Few people make it through the winter without a scratchy throat and an annoying runny nose. You can’t very well hold your breath all winter, but you can put your immune system in top-notch form to fight by employing a variety of natural remedies for cold for hastening recovery and easing symptoms, such as herbal remedies, water therapy and supplements.
The reasons many of us get winter colds and flu are numerous: One, we’re indoors with other people while windows and doors are closed. Two, viruses causing most respiratory infections are always mutating, and our immune systems have trouble handling these ever-changing germs. Three, viruses can survive on non-porous surfaces for hours. If you turn a door handle recently touched by a sneezing, sniffling person, then lift a hand to your nose, you’ve infected yourself. Four, some respiratory viruses, notably influenza, become airborne when someone coughs. You only need to inhale three tiny viruses to become sick.
Several families of viruses cause colds. This viral mafia produces runny nose, sneezing, sore throat and cough. Though symptoms are usually mild and gone within a week, colds produce rampant absenteeism from work and school.
Is it a common cold or the flu?
If your symptoms are above the neck—congestion, sore throat, sneezing, coughing—you probably have a cold. If you have all those symptoms plus a fever of 38.8˚C (102˚F) or more, headache, muscle aches, extreme fatigue, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, you’re more likely to have the flu.
Top Natural Remedies For Cold And Flu
Know when not to treat symptoms
Believe it or not, those annoying symptoms you’re experiencing are part of the natural healing process — evidence that the immune system is battling illness. For instance, a fever is your body’s way of trying to kill viruses by creating a hotter-than-normal environment. Also, a fever’s hot environment makes germ-killing proteins in your blood circulate more quickly and effectively. Thus, if you endure a moderate fever for a day or two, you may actually get well faster. Coughing is another productive symptom; it clears your breathing passages of thick mucus that can carry germs to your lungs and the rest of your body. Even that stuffy nose is best treated mildly or not at all. A decongestant restricts flow to the blood vessels in your nose and throat. But often you want the increase blood flow because it warms the infected area and helps secretions carry germs out of your body.
The usual lifestyle factors influence immune function, so to avoid getting sick in the first place, eat well and emphasize whole grains, fruits and vegetables in your diet. Also try to sleep at least eight hours a night. Wash your hands often, and sneeze into your arm, not your hand. Avoid exposure to cigarette smoke, which stalls respiratory defenses, and keep alcohol to a minimum because excessive amounts impair immunity. Exercise regularly and moderately. If you come down with a cold, light exercise is fine and can help clear respiratory mucus. If you have a fever, rest.
Lots of rest
It takes energy to fight an infection, and that can wear you out. When you’re resting, you’re healing, which is exactly what you need to do.
You need a comfortable place for you to rest. Of course, a bed isn’t necessarily the best place to rest. Sometimes a change of scenery is very helpful. If the weather is good, set up a comfortable place in the yard or on the porch.
Breathing moist air helps loosen the mucus in the nasal passages. A warm bath has the added benefit of relaxing you. You can also use a humidifier or a cool-mist vaporizer. Have a humidifier or a cool-mist vaporizer going in your bedroom when you’re sleeping, resting or reading a book. Be sure to clean humidifier often and according to the manufacturer’s directions. Humidifiers accumulate mold, which they then spray into the air if they’re not kept scrupulously clean.
Give yourself a warm bath in a steamy bathroom. Let a hot shower run for a few minutes before getting the tub ready. You can read a good book while bathing or listening to nice relaxing music. Adding a few drops of monthol to the bath water (or vaporizer) may also help feel less congested. Menthol oil is available at most natural food stores.
If it’s not convenient time for bath, simply turn the hot water in the tub or shower, close the bathroom door, block any gap under the door with a towel, and sit in the steamy room for about 15 minutes.
Remove White Foods
At the first sign of illness, completely remove all white foods from the diet. This includes grains, sugars, milk, cheese, dairy, sweeteners, soda, etc. These foods suppress immune function and slow the body’s healing ability. When you are ill, you don’t actually need to eat a lot of food, as the body needs to focus more on healing than digestion. Eat fresh chicken soup and drink hot liquids to keep strength up.
