Last updated: 16/10/2022

How we pick our products

4Products analysed

45Hours spent

13Evaluated articles

215User reviews

Cold remedies are indispensable in autumn and winter months. The colder days, but also stress, give cold viruses the perfect opportunity to invade the body and attack and weaken the immune system. Cold remedies are supposed to provide help against possible complaints such as colds, coughs or sore throats.

With our cold remedy test 2023, we want to help you find the best one for you. Pharmacies and drugstores offer a wide range of cold remedies, so it is easy to lose track of them all.

We have listed the most important facts and the criteria you should pay attention to when buying a cold remedy. We also show the advantages and disadvantages of cold remedies that are purely herbal or chemically synthesised.


  • A cold, which is not the same as flu, is caused by many different types of viruses. It is a flu-like infection and attacks the upper respiratory tract. As a rule, a cold subsides after eight to ten days.
  • Basically, a distinction is made between cold remedies with a herbal base and cold remedies that are synthetically produced. Careful handling of both types is advised in order to avoid possible side effects and interactions.
  • Not all cold remedies are suitable for all ages, even if the dosage can be adjusted. In case of intolerance, pre-existing conditions or pregnancy, external advice should be sought to prevent possible complications.

The Best Cold Remedies: Our Picks

Buying and evaluation criteria for cold remedies

Before you buy a cold remedy, you should consider certain criteria that could be important and should be taken into account in order to achieve the desired effect.

In summary, these are:

If you are looking for a cold remedy and want to find out more, the following paragraphs may help you to make a choice and decision.

Symptoms of the common cold

A cold usually has several symptoms. It usually starts with a scratchy throat and is followed by a runny or stuffy nose. This is because the viruses that cause the common cold enter the body through mucous membranes of the nose or throat.

Sore throats usually do not last more than two or three days
If they persist for a long time, the tonsils in the throat may be inflamed. In this case, a doctor should be consulted.

If the nasal mucous membranes then also become inflamed, the nose may swell or become blocked. A common sign of an impending cold would be that the nose starts to tickle or burn.

Constant sneezing or head pressure may also occur on the second day.

The common cold can also cause nosebleeds. A small blood vessel in the nose may burst because of the already irritated mucous membranes of the nose or because of the high pressure in the nose from blowing.

Other symptoms such as headaches and aching limbs can accompany the person with a cold.

Most of the time, sufferers also feel tired and listless, which is due to the weakened immune system.

In the further course of a cold, different symptoms can occur, such as fever. They do not have to be equally severe in all people who fall ill, nor do they have to occur at all. Therefore, before buying a cold remedy, you should make sure that the cold remedy alleviates your own symptoms. There is no medicine that fights all the viruses in a cold.

Type of cold

Depending on the symptoms or the pathogens in the body, certain medicines have to be taken. Medication only serves to relieve the symptoms, but does not accelerate the course of the illness. This should be kept in mind.

Pain-relieving medication can be taken for sore throats, headaches and aching limbs.

Decongestant nose drops should help against blocked ears or ear stinging and make breathing easier.

For a dry, irritating cough, cough suppressant medicines with codeine can be used. Expectorant cough syrups, on the other hand, provide relief against a mucous cough.

Antibiotics should not be taken, however, as they fight bacteria but not viruses, which ultimately cause a cold.

Age limit and quantity

When taking medicines, it is very important to pay attention to the recommended amount and age. The effects of medicines can develop differently in the body depending on age. In children, the immune system and the metabolic cycle are different from those of an adult. They do not yet function like those of an adult, and the organs are also still developing and need to mature.

There are enzymes in the liver that ensure that the medicine is broken down. The amount of enzymes depends on the age of the child. As a result, children have to take a different dose than adults.

The metabolism of children over the age of two is also faster than that of an adult. This means that the substances in the body are excreted more quickly. It should therefore be noted that the dose must be adjusted to the weight and age of the child.

In older people, the movement of the stomach decreases.

They also enter the intestine more slowly and from there into the bloodstream.

