From the Field

Natural cold and flu remedies from around the world

Home cold remedies around the world include drinking various types of hot tea.

It’s that time of the year when your child easily comes down with a runny nose, a cough, or a sore throat. Children everywhere get colds and coughs, and they don’t always have access to a pharmacy or medical care. This becomes even more of a problem as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread. Find out what people around the world do for natural remedies to colds, coughs, and the flu.*

1. Hot tea to soothe throats and relieve congestion

Home cold remedies around the world include drinking various types of hot tea.
Hot tea and hot milk are used around the world to help soothe and fight coughs and colds. (©2016 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

Hot liquids help relieve congestion, soothe the membranes of your throat and nose, and keep your body hydrated, which is necessary to fight viral infections. Here are some variations on soothing tea to fight colds and coughs.

  • Passion fruit and onion tea — The Dominican Republic
    Cut two passion fruit and one medium onion in half and boil them together in about 4 cups of water for 10 minutes. Strain, leaving only the liquid. Sweeten it with honey.
  • Ginger tea — Cambodia
    Boil water and add powdered or fresh ginger. Let it steep before drinking.
  • Garlic tea — Mexico
    In rural Mexico, families prepare a hot beverage, like lemon tea, and add lots of onion or garlic. It doesn’t taste the best, but it does fight infections.
  • Cinnamon tea — Mexico
    In urban Mexico, a standard treatment for colds is hot water mixed with cinnamon and honey.
  • Golden milk — India
    Bring a cup of milk to a simmer, then add a teaspoon of turmeric. Mix before drinking.
  • Lemon leaves — Mali
    Boil lemon leaves and mix the hot liquid with a little sugar.

2. Honey to fight coughs and infections

Home remedies for colds around the world include the use of honey.
These 1-gallon jugs of honey are not only a source of income but are also used to boost children’s health. (©2016 World Vision/photo by Eugene Lee)

Honey is a natural cough treatment. In fact, studies have found that honey is equally as effective compared to a common cough suppressant ingredient. Honey also has antibacterial properties that can fight infections.

  • Spicy honey — South India
    Sprinkle powdered ginger and black pepper on a spoonful of honey. Lick the spoon clean.
  • Honey and shallots — The Dominican Republic
    Fill a glass jar with honey and sliced or whole peeled shallots. Let it sit for a while to absorb. Then, eat a tablespoon of the honey three to four times a day. Some even eat the onions.
  • Honey tea — Ghana
    For a simple remedy, mix some honey in warm water.
  • Blended radish and honey — The Dominican Republic
    In a blender, mix radish, watercress, and honey, preparing a couple cups at a time. Give a tablespoon at a time to help clear a cough and fight a cold.

3. Hot soups for cold and flu

Home cold and flu remedies around the world include various types of hot soup.
This chicken and vegetable soup is a favorite in Zambia to give children energy and protect their bodies. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Heather Klinger)

Like hot liquids, hot soups work to clear congestion, soothe membranes, and deliver important nutrients to help your body fight an illness. Chicken noodle soup is a worldwide classic but try these hot soup variations as natural remedies against colds and flu.

  • Congee — China
    Congee is a traditional Chinese soup made from water or stock and rice, but with the option to add many different ingredients. Most people eat it for breakfast, but it is believed to be a healing food any time of a day.
  • Vegetable soup — Cambodia
    A simple broth with vegetables and a little spice.
  • Lugaw — Philippines
    Lugaw is a rice porridge cooked with ginger and chicken and is the comfort healing food of the Philippines.
  • Chicken and vegetable soup — Zambia
    This “Go, Grow, Glow” soup can be made vegetarian but either way offers protein and foods to boost energy and protect from disease.
I remember when I was young, when I got a cold, my dad cooked vegetable soup for me and he encouraged me to have it while it was still warm. It made me sweat. I felt so much better and gained energy after having it.—Ratana Lay, World Vision staff and mother, Cambodia

4. Alternate treatments for colds and flu

Home cold remedies around the world are often invented because people lack access to medicine.
In Uganda, these medicinal herbs are mixed with water to treat coughs. (©2016 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

Besides drinking or eating, there are a few cheap and easy cold and flu treatments that can alleviate symptoms and help children recover from colds and the flu faster.

  • Sleeping remedy — Mexico
    To help children sleep with a cold, run a hot iron on your child’s bed sheets, making the bed nice and toasty. Then put Vicks VapoRub on a child’s chest and cover him or her with blankets. They will sleep better and sweat out the cold.
  • Foot bath — Cambodia
    Put hot water in a bucket and soak your feet in the warm water.
  • Shea butter — West Africa
    Apply shea butter on the nose of a child to relieve congestion. This can especially be helpful for sick babies and is a favorite remedy in multiple African countries.
  • Herbal steam — Zambia
    Using an herb called Mayani — it smells like mint and is known for its expectorant qualities — sit under a blanket with a pot of recently boiled Mayani leaves and let the steam mist over the face and chest. You could also substitute eucalyptus oil or menthol in hot water.
  • Onion — Ghana
    Peel an onion, cut it in two, and place on either side of a child’s bed. The onion absorbs toxins and germs and is thought to purify the air.


Claudia Martinez, Ratana Lay, David Munoz, Annila Harris, Collins Kaumba, Joelma Pereira, Robert Vesleno, and Marion Roberts of World Vision’s staff contributed to this story.

*Please note: This is a compilation of folk remedies, not professionally tested medical treatment. No representations or warranties are being made about the efficacy of any remedy listed.  They are not a substitute for medical consultation; when in doubt, please check with your healthcare provider.


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