When the flu bites, when the cold stings… these are a few of my least favorite things… Fortunately, some cases of illness can be easily prevented, and even once an illness has struck, natural and herbal remedies can help shorten the duration and get you feeling better faster. I posted before about what I keep in my medicine cabinet (and in my purse when traveling), but since we are getting in to the heat.. er, cold, of flu season, I thought more information could be helpful.
Cold and Flu Prevention
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure… you’ve heard it a million times, but how does it practically relate to illness prevention? In short, giving the body what it needs and keeping a constant supply of nutrients will help ensure that the body can resist any pathogen it encounters. Following a basic Wellness Lifestyle will go a long way toward preventing illness, as you will be supporting the body to function optimally. Avoiding grains, sugars and other highly starchy foodswill also ensure that the body is functioning at peak immunity should it encounter a virus or bacteria. Some studies show that optimizing vitamin D goes a long way to preventing illness and shortening duration. Getting enough sleep is also crucial to preventing illness, and even a couple nights of interrupted or not enough sleep can leave the body worn down and unable to resist illness. Regular exercise has also been shown to reduce the number of times a person gets ill per year and the duration. But I’m sure you are already doing all that… so in the off chance you are doing all of the above and you still get sick, don’t worry- there are natural ways to heal faster!
Natural Remedies for Cold, Flu, & Illness
Once you or your child has contracted an illness, there are a lot of natural options that can shorten the duration of the illness and lessen the symptoms. I’ve included my whole bag of tricks below, so pick and choose what works for you. I get all my herbs that I don’t grow myself from Mountain Rose Herbs, though there are a lot of places that carry them. Just look for organically grown herbs and make sure they are fresh.
Home Remedies From Things Already In Your House
- Garlic– A powerhouse natural antibiotic, anti fungal, and antibacterial, garlic can tackle almost any illness. For the most potent effect, finely mince 1-2 cloves or 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.
- Hydrogen Peroxide– At the first sign of cold, flu, sinus infection, or ear infection, put a dropper full of hydrogen peroxide into each ear. Have the person lie still with the hydrogen peroxide in the ear until it stops bubbling. Do this on both sides. This is especially effective for kids. Repeat every few hours until infection is gone.
- Hot Liquids– This one is pretty instinctive, but load up on the hot herbal teas and hot lemon water at first sign of illness. The heat helps boost immune system and a variety of herbs can help with infection.
- Cinnamon– Good for more than just stabilizing blood sugar, cinnamon is an effective antiviral and antibiotic. When sick, mix 1 tablespoon with 1 teaspoon of honey and stir to make a spicy and very effective tea that helps relieve cough and congestion and lower fever.
- Face Steam– In a pinch, this can be made with kitchen herbs. Boil 1-2 cups of water in a large pot. Remove from heat, add 2 teaspoons each of thyme, rosemary and oregano. Cover for 5 minutes with a lid, and then remove lid and put face directly over pot with towel covering your head to hold in the heat. Breathe in the steam as long as you can, aim for 15 minutes. This will help loosen congestion and kill viruses and bacteria in the lungs, bronchials or sinuses. Alternately, you can use 1/2 cup vinegar in the steam. It won’t smell great, but it will help fight the illness.
- Remove White Foods– At the first sign of illness, completely remove all white foods from the diet. This includes grains, sugars, milk, cheese, dairy, sweeteners, soda, etc. These foods suppress immune function and slow the body’s healing ability. When you are ill, you don’t actually need to eat a lot of food, as the body needs to focus more on healing than digestion. Eat fresh chicken soup and drink hot liquids to keep strength up.
- Hydrate and Rest– If the body is running a fever (which means it is fighting the illness) the best support you can give is to stay well hydrated on water and herbal teas and to rest enough. The body needs several extra hours of rest a day when ill, and often several extra glasses of water also. If you are running a fever, it is easier to get dehydrated, so drink enough water!
Herbs to Help Remedy Cold and Flu
There are many herbs that support the body when healing from an illness. I recommend buying these from a trusted source online or growing them yourself, though you can find some of them at supplement stores.
- Nettle Leaf– Some natural doctors say this is the only herb needed for illness treatment. It contains large amounts of vitamins and trace minerals and helps the body stay hydrated and remove toxins. In a tea with Red Raspberry Leaf, Alfalfa and Peppermint, it makes a powerful immune supporting and illness preventing remedy.
- Elderberry– Elderberry is well known for supporting the body, especially during flu. You can find conventionally made elderberry syrups at many stores now, or to save money, make your own. Here is the recipe.
- Ginger– In capsule form, ginger can greatly help with nausea and vomiting associated with the flu. It can also help with high fever and headache. Fresh ginger root can be steeped in boiling water to make a tea that is very effective against sinus symptoms and congestion.
- Yarrow– Unsurpassed for flu and fever, and great for children. If used abundantly in tea or tincture at the beginning of an illness, it will usually shorten the illness to less than 24 hours. It is especially good for fevers as it induces perspiration and is great for all childhood type illnesses. It is naturally bitter, so it is often good to include peppermint and stevia leaf when making a tea. It is great for the liver and kidneys and supports the endocrine system.