Drinking plenty of fluids helps prevent dehydration and flushes and thins your’s nasal secretions. Plain water is the best, but you might not find very appealing. Try fruit smoothies and other favourite healthful beverages.
Chicken soup and other warm liquids
Warm liquids can be very helping relieve congestion, prevent dehydration and soothe the uncomfortably inflamed membranes that line your nose and throat. Studies have shown that chicken soup actually relieves cold symptoms like aches, fatigue, congestion, and fever.
Chicken soup stops certain white blood cells (neutrophils) from congregating and causing inflammation, preventing large amounts of mucus from being produced. The hot chicken soup is one of the natural remedies for cold which also thins the mucus. Adding freshly chopped garlic to your soup gives the system a powerful boost. While garlic kills germs outright, it also appears to stimulate the release of natural killer cells, which are part of the immune system’s arsenal of germ-fighters. Spike your soup with red (chili) pepper flakes to increase the broth’s decongestant power.
If you’re so congested that you can’t sleep at night, try a hot toddy, an age-old remedy. Make a cup of hot herbal tea. You may enjoy some lukewarm chamomile tea with one teaspoon of honey added.
Sleep with an extra pillow under your head
Elevating your head while you rest can help you breathe more comfortably. If the angle is too awkward, try placing the pillows between the mattress and the box springs to create a more gradual slope.
Treat that stuffy nose with warm salt water
Salt-water rinsing helps break nasal congestion, while also removing virus particles and bacteria from your nose.
Mix 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda in 8 ounces of warm water. Use a bulb syringe or nasal irrigation kit to squirt water into the nose. Hold one nostril closed by applying light finger pressure while squirting the salt mixture into the other nostril. Let it drain. Repeat two to three times, then treat the other nostril.
Neti pot looks like mini-tea pots and are typically ceramic or metal. Neti pot are used to clean the sinuses and flushes a mild saline soluiton through the nasal passages, moisturizing the area and thinning, loosening, and rinsing away mucus. Improper use of the neti pots is relatively common. Tap water generally has small amount of bacteria, protozoa and other microorganisms, including amoebas. These organisms are safe to drink because stomach acid kills them, but none of these should not go into our nasal passages. If they do, they can remain there, alive, and eventually cause serious infections.
How you should use the neti pot to avoid serious infections:
- Clean the neti pot with soap and warm water.
- Use only sterile or distilled water, boiled tap water (it must be boiled 3 to 5 minutes, and then allowed to cool down) or water that has gone through filter with an absolute pore size of 1 micron maximum. If you choose to use boiled water, you can store it in a clean container with a lid for no more than 24 hours.
- Lean over sink.
- Tilt your head to one side so that your forehead and chin are at approximately the same level, this prevents water getting into your mouth.
- Once you are in position you should now only be breathing out of your mouth.
- Place the spout into your upper nostril and pour the solution so that it drains through the lower nostril.
- Blow your nose (clean your nostrils) and do it again on the other side.
This whole process is not difficult if done correctly.
Benefits of using a neti pot:
- Soothes dry nasal passages
- Gently washes away dust, pollen & irritants
- Enchances removal of mucus from the sinuses and nasal passages
Gargling with salt water is a time-honored way to soothe a sore throat. It also helps clear mucus from the throat. While scientists haven’t determined why it works, studies have shown that the remedy is effective.
You will need a warm salt water. Simply coombine ½ teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and stir. A squirt or two of fresh lemon juice can be a soothing addition.
Do it three or four times a day while you’re sick and spit out the water rather than swallow it.
To reduce the tickle in your throat, try an astringent gargle — such as tea that contains tannin — to tighten the membranes. Or use a thick, viscous gargle made with honey or honey and apple cider vinegar. Seep one tablespoon of raspberry leaves or lemon juice in two cups of hot water; mix with one teaspoon of honey. Let the mixture cool to room temperature before gargling.
Apply hot or cold packs around your congested sinuses
Either temperature works. You can buy reusable hot or cold packs at a drugstore or make your own. You can apply heat by taking a damp washcloth and heating it for 55 seconds in a microwave (test the temperature first to make sure it’s not too hot.) A small bag of frozen peas works well as a cold pack.
