As respiratory viruses continue circulating throughout the United States at high rates, many people are exploring ways to alleviate cold and flu symptoms, such as sore throat, coughing and congestion. Wellness TikTokers are promoting onion water, claiming it has healing properties. But is it scientifically proven to be effective? Here are the facts about some internet-viral remedies for the common cold and flu.
Does Drinking Onion Water Alleviate Respiratory Symptoms?
Onion water, made by soaking raw onions in water, has become an increasingly popular remedy on TikTok in recent weeks.
“There’s no definitive evidence that onion water works to alleviate respiratory symptoms caused by common colds or the flu,” said Rebecca Dawson, D.O., physician at Inspira Medical Group Primary Care Millville. “Although the strong odor from onions can cause your eyes to water and even temporarily loosen congestion, it doesn’t indicate that it’s alleviating cold symptoms or helping your body heal faster.”
While drinking onion water probably won’t hurt you, consuming large amounts of it can lead to heartburn and digestive problems.
Does Eating Raw Garlic Help Fight Off Infections?
Some people believe that eating garlic raw, cooked or in capsule form can help boost the immune system and fight off infections. “Although garlic is commonly thought to help combat cold symptoms, there’s insufficient scientific evidence regarding its ability to treat or prevent the common cold,” said Dr. Dawson. Consuming garlic probably won’t harm your body—just your breath.
Do Essential Oils Boost Your Immune System?
Some people claim that essential oils can help relieve congestion and boost the immune system. Popular extracts include eucalyptus, peppermint, tea tree oil, chamomile, lemon and ginger.
While these varieties may sound appealing, there is no scientific research supporting the supposed healing properties of aromatherapy and essential oils. They may help relieve stress or improve your mood, but the scientific data is inconclusive.
Can Elderberry Extract Alleviate Flu Symptoms?
Elderberry extract products, including syrups, gummies and other supplements, have long been used to alleviate flu symptoms and other upper respiratory infections. Although some preliminary research indicates it reduces symptom duration and severity, the evidence isn’t strong enough to conclude its effectiveness.
Science-backed ways to improve your cold and flu symptoms
“The best way to alleviate cold and flu symptoms is through scientifically backed therapies, such as getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of fluids and taking over-the-counter medications that can help reduce symptoms like congestion and headache,” said Dr. Dawson. “There’s a lot of health misinformation on the internet, so it’s important to get your medical advice from a reputable source.”
If you’re experiencing cold symptoms, schedule an appointment with your PCP (instead of searching the internet for cold remedies).
Inspira Health is a high reliability organization (HRO), which means safety is the top priority for patients and staff. To make an appointment, call 1-800-INSPIRA.