NOTE: This is a long, information-packed article on Natural Remedies to Help Prevent, Treat Flu and Colds. To make it easier to navigate, use the Table of Contents button to your right!
When cold and flu season comes around, it's hard not to feel that getting one or both is inevitable. After all, doesn't everyone get sick during the winter? Not necessarily – there are certain things you can do to help minimize your risk of contracting colds and flu, and there are natural treatments to help you get over a cold or the flu much more quickly.
Smart Ways to Help Prevent Colds and Flu
Nip It in the Bud
If you feel a cold or flu coming on – maybe it's a tickle in your throat, or a certain feeling in your chest – then it's a good idea to act fast.
Several options are listed below, and they are all said to be more effective if implemented right away, before the illness settles in. This means it's a good idea to keep your treatment(s) of choice on hand, before symptoms set in.
Wash Your Hands
Really. This one is important. Hand sanitizer is good to keep on hand (literally) in case you don't have access to soap and water, but nothing beats thorough washing with anti-bacterial soap and warm water.
The general consensus is, work up a lather on your hands for a full 20 seconds before rinsing.
A Good Multi-Vitamin and Mineral Supplement
During the winter months, health experts theorize that our susceptibility to colds and flu increases in part due to lack of key vitamins. So it's a good idea to get started taking a quality supplement at the beginning of cold and flu season so your body is ready when you get exposed to germs.
You have probably heard of Vitamin C for cold prevention and treatment, but have you heard of Vitamin D? The latest research shows that Vitamin D (particularly D3) is important in staving off colds and flu. This may be because the lack of sunlight in the winter creates a Vitamin D deficiency, and supplements are needed to keep the immune system in top shape. You can take a D3 supplement, and/or eat foods rich in this vitamin, such as eggs, liver, salmon, and mushrooms.
Vitamin C – Still Relevant
Vitamin C is still an important cold and flu prevention vitamin. Foods that are high in Vitamin C include citrus fruits, peppers (bell and chili), parsley, dark leafy greens, and strawberries. Many of these foods are out of season during cold and flu time, so if you do get these foods at your grocery store they will not only be more expensive – they will also be less likely to contain their full allotment of Vitamin C. This is largely due to long shipment times during which the Vitamin C decreases in the foods. Therefore, a daily supplement might be a good idea.
Vitamins C and D (particularly D3, say experts) tend to be low in the winter season, with its lack of fresh produce and sunlight.
The popular cold and flu herb, echinacea, is not generally recommended as a daily preventative. You can take it if you think you've been exposed and keep taking it for a month or so; but experts warn that echinacea tends to lose its effectiveness if taken for more than a month at a time.
The good news is, there are other herbs you can use to keep your immunity working well this winter – and they are probably in your home kitchen.
This anti-inflammatory herb is tasty, spicy, and said to be a great cold and flu preventer. You can drink a cup of fresh ginger tea every day, and/or include this herb in your cooking.
Garlic is another herb that is sometimes used along with ginger in Asian cooking. Sprinkle minced, chopped, or crushed garlic liberally in daily recipes, or mix it with olive oil for a healthy dip for bread. You can also take garlic in capsule form. It's been shown to be a powerful anti-viral, anti-bacterial herb.
Truly raw honey can really help with cold and flu prevention – studies have shown that a tablespoon a day prevents cold in children. The same could probably be applied to adults, only perhaps a larger daily dose. If you don't like it plain, put raw honey on toast or swirl it into hot herbal tea.
Get Enough Sleep
Lest you think you don't have time to get a good night's sleep, consider the amount of work time lost if you get sick. You could be out of commission for weeks!
Instead, try to get at least eight hours of sleep a night, preferably starting before midnight (sources say you get a healthier eight hours if they begin before midnight).
Just because it's winter doesn't mean you have to eat junk food instead of fresh produce.
There are all kinds of interesting, healthful foods you can eat in the winter that can boost your immunity and keep you healthy: greens (like kale and collards), winter squash, whole grains, sweet potatoes, cabbage, onions, garlic, pomegranates, and so forth.
Healthful meats like fish and lean turkey are generally available year-round, and Vitamin C-rich citrus fruits are often available in grocery stores during the winter. And don't forget frozen fruits and veggies.
Natural Remedies to Treat Cold and Flu
What if that nasty cold or flu bug has already gotten it's claws into you? Well, there's quite a few natural remedies that can help – and some of them are going to echo the things that help prevent these awful bugs.
Increase Vitamin C Intake
Vitamin C increases the body's resistance to colds and decreases toxicity that can prolong a cold. Vitamin C is found in oranges, lemons and other citrus fruits. Alternatively, you can simply purchase some inexpensive, effervescent vitamin-C tablets at the pharmacy.