Eat infection-fighting foods
Good food when you are looking for natural remedies for cold or when you’re battling a flu.
Bananas and rice to soothe an upset stomach and curb diarrhea.
Blueberries curb diarrhea and are high in natural aspirin, which may lower fevers and help with aches and pains.
Carrots, which contain beta-carotene
During cold and flu season, take 20 to 30 drops of Echinacea tincture in half-cup of water three times daily.
Chili peppers may open sinuses, and help break up mucus in the lungs.
Cranberries may help prevent bacteria from sticking to cells lining the bladder and urinary tract.
Drink a cup of ginger tea. Ginger helps block the production of substances that cause bronchial congestion and stuffiness, and it contains compounds call gingerols, which are natural cough suppressants.
Horseradish may helps break up mucus in air passages. For a serious congestion-busting blast, buy fresh horseradish or gingerroot, grate it and eat a small amount. To guard against upset stomach, wait until after a meal to try this.
Onions contain phytochemicals purported to help the body clear bronchitis and other infections.
Black and Green Tea
Black and green tea contain catechin, a phytochemical purported to have natural antibiotic and anti-diarrhea effects.
Take one 250 mg astragalus capsule, twice daily, until you’re better. This ancient Chinese herb stimulates the immune system and seems to be highly effective at fighting colds and flu. To prevent a relapse, take one capsule twice a day for an additional week after your symptoms are gone.
Goldenseal stimulates the immune system and has germ-fighting compounds that can kill viruses. As soon as you begin to feel sick, take 125 mg five times a day for five days.
At the first sign of the flu, take 20 to 30 drops of elderberry tincture three or four times daily for three days. Elderberry has been used in Europe for centuries to fight viruses. You can find conventionally made elderberry syrups at many stores now, or to save money, make your own.
Unsurpassed for flu and fever, and great for children. If used abundantly in tea or tincture at the beginning of an illness, it will usually shorten the illness to less than 24 hours. It is especially good for fevers as it induces perspiration and is great for all childhood type illnesses. It is naturally bitter, so it is often good to include peppermint and stevia leaf when making a tea. It is great for the liver and kidneys and supports the endocrine system.
An absolute staple, especially for kids. Chamomile calms the nerves, helps children sleep better and reduces inflammation or fever. Soaking a chamomile tea bag in warm water and placing over an eye for 15 minutes every 2 hours will relieve pink eye in less than 24 hours. Chamomile tastes great and is easy to get kids to take. We use it in tea and tincture formula. It is also great for regulating hormones and for the skin and can be used regularly for good sleep.
Great for all digestive disturbances and for lowering fever. It can be used as a tea or tincture or rubbed on the skin to bring a high fever down. It is antimicrobial and antiviral and kids usually love the taste. It can be consumed as a hot tea or cold tea during illness in any amounts.
A traditional cold and flu remedy, and a great herb for children. It helps induce sleep and settles the stomach. As a tincture or tea, it is a great herb for combating flu, cold or other illness.
Very high in nutrients, Red Clover purifies the blood and relaxes the body. It has been used in hormonal preparations, but is also useful in treating almost any illness. Can be used in tea or tincture.
Oscillococcinum, commonly called Oscillo, is widely recommended by naturopaths and herbalists to reduce the severity of flu symptoms. Be sure to use it within 12 to 48 hours of the first appearance of your symptoms. It comes in packages of three to six vials. Buy the three-vial pack and take one vial every six hours.
A dose of garlic—a natural antiseptic—will do a job on those viruses. If you’re feeling very brave, hold a small clove or a half-clove of garlic in your mouth and breathe the fumes into your throat and lungs. If it gets too strong as the clove softens, just chew if up quickly into smaller pieces and swallow with water.
Hydrogen Peroxide– At the first sign of cold, flu, sinus infection, or ear infection, put a dropper full of hydrogen peroxide into each ear. Have the person lie still with the hydrogen peroxide in the ear until it stops bubbling. Do this on both sides. This is especially effective for kids. Repeat every few hours until infection is gone.
Raw honey coats and soothes the throat and help tame a cough. In a several studies honey was rated more helpful and better than cough syrup for treating individual’s nighttime coughs. Because honey is a sticky sweet, it’s important for you to brush your teeth after you take it.
