Our apologies to Mary Poppins, but when it comes to ingesting a spoonful of sugar to “help the medicine go down,” we respectfully disagree. These days, the negative effects of sugar are well understood, and if we can avoid taking medicine, we say: Why not? The next time we get sick, we’ll stick with a spoonful of honey, thank you very much. Why? Because more and more health experts agree that there are natural and effective ways to treat a cold without over-medicating or over-spending. And many of the ingredients we need for these tried and true home remedies are already living in our well-stocked pantries. Is it possible to prevent a cold? True or false: Once the temperature starts to drop, it’s just a matter of time before that first Achoo! False. While it may seem inevitable that you will get a cold during — aptly named — cold and flu season, the truth is, you don’t have to spend weeks of your winter recovering in bed. Good news, there are a number of things you can do to actively prevent a cold, including the usual suspects: washing your hands (a lot!), keeping your hands away from your mouth and face, and disinfecting surfaces, like door knobs and handles. And believe it or not, there are effective home remedies that contain immune-boosting ingredients that help ward off the common cold. Here are the top 5, according to our research: 1. Echinacea contains immune-boosting flavonoids, and has been shown to reduce your chances of catching a cold by more than 50%. Time to replace your afternoon coffee with a cup of echinacea tea? 2. Fermented foods like kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and yogourt are all high in probiotics, which are known for their immune-boosting benefits (among many others). Swap an apple a day for some kimchi a day, and you may just go cold-free this year! 3. Garlic has been shown to have immune-boosting qualities — but there’s a catch: you need to eat it raw to reap the (health) benefits. While many of us love a bit of cooked garlic to flavour our meals, raw garlic can be a bit of an acquired taste. Try sneaking some crushed (raw) garlic into your guacamole, a chunky salad or a savoury sandwich. 4. Ginseng containsginsenosides (a.k.a., compounds that are said to fend off colds), though further research needs to be done. Still, considering its many other health benefits, you may want to complement your other preventative methods with a cup of homemade ginseng tea now and then. 5. Oatmeal is yet another immune-booster, thanks to the fact that it contains beta glucans. Luckily, many of us crave a steaming bowl of porridge during the colder months (and it’s easier on our taste buds than raw garlic). Plus, you can add a dollop of probiotic-rich yogurt and sweeten it with honey for added health benefits… and flavor! How to ease nasty cold symptoms – naturally If you still get a cold, despite your best efforts, there are ways to ease those nasty symptoms naturally. Read on! → For runny nose and nasal congestion Putting your feet up in a hot bath is a great way to get your rest when you aren’t feeling 100%. But what if we told you it can actually ease some of your cold symptoms too? What you need to do is set the scene with a little nasal-clearing steam. Let the hot water run with the door closed to create your own mini steam room, and be sure to add a spritz of eucalyptus oil to the air before you get in. Then, for your bedtime snack, eat something with a bit of kick to clear those nasal passages again. But not just any spicy food will do (in fact, wasabi has been shown to have the opposite effect). The source of the spice needs to contain capsaicin, which helps relieve nasal congestion, so opt for hot peppers (a.k.a., chili peppers) if you want to see results. Extra congested? Cut up some onion and inhale (preferably, while wearing a pair of onion goggles to protect your eyes from the accompanying discomfort). Some people even leave a cut-up onion under their bed to keep their sinuses clear while they’re sleeping. → For sore throat and persistent cough That hacking cough is bothering your workmates by day and your spouse (or pet!) by night. Not to mention that sore, scratchy throat is bothering you. While you already know to drink lots of liquids, there are certain drinks that are more helpful than others. Start your morning by gargling salt water (¼ tsp to 1 cup water) for some temporary pain relief. Then soothe that sore throat by replenishing a mug of warm lemon and honey-infused tea throughout the day. If you can’t stop coughing in the evening, try swallowing a spoonful of honey before bedtime. Still no relief? Try this super-stinky (but super effective) honey, onion and garlic syrup. (Your colleagues and family members will be able to take their earplugs out, but they may need a clothespin for their nose after this one!) → To shorten the lifespan of your cold While none of the above-mentioned remedies are going to cure your cold, there are ways to JUST MAKE IT STOP a bit sooner. Try incorporating some immune-boosting foods into your daily routine, and you’ll notice your cold had a shorter lifespan this year. Get your vitamin C in with a glass of orange juice each morning, and by adding a slice of lemon or lime to your water each day. Add some cold-fighting flavonoids into your diet by snacking on berries throughout the day. Try eating foods that are high in zinc, like lean red meat or lentils, at dinnertime. (While scientists are still on the fence about zinc’s effect on a cold, some studies have shown that it may shorten a cold’s duration. So in an attempt to combat those sniffles, you may as well eat these healthy foods.) Home remedies for the win! And hey, you’ve still got time before cold season hits, so why not make a trip to the grocery store tonight? Stock up on all the immune-boosting ingredients you need to fight our common enemy, a.k.a., the common cold.