good for resp, i.e., cipro due to it cannot get concentrations necessary at the site of infection, and avelox which can sit in gut long time and disrupt normal floral causing other issues trying to treat the first issue. You have to a) stop using ai unecessarily b) use adjunctive therapy c) use an ai that is suited for your local resistance pattern, has least side effects, least propensity to cause collateral damage, and is cost effective (ie shorter duration of therapy so patients complete full course), and in the case of recurrent explore anatomical reasons/environmental reasons with a specialist.

    I was saddened to see your regimine listing zith because of the above information. I’m sure in certain cases zith will work for a bacterial infection. However, I think your popularity could fuel patients going into doctors offices demanding ai like zith and thus possibly fueling this problem. Because, there are no new resp fq coming to market in the next 25 years it is important that we use antiinfectives that are only used as necessary and switch to more powerful antibiotics like levofloxin based on sanford guide recommendations to get things under control. We even have pockets of resistance in us that sanford would recommend hospitilzation for iv atibiotics-the last place you want to go if your sick because of infection control issues and cross infection issues many patients die vs outpatient, plus 10 grand to fix your illness isnot cost effective. There are areas where this is applicable and it is rapidly growing! If not and you end up very sick (its the same pathogen strep pn that can also cause pneumonia not to mention that sinus infections can lead to brain abscess, etc…if not successfully treated) you could find yourself in a situation where there is no avail antibiotics for any of us that will work if we need them. This is already happening at alarming rates because doctors are finding that there is mdrsp and it can’t be touched with trimeth/sulfa, pen, amox, rocephin, etc…

    The sanford guide not only states this but so does the American Academy of Otolarangology, IDSA/ITSA guidelines, etc… Note: Your insurance company will probably not tell you this becuase they want you to use cheap generics to keep profit in their pocket. Thanks.

  13. I modified a couple of the recipes for ease and convenience (what I had on the shelf already) I found that our local mega-mart does not carry Kyolic (which is by far the best) I will be ordering the Reserve formula online which is high potency and without common allergens. The Cardiovascular pictured is a good one if I need something urgently. I’m taking C every hour as I had already heard this one from a prescription my mom had been given long ago.

    I prefer tasty foods and drinks, and have no oranges. I wished I had some orange marmalade to add some ground ginger to, as that sounded yummy, but alas, no marmalade here.

    I brewed some herbal lemon tea and doubled up the strength by using two tea bags per 12oz cup. I added ground ginger dierectly to the tea. It requires regular mixing, and has a texture that I find acceptable as long as the ginger is very finely ground. Hot gingered lemonade with honey (made with distilled water) is one of my all-time personal favorites. I usually use about 1/4 teaspoon as a flavoring, using more for a more medicinal tea. Although sugar depresses the immune system, I’m having to discontine honey at times due to it causing me to lose my voice in previous experiments, same with lemon, so I use them carefully.

    Cinnamon tends to clump up and stick to the sides of the cup, so using about a tablespoon of cinnamon for about 6 cups of water, I brewed up some cinnamon tea by using my coffee maker and a coffee filter. I then put two tea bags of chamomille tea in my cup of cinnamon tea to steep.

    Both of these are yummy to medicinal tasting depending on how strong you decide to make them.

  14. Hi Tim,

    You should try Ban Lan Gan next time. It was used regularly in China during the SARS epidemic. They are available in water soluble sachets, and the taste is not too bad – like bland soup.

    2 sachets day and night when symptoms appear normally works like a charm, followed by a good night’s rest under a lot of warm blankets, the whole “sweating it out” strategy.



  15. Tim

    Loved all cold RENs. My question is… My colds often last ten days to two weeks; this common for and many people. Right now, my major cold symptoms have been over for a week, but continues to linger on in the form of clear mucus from nose & throat and plugged ears. Going into my second week of these residual leftovers from my cold. Every few years this happens to me.

    Will a ton garlic and vit C knock it out faster?


