Common home remedies for cold and flu provided natural relief for generations, so now we reintroduce them and perhaps, curb your dependence on OTC drugs for your own good!
Common Home Remedies for Cold and Flu You Can Try
The lovely lemon may cause a puckered face if eaten raw. But in a hot beverage, it will have you smiling. Hot lemonade provided relief for cold and flu since the Roman times and is still highly regarded in the folk traditions of New England.
Since it’s highly acidic, it renders the mucous membranes unfit for bacteria and viruses. Lemon oil, which gives the juice its fragrance, contains antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. The oil also acts as an expectorant. Follow these steps to make a flu-fighting fruit drink:
- Place 1 chopped lemon — skin, pulp, and all — into 1 cup boiling water
- While the lemon steeps, inhale the steam for 5 minutes
- Strain, add honey (to taste), and enjoy
- Drink hot lemonade three to four times a day throughout your illness
2. Milk and Turmeric
Besides ginger tea or masala chai, warm milk and turmeric mixture ranks among the top of natural cold remedies. Turmeric and milk are also healthy ingredients which promote healthy living. If you’ve into Ayurvedic home remedies for cold and cough, this mixture is right up your alley.
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is an amazingly effective antimicrobial agent, producing 200 to 300 different antimicrobial peptides in your body killing bacteria, viruses, and fungi. In the United States, the late winter average vitamin D level is only about 15-18 ng/ml, which is considered a very serious deficiency state. It’s estimated over 95 percent of U.S. senior citizens may be deficient, along with 85 percent of the American public.
4. The Pillow Prop
Make gravity work in your favor to help ease the nasal pressure. “Raising your head when congested helps to drain sinus passages,” says Schachter. Using an additional pillow or two to lift your upper body can keep things moving in the right direction.
5. Orange Juice
Do you crave orange juice when you’re sick? It’s full of vitamin C, which may help shorten a cold’s duration and work as a natural decongestant. Aim for 500 mg of vitamin C four times a day. A cup of OJ has 124 mg. Other good sources of vitamin C include strawberries, tomatoes, and broccoli.
6. Ginger Tea
Drink a cup of ginger tea. Ginger helps block the production of substances causing bronchial congestion and stuffiness. Additionally, it contains compounds called gingerols, which are natural cough suppressants.
Peppermint is a valuable expectorant in the treatment of bronchitis, colds, and flu. It reduces fevers by inducing sweating and cooling the body. Use it as a painkiller for headaches and some migraines. It is a soothing decongestant and makes an effective inhalation for clearing blocked sinuses.
8. Camphor, Eucalyptus, and Menthol
One of the common home remedies for cold is a combination of camphor, eucalyptus, and menthol. Camphor is often as topical pain relievers and muscle ache creams. Eucalyptus leaf or oil is used both as a food flavoring and in many medicinal applications. Eucalyptus can help treat breathing problems, pain and inflammation, burns and ulcers, and even cancer.
Menthol can be used as a flavoring in lozenges for sore throats and coughs or as a soothing ingredient in anti-itch creams and medications for the mouth. The three are often combined in over-the-counter ointments used for nasal congestion and cough suppression (NIH, 2012).
9. Spice Up Your Cooking
Go with your instincts here — any flavor which provokes a reaction deep in your chest is one that can (according to the wives of yore) be used to shift a nasty cold or flu. Add chilies, cayenne pepper, ginger, cloves, and horseradish liberally to anything you rustle up. Why eat a turkey and tomato sandwich when you can sprinkle on some chilies and cloves to beat the flu while eating?
For more palatable options, try boiling water with lemon juice, cayenne pepper and cloves (add whiskey or bourbon if you’re at the tail end of your flu and having trouble getting to sleep). You can also mix together cider vinegar, honey, cayenne pepper and ginger into a cough syrup. Finally, homemade chicken soup (preferably cooked with love by your mother) is the perfect treatment for ailments of both body and soul.
A powerhouse natural antibiotic, antifungal, and antibacterial, garlic can tackle almost any illness. For the most potent effect, finely mince 1-2 cloves of garlic and float in a small glass of water. Drink quickly- if you are sick enough, you won’t even notice the taste.
Note: Pregnant women should not take more than 1 clove of garlic medicinally per day, and children often resist this remedy.
11. Green Tea
Green tea is known to have many properties that can help keep you in tip-top health and better prepared to ward off cold and flu bugs. The jury is out on how many cups of tea are optimal but two to three per day are often recommended. If you do come down with cold or flu symptoms (or feel them coming on), consider 3-4 cups of green tea per day to expedite ridding your body of those nasty bugs and give your body’s defenses an extra jolt.
12. Echinacea (Goldenseal)
Echinacea (E. angustifolia, Purpurea, and pallida) is the best-researched herb for enhancing immune defenses to help prevent respiratory tract infections. Several well-designed studies support the use of this herb for the treatment of acute viral upper respiratory infections.
Though a controversial 2005 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that extracts of the E. angustifolia root didn’t significantly affect viral infections. But the American Botanical Council noted the dosage used in the study was lower than the amount recommended by the World Health Organization, as well as the Canadian Natural Health Products Directorate. Two more recent meta-analyses concluded that echinacea did reduce the duration and incidence of the common cold.
