Natural Remedies for Cold and Flu Symptoms
There’s nothing fun about having a cold or flu—and all the annoying symptoms that can leave one feeling absolutely miserable.
Even after the worst of the illness has passed, symptoms like a sore throat, congestion, dry cough or fatigue can linger for a while, keeping us from feeling our best.
Over-the-counter cold and flu medications can definitely help, but many of them have side effects such as drowsiness that make us feel like we’re dragging through the day in a fog. In addition, the labels on many medications indicate they should only be taken for a certain number of days, although some symptoms, like a cough for instance, can continue for several weeks after the onset of a cold or flu.
Whether you prefer to treat your cold and flu symptoms primarily with natural remedies or in addition to over-the-counter medicines, here are some simple, natural and effective ways to start feeling better right away.
Fresh Ginger, Lemon & Honey Tea
This natural, wonder tea helps to alleviate a variety of bothersome cold and flu symptoms. It’s warm, comforting, soothing to a sore throat, helps clear sinuses and reduces coughing.
Ginger root contains ‘gingerol’, a compound that helps reduce inflammation.1
Lemon and honey not only taste great in ginger tea, they also help soothe an irritated throat. Lemons are loaded with immune system bolstering Vitamin C, and honey contains antibacterial properties.
You can buy ginger tea bags at the store and just add lemon and honey, but I’ve found making ginger tea at home from real ginger root tastes so much fresher and more delicious.
Here’s a simple recipe for making homemade fresh ginger, honey and lemon tea:
- 2 cups Water
- Small section Ginger Root, (Approx. 2-inches)
- Fresh Lemon
- Carefully peel the skin from the ginger root and cut it into ¼” slices.
- Boil water in a medium pot on the stove and then add the ginger slices.
- Cover and gently simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Strain out the ginger as you pour into a teacup.
- Add honey and lemon to taste and enjoy
- Makes about two 8-ounce cups of tea.
- Recipe can be easily doubled or tripled if you want more tea.
- Customize your tea to suit your taste by adding more ginger for stronger, spicier tea and less for a more subtle ginger taste.
Other Hot Teas & Beverages
Any type of hot tea, either plain or with honey, can help get rid of the chills, calm a stubborn cough and soothe a sore or scratchy throat.
Herbal teas are perfect for the evening and if you’re not caffeine sensitive, black teas can help perk you up and reduce fatigue during the daytime. Black tea is known to be rich in antioxidants and can help reduce inflammation, which is beneficial to those suffering from colds or the flu.
Just be sure not to overdo the caffeinated teas or other caffeinated beverages since they can be dehydrating. When you’re recovering from a cold or flu, keeping up your fluid intake and avoiding dehydration is especially important.
The Benefits of Peppermint Tea
Peppermint tea is also very helpful for those with cold and flu symptoms. According to an article from the University of Maryland Medical Center, “in test tubes, peppermint kills some types of bacteria, fungus, and viruses, suggesting it may have anti-bacterial properties.”
As far as peppermint’s benefits for sufferers of colds and flu, the UMMC article states: “Peppermint and its main active agent, menthol, are effective decongestants. Because menthol thins mucus, it is also a good expectorant, meaning that it helps loosen phlegm and break up coughs. It is soothing and calming for sore throats (pharyngitis) and dry coughs as well.” 2
So before you reach for the cough medicine to quiet a cough, try a cup of hot tea with honey first.
Many people experience at least some loss of appetite when they’re sick with a cold or flu, which means they may not be getting all the vitamins and nutrients they need to help fight off the illness.
Taking a Vitamin C supplement can help give your immune system a boost.
I love Emergen-C for this because it contains 1000 milligrams of Vitamin C as well as plenty of B Vitamins, antioxidants and electrolytes. When mixed with water, the packets make a fizzy drink that comes in a wide selection of flavors.
Vitamin C in the form of pills, chewable tablets or from foods rich in Vitamin C are other good options. Grapefruits, oranges, lemons, tomatoes and leafy green vegetables are all great sources of Vitamin C.
Gargle with Salt Water
Salt is one of nature’s best remedies for reducing inflammation. Gargling several times a day with warm salt water can reduce swelling and pain in your throat. The Mayo Clinic recommends using “¼ to ½ teaspoon of salt dissolved in an 8-ounce glass of warm water.” 3
Natural Cure for Headache and Sinus Pressure or Pain
The headaches, sinus pressure or pain that often accompany the flu or colds can be unbearable.
If you’re taking an over-the-counter multi-symptom cold or flu medication, it may have a pain reliever in it. If that’s not quite helping your headache or sinus pain go away, an ice cold gel eye mask can help relieve pain naturally.
I’ve found the cold gel eye mask from Elasto-Gel to be easier to use than a regular ice bag. It’s soft, flexible and contours to your face and has an adjustable strap to keep it in place.
It can be used over the eyes and bridge of nose for sinus pain and pressure or across the forehead for a headache.
Natural Cold and Flu Medications
It’s becoming much easier to find a variety of natural cold and flu medications in stores. I found the Zicam Naturals Cough Suppressant (pictured to the right) in a grocery store alongside all the regular cough medicines.
The active ingredient in the Zicam Cough is peppermint, which is a natural expectorant. This natural medicine seemed to help my stubborn cough just as well as a cough medicine that contains Dextromethorphan (a common cough suppressant).
You can find natural cold and flu medicines in some grocery stores, at most small local health food stores or at chain stores like Whole Foods. If you aren’t sure which one to get, ask someone who works at the store for some suggestions.
Have you ever experienced post-flu depression?
Natural Ways to Overcome Post-Flu Depression
If you’re feeling a little down after having the flu, you’re not alone. Post-flu depression is real and there’s a reason behind it.
According to Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Michael Roizen, "Your immune system is still recovering from its no-holds-barred battle against the flu virus, which required the unleashing of chemicals called cytokines that have a good cop/bad cop effect: Cytokines help your body fight the flu, but they also deplete your serotonin levels, the key “feel good” chemical in your brain.” 4
To overcome post-flu depression, stay well rested, drink plenty of water, eat right, take vitamins and get a little exercise, especially outside in the sunshine once you start to feel well enough.
Don’t push yourself to try to catch up on your missed work, house chores or laundry all at once. Pace yourself so you don’t feel overwhelmed until you start to feel like yourself again.
Other Helpful Things for Cold & Flu Symptoms
- Chicken Soup
- Tomato Soup
- Apples and other fruits
- Wrap yourself in a towel or blanket just out of the dryer
- Sleep with two pillows to breathe better if you're congested
- Try a hot cherry pit wrap around your shoulders to ease aches and pains
- Get lots of sleep
How do you typically treat your cold or flu symptoms?
1 - Ginger - Wikipedia
2 - Peppermint - University of Maryland Medical Center
3 - Salt Water Gargle - Mayo Clinic
4 - "Bouncing Back from the Post-Flu Blues" by Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Michael Roizen
© 2013 carolynkaye