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Today we are talking about the best natural remedies for the cold and flu to help you heal as quickly as possible!
Last week we gave you 6 ways to boost your immune system to prevent the cold and flu, but sometimes there’s just no fighting it off. If you do happen to get sick this season, we’ve got you covered with this guide to the best natural remedies for the cold and flu that can help you decrease the duration of your illness and lessen the symptoms!
Rest, Rest, Rest
Yes. It is so important we are talking about it for cold care too, because rest is the number one remedy to speed up your recovery! Most of us know that we need rest when we are sick, but have trouble actually doing it (guilty!). I’m here to tell you that while you may feel like you don’t have the time to rest, if you keep pushing yourself while you’re sick you’re just going to extend the life of your cold and potentially make it worse, so take the time you need.
In case you aren’t convinced, here’s the science: pushing ourselves too far, too fast, too much can decrease our immune system which causes our cortisol levels to rise. This decreases the efficiency of our immune system. When we are in a healthy state, our bodies can easily adapt to this stress over time, which is how we get stronger, and build muscle and endurance. However, if our immune system is already weakened and we are fighting something (like a bug), this exertion can cause the bug to worsen as our immune system isn’t able to fight back with much power. When we are sick, our body is already stressed, so adding exercise and/or pushing ourselves too hard only adds to the stress load which then makes us sicker.
We can’t discuss rest and not emphasize: SLEEP! Back to this crucial pillar of wellness. Sleep is the most beneficial thing we can do for our bodies, especially when we are sick! Sleep is a restorative process that helps our body slow down to heal and recover. Relaxation, rest or even sleep may not come easy for you, but we want to encourage you to do what you can to make it happen- especially when sick! Try to add in practices to promote relaxation that helps you fall asleep and/or relax: listen to relaxing music, read a book or magazine, put your phone and other electronics away, meditate, take a hot bath, and do what you need to to make yourself comfortable!
Yes, you know this one too, but sometimes it’s easiest to overlook the advice we hear all the time! When we’re sick, especially when dealing with a cough or sore throat, it can be especially hard to get enough fluids in. I want to encourage you to do your best to stay hydrated anyway! Why? Fluids help loosen congestion, prevent dehydration, and flush those cold and flu bugs out of your system. Warm fluids are particularly great as they soothe the throat and help break up congestion even more efficiently, here are our two favorite warm beverages for fighting the flu:
Hot Teas. Incorporating hot tea in your recovery not only helps you hydrate but the warm liquid coats your throat and breaks up the congestion while moistening the mucus membranes. Add some honey to your teas for an antibacterial and antioxidant booster. Honey can also soothe a sore throat and act as a natural cough suppressant. All herbal teas can be beneficial, but a few have some specific properties that can help aid in your recovery with a cold or flu.
- Lemon Ginger Tea: Ginger can help relieve congestion and lessen sore throats while lemons are high in vitamin C, have antiviral and antibacterial properties.
- Throat coat tea: This tea is a blend of herbal ingredients beneficial for cold and flu symptoms. The primary ingredients are slippery elm and licorice root. Slippery elm has antioxidant properties and anti-inflammatory properties. Licorice root has anti-inflammatory properties that helps relieve mucus membrane irritation.
- Throat comfort. This tea has many herbal ingredients that are beneficial for cold and flu symptoms as well. Its primary ingredient is wild cherry bark. Wild cherry bark can act as a natural expectorant – which helps thin the mucus in your airways. This tea also contains licorice, fennel (natural expectorant) cinnamon (high in antioxidants).
Bone Broth. Bone broth is a great fluid to be sipping on as fight your cold or flu symptoms. It is packed full with nutrients: iron, potassium sodium, vitamin C, selenium, and magnesium. Bone broth contains essential amino acids that can help boost your immune system and reduce inflammation. So, you’re getting a big bang for your buck by hydrating, drinking warm liquids AND getting a great nutrient boost when utilizing bone broth. Add some bone broth throughout your day by sipping on it warm for a boost in hydration or use bone broth as a base for your soup!
Elderberries are high in the antioxidant anthocyanidins, which gives the elderberry the beautiful dark, purple color. These compounds help boost the immune system. Elderberries also have anti-inflammatory properties. Incorporating elderberry syrup a few times throughout the day gives you a little punch of immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, rich nutrients to help aide in the fight. You can make your own or buy pre-made elderberry syrup.
While all vitamins and minerals are important and absolutely support our overall health, the right combination makes for one of the best natural remedies for the cold and flu.
Zinc: Zinc has been shown to shorten the length of the common cold, especially if taken within the first 24 hours of symptoms. Zinc may work by preventing the multiplying of the virus and may help protect the mucus membranes by preventing the virus from getting settled and making a home there.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D plays a huge role in strengthening the immune system and fighting off intruders. Vitamin D decreases inflammatory proteins as well as increase anti-microbial proteins in your body.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a great antioxidant and helps fight infection as well as boost your immune system. It also has been shown to help shorten the length of a cold. You can up your consumption by prioritizing foods that are high in vitamin C.
Garlic. Garlic has great antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, which can help fight any of the bacteria or bugs you may have. It also promotes a healthy gut, which helps boost your immune system. Did you know ~70%-80% of your immune defense in in your digestive tract? Garlic can also help clear your nasal passageway as well as clear out that mucus. You can eat garlic raw (may not be the kindest for your breath, but it can punch those sinuses!), add to juice or smoothie, cook with it, or add it to soup.
This may sound like an odd one, but it can be so beneficial! The warm/hot air helps clear congestion by breaking up the mucus which improves breathing. The heat also helps kill any heat sensitive bacteria or viruses that may be in your airways
There are a couple of ways you can incorporate steam into your cold and flu care:
- Take a hot shower, close all of the doors and do not turn on the fan. Let your bathroom get nice and steamy. Enjoy the long shower and breath in that excess steam.
- If you’re not in the mood for a shower or if your bathroom is too large, another way to incorporate steam is by isolating it. Boil some water and place in a bowl. Carefully and safely, lean forward and put your head above the steamy bowl of water and draping a towel over your head to catch the steam that is rising out of the bowl. Note: Be careful not to hurt yourself or burn yourself with the hot water!
As an added bonus, you can also add essential oils to your steam to help clear your congestion. Eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, and peppermint essential oil are all fantastic for this purpose!
Nasal Rinsing and Irrigation
Often known as the “Neti Pot,” this is one of the best natural remedies for the cold and flu in my opinion. I was very resistant to the idea of using a Neti Pot, but I finally gave in out of desperation and I only wished I had done it sooner! Nasal irrigation can help reduce symptoms and decrease the duration of the cold. It helps break up and wash out the mucus to clear your sinuses. Nasal irrigation also clears your sinuses of allergens and other molecules triggering the congestion. The rinsing action helps prevent the bacteria from making a home in the mucus membrane and/or nasal passageway, which helps prevent further infection. One note of caution, make sure to follow the directions on the box, and when using, you must use distilled water, do not use tap water!
We hope that this guide to the best natural remedies for the cold and flu will help you get over your cold quicker this season! Do you have any other natural remedies you use when you get sick? Tell us about them below!
Amanda Schiefelbein says
So helpful! Especially because I’m pregnant and there aren’t a lot of medicines I can take at the moment. Thank you so much!
Hey Cassy, thanks for the tips! Love natural remedy articles like this.