Make a Honey-Onion Syrup
This recipe is great for cold that come with a nasty cough. The honey is wonderful for healing a sore throat while the onion works its wonders through antibacterial and anti-inflammatories actions. It can also help loosen up phlegm deep in the chest.
This might be a home remedy that you’re tempted to pass over because you don’t recognize the name of the herb. It’s too much of a bother to try and figure out what the heck mullein is and you’d much rather just go for the apple cider vinegar or something you can pull off the spice rack, right? While that is nice, the beauty of the internet is that you can get these herbs and other ingredients without having to hunt down an obscure natural health store somewhere across the state border. Mullein is a biennial (grows every other year) plant that can be found alongside roads in temperate climates, or zones 5-9 in the United States. It is tall, with small yellow flowers and leaves that start out soft and downy. It is an excellent expectorant, which means it thins out and loosens up phlegm so you can cough it out. This is very helpful if you have a lot of congestion, particularly in the chest. It works very well when combined with other expectorants, such as thyme, which is added here as well.
You will need…
-1-2 tablespoons of dried mullein OR 4-6 tablespoons fresh (flowers or flowers/leaves)
-2 1/2 teaspoons of dried thyme OR 5 teaspoons fresh
-1-1 ½ cups of fresh water
-Honey/lemon to taste
Place your herbs in a large mug and bring water to a rolling boil. Pour over the herbs and cover, steeping for 15-20 minutes. Strain, stir in honey or lemon if you’re using it, and savor each healing sip. Drink 2-3 times daily to help clear up congestion.
Good for more than just stabilizing blood sugar, cinnamon is an effective antiviral and antibiotic. When sick, mix 1 tablespoon with 1 teaspoon of honey and stir to make a spicy and very effective tea that helps relieve cough and congestion and lower fever.
Some natural doctors say this is the only herb needed for illness treatment. It contains large amounts of vitamins and trace minerals and helps the body stay hydrated and remove toxins. In a tea with Red Raspberry Leaf, Alfalfa and Peppermint, it makes a powerful immune supporting and illness preventing remedy.
Coconut oil is high in lauric acid and is thought to dissolve the lipid coating around some viruses and make them more susceptible to attack by the immune system. If sick, aim for 5-6 tablespoons per day in food or melted and stirred into hot tea. Coconut oil has many other health benefits as well and is known to boost the immune system.
Chlorophyll in Water
You can find concentrated chlorophyll with a mint flavoring. Chlorophyll is a great blood purifier and can help bring fever down. It alkalizes the body and is very high in nutrients. For mild illness, this is often all that is needed to help your recover.
Oregano and Oregano Oil
Oregano oil is a potent natural antibiotic and antiviral. I diffuse this as needed during illness or use a tiny amount (diluted) on the feet.
Thyme and Thyme Oil
A tea (not nice tasting) made from thyme is very effective against cold and flu. Thyme oil rubbed on the skin will help the body fight infection. Pregnant women and small children should not use thyme.
A hormone precursor, this vitamin is finally getting recognition as a necessary nutrient for health. Optimizing Vitamin D levels can help prevent illness in the first place, and taking several thousand IU a day while sick can help speed recovery. Blood tests can help determine any underlying deficiency. This can also be obtained from supplements like Fermented Cod Liver Oil.
At the first hint of a cold, suck on a zinc gluconate lozenge every few hours. Don’t take zinc gluconate longer than a week, though, because excessive zinc can actually weaken immunity. Avoid zinc lozenges that contain citric acid or are sweetened with sorbitol or mannitol; these ingredients seem to weaken the mineral’s effectiveness.
Perhaps the best vitamin for cold and flu, vitamin C in large amounts can greatly speed recovery. We take a real food form from camu camu and acerola cherry.
Turnips have a lot going for them – they pack a wallop of vitamin C and are full of vitamins A and B. You can eat a plate of cooked, mashed turnips. The root vegetable delivers plenty of vitamin C and is believed to act as an expectorant, helping to loosen mucus and quiet a stubborn cough.