  16. I would normally take Reserve Kyolic (1800mg 3xdaily) to kill a bug. I recently conducted an experiment with the generic garlic from the local megamart. It was in a softgel form.

    I was also taking at least 4,000mg of vitamin C throughout the experiment. Be sure to get buffered or ester-C when taking lots of Vitamin C to help your stomach handle it.

    I started with taking 3000mg 3x daily of the softgels. The 3000mg dose did not knock out the bug, I increased the dose to 4000mg, but still had no relief. I increased it again to 6000mg 3xdaily and still got no result. I was sick for at least 2 months. I then reverted back to my old standard, 1800mg of Kyolic, and the bug is finally gone. Generic cheap stuff found at my local store just did not handle the problem, and if Vitamin C is expected to knock out a bug, it requires very high doses.

  17. Re: use of echinacea – it’s unfortunate your stomach’s response to this herb, Tim. A few things to know about – the type of echinacea used, i.e. echinacea purpurea is the one of choice, being at least twice as effective as the E. Angustifolia type (which latter seems more commonly used in US than in Europe).

    With regards to efficacy, much of the promoted ‘research’ may be a little suspect, the agendas of some researching agencies being a touch anti-competitive (with allopathic medicine, and particularly the pharmaceutical industries, if there’s no patent available, profit to be made, or consumer control available, they tend towards anti-herbal).

    This leaves research from the herbal companies themselves, for which you can argue bias but, at least in the over-regulated EU, companies simply can’t get away with spurious claims (because of trading standard, consumer & product legislation, &c). In that light, research details can be had, re: efficacy, from the likes of A. Vogel (were Bioforce), a Swiss based company with outlets throughout Europe – within the nutriceutical industry their Echinacea tinctures are reckoned to be the most effective (although there’s a suspicion that their European, UK & non-Swiss forms are not as strong as their non-EU-regulated Swiss ones). Vogel have noted that not only does the herb work to regulate the immune system (like a thermostat, works only when necessary, even if taken constantly), but also has a direct anti-infective action on pathogens.

    Last note: Vogel do a kid’s Echinacea Complex, which combines Ech. with Plantago – a herb used to keep the small tubes of kids clear of mucus. In our family we’ve given our 8 year old son this virtually from birth until recently – he’s managed to avoid all the clogging that colds & mucus can have on the small tubes of children (known as “smit” in our part of the world), and I know of a good few parents who have used this with kids as a treatment of last resort (prior to surgical implants of grommits, that is) with excellent, and fairly fast results. Therefore, for your sinuses, Tim, the Plantago tincture on it’s own is worth considering.

    PS. I don’t work for Vogel (although I’ve heard they’re a good company to work for re: fairtrade & use of organic herbs). MK

  18. Hi, All!

    A simple treatment that prevents not just colds but many other illnesses is colon hydrotherapy (not an enema, but a gentle flushing of the colon with pure water). It eliminates bacteria and toxins in the colon that may otherwise be absorbed and sent throughout the body.

    I know what you may be thinking, but you cannot judge until you try it! It actually makes you feel great, as clean as you’ve never been!


  19. Zicam is homeopathic – meaning there is no evidence for it working. It is as good as taking sugar pills. I thought you would investigate the scientific evidence behind any remedies you endorse rather than endorsing “snake oil”. Spraying the gooey base of zicam up your nose may have some effect, but if it does, its the gooey base, not any proclaimed medicine. Other than this, any benefit you or others feel is just placebo.

  20. Hi, we take “the bomb” whenever a cold hits. The bomb consists of : ginger, garlic, lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Because we are girls we add honey. Disgusting to drink but works well. Drink it hot, then go to bed and sweat it out. I usually manage to get over a cold in a day.

  21. Great Chinese Remedy!

    As a practitioner of chinese medicine, I recommend something very similar to what your “moms” suggest. They are right on!!

