BMS3016 TakeOver // Old wives’ tales to cure your cold

It’s a BMS3016 Science Communication Takeover! This time, Stage 3 Biomedical Sciences student and  BMS3016 Science Communication module alumnus Willow Hight-Warburton is investigating the truth behind old wives’ tales!

It’s that time of year again – fresher’s flu has descended and we’re all feeling a little under the weather. As a result, I’ve decided to investigate the science behind some of our favourite home remedies.

Chicken Soup

Sorry vegetarians, but it looks like chicken soup is going on the menu! (Photo by Cook Eat from Pexels)

Nothing can cheer up the snotty-nosed quite like a steaming bowl of broth. But is there any evidence that it does anything other than lifting your mood?

Dr Rennard found that his wife’s family recipe restrained the movement of white blood cells (cells that defend against infection) in volunteer’s blood. He suggests that by preventing the movement of these cells, chicken soup helps to reduce inflammation of the lungs and throat, lessening the symptoms of a cold.

Honey and hot water

Soothing honey can draw the water out of inflamed tissue to ease swelling and pain. (Image from

Honey has been used as a medicine since the Egyptian times, but there may be more cold-combating power behind this simple home remedy than you would expect.

Research has shown that honey helps to help suppress coughs in children. Amazingly, one study found that it was even more effective at soothing coughs than dextromethorphan, the active ingredient in many over-the-counter cough medicines.

Additionally, honey is a “hypertonic osmotic”, meaning it can draw water out of a sore throat, easing swelling and discomfort.

Drinking hot liquids

Feeling down? Brew up! (image from

Both ‘cures’ mentioned above could have the additional benefit of unblocking a bunged-up nose. Dr Saketkhoo showed that drinking hot liquids made the mucus the volunteers’ nose more runny.

So next time you feel sniffily there’s no need to fork out for expensive medication. Reach for the home remedies and remember – mother knows best!

This work was produced as part of Willow’s ongoing academic development within the Stage 3 vocational Science Communication module. Any issues should be reported to the module leader, Dr. Sarah Jayne Boulton. Thank you. 


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