Home Remedies: Which Work, Which Not So Hot

NEW YORK -- If your mom gave you honey and lemon for a sore throat , you're not alone. And we've all heard chicken soup "can't hurt" -- but does it actually help?

What about other homemade treatments? Which home remedies are more myth than medicine, and which can actually help relieve symptoms?

On "The Early Show on Saturday Morning," registered dietician Samantha Heller shed light on the ones that can be effective, and which are nothing - to write home about:

Vitamin C

Research has not supported Linus Pauling's claims from the 1970s that mega doses of vitamin C would reduce the incidence of colds by 45 percent. A large clinical review found that taking vitamin C could be justified in persons exposed to brief periods of severe physical exercise and/or cold environments such as athletes. Also, those taking vitamin C as a preventative measure may experience a decrease in the duration of respiratory infections. One study found that when taken daily, vitamin C very slightly shorted cold duration -- by 8 percent in adults and by 14 percent in children. That said, vitamin C in important in many functions in the body and can be easily obtained from fruits and vegetables.

Humidifiers

Studies suggest they are helpful for the common cold. Also good for bronchitis, may help relieve symptoms. The CDC says humidifiers can help relieve symptoms of upper-respiratory infections, sore throats and coughs. Humidifiers work by moisturizing nasal and respiratory passages, which helps them fight off infection.

Chicken soup

Generations of parents have spooned chicken soup into their sick children. Now scientists have put chicken soup to the test, discovering that it does have effects that might help relieve cold and flu symptoms in two ways. First, it acts as an anti-inflammatory by inhibiting the movement of neutrophils - immune system cells that participate in the body's inflammatory response. Second, it temporarily speeds up the movement of mucus, possibly helping relieve congestion and limiting the amount of time viruses are in contact with the nose lining. Inhaling the warm steam from soup or tea raises the temperature of the respiratory passages and may help loosen thickened secretions.

Honey

One study found that honey eased the symptoms of coughing due to an upper respiratory tract infection in children better than OTC medicines. Honey has antiviral and antibacterial properties. Besides, it tastes good and soothes sore throats.

Honey dressings are used to treat pressure sores, skin ulcers, boils, surgical wounds and burns. Experts say that honey has numerous beneficial actions in the healing process, the most important of which is the suppression of inflammation through its antibacterial activity. Honey's unique healing abilities stem from its composition, which includes glucose, fructose, and glucose oxidase. The sugar content keeps microorganisms from growing and glucose oxidase produces hydrogen peroxide that provides direct antibacterial protection. But don't try this at home. Experts recommend having a qualified medical practitioner apply wound dressings with honey.

Lemon

It has been suggested lemon juice can cut mucus though there are no scientific studies to support that. However, lemons are high in vitamin C and may have antiviral and antibacterial properties.

Starve and Feed

Your body needs energy to fight off invading microbes. Restricting food intake can deplete your body's energy reserves and make it more vulnerable to infection. In addition by not eating or drinking you can become dehydrated which impairs the body's natural defense systems. Over feeding contributes to weight gain. Depending upon what you eat you may be lowering your resistance by internal inflammation which would make you susceptible to infections.