    Take a hot epsom salt bath, wrap up in blankets till you sweat a lot then drink some chinese herbal tea appropriate for the type of “cold” you have ( you can get this from your local acupuncturist). I also add in extra vitamin c (via emergen-c), gargling with the every so disgusting goldenseal tincture for a sore throat if you have it (which works amazing for if the cold just won’t go away too), and sleep!

    Thanks for sharing! Oh! If you want to add in some green onion to your ginger and orange peel tea, it will help to release the cold as well:)

    Happy remedying!

  22. I had bad bronchitis and respiratory infections every winter for 10 years to the point where I needed inhalers. Then I started drinking ginger tea two years ago (similar to described above). I have only had one cold since and it was the first time that it resolved within a couple of days.

    I swear by ginger now and I even take ginger pills with me when I travel to make sure I get my quota and keep my immune system happy. Drinking ginger tea (ginger boiled in water) is also recommended as part of an ayurvedic diet in India to take routinely, not just when you are sick.

    Great post!

  23. I brewed my own, which is really quite disgusting. Kombucha tastes a bit like beer. I hated that. I used apple juice or ginger ale to cut the taste of it.

    I was taking it in hopes of obtaining some relief from Fibromyalgia. I did not notice much difference while on it, so it was discontinued.

    I’ve heard stories of folks whose hair started to regain it’s youthful color while they were taking it.

    I might try one of the conventional brews rather than brewing my own if doing it again, but wow, you’ve just always got to filter that stuff! It’s always growing, and my tummy can’t handle too much nastiness.

    The strong taste of ginger and orange is one thing, the texture of a fungus is a horse of a different color (reference from The Wizard of Oz).

  24. I just heard something about putting a bit of peroxide in each ear at the first sign of illness… anyone tried it?

  25. This is a very interesting post — although I’m sure I’m coming to the party pretty late on this post.

    I do appreciate the fact that some of the folks here reference some of the Traditional Chinese Medicine from their own experience as either a practitioner or as a user of TCM. It is interesting to point out, however, that in reality as someone mentioned – there are different TYPES of cold diagnoses in TCM – Heat invasion, Cold invasion – and sometimes both can occur. Heat typically is observed as sore throat, scratchy eyes, thick mucous. Cold invasion is typically body aches, thin mucous, possibly chills. The treatments in TCM are different; in Western medicine they might tend to treat them the same way.

    Certainly, I respect the info in the post and will likely try that if I have the need. I do wish that this country would open up a bit in terms of acceptance that there are other forms of treatment other than antibiotics or pharmaceuticals. And I believe someone rightly mentioned that there really is no incentive in this country for the drug companies to do research on the age old “medicine” from China or elsewhere, because they can’t be patented and therefore there is no incentive. Doesn’t mean that it is all bad, but it is unfortunate that we don’t offer on a wider scale more accepted opinions, experience and learning of things ancient cultures have approached for more than a few thousand years. Not perfect, no doubt – but maybe there are some better things for our bodies than antibiotics for everything. Thankfully, some excellent MD’s avoid the overuse of the antibiotics as well.

    An open mind is a great thing!

  26. I have found that if you have a strong immune system you don’t have to worry about colds and other viruses. I have not been sick in forever, I eat super healthy, vegan, lots of veggies especially greens and take herbs from the rainforest.

  27. Another remedy for a sore throat and nasal issues is to lay on your back and pour raw honey up both nostrils. It sounds crazy, burns a little, but you’ll see your sore throat is gone in a day.

  28. My all time favourite is the water+salt mix (one large cup water + 1 teaspoon of salt). As soon as I have symptoms I start taking small amounts of it through the nose several times a day. I use a pipette so that no water gets wasted and let the water flow down my throat. My ENT doctor told me to do this and I pray for her every time this mix saves me some headache 🙂

    Because I’m too lazy to prepare other mixtures I simply drink herbal teas. Ginger tea with turmeric for viral infections, thyme tea (yuck) for a sore throat, and a mix of all when I’m not sure what it is going to be.

