Colds and flu can stop you in your tracks. When body aches, fever, chills, and nasal congestion combine, you’ll find yourself spending hours or days in bed. You want to feel better and get back to your routine quickly, and many natural cold and flu remedies can alleviate your symptoms.
Complications arising from the flu can become serious—so if you still have symptoms after 7-10 days, be sure to make an appointment with your doctor. If any of your symptoms include difficulty breathing, a rapid heartbeat, you feel faint, or experience other severe symptoms like a high fever, seek immediate medical assistance.
Some studies have indicated that Vitamin C can shorten the lifespan of a cold and boosts your immune system. The best way to get it is through your diet: the fresher the food, the better. For example, eat whole oranges, instead of drinking orange juice. Vitamin C plays an important role in your body and has many health benefits. Along with limes, lemons, grapefruits, leafy greens, and bell peppers are all good sources of vitamin C. Be careful with supplements since they can lead to upset stomach and kidney stones.
Honey has natural antiviral and antimicrobial properties. Drinking honey in tea with lemon can ease sore throat pain. Research suggests that honey is an effective cough suppressant, too. Honey often contains Clostridium bacteria, so never give honey to a child younger than 1-year-old because infants’ immune systems aren’t able to fight them off.
Chicken soup is one of the most well-known natural cold and flu remedies in the book. Hot liquids help reduce mucous buildup and keep you hydrated, and chicken soup, in particular, has anti-inflammatory properties, which help reduce a cold’s unpleasant side effects. It can also slow the movement of neutrophils (a common type of white blood cell) in your body—they stay more concentrated in the areas of your body that require the most healing when they move slowly. Keep some in the freezer or even canned for flu season. It’s quick to prepare that way and easy and soothing to eat.
When you have congestion from the flu, applying camphor or menthol salve around your nose can help break up mucus. Aromatherapy oils, such as peppermint and eucalyptus, can have a similar effect. While the scent is strong, vapor rub can reduce cold symptoms, especially in children older than 2 years. It helps open air passages to combat congestion, reduce coughing, and improve sleep. It’s a good alternative to over-the-counter cold medicines in young children because of unwanted side effects.
A great decongestant is a steamy shower or sauna—but if you are dizzy or weak from the flu, sit in a chair in your bathroom while you run a hot shower.
A warm sponge bath sometimes can reduce a child’s fever. Reduce body aches by adding Epsom salt and baking soda to the water. A soothing effect can be achieved by adding a few drops of essential oil, such as tea tree, juniper, rosemary, thyme, orange, lavender, or eucalyptus.
Dry environments are where flu thrives and spreads more easily. More humidity in your home may reduce your exposure to the flu virus. It may also reduce nasal inflammation, which makes it easier to breathe when sick. Adding a cool-mist humidifier to your bedroom may help you feel more comfortable especially true in winter when dry indoor heat worsens your symptoms.
Gargling with salt water reduces and loosens mucus, which contains bacteria and allergens. To try this natural cold and flu remedy at home, dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in a full glass of water. Swish it around your mouth and throat. Then spit it out.
Ginger root’s health benefits have been touted for centuries. Soothe a cough or sore throat by boiling a few slices of raw ginger root in boiling water. It can also ward off the feelings of nausea that so often accompany the flu.
The compound allicin is prevalent in garlic, which is shown to have antimicrobial properties. Adding a garlic supplement to your diet might reduce the severity of cold symptoms, and it might even help you avoid getting sick in the first place. Adding more garlic to your diet probably won’t hurt—and it’s a tasty way to add flavor to your food.
The herb and root of the echinacea plant have been used by Native Americans to treat infections for more than 400 years. Its active ingredients include flavonoids, which are chemicals that boost your immune system and reduce inflammation.
Taking echinacea may lower your risk of developing the common cold by more than 50 percent. It may also reduce the length of a cold. If you’re a healthy adult, consider taking 1 to 2 grams of echinacea root or herb as a tea, three times daily, for no longer than one week.
Probiotics are “friendly” bacteria and yeast that are found in your body, some foods, and supplements. They can help keep your gut and immune system healthy, and that probiotics may reduce your chance of getting sick with an upper respiratory infection.
For a delicious and nutritious source of helpful bacteria, include probiotic yogurt in your diet. Besides its potential benefits for your immune system, yogurt can a healthy snack that provides plenty of protein and calcium. Look for products that list live bacteria on the label. But watch out—many types of yogurt can contain a lot of sugar.
Remember, natural cold and flu remedies have their place, but if your symptoms persist beyond 7-10 days or you develop symptoms including difficulty breathing, a rapid heartbeat, dizziness, or high fever, make an appointment with your doctor.