- Chamomile– An absolute staple, especially for kids. Chamomile calms the nerves, helps children sleep better and reduces inflammation or fever. Soaking a chamomile tea bag in warm water and placing over an eye for 15 minutes every 2 hours will relieve pink eye in less than 24 hours. Chamomile tastes great and is easy to get kids to take. We use it in tea and tincture formula. It is also great for regulating hormones and for the skin and can be used regularly for good sleep.
- Peppermint– Great for all digestive disturbances and for lowering fever. It can be used as a tea or tincture or rubbed on the skin to bring a high fever down. It is antimicrobial and antiviral and kids usually love the taste. It can be consumed as a hot tea or cold tea during illness in any amounts.
- Catnip– A traditional cold and flu remedy, and a great herb for children. It helps induce sleep and settles the stomach. As a tincture or tea, it is a great herb for combating flu, cold or other illness.
- Red Clover– Very high in nutrients, Red Clover purifies the blood and relaxes the body. It has been used in hormonal preparations, but is also useful in treating almost any illness. Can be used in tea or tincture.
Vitamins For Cold and Flu Treatment
- Vitamin D3– A hormone precursor, this vitamin is finally getting recognition as a necessary nutrient for health. Optimizing Vitamin D levels can help prevent illness in the first place, and taking several thousand IU a day while sick can help speed recovery. Blood tests can help determine any underlying deficiency. This can also be obtained from supplements like Fermented Cod Liver Oil.
- Vitamin C– Perhaps the best vitamin for cold and flu, vitamin C in large amounts can greatly speed recovery. We take a real food form from camu camu and acerola cherry.
- Zinc– Can reduce the severity of a cold or flu virus and can help shorten the duration of illness.
Natural Antibiotics and Antivirals for Illness
There are several potent natural antibiotics that in some cases work much better than store bought varieties. The following are ones I keep around at all times:
- Oregano and Oregano Oil– Oregano oil is a potent natural antibiotic and antiviral. I diffuse this as needed during illness or use a tiny amount (diluted) on the feet.
- Thyme and Thyme Oil– A tea (not nice tasting) made from thyme is very effective against cold and flu. Thyme oil rubbed on the skin will help the body fight infection. Pregnant women and small children should not use thyme.
Other Effective Natural Remedies
- Coconut Oil– Coconut oil is high in lauric acid and is thought to dissolve the lipid coating around some viruses and make them more susceptible to attack by the immune system. If sick, aim for 5-6 tablespoons per day in food or melted and stirred into hot tea. Coconut oil has many other health benefits as well and is known to boost the immune system.
- Onions and Garlic on the Feet at night– For extreme cases of illness, I slice onion and garlic and place all over the bottom of the infected person’s foot (rub olive oil on the foot first). I then wrap the foot in saran wrap and place a sock on overnight. Onions and garlic have been shown to pull toxins and help the body heal. Some natural practitioners even claim that having cut onions around will absorb toxins and keep others in the family from getting sick, though I have not tried this.
- Apple Cider Vinegar Gargle and Drink– Yes, it tastes awful, but if you are sick enough, you won’t taste it anyway. Drink a tablespoon in water (gargle first) at the first sign of illness and repeat hourly until symptoms disappear. This alkalizes the body and helps kill viruses and bacteria.
A Natural Remedy Reference
There are a lot of options in natural illness treatment, so what do you actually do when illness hits? Below is my reference sheet that I keep in my herb cabinet for reference whenever anyone in the family starts to show signs of illness. The earlier you can catch an illness, often the easier it is to beat.
- Hydrogen Peroxide in ears (be careful if you have sensitive skin. only use 3% and dilute if needed)
- Removal of all grains, dairy, sugars, etc.
- Consumption of only water with chlorophyll and herbal teas
- Garlic in water followed by cinnamon honey tea (twice a day)
- Chamomile, Yarrow, Catnip and Peppermint tincture (every 3 hours)
- Cool nettle, red raspberry, alfalfa and peppermint tea to sip with grapefruit seed extract added
- Elderberry syrup every 2 hours
- Vitamin C and Zinc every 2-3 hours in small doses until bowel tolerance
- Apple cider vinegar gargle and drink every few hours if they will take it
- Hot tea with melted coconut oil before bed
- Onions and garlic on feet during sleep
How to Make Your Own Herbal Tincture for Kids
This tincture is great for symptom relief for kids and adults. I have found it to work better than Tylenol or cough syrups and it is healthier too! It is simple to make, and you can get all the ingredients here.
Herbal Tincture Ingredients
- 2/3 cup dried chamomile flowers
- 2/3 cup dried yarrow flowers
- 2/3 cup dried peppermint leaf
- 2/3 cup dried catnip herb
- 100 proof vodka
Herbal Tincture Instructions
- Put all herbs in 1 quart mason glass jar
- Pour 80-100 proof vodka over herbs, filling jar
- Let steep at least two weeks, but preferably 2 months, shaking daily.
- Store in cool, dark place.
- After 2 weeks-2 months, strain liquid through cheesecloth and store in glass dropper botles for easy use. Store in a cool, dark place and it will last indefinitely.
- Use 8-10 drops for kids over age 2 whenever ill.
Important Notes: If you have concerns about any sickness, talk to your family physician. Do your own research on natural remedies to ensure that you think they are safe.