    In case of heavy coughs there is this simple recipe that brings instant relief but also tastes yuck: 1 tablespoon vinegar, 2 tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon ginger, 1 teaspoon honey.

  29. I forgot to mention that my doctor didn’t recommend the salt water mix only for sinus related diseases, but also for angina tonsillaris. Therefore, I take it whenever I have a sore throat too.

  30. This remedy works. Drank it for 5 days. 10 servings.


    Half a glass of water.

    2 aspirins(we use Dispirin in South-Africa)

    1 teaspoon of Lennon’s Wit Dulsies

    1 teaspoon of Lennon’s Jamaican ginger

    1/2 teaspoon bicarb of soda

    Warning: drink 2 times per day. Keep a glass of juice near.

    Get well soon.

  31. Tim,

    A propos sinus problems:

    I’ve observed that contrast showers facilitate sinus irrigation significantly.

    I’ve found no research to that effect, however.

    I know you’re fond of ice baths – have you noticed a similar phenomenon?



  32. I know this is a post about what to do when you have a cold, but I thought it would be valuable to post on here what I do to PREVENT ever getting sick in the first place! I’ve been sick once in the last couple years, and that was food poisoning. I’m not sure how long I’ve gone without being sick, but I really don’t remember the last time!

    My prevention method is simple, and involves no drugs or medicine:

    1) First and foremost, get a decent amount of sleep for you. Everyone is different, but for me I can usually get by with 6 hours for a few days, but then it catches up to me, and I try to get at least 8 to feel rested again. If I ever feel that feeling as though I might be catching something, I immediately go to a minimum of 8 hours of sleep, but 10 is ideal until I feel better (usually a day or 2)

    2) I take 4 vitamins/supplements per day:

    Green Tea – 1 capsule 250mg

    Vitamin D – 1 tablet 1000IU

    Magnesium – 1 tablet 250mg

    Krill Oil – 1 soft gel 300mg

    If I am feeling as though I might be coming down with something, I bump the Green Tea up to 2 per day, and add 1 or 2 capsules of Echinacea (along with more sleep as mentioned above).

    3)Your beliefs about getting sick! I’m sure there are people who think this step doesn’t matter, but I can tell you that I have no doubt in my mind that it was/is a huge step for me. I started affirming to myself that I don’t get sick anymore until I actually believed that. I now believe that my immune system can easily fight off anything before I am affected, and believe that I just don’t get sick anymore. I know the mind is extremely powerful, and that we have yet to discover many things it can do.

    This may seem too simple, but that is the whole point. It’s simple and easy, and works, at least for me. Some people on here might not believe that I haven’t gotten sick in 2 years+, and that’s ok. All I can do is share my method, wish everyone the best, and leave the rest up to you.

    Thanks and good health!

  33. Skip colds altogether. 1) drink this:Sage Tea – From The Breuss Cancer Cure. According to Rudolph Breuss, acclaimed author of The Breuss Cancer Cure; Sage tea is one of the most important of all beverages, for the maintenance of good health and vitality.

    Boil one half liter of purified water, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of the sage herb (Salvia Officinalis) and let boil for exactly 3 minutes. Then add 1 teaspoon of St John’s Wort (Hypericum Perforatum) and 1 teaspoon of Peppermint Balm or Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis) and let everything steep for 10 minutes.

    This tea can be consumed 1 cup up to 3 times a day. It is also refreshing when chilled.

    I have also found old scars fading/disappearing when I drink this daily for three weeks or more – and it taste fine.

    2) If you do get it. Don’t lay down for the germ! I tell the germ my immune system is going to kick the essence out of it and leave it weak and staggering – if it manages to escape.