Drink Garlic Soup
As gross as this might sound to you, drinking garlic soup is perhaps one of the most surefire ways to get rid of that cold. Garlic has great properties that help to clear up the respiratory passages. The soup also helps to flush cold-producing toxins out the body.
- Boil three to four cloves of chopped garlic in just one cup of water.
- Drink once daily until the cold subsides.
- Drink the mixture once a week thereafter to prevent the symptoms from resurfacing
Drink Ginger Soup
Ginger is also a great remedy for getting rid of a cold and may be easier for you to swallow. It has some of the same benefits of garlic, and you'll experience relief in no time!
- Cut a piece of ginger root into small pieces and boil in a cup of water.
- Strain and add sugar to sweeten.
- Drink the mixture twice daily until the symptoms disappear.
Increase Turmeric Intake
- Put half teaspoon of turmeric powder into a ladle.
- Pour a serving of milk over it and allow it to boil.
- Drink once or twice a day.
Other Ways to Attack the Cold that's Attacking You
- Taking a mild sunbath every day.
- Deep breathing in fresh air.
- Taking brisk walks.
- Adjust wardrobe according to the season so there is less impact from weather elements.
While you're experiencing the symptoms of a cold, try abstaining from eating solid foods and fill your diet with juices made from fruit and vegetables. You'll get the direct impact of antioxidants found in these products that can tackle the causes of the cold.
Once you've totally recovered from your cold, maintain a well-balanced diet thereafter. Aim to eat natural food items as opposed to processed foods. Pack your diet with healthy, cold-fighting foods like fruit, vegetables, seeds, and nuts.
In many cases, the natural methods produce better results than commercial cold medicines, so in no time, you can expect your annoying cold symptoms to go away for good!
The Health Benefits of Eucalyptus for Colds and More
If you are like most people, you have probably at least heard of eucalyptus. You don’t have to live in Australia to know that this tree produces bark and leaves that are very beneficial to both the koalas living in them and to humans, too!
Eucalyptus has natural healing affects that you just can’t get with many man-made remedies. In fact, this plant is just as effective to ward off colds and congestion as the expensive stuff you buy in your pharmacy.
Why does eucalyptus work so well? Like many plant materials, it has healing properties all of its own. You might be surprised to learn that the leaves from this tree are very similar to the rubs and creams you can buy for your chest when you have a cold.
It smells very similar, too. It can help fight off the symptoms you get when you have the cold and flu. Plus, it is natural and safe to use around children.
The next time you are feeling under the weather with coughing and congestion, consider using eucalyptus. You might be surprised at the results. It can help break up the phlegm that can build up in your chest and it can also serve as a natural germ killer.
Did you know that this essential oil can also serve as a diuretic and may also help lower blood sugar? What other medication do you know that has so many healing properties?
One of the best ways to use this essential oil for coughs, colds and the flu is by inhaling the vapors. If you have ever used a vaporizer, then you know how this works. You will place several drops of the oil in boiling water. Pour the water in a heavy bowl and bend over the steam.
Be careful, it is hot. You can even form a “tent” over your head with a thick towel and breathe in for a few minutes. You will immediately feel it working. You can also burn candles with this essential oil in the room for an immediate effect. Mix eucalyptus with other oils such as rosemary, lemon or tea tree oil and you can get the same effect.
Another great way to use this oil when you are feeling sick and congested is to actually rub it on your body. Find a good carrier, such as almond oil and mix a few drops of eucalyptus along with tea tree oil. You can then use it as a massage and rub it on your chest and neck.
The idea is that it will start to break of the phlegm in your throat and chest. It is always a good idea to mix eucalyptus with something else, as using it alone can cause skin irritations.
There are a few warnings you should know about using eucalyptus. Prolonged use and exposure to this oil can cause liver damage or failure, therefore, it should be used sparingly and only when necessary. In addition, never use this oil and treatment on infants or on children and elderly with a suppressed immune system.
More Natural Remedies for Cold, Flu Symptoms
Beta Glucan – Natural immune system booster to strengthen immune system health and protect the body against viral and bacterial infections
Mucus-Clear – Homeopathic remedy reduces phlegm and thick mucus plus relieves throat congestion
InstaClear Sinus Relief – Herbal remedy instantly clears sinus congestion
SinusSoothe – Homeopathic medicine for temporarily relieving sinus pressure and nasal congestion
RespoSoothe – Homeopathic medicine to assist with temporary chest problems such as tight chest, wheezing or bouts of bronchitis
Immu-Stay – Natural supplement boosts the immune system