Apart from the speed of absorption, the distribution in the body also plays an important role. Between the ages of 20 and 80, the relative proportion of fat increases, but the amount of body water increases. As a result, fat-soluble drugs have a longer effect because there is more fat in the body.

In contrast to children, the function of the liver and kidneys decreases in older people. They only work to a limited extent. This should always be taken into account and not forgotten when dosing.

Side effects

With the main effect also come the side effects. It is almost impossible to intervene in the body only to cure the disease without affecting or attacking other processes in the body. Not all side effects have to be negative. In some cases, such as with the contraceptive pill, they can lead to an improvement in one’s own skin condition.

As long as the side effects are minor, the person affected often does not notice them. Depending on the dosage of the medication, dangerous symptoms can also be caused. Physical side effects can also occur in certain cases, such as palpitations or dizziness.

The dose makes the poison. A substance can become toxic in a person if it is supplied in too high a quantity. Accordingly, the information in the package insert of the drug should be followed.

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying cold remedies

In the following, we will deal with those questions about cold remedies that you should definitely be able to answer.

How good are cold remedies and which are the best?

Depending on the symptoms and age, different cold remedies can be suitable.

Symptoms medicines
Sore throat sweets – they promote salivation and keep the mucous membrane of the mouth and throat moist, lozenges with the active ingredients ambroxol and lidocaine help to numb the throat.
Irritating cough active ingredients such as dextromethorphan are well suited to quelling an irritating cough and are contained in cough suppressants such as “ratiopharm Dextromethorphan” and “Wick Hustenpastillen mit Honig”
Rhinitis preparations with the active ingredients xylometazoline and oxymetazoline, in e.g. “Nasenspray sine AL 1 mg/ml” and “Imidin oK 0.1%”, saline solutions such as “Abtei Meersalzspray standard” to keep nasal mucous membranes moist
Fever ibuprofen and paracetamol – reduce and relieve pain, for children the liquid form is suitable such as Ibuflam Kindersaft or Paracetamol AL Saft

What types of cold remedies are there?

Knowing the different ways to fight a cold is extremely important. It helps to assess the possible risks and then decide which cold remedy would be best for your body.

Herbal cold remedies

Compared to chemically produced medicines, herbal medicines are multi-substance mixtures and consist of several hundred substances. These are powdered plant parts or extracts.

While herbal medicines are believed to be healthier and safer than those that are chemically synthesised, they too can have certain disadvantages. The following table illustrates these.

  • effective against both viruses and bacteria
  • anti-inflammatory
  • lower rate of side effects
  • unexpected side effects or interactions due to different ingredients
  • as food supplements, can influence medicines positively or negatively
  • little knowledge about exotic plants

Due to the many different ingredients in herbal preparations, they may interact with each other and influence each other. These effects can be negative or positive. This can also lead to new unexpected side effects or interactions.

For example, ginkgo products inhibit blood clotting and can increase medicines that are supposed to have a blood-thinning effect, such as acetylsalicylic acid. For this reason, they should not be taken in combination. But caution is also advised for small children. Cold ointments containing essential oils can cause cramps of the airways in them.


Caution is also advised when using herbal medicines, as well as purely chemical synthetic ones. Especially in combination with other herbal medicines, undesirable interactions can occur.
(Image source: Annie Spratt / unsplash)

Nevertheless, herbal medicines also have positive effects. Several studies have shown that herbal substances that fight viruses also fight bacteria and even have anti-inflammatory effects. Furthermore, they are less risky than chemically synthetic medicines and are usually well tolerated. They are best suited for simple and chronic illnesses.

Cold remedies without natural ingredients

Medicines without natural ingredients are chemically synthetic medicines and usually contain only one substance that serves as the active ingredient or consist of a few but known and characterised chemical compounds.

They can come in a wide variety of dosage forms. These include, for example, tablets, capsules, granules, creams, ointments, (injection) solutions, drops, suppositories, transdermal patches and suppositories.
The dosage forms are differentiated by their form of application and can be injected, inhaled, applied to the skin or introduced into the body.