    3) 3 cups of Epsom salt in a bath lasting 20 min or more is a homeopathic detoxifier. It also works great on any bruises, muscle soreness, body aches, hang-overs and boosting the immune system in general. It has been proven to pull toxins from the body and also increase the speed of healing bruises etc. I once saw a guys hand swollen 3x normal from an impact injury pour the salt into a disposable glove around his hand and 20min later the swelling was almost gone.

  34. One word to shorten colds: Umcka.


    Adults with acute bronchial symptoms were able to return to work nearly two days earlier with EPs 7630.

    Matthys H, et al. Phytomedicine 10 (2003) Supp. IV, pp.7-17

    If I take this the night I’m starting to feel under the weather, by the morning after, I swear I’m 50% better…which goes along with the above study.

    Obviously, Vitamin D levels should be optimized beforehand, and then one could consider Stoss Therapy if they have the flu.

  35. Tim,

    Here’s what my good friend and personal mentor, World Leader in Health – Dr. Isaac Jones taught me be avoiding colds;

    – Season food with tumeric generously

    – munching down on raw garlic daily

    – drinking green tea

    I’ve had good results within 1-2 days and now use it as a precautionary measure when I feel I have exposed to the likelihood of get a cold (e.g. length period out in the rain, feeling run down, little sleep or any combination of these factors)

    Love to know your thoughts on this, perticularly around optimising this and your experience

    Toodles –


  36. I’ve had to temporarily abandon 4HB for matzoh ball soup while I recover from the flu. Has anyone had experience taking a brief hiatus? Does it take a long time to get back on track?

  37. How much water do you use for the Chinese orange/ginger recipe? If I can find a ginger root at a nearby store (I live in Korea), I’m going to try this out.

  38. Try chicken soup! and saline nose drops. A hypertonic environment inhibits both bacterial and viral division, thereby “curing” your upper respiratory infection. Your grandmother had the right idea.

  39. I would suggest combining both the German and the Chinese remedy.

    I am currently working off a NASTY cold that had me bed ridden for a week. I can’t seem to get the last bits of it out of my lower chest.

    As of today, I am chewing raw ginger (tastes like fire, works better than the boiled form) and drinking red wine. The alcohol functions as a dispersant with any of the plant-oil-based medicines (garlic, ginger, etc). It serves to spread the oils out across your mucas-covered regions (mouth, nose, sinus, throat, lungs, stomach).

    So far, this combination appears to be working like a charm. The cough is already pretty much gone- whereas it was crazy out of control earlier.


    a good warm meal

    warm red wine

    raw ginger


  40. Yeah, I know this is an ancient thread, but I want to put this out there in case it might help someone. My wife and I have found that elderberry extract is spectacularly effective in putting the smackdown on a cold. I prefer the unsweetened liquid extract (VERY tart) while my wife prefers Sambu, which has a meal’s worth of honey in it. We have not found the pill forms to be effective.

    Two things to keep in mind: drink much more than the recommended dose on the bottle (if you can stomach it) and drink it early, as soon as you even think you might have a cold.

    Also, elderberry seems to be utterly useless against anything bacterial. Research I have read indicates it works against viruses by preferentially binding to sites on cell membranes that otherwise would be available to a virus.

  41. I know this threads been hear a while, but that German treatment sounds interesting. I know the massage can help the immune system, but would it be more effective using aromatherapy oils, like cinnamon oils?… Or would face massage help relax the sinuses etc? It might be worth trying…

  42. Thanks, Tim, for the great info on your website. One thing I haven’t heard people mention is using hydrogen peroxide in the ears. The rhinovirus, which causes the common cold, often enters through the ear canal. So at the first sign of a cold (or as a preventative measure), I suggest the following:

    1.) Fill a medicine dropper with regular, 3% hydrogen peroxide (the kind at grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.).

    2.) Lie on your side and fill your ear canal with peroxide from the dropper (use about half of the dropper). You’ll probably hear bubbling, which means it’s oxidizing any of the nasty stuff hanging out in there. Wait about 5 minutes, until the bubbling subsides.