Gargling can moisten a sore throat and bring temporary relief. Try a teaspoon of salt dissolved in warm water, four times daily. To reduce the tickle in your throat, try an astringent gargle, such as tea, which contains tannins, to tighten the membranes. Or use a thick, viscous gargle made with honey, sage and cayenne pepper all of which are slightly antiseptic.
Steep fresh sage leaves with the cayenne in 100 ml of just boiled water for 10 minutes. Add about 50 ml of honey; you can also add a pinch of salt and some cider vinegar to help loosen phlegm. Let the mixture cool to room temperature before gargling.
14. Chicken Soup
A time-honored remedy that is tried, tested and true. It stops certain white blood cells (neutrophils) from congregating and causing inflammation, preventing large amounts of mucus from being produced. The hot soup 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.
A hacking cough can keep you and every other household member up all night. Keep the peace with honey. Honey has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine for coughs. It’s a simple enough recipe: Mix 1 tablespoon honey into 1 cup hot water, stir well and enjoy. Honey acts as a natural expectorant, promoting the flow of mucus. Squeeze some lemon in if you want a little tartness.
No, not the kind favored by Harold and Kumar. White button mushrooms (90 percent of the ‘shrooms eaten in the United States) have powerful immunity-boosting effects, according to two studies from the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. These fabulous fungi increase the production of antiviral proteins that can destroy or deactivate the foreign invaders that make you sick.
Whole grains, like oatmeal, contain selenium, zinc, and beta-glucan to help support your immune system and fend off cold and flu infections. Add a generous dollop of yogurt — its probiotics may help keep a virus from settling into your respiratory system.
18. Humidify Your Home
Ever wonder why the flu tends to strike in the colder months? Part of the reason is your furnace. Artificial heat lowers humidity, creating an environment that allows the influenza virus to thrive. (Colder outside air also pushes people together in confined indoor spaces, making it easier for the flu bug to spread).
Adding some moisture to the air in your home during the winter with a warm- or cool-mist humidifier may not only help prevent the spread of flu, but it may also make you feel more comfortable if you do get it.
19. 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.
David Kiefer, MD, clinical instructor of family medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, recommends adding 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.
20. Moisten Your Brow
A change in temperature can work wonders for an aching head, and it’s best to choose the temperature that most appeals to your body. If you’re cold and shivering, then soak a compress (that’s a flannel or towel, to non-nurses) in hot water and hold it to your temple. A bag of frozen peas works well for those who are burning up.
21. Oil of Oregano
I wish I can remember who introduced me to oil of oregano, but this stuff has been great for me this flu season. Oil of oregano is rich in vitamins and minerals and can reduce pain and inflammation.
The second you start feeling run down, you’ll want to pop oil of oregano pills twice a day between meals. I normally get a couple of bad illnesses during the winter, and this time around I managed to kick the sick in just a few days, rather than battling flu symptoms for a week.
22. No Junk Food
When you have a cold or flu your body is under a lot of stress, fighting the viral infection. Big, heavy meals take vital energy to digest, resources which your body can use to fight the infections. An old saying states “Feed a cold and starve a fever”. A better saying is “Starve a cold and starve a fever”.
23. Rinse out Your Nose
A homemade nose-clearing method that goes beyond the humble tissue may be a little involved. But if you’re nasally-blocked and don’t want to step outside, then you can try clearing your nose with a salt and baking soda mixture.
Mix a teaspoon of salt and baking soda with a glass of water and squirt the mixture up your nose–though you need a syringe and pickling/canning salt (not simple table salt) to do this effectively. It’s important not to double dip the syringe and there are further instructions here — homemade nasal irrigation won’t appeal to everyone but should work for true homemade-remedy fans.
24. American Ginseng Root
North American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) has long been used for its medicinal properties. This herb offers different effects from its Siberian and Asian cousins. American ginseng is traditionally used for a wide variety of ailments.
In addition to treating cold and flu, this form of ginseng can relieve stress, improve digestion, boost the immune system, and enhance memory. It can even combat the effects of HIV/AIDS and cancer, manage diabetes, and even prevent signs of aging. They come in powdered supplements, oils, and extracts (which you can add to food or drinks).
25. Rest and Hydrate
Take Mom’s advice: Get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids, Dr. Czaja advises. “Drinking water helps thin mucus secretions in the lungs”. You can also take in lots of fruit juices, and soups, but stay away from heavy and highly processed food. High liquid intake is important as the body use water to carry waste products and toxins out of your system.
Watch this video from Elderberry Creek Farms and learn how to get rid of a cold in 24 hours by preparing some home remedies for cold and flu:
There you go, self-sufficient survivalists! Home remedies for cold and flu, including a cough. Now you know better than to head straight to your medicine cabinet. Try a couple or a few more of these home remedies since they also have other health benefits anyway.
Have you tried any of these home remedies for cold and flu before? Tell us which ones you find most effective in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on November 23, 2016, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.