The flu is easy to distinguish from a cold because it often brings on high fever, body aches, extreme fatigue and headache. These are usually combined with the typical respiratory symptoms of a cold – sniffles, sneezes, sore throat and coughing
There are plenty of cold and flu remedies available for purchase over the counter plus prescription medications you can take. All of these will help attack cold and flu, but usually only once it has taken hold. They focus primarily on treating the symptoms, not actually helping the body fight back and recover.
Fortunately, centuries of trial and error have identified a range of natural home remedies for flu that are known to prevent and/or fight cold and flu symptoms.
The beauty of natural remedies as opposed to medicines and antibiotics is that they enhance the bodyâ€™s natural ability to fight the infection. As a result, you are also building up your immune resistance to future infections.
So letâ€™s take a look at 9 natural home remedies that will help you fight cold and flu.
Thyme is a great expectorant for chest congestion and either thyme oil or herbal thyme can be used to help. There are 3 methods that help with breathing in the thyme essence and loosening congestion.
Steep two tablespoons of fresh or (1 tablespoon dried) thyme in a cup of hot water for five minutes. Strain, add honey if you wish, and drink to loosen congestion. If using dried thyme, make sure it is of good quality and not too old as dried herbs can lose their effectiveness over time. You can also add ginger (see below), lemon and half a stick of cinnamon to brew a tea that will fight even the most evil cold.
Use either the essential oil (just a couple of drops) or fresh thyme in the bath. Breathe the steam from the bath to relieve congestion while the oil is absorbed into the skin to help strengthen the body.
Make a steam inhalation by pouring hot water into a large bowl, leaning over the bowl and draping a towel over your head to create a steam tent. Add a few drops of thyme oil to the hot water and breathe deeply. Keep your eyes closed as you breathe because the oil combined with steam can irritate your eyes.
A natural antiseptic, garlic is a great immune booster herb that can prevent respiratory infections as well as fight viruses. Take it regularly for prevention and if illness does strike, take it to help recover faster from the viral illness.
Garlic can be taken either fresh (if youâ€™re feeling brave) or in the form of supplements. The supplements are easier on your breath than regular garlic, but nothing quite beats a dose of neat garlic to help fight cold and flu symptoms.
Chew a peeled clove and if the flavor gets too strong as it softens, just chew it up quickly into smaller pieces and swallow with water. Alternatively, chop it into several chunks and swallow those whole, just like you would a tablet or pill.
If you donâ€™t like the flavor of plain garlic, mix it with a little bit of honey to counteract the flavor. It can be added to regular recipes as well and there is no harm in adding a bit extra.
This is another good remedy for the prevention of colds and flu, especially when taken along with garlic. If you are prone to viral infections, try taking echinacea as a precaution before cold season starts.
Look for supplements that contain the equivalent of 500mg to 1g of dried root and take according to the manufacturerâ€™s instructions (usually 3 tablets per day).
Echinacea is also available as a tincture. Check the instructions but around 2 teaspoons in a cup of water can be used for gargling to ease sore throats. It will also give your immune system the boost it needs to fight infection.
At the first hint of a cold, sucking on a zinc lozenge can help reduce the longevity of symptoms. Do this every few hours within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms. Donâ€™t exceed 150 mg a day in total, and donâ€™t take zinc for longer than a week, because long term use can actually weaken immunity.
Avoid zinc lozenges that contain citric acid or the sweetener sorbitol as they seem to weaken the mineralâ€™s effectiveness. Also, zinc lozenges combined with vitamin C and echinacea are a winning combination.
The extract of elderberry is said to shorten the duration of the cold and flu symptoms by as many as four days.
At the first sign of flu symptoms, take the dose recommended by the manufacturer and continue for a several days. This is usually 20-30 drops of the extract or tincture, three to four times a day. It is a liquid supplement you can mix with warm water or make into a tea.
Look for a product containing 500mg and 1g of dried herb equivalents.
Caution: Do not use elderberry if you are pregnant.
Homemade Bone Broth
Chicken soup, or any kind of hot liquid broth will stimulate your immune system. It is the remedy of natural remedies and not only provides warmth and comfort from cold and flu, but helps to reduce inflammation and thins mucus. It also is an easily digestible source of nourishment.
While chicken soup is the most commonly thought of, you can make a broth from vegetable, fish, beef or chicken. You can either start with a stock or use the bones and cover with water.
Add some vegetables, onions, beans, and garlic and boil it all together. This will give you a couple of days worth of nourishing and healing food.
With antibacterial properties, ginger is a great addition to the flu fighting arsenal. It can easily be taken as a tea or used fresh. You could even add it to your homemade broth.
To make ginger tea, use a ginger tea bag or grate fresh ginger root (about Â½ teaspoon). Allow it to steep and sweeten with a little honey if desired.
Ginger helps to reduce bronchial congestion and contains natural cough suppressants called gingerols.
As soon as you notice cold or flu symptoms, it’s time to take vitamin C. To fight the symptoms, take high doses, about 3000 mg per day, in divided doses with food, until you have recovered. Then drop down to about 500 mg per day for ongoing immune system health.
Look for brands with added bioflavonoids, which have been shown to increase the effectiveness of vitamin C by up to 35%. Be careful not to overdo the amount of Vitamin C you take, as flatulence or diarrhoea can develop. If this happens, reduce the dose accordingly.
Vitamin C has been shown to reduce the duration of a cold and foods high in Vitamin C can also help e.g. oranges, red peppers, brussel sprouts, broccoli, strawberries, kale. So it is a good idea to add these into the diet as well.
There are several oils that have a potent effect on viral infections as they offer antiviral, antibiotic, antifungal and antiseptic properties.
Lavender, Thyme (already mentioned), Tea Tree and Eucalyptus all fall into this category and can be used in several ways:
- Combine 5 drops tea tree, 2 drops lavender, 2 drops thyme to a warm bath.
- Add lavender and thyme to distilled water in a spray bottle with an essential oil dispersant. Use as a bedroom spray.
- Use a diffuser to disperse the oils throughout the home, in particular living areas.
- Put 6-8 drops of any combination of the oils onto a tissue and breathe deeply for a dry inhalation.
- Alternatively add to a bowl of steaming water as a steam inhalation.
- Blend 3 drops tea tree and 2 drops eucalyptus oil with an unscented cream or a carrier oil and massage into your body.
If you want to keep cold and flu at bay, try taking preventative doses of echinacea, garlic and vitamin C. These can greatly boost your immune system and prevent the onset of illness.
However, if cold and flu does strike, turn to these natural remedies at the first sign of a sniffle. They will help to significantly reduce the longevity and severity of symptoms.
Using any of the home remedies for flu mentioned above will get you back on track and at the same time help your body build itâ€™s own defenses. So next time cold season comes around, you will have an even greater chance of resisting future infections.