    3.) Sit up and drain the ear (it helps to have a tissue handy for this part). Repeat the process on the other ear.

    I’ve found this to be really effective at either stopping the cold before it ever starts, or at the very least, greatly reducing its effect.

    1. Couldn’t agree more.. this has always been my personal trick.

      I’ve read that you should just do a few drops, and every few hours until the bubbling subsides.

      Currently I’m taking the 8-10 grams of Vitamin C, some Zinc, green tea of course, and a hot bath as well…

  43. Best solution for everything viral, bacteria or mold is Nano sized silver solution. It disrupts the inner-communication of the bad cells, without effecting the good cells. Just search nano silver, and suppliers will show up. I used to have to get anti-biotics for 2 weeks. This knocked it out in the 2nd day. Though I did up the dosage from 1 teaspoon twice a day, to 1 teaspoon every other hour. It is non-toxic at over a quart a day.

  44. Hey Tim!

    Holllly shit! The Chinese one worked like a charm!!

    Yesterday I got slammed by this nasty throat thing and a massive (“double hangover-ish”) headache. I couldn’t eat at all or else I would throw it up…

    I went to a local store and picked up some oranges and fresh ginger. I made the tea as you described and added a cinnamon stick and honey to it afterwards. I chugged it while soaking in a epsom salt bath.

    After 4 hours of napping and some aspirin. I still felt like shit, but after I went to bed and slept for 10 hours I woke up feeling like a God!

    The difference between yesterday and today is like night and day! I feel so much better. I would say 100% better! I thought I would have to miss work because I was feeling so shitty, but I feel just fine now.

    Thanks for your always great advice!


  45. Jus bring home a pint of RUM and get some chilli with lemon and some good songs…bring up the mood…feel the music and the rum taking over you..get some light food and then go off to sleep…..it will surely cure ur mood and your cold….

  46. I have tried the Neilmed sinus rinse kit several times; unfortunately, it causes severe pain in my ears by water getting trapped. Does anyone know why this happens?

  47. How much water would you use in the ginger/orange recipe? As well, do you use the whole orange peel? and, how much ginger? Thanks!

  48. It’s interesting the Chinese have orange peels in their recipe for treatment of the common cold because it is during those times when I will have a craving to eat more of the thick peels of oranges, especially the pith where it is known greater concentrations of bioflavanoids are vs. the fruit segments.

    Thanks for sharing!

  49. – Olive Leaf Extract,

    (with a high listed amt. of the active ingredients – such as the Wal-Mart Spring Valley brand),

    Taken at least in triple amounts during an infection, seem to handle my own sinus infections as well an any antibiotics I’ve used.

    – Wisdom Brands Symfre Tea (loose leaf )

    GREAT for cold and upper respiratory symptoms and also very relaxing at night, like Nyquil. During the day, add plenty of Yerba Mate to the hot tea for a lift in energy (AND MOOD – you might start feeling better than before you even had the cold!)

    – Source Naturals Immune Fizz

    Best of all those fizzy herbal and vitamin cold tablets, very handy for work and travel (doesn’t taste bad, but looks gross in the glass, tho!)

  50. Tim,

    If I had to add to this list it would be Elderberry Syrup! Nature’s Way has a great product that the local natural food store lady swore by and after taking it I am a believer.

  51. Cinnamon is a Traditional Chinese cold cure, but only for colds that include a tight neck and clear mucus, if it’s a sore throat or colored mucus they like mint, which should only be boiled for 5 minutes or less.

  52. Well, these are all very cool. Have to say that I swear by Zicam (or its generic equivalent if you can find it) for stopping a cold dead in its mucusy tracks.

  53. A couple of other things that work really well is camu camu or bell peppers and papaya which has a very high Vitamin C content, Eating Zinc help with cold recovery on a cellular level and sitting in a sauna. Eating fresh garlic also helps.

