*Please remember to discuss ANY supplement or natural remedy with your doctor before starting anything new*
Natural Cold & Flu Remedies
It’s no wonder natural cold and flu remedies are popular – modern medicine has yet to offer a cure for these age-old ailments. While some antiviral drugs can prevent and shorten the flu’s duration, most medications only offer temporary relief of symptoms. Many natural remedies provide temporary relief as well, and a few may actually help you get better. See which cold and flu remedies show the most promise.
Echinacea is an herbal supplement that can boost immune system activity. But it’s unclear whether this boost helps fight off colds or flu. Some researchers have reported no benefits, but at least one recent study paints a more positive picture. Participants who took echinacea shortened their colds by an average of 1.4 days. Still, experts remain skeptical, and it’s best to check with a doctor before trying this or other herbal remedies.
Some studies show that Zinc appears to have antiviral properties. There is some evidence the mineral may prevent the formation of certain proteins that cold viruses use to reproduce themselves. Whether this translates to an effective treatment may depend on how the zinc is taken. A review of published studies suggests zinc lozenges have no effect on the length of a cold. Zinc nasal gel appears promising, but more research is needed.
The cold-fighting prowess of vitamin C remains uncertain. Some studies suggest it can help shorten the duration of the common cold very slightly. Other studies show that it may help prevent colds. In one large study, people recovered from colds more quickly after taking a megadose (8,000 milligrams) on the first day of the cold. But taking more than 2,000 milligrams of vitamin C per day may cause kidney stones and diarrhea.
Grandma was onto something. Chicken soup may help cold symptoms in more than one way. Inhaling the steam can ease nasal congestion. Sipping spoonfuls of fluid can help avoid dehydration. And some advocates say the soup may soothe inflammation. Researchers have found chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties in the lab, though it’s unclear whether this effect translates to real-world colds.
Drinking hot tea offers some of the same benefits as chicken soup. Inhaling the steam relieves congestion, while swallowing the fluid soothes the throat and keeps you hydrated. Black and green teas have the added bonus of being loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants.
The hot toddy is an age-old nighttime cold remedy. Since you won’t want to drink black tea before bed, make a cup of hot herbal tea. Add a teaspoon of honey, a small shot of whiskey or bourbon, and a squeeze of lemon. This mixture may ease congestion, soothe the throat and help you sleep. Limit yourself to one hot toddy. Too much alcohol can affect the immune system.
Garlic has long been touted for legendary germ-fighting abilities. While there is not enough research to recommend it as a cold remedy, garlic is very nutritious. In addition, it can help spice up your meals when a stuffy nose makes everything taste bland.
Horseradish is a folk remedy for breaking up mucus in the breathing passages. One option is to mix ground-up horseradish and honey into a glass of water, then gargle.
For a heavy dose of steam, use a room humidifier – or simply sit in the bathroom with the door shut and a hot shower running. Breathing in steam can break up congestion in the nasal passages, offering relief from a stuffy or runny nose.
Dripping saltwater into the nose can remove virus and bacteria particles, while reducing congestion. Try over-the-counter saline drops, or make your own by mixing 8 ounces of warm water with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. Use a bulb syringe to squirt the mixture into one nostril while holding the other one closed. Repeat 2-3 times and then do the other side.
For a more systematic nasal rinse, the neti pot is an option. This small ceramic pot is used to flush out the nasal passages with a saltwater solution – a process known as nasal irrigation. The result is thinner mucus that drains more easily. Research suggests neti pots are useful in relieving sinus symptoms, such as congestion, pressure, and facial pain, particularly in patients with chronic sinus troubles.
Days of wiping and blowing your nose can leave the skin around your nostrils sore and irritated. A simple remedy is to dab a menthol-infused ointment under the nose. Menthol has mild numbing agents that can relieve the pain of raw skin. As an added benefit, breathing in the menthol aroma can help open clogged passages.
For a sore throat, the traditional saltwater gargle has merit. Gargling warm water with a teaspoon of salt four times daily can help keep a scratchy throat moist.
Another strategy for relieving nighttime congestion is to try over-the-counter nasal strips. These are strips of tape worn on the bridge of the nose to open the nasal passages. While they can’t unclog the nose, they do create more space for airflow.
Let Your Fever Work
A fever is the original natural remedy. The rise in temperature actively fights colds and flu by making your body inhospitable for germs. Endure a moderate fever for a couple of days to get better faster. Just be sure to stay well hydrated. Call your doctor right away if the fever is over 105, unless it comes down quickly with treatment. In infants 3 months or younger call your doctor for any fever greater than 100.4. Children with a fever of less than 102 usually don’t require treatment unless they’re uncomfortable.
With our busy lives, most of us loathe to spend a day or two under the covers. But getting plenty of rest lets your body direct more energy to fighting off germs. Staying warm is also important, so tuck yourself in and give your immune cells a leg up in their noble battle.