More than 50 children have died from the flu virus during the 2017-2018 flu season, which began in October and is considered the worst since the 2009 swine flu epidemic. Although flu season peaks between December and February, health officials fear that there’s more to come.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus, and conventional treatment is antiviral drugs and vaccines, some of which can cause allergies and other severe side effects. Its symptoms are sometimes similar to those of a cold, such as fever, a cough, a runny nose, headaches and muscle aches, and general malaise, but the cold can also manifest as congestion, sore throat, and sneezing,
So, how do we fight flu and colds without resorting to prescriptions? We certainly can carry out nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), such as staying home when sick, covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze, and washing your hands more often. However, I’d like to share a dozen natural remedies to that can help combat colds and flu.
Apple Cider Vinegar
A tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice) in a glass of water several times daily helps to alkalize the body and kill bacteria and viruses. Some people gargle first with the mixture and then swallow it. You can add baking soda, ginger juice, cranberry juice, and even some stevia to sweeten the deal.
Vitamins C and D
Consider taking 1,000 milligrams of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid with bioflavinoids) at least three times daily and 5,000 milligrams of Vitamin D daily to recover from flu or a cold. Vitamin D tamps down the inflammatory response of the immune system to the flu and helps lower the rate of pneumonia and other deadly complications. Eat more Vitamin C-rich foods, including citrus, berries, and, surprisingly, dark leafy vegetables; and if you can, get some direct sunlight for Vitamin D.
Elderberries, also known as sambucus, are well known for boosting the immune system, reducing bronchial inflammation, treating the flu, and relieving sinus pain. They are loaded with the anti-inflammatory anthocyanin and flavonoids, and elderberry extract efficiently combats more than 10 strains of influenza. I’ve tried store-bought elderberry syrup but much prefer my friend Tricia’s recipe for homemade elderberry syrup. I take two tablespoons in water daily during flu season.
N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC) is a powerful antioxidant that protects and supports the immune system against flu and colds. NAC is crucial for replenishing and maintaining the level of glutathione, the master antioxidant that supports the liver and lungs. It helps decrease the severity of respiratory attacks and helps to thin bronchial mucus. Aim for between 600 and 1,800 milligrams daily, but you can go up to 2,000 milligrams if necessary.
Zinc is great when flu and colds hit, as it strengthens your immune system and acts as an anti-viral. Don’t take this mineral for more than a week consecutively, but in that time, supplement with between 50 and 100 milligrams daily. Bone up on zinc-heavy animal protein like chicken, pork, beef, and lamb, as well as plant-based choices like wheat germ, spinach, pumpkin seeds, and nuts.
More people are discovering the efficacy of essential oils in fighting flu and the cold. Some people rub peppermint and eucalyptus oils–both great for relieving congestion–on the neck and on their foot soles before going to bed. Frankincense is also an immune system booster, and oregano and clove are excellent anti-bacterial and anti-viral oils. You can diffuse these oils, use them topically (added to carrier oils), or inhale them directly or with steam.
Olbas Instant Herbal Tea contains almost two dozen herbs, including peppermint, thyme, star anise, and eucalyptus. Its granular formula dissolves in hot water to bring warm comfort to stuffy nasal and bronchial passages. Breathe Easy boasts peppermint, eucalyptus, ginger, fennel and licorice among its healing ingredients. Several cups of these flavorful teas each day are a great, natural way to tamp down flu and cold symptoms
The principle behind homeopathic remedies–using “like” to heal “like”–may seem strange at first , but it works. At the first signs of flu or a cold, I grab Oscillococcinum, which cuts the duration and severity of symptoms. You just shake the pellets in the tiny tube under your tongue and wait for them to melt. Other products by Boiron that help me fight flu, colds, or sinus/allergy symptoms are Cold Cam, Sinusalia, Mezereum, Sabadil, and Roxalia.
Grapefruit seed extract
Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) is perfect for getting rid of nasal pressure, pain, and congestion. It’s made from the seeds, pulp, and membrane of grapefruit and works as an anti-viral and anti-bacterial remedy. Vitamin C and other nutrients help to eliminate infection and reduce inflammation. Use a nasal spray with GSE as the main ingredient several times daily, or add a few drops of GSE to water with sea salt and irrigate your nasal passages.
The neti pot is a device rooted in the rich and vibrant Ayurvedic tradition. You simply add salt and water to the miniature teapot-like vessel and pour the mixture through the spout into one nostril and let it run out of the other one. It’s great to get rid of pollen, excess mucus, bacteria and nasal dryness that can worsen congestion and nasal pressure.
Olive leaf extract
Olive leaf extract (OLE) is uniquely equipped to combat itchy, sore throats. OLE contains a number of powerful antioxidants like oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol, as well as polyphenols and flavonoids, and its antiviral strength makes treating viral infections like the flu, as well as the common cold, an easy job. I use an OLE throat spray several times a day as needed, but you can also opt for the olive leaf oil or capsules.
Honey and lemon
Honey’s antibacteral properties, as well as its vital micronutrients like potassium, calcium, manganese, and copper, help restore health to the respiratory tract, and its sweetness soothes the throat. Lemon is rich in Vitamin C and is anti-bacterial and anti-viral. Some of us add a tiny bit of rum to this concoction. The health benefits of the rum? Not sure. 😉 Cayenne pepper is added sometimes to help thin mucus, reduce fever, and cut back on congestion. Drink this at least twice daily when a cold/cough is looming.
This anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting herb should be taken at the first signs of a cold. Taking 1,000 milligrams in capsule form two to three times daily will put your flu/cold on notice, but you also can take 900 milligrams of it in a tincture or as a tea several times daily.
What does your anti-flu/cold arsenal look like? Which of these remedies are your favorites? Which are new to you?