    Also gargling salting water kills germs and cold cells in back of throat and snorting the salt water up the nose (I don’t like this one but it does work very well) learn this from a Russian friend.

    whfoods.com is a good resource for checking vit C levels in foods for instance.

  54. Getting a massage can actually help spread the cold so instead, get reflexology, that works really well. Getting a massage or acupuncture on a reg basis helps reduce stress which in turn helps prevent against colds and other things bc the immune system is working as is. Wrapping the body up in blankets to sweat the cold out works well but be sure to keep hydrated.

    Soaking in some Epsom salt or my favorite (dead sea salt) works great for muscle recovery.

  55. Tim,

    Why would you use an antibiotic to treat a virus??

    This doesn’t make any sense. Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections.

  56. You know what I did that totally killed a year long sinus infection? I put a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar into the Neilmed bottle along with their saline and distilled water. I did this twice a day for about 3 days- Gone. And infection that didn’t go away with back to back courses of antibiotics. By the way, the Neilmed people are geniuses. That product is amazing.

  57. Hi Tim,

    The first cure works also with simply boiling the ginger in a glassfull of coke. It’s a bit faster thought I’d share..you’d be as good as new by the next morning

  58. At the first sniffle, I grab the Neti Pot, Spicy V8’s, Vitamins C/D and Zinc. Symptoms gone.

    I’ll give the Hot Tody a go next time. 🙂

  59. Tim,

    Wow, we seem to share a common anti-cold routine! I similarly take Zicam, vitamin C, and use my netipot as soon as I feel a cold brewing. The only cold I’ve gotten in 3 years has been when I went to Colombia and forgot my cold fighting kit. I also tend to drink cocimiento, a hot citrus beverage with brandy that my Cuban father-in-law taught me to make.

    Question though: why do you suggest you can’t take acidphilous and azithromycin at the same time? Many people take a probiotic when on an antibiotic to help preserve their normal GI flora.

  60. My remedy – originated with an old Russian remedy, but I’ve tweaked it over the years. Mash a large clove of garlic in a mug. Pour boiling water over, and let steep about 10 minutes. Add a tablespoon of honey, the juice of half a lemon, a pinch of cayenne…and if it’s bedtime, a shot of brandy.

  61. Gonna try the ginger/orange peel tea.

    I’d normally use a microplane for the ginger, but since this is getting boiled I suppose slices will do.

  62. Thanks for the great post, Tim Ferriss.

    Here’s another really good one that most people don’t know about, but this works really well against mucus, in a natural way:


    Kuzu Root (white powder, usually is in chunks and available from Whole

    Foods or Rainbow Food Co-op, Trader Joe’s etc..)

    Umeboshi Paste (a little jar of paste made from the Umeboshi Plum)

    1/2 cup cool or cold water

    1. Mix several small chunks of Kuzu Root powder into half cup of COLD

    water. (It has to be cool or cold or else the Kuzu chunks will not


    2. Stir the Kuzu in the water until it’s a smooth greyish white color.

    3. Heat up that mixture on the stove until it turns clear and a little bit


    4. Pour into a cup (like a mug that you can drink from) and stir in a

    teaspoon of Umeboshi Paste until it’s a dark soup.

  63. Interesting will have too try the chinese cure.

    Have seen a tea of ginger and lemon as well.

    My current favorite cure is Johar Joshanda from Pakistan

    It takes the ick out of sick and tastes good doing it. I found it in a Halal Market even better its sold for 50 cents a packet and it works quickly.

  64. I lived in Norway for a few years, and they also bundle you up extremely warm and make you sweat it out. It always works. It’s also good to take zinc and L-Lysine a few times a week. The only times I get colds/flus are when I run out of those two items and don’t have time to get to the store to buy more.

    Once in my office, a few people got the flu. I told everyone to take zinc and L-Lysine. No one headed my advice and literally everyone else in the office (about 50) all got sick within the same week (it was a small college newspaper office). I was the only one who never got sick.

