It’s cold, it’s dark by 4pm. Oh, and we’re in that glorious time of year known as ‘flu and cold season’.

[Read more: 12 things you need to know about antimicrobial resistance]

But it’s not all bad news. Because it’s almost Christmas, early darkness means good box-set time, and you can turn to this wealth of weird and wonderful flu and cold remedies…

Go fishing

Or at least go to the fish counter at the supermarket. Earlier this year, a report by the Department of Family Medicine, at the University of Alberta, revealed Zinc, not the fabled vitamin C, was the supplement we should be taking to ward off colds. It is proven to both up the function of white blood cells (the immunity ones) and boost the health of mucus membranes, which create the barrier against cold and flu virus’.

Oysters are one the highest-zinc level foods around; half a dozen oysters will provide over twice your daily zinc needs. If you’re not keen on seafood, spinach, nuts and mushrooms also provide high amounts of zinc. (Word of warning, too much zinc long-term can be dangerous).

Have a cup of tea

The humble drink that keeps on giving; tea isn’t just comforting, packed with anti-oxidants, and proven to help ward of dementia – it also helps fight colds. Not the caffeine itself, to be fair, but studies have found that a hot drink can have ‘positive’ effects on nasal airflow, providing relief to a runny nose, cough, and blocked sinuses.

 

Eat some garlic, in a glass of milk

This is another well-peddled grandmother style cure, but while it doesn’t hold quite the same sway as chicken soup, there is still some sense in it; garlic is believed to hold significant anti-bacterial and antioxidant, and a past study in the US found that people who took garlic supplements for 12 weeks over winter got fewer colds than those who took a placebo. The milk is there just to make it taste ‘nice’, and, apparently, to make sure you have fresher breath: researchers at Ohio State University, US, found that drinking 200ml of milk can "significantly reduce" the long-lasting odour of garlic.

[Read more: Persistent coughs: What might be causing your long-term cough?]

Put an onion in your socks

Not content with the lingering waft of garlic? Up your odour by slicing up an onion and putting it in your socks, so says one historical remedy. It might sound a little unlikely, but there it was thought behind it: onions contain allicin, a compound with infection-fighting qualities, also found in garlic, and sulphur, which is believed to boost immune response.

Cook some chicken soup

The ultimate old-wives’ cure for a cold, but is it a lot of (er) broth-er over nothing? No. Scientists at the University of Nebraska Medical Centre, carried out experiments with chicken soup v. colds, and discovered that chicken soup wins. It inhibits the migration of white blood cells, which may cause chesty coughs; the amino acid called cysteine found in chicken can help thin mucus, and therefore ease runny noses, and the pepper normally sprinked in acts to lift congestion. On a simpler level, it’s also like a big culinary comfort blanket; and that’s got to help too.

 

Put on wet socks

We’re not done with the feet yet. A professor at a naturopathic medicine college in Canada recently argued that pulling on a pair of chilled wet socks at night can fight off a cold. She argues the cold encourages your body to boost circulation to your feet and direct it away from your congested head, while also regulating your immune system and eliminating toxic waste. Apparently…