Marshmallow is made from Althaea officinalis, a perennial that flowers in summer. The leaves and roots of the herb have been used since ancient times to treat sore throats and suppress coughs. There are no well-controlled studies to support these claims, but the herb is generally considered safe. The marshmallow herb contains mucilage, which coats the throat and soothes irritation.
Today, you can get marshmallow root in tea or as in capsule form, although it is not recommended for children.
You don’t usually think of pineapple as a cough remedy, but that’s probably because you’ve never heard of Bromelain. According to a review of research on the medicinal value of pineapples, there is evidence to suggest that Bromelain — an enzyme found in the tropical fruit — can help suppress coughs as well as loosen the mucus in your throat.
There are also claims that it can help relieve sinusitis and allergy-based sinus issues, which can contribute to coughs and mucus. However, there is insufficient evidence to support this, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It’s also sometimes used to treat inflammation and swelling.
Bromelain supplements should not be taken by children, or adults who take blood thinners. Also, be careful using this if you are also on antibiotics such as amoxicillin as it can increase the absorption of the antibiotic. Always speak to your doctor before taking new or unfamiliar supplements.
The higher the carvacrol concentration, the more effective it is. Carvacrol is the most active antimicrobial agent in oregano oil.
A bee resin and one of the most broad-spectrum antimicrobial compounds in the world; propolis is also the richest source of caffeic acid and apigenin, two very important compounds that aid in immune response and even fight cancer.
Olive Leaf Extract
Ancient Egyptians and Mediterranean cultures used it for a variety of health-promoting uses and it is widely known as a natural, non-toxic immune system builder.
Though less well-known than some other herbal cold remedies, extracts derived from this plant have been shown to decrease the symptoms of acute bronchitis. One study, published in the journal Phytomedicine in 2003, examined 468 adults with acute bronchitis lasting less than two days who were given either placebo or an extract of the roots of Pelargonium sidoides; those in the latter group were told to take 30 drops three times a day for a week.
Make a tent
Need a quick way to open clogged airways? Bring a pot of water to a boil and remove it from the heat. Drape a towel over your head, close your eyes, and lean over the water under the “tent,” breathing deeply through your nose for 30 seconds. You can add a drop or two of peppermint or eucalyptus oil to the water for extra phlegm-busting power. Repeat this as often as necessary to ease congestion.
Wear wet socks to bed
Believe it or not, this soggy strategy can help ease a fever and clear congestion by drawing blood to the feet, which dramatically increases blood circulation. (Blood stagnates in areas of greatest congestion.) Best method: Warm your feet in hot water. Then soak a thin pair of cotton socks in cold water, wring them out and slip them on just before going to bed. Put a pair of dry wool socks over the wet ones. The wet socks should be warm and dry in the morning, and you should feel markedly better.
What can I do with mustard
Try soaking your feet in a mustard footbath. In a basin, mix 1 tablespoon of mustard powder in 1 L of hot water. The mustard draws blood to your feet, which helps to relieve congestion.
Another oldie: try a mustard plaster for chest congestion. Grind up three tablespoons of mustard seeds, add water to make a paste, and then slather it on your chest. The pungent aroma helps to unclog stuffy sinuses, while the heat improves blood circulation and eases congestion. Don’t leave the plaster on for more than 15 minutes, however, or your skin may burn. You may want to smear on a bit of petroleum jelly before you apply the plaster to protect the skin.
Onions and garlic on the feet at night
For extreme cases of illness, I slice onion and garlic and place all over the bottom of the infected person’s foot (rub olive oil on the foot first). I then wrap the foot in saran wrap and place a sock on overnight. Onions and garlic have been shown to pull toxins and help the body heal. Some natural practitioners even claim that having cut onions around will absorb toxins and keep others in the family from getting sick, though I have not tried this.
Line up a caregiver
I know that this sounds like one of the strangest natural remedies for cold and flu and a caregiver can’t lower your temperature or cure a sore throat, but having someone to tuck you into bed and bring you fluids is very comforting.. If a friend or family member offers to help, even if it’s only to stop by and check in on you, count your blessings — and take them up on it.
Your turn. What natural remedies for cold do you use or to help beat the flu or other illness? Share below!