I wrote the first version of this article over 12 years ago. And these natural remedies are still in my cold and flu arsenal. I have also added a few new remedies that I’ve collected over the past decade.
Cold and flu season has officially arrived. And now is the perfect time to stock up the medicine cabinet with remedies that work. Stock up now, before the kids bring a bug home. Some of the natural remedies that I personally use and recommend are listed below:
Water: My body needs moisture and lots of it when I am sick with a cold or flu. So, besides using a neti pot, I add 3-4 extra glasses of water to my day when I have a cold or the flu. Pure, fresh water is what my body needs to loosen up and expel all the mucous and secretions.
Vitamin C: When I feel a cold brewing, I start taking 2-3 packets of Emergen-C™ per day and I keep taking it until my cold is gone. Each packet of Emergen-C™ contains 1000 mg Vitamin C as well as a mixture of B Complex Vitamins and essential minerals. The human body uses Vitamin C to build strong, healthy cell membranes that are able to protect from viral and bacterial invaders. The B vitamins are known as the stress vitamins because they are used heavily by the body when stressed or fighting off an illness. Vitamin C also helps to thin down all that mucous, so you can get rid of it more easily. If I could only take only one cold/flu remedy with me to a deserted island, I would choose Emergen-C™.
Kick-Ass Immune: This is the first herbal remedy that I reach for when I feel a cold coming on. Kick-Ass from Wish Garden Herbs enhances and boosts infection fighting components of the immune system. If I start taking Kick-Ass Immune at the first sign of a cold, my illness is much shorter and less severe.
Echinacea: A tried and true herbal cold remedy that is perfectly safe for babies and kids. I personally prefer to use Echinacea tincture drops that can be added to water or juice. Echinacea is made from the root of the purple coneflower and its healing properties have been researched extensively. Echinacea works best when taken short term. Save this one and only use it at the first sign of a cold.
Herbal Tea: I find a warm mug of tea very comforting when I am sick. And tea is a great way to give my cold or flu an “herbal treatment.” There are numerous herbs out there that alleviate the symptoms of the common cold or flu. Here are a few herbal teas to try:
Decrease congestion & mucous with horehound, licorice, slippery elm, ginger
Soothe cough and sore throat with Slippery elm, anise, marsh mallow, mullein
Note: Many of these herbs are also available in tincture, capsule or lozenge form.
Neti Pot: This is an ancient Ayurvedic way to wash out the sinuses, removing debris, mucous, viruses and bacteria. Use a neti pot and a minor head cold does not have the chance to turn into a sinus infection. My clients with chronic sinus problems swear that it makes a huge difference. I “pour” a warm salt water solution from the neti pot into one nostril where it flows through my sinuses and out the other nostril. It may sound gross, but the relief is almost instantaneous.
Zinc Lozenges: I have found nothing better for relieving the pain of a sore throat than zinc lozenges. Zinc is a mineral that is used heavily by the body when fighting off an illness. The lozenges taste good and they work. I suck on a zinc lozenge 3-4 times per day if my throat is sore or scratchy, or I have a head cold.
Homeopathic Remedies: Homeopathy has been popular in England, France and other parts of Europe since the 1800’s. When used correctly, homeopathic remedies are the closest thing to magic that I have ever found. Based on the principle of “like cures like”, homeopathic remedies stimulate the immune system to kick on and heal the body. Homeopathy works quickly and is very safe and effective against numerous ailments including the common cold and flu. But there is a trick to using homeopathic compounds; you must match your symptoms up carefully with the right compound. A good homeopathic reference book is invaluable. Look for these remedies online or at your local health food store:
Oscillococcinum: This mix of several homeopathic substances is from Boiron: Forget about annual flu shots – this stuff works! Take it for flu with the symptoms of fever, chills, and all over body aches. And don’t wait! For best results, take it at the very first sign of flu symptoms.
Kali Bichromicum: Use it to treat nasal discharge that is thick and yellow or green in color. It also is recommended for thick postnasal drip.
Allium Cepa: use this remedy for nasal discharge that is profuse, watery and burns the nose and eyes.
Bryonia Alba: for dry, hacking cough.
Herbal Bath: Soaking in a hot, steamy bath is a great way to loosen up sinus and chest congestion. Add one of the essential oils listed below (available at health food stores) to the bath water for even more decongestant power.
Eucalyptus is a powerful antiviral and antibacterial compound. Add 6-8 drops of Eucalyptus to your bathwater or mix a few drops into 1/8 cup of oil (olive, sunflower or almond) and apply to the chest and neck.
Thieves is a powerful mixture of essential oils that dates back to the Middle Ages. This herbal “recipe” is said to have been used to ward off the plague by grave robbers! Wherever it came from originally, it is an anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal wonder. The most popular brand of Thieves is made by Young Living™, but you can also find recipes for a Thieves essential oil compound online – just Google Thieves essential oil.
Garlic: This root vegetable is a very powerful anti-viral, anti=bacterial and anti-fungal compound. It also decreases mucous secretions. Raw garlic is the most potent, but I cannot stomach gnawing on raw garlic. So I cook with it. Add it to soups, stir fry, scrambled eggs, chicken and meat dishes, mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, etc. Yum! You can also buy garlic capsules, if you prefer.
Castleman, Michael.The Healing Herbs, 1995, Bantam Books, New York.
Duke, James A., Ph.D. The Green Pharmacy, 1997, Rodale Press, New York.
Ullman, Dana, M.P.H. Homeopathic Medicine for Children and Infants, 1992, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, New York.
Ullman, Robert, N.D. & Reichenberg-Ullman, Judyth, N.D. Homeopathic Self-Care, 1997, Prima Publishing, Rocklin, CA.
Winter Griffith, H., M.D., Vitamins, Herbs, Minerals & Supplements; the Complete Guide, 1998, Fisher Books.