Offbeat cures to colds

Do these strange wives tales actually work?

(Paleo Grubs //Flickr)

(Paleo Grubs //Flickr)

Erin Hunter, Contributor

When it comes to being sick, treating symptoms often relies on traditional, well-acclaimed medicine that’s proven effective, however this often means constantly popping pills, spraying something up your nose or taking spoonfuls of viscous liquid akin to fake grapes and cherries. 

The medical world, however, is also overflowing with wives’ tales, superstitions and naturopathy; these methods contradicting everything people believe regarding the effectiveness of modern medicines. Cooking Classy, for example, is a website that offers a recipe of chicken noodle soup which claims to fight a cold.

In this season of the raging “UMass plague,” I want to take a look at three medical ambiguities that claim to cure a cold, and ideally debunk whether or not there is an underlying truth so you, the readers, can possibly try them out yourselves.

Chicken Noodle Soup

I’m going to start out with the classic chicken noodle soup method since I think it’s the most well known cold-curing wives tale in modern-day America. In an article published by CNN, according to Kristen Smith, a registered dietitian, and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “Most chicken soups contain ingredients that provide lots of vitamins and minerals.” These include vitamin A from carrots, immune-supporting zinc from the bone broth, and a non-factual notion that collagen in bone broth can also support the immune system. 

Chicken noodle soup was also found potentially effective in clearing up the sinuses. CNN reported a study conducted by Dr. Kiumars Saketkhoo, a pulmonologist, and intensivist for PIH Health, which was trialed 40 years ago. The study compared the effects of cold water versus hot chicken noodle on the mucociliary transport system, which is important for getting rid of every respiratory infection, including colds,” Saketkhoo said. In layman’s terms, the chicken noodle soup moved mucus faster, thus possibly having the capability to clear up an infection faster. 

Though no concrete evidence was ever proven, there are correlations between chicken noodle soup and getting rid of a cold faster, especially a respiratory one.

 Wearing Wet Socks To Bed

I only learned about this hydrotherapeutic method upon writing this article, and dare I say it seems really uncomfortable. According to the Heartland Naturopathic Clinic, this method of curing a cold works because it “helps…stimulate the immune system in the upper respiratory tract and is relaxing for aches and chills, and helps bring on a more restful night’s sleep when sick. We find it helpful in such conditions as colds, ‘flu’ (not the ‘stomach flu’), earaches, sore throats, and sinus infections.” From the Naturopathic website MindBodyGreen, the steps are listed for how to most effectively utilize the wet sock method.

  1. “Just before bed, put your feet in hot water for 3 minutes. You can place them in the bathtub under running water. The water should be as hot as you can handle it without burning your skin.
  2. Wet 1 pair of thin, cotton anklets in cold water. Wring out well and put on immediately after hot foot bath. The water should be as cold as you can handle it. (Remember, your feet are very warm so the cold will feel OK)
  3. Put on 1 pair of heavy wool socks over the ankles and climb into bed.
  4. Cover well and sleep all night with socks on. Don’t remove socks until they’re dry.”

The science behind it, according to Scott Rothingham in a Healthline article, states that “When your feet begin to cool, the blood vessels in your feet contract, sending good nutrients to your tissues and organs. Then, when your feet begin to warm up, the blood vessels dilate, which releases the toxins in the tissue.” It’s basically a double whammy for curing a cold, since it both provides your body with its own stored medicine, then rids it of infection. 

The question of “does it work?” still remains a mystery though. Rothingham claims to have no official evidence, however, he believes a placebo effect could actually make the method more credible.

Potatoes in Your Socks

Socks must be a common theme throughout history for curing a cold because here is another equally, if not more offbeat folk remedy to cure a cold. This remedy was thought to have been born of the Middle Ages when the Bubonic Plague was raging throughout Europe according to Noreen Iftikhar, MD, who wrote an article for Healthline. Iftikhar said that the process involves putting raw potato slices on the bottom of the foot, covering the feet with socks, and sleeping with the potato overnight to relieve runny nose, fever, and congestion. 

The idea is loosely based on a therapy called reflexology in traditional Chinese medicine, which believes treating the feet helps treat the rest of the body, Iftikhar included. This method reportedly does not work, according to Nutrition expert Dr. Ruth MacDonald of Iowa State University, however, potatoes are rich in potassium, magnesium, antioxidants, and the B vitamins when consumed.

(A similar article not based on folklore describes the science of drinking potato juice and it’s immune-boosting properties).

Each of these offbeat cold remedies are ultimately not proven, however, have revealed correlative trends for treating symptoms of a cold. So if you’re feeling a little adventurous, give them a try. 

Email Erin Hunter at [email protected] 

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