The following table shows the advantages and disadvantages of synthetic medicines.

  • more precise dose
  • no use of raw materials
  • possible side effects
  • undesirable side effects

Synthetic medicines, such as those containing the active ingredient acetylsalicylic acid or other drugs, relieve symptoms but their effects can lead to undesirable side effects and adverse reactions. Once the symptoms have been alleviated and the first symptoms have disappeared, the patient may feel healthy too soon and the probability of a relapse is much higher and cannot be ruled out.

The chemical substances used in the production of these medicines often lead to possible side effects or adverse reactions.

As can be the case with paracetamol, for example. Paracetamol can cause liver damage at higher doses. Acetylsalicylic acid also carries certain risks. It can cause bleeding and should not be given to children because, although rare, it can contribute to the development of Reye’s syndrome. Reye’s syndrome is a disease in which the brain suffers from acute damage and fatty degeneration of the liver.

What cold remedies should be taken during pregnancy and while breastfeeding?

The frequency of pregnant women catching a cold is higher than in non-pregnant women because the maternal organism is very stressed. Thus, the immune system is more susceptible to viruses and other germs.

A cold during pregnancy and breastfeeding is harmless for the baby. Attention should be paid to the correct use of medication.

Medicines such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can relieve the symptoms of possible pain and also reduce fever.

However, they should be taken with caution, as side effects may occur and have a negative impact on the unborn child.

In the case of a mild cold or mild symptoms, it is recommended to use non-drug measures, such as home remedies, as they are usually gentler.

If taking medication is unavoidable, you should always consult your doctor so that you are fully informed of the possible risks.

Which cold remedies for high blood pressure?

A cold puts a strain on the cardiovascular system. Medicines with decongestants, which are found in many over-the-counter cold remedies, can cause blood pressure to rise even higher. The active ingredients pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine cause the blood vessels to contract.

This makes sure that less fluid gets into the sinuses and thus relieves the cold symptoms. For people who already have high blood pressure, it can be problematic if such vasoconstriction occurs.

It is advised that people with uncontrolled high blood pressure or heart disease should not take decongestants.

In this case, it is essential to consult a doctor or pharmacist. In the case of mild symptoms, rest and drinking plenty of fluids are usually sufficient.

What should I watch out for in histamine intolerance during a cold?

Some medicines can inhibit diamine oxidase or release histamine. Diamine oxidase is an enzyme that breaks down histamine. This would be problematic for people who suffer from histamine intolerance.

During a viral infection, the body secretes histamine, in larger amounts than usual. The reason for this is that the body tries to fight off the invading viruses. This increases the histamine level, which also has an effect on the symptoms of a cold and makes them worse. The tolerance to histamine in food also decreases. Therefore, the diet may have to be changed.

There are two medications that can affect histamine levels.

Drug effect
Antihistamines block histanine receptors, prevents the body from sensing histamine, which can cause symptoms to subside more quickly, come in 1st and 2nd generation. Second generation antihistamines are better tolerated and have fewer side effects
Daosin the enzyme diamine oxidase is also called DAO, it is assumed that a lack of diamine oxidase can disrupt the breakdown of histamine, the drug has a preventive effect, if the histamine level has already risen, the supply of the enzyme is ineffective, good effect if the enzyme is taken before a histamine-heavy meal

But water also helps to reduce histamine levels. This is because drinking water stimulates adrenaline production, which leads to histamine being broken down. To keep the histamine level constant, vitamin C, vitamin B and zinc can be taken.

When is cold season?

A large increase in catching a cold is seen in the autumn and winter months. Only 20% of colds occur in the summer. The reason for this is mostly due to the low temperatures.


To prevent a cold from occurring in the first place, foods that contain a lot of vitamin C can help strengthen your own immune system and thus prevent a cold.
(Image source: Dominik Martin / unsplash)

This weakens the immune system, and heated rooms on cold days also cause the mucous membranes to dry out more easily.

Image source: primagefactory/