  65. Hey Tim,

    Just wanted to let you know that it’s actually a really bad idea to discourage people from taking Acidophilus (a probiotic) while on an antibiotic. If anything, you should encourage it. In fact, taking a probiotic with a sufficient amount of multiple strains allows the gut flora to be replentished while you’re taking such a harsh drug such as an antibiotic.

    It’s been shown by research that probiotic with antibiotic consumption decreases “sick time” and allows patients to get better faster.

  66. For cold I usually like Ginger and Neem(Azadirachta indica) also known as Indian Lilac. Boil it with water, and drink it taste very funny but it is very good for the cold.

  67. This is one of the best compilations I’ve seen… and the hope is that anyone and their brother can sort out whether or not they *actually* need antibiotics – the only suggestion that I would like to make is addressing the idea of not taking probiotics with antibiotics. IF you are taking antibiotics, my understanding is that it is VERY important to take probiotics – just on opposite times as your antibiotics: for instance, if you are taking z pack every 12 hours (let’s say 7:15am and PM) you’d want to take a dose of probiotic around lunch and when you went to bed… great stuff though! And very accurate on the Chinese (working on my last year of my Master’s in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine). Keep up the great work!

  68. Tim, thanks for your post. I am always looking for more ethnic cold remedies. An effective reliever for cold and sinus pressure is a cold mangonada drink, a Mexican summer treat. It is spicy and sour and helps in a big way with sinus headaches.

    1 to 2 cups of frozen mangos

    1 crushed ice

    1 or 2 tsp Lemonade mix

    1 tsp Chamoy

    sprinkle of Tajin

    tamarind candy stick

    Mix the lemonade mix with the crushed ice and pile chopped mangos on top. then put a tablespoon or two of chamoy over it, and sprinkle with tajin.

    the chamoy and tajin can be purchased at Walmart or Mexican grocery stores.

    here is a youtube video for a blended version of the mangonada recipe.


    another great recipe, also from Mexico:

    IN a small saucepan, 1 cup water or orange juice (tastes better with juice), a chopped lemon, 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped, 1 chopped onion, 1 tablespoon of oregano, 1 tablespoon of basil. Bring to a simmer, cook for 10 minutes. Strain and drink with honey. Very effective in quieting bad coughing spells.

  69. Nasal irrigation as described but add 2 capfuls of hydrogen peroxide. Used at first symptoms, I have wiped out numerous colds before they started.

  70. Can anyone comment further on the half life of vit C, and the dose required? Is the half life issue in the context of maintaining systemic exposure, i.e. you need to continuously/very regularly drink/ingest whatever preparation of vit C you are using to maintain an effective level for long enough to have an effect, or is it in relation to how long it hangs a round in your hot water and ginger etc. Assume a combination of high dose and getting it down you quickly is required. R.E. dose, do you really need a concentrated preparation, rather than squeezing a lemon. Cheers!

  71. Organic does not mean pesticide-free, it means the pesticides are natural instead of synthetic. In fact, conventional farmers often use less pesticides than organic farmers because they are growing better, more healthy and resilient crops.

    RE: “Get fresh ginger and the orange rind (peel) from one orange, preferably organic or otherwise not treated with pesticides. Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods will do.”

  72. Use a Humidifier. These types of devices are an excellent method to craft more moist air. This may assist to remain nasal cavities in runny form and accordingly avoid the overcrowding of the nose. When utilizing the humidifier make certain to clean the device regularly to chunk the likelihood of transferring mould in the atmosphere.

  73. I find it utterly incongruous that we can replace hearts/livers, put men on moon( hey do the ISS astronauts get colds etc?) – I bet NOT… they are part of the ‘priviliged’ few that are provided with protection that us mere mortals are denied. Yes, you see I am a non believer that they(science) doesnt have a clue how to cure the colds we get. THEY DO- its in the pharmacuticals interest$$$, not to cure us. To them, our taxes pay their reseach- so do your job I say‼️