Natural Remedies for Colds, Flu, Sinusitis, and Infections
These are some of my longstanding, favorite remedies for cold symptoms, as well as a few more recent discoveries that I've added to the mix. Make sure to get your doctor’s blessings before partaking (I am not a doctor).
In this article, I provide natural remedies and alternative aids for:
- Nose and Sinus Symptoms
- Throat Symptoms
- Ear Symptoms
- General Detoxification
- Immune Support
Remedies for Nose and Sinus Issues
Salinated water may be used to flush out irritated sinus tissue.
A moist, warmed towel will help to relieve sinus pressure.
Can be used with essential oils to dispel nasal congestion and sinus pressure.
Contains medicinal herbs proven to relieve cold symptoms.
Sinus Relief Homeopathic Spray
Helps to relieve a variety of symptoms of the ears, eyes, nose, and throat.
1. Saline Wash
Oprah and Dr. Oz have popularized the Neti Pot for irrigating the nasal passages. I’ve included a video that demonstrates how it is used. For instance, I found out the hard way the importance of leaning over and turning your head side to side (as shown in the video) to drain the excess water out after irrigation. I’m also a bit more hardcore than the Neti Pot and use a bulb syringe. I buy several dozen at a time and use a new syringe every week.
Tips for Using the Neti Pot
- Use one pint of warm water and about a rounded teaspoon of salt. You’re trying to match your body’s salinity.
- Use unrefined, natural sea salt. If you can’t get sea salt, use non-iodized salt.
- You can add 1/8th teaspoon of baking soda, which helps to remove the mucus.
A saline wash should be soothing for your nasal passages if they are dry. I do them first thing each day to wash out excess mucus. When your nasal membranes are swollen and causing congestion, make the water a little more salty. That way, you can benefit from osmosis which draws out excess fluid from your nasal tissues.
Video: Nasal Irrigation With the Neti Pot
2. Hot Towel
A hot towel is great for relieving a sinus headache. This treatment never fails to give me at least slight, temporary relief from sinus pressure and pain. When that’s all you can get, you’ll take it, right? Here's how to benefit:
- Take a small bath towel (a hand towel is too small) and wet it with warm water. Squeeze out the excess water.
- Microwave the towel for 60 to 90 seconds.
- Lie down and place the towel over your entire face, including your nose and mouth.
- Try to breathe in and out through your nose, but use your mouth if you have to.
- As the towel begins to cool, you can fold it inside out and have another minute or so of heat. Return it to the microwave and repeat if needed.
I usually do this once, twice, or three times, then repeat throughout the day as needed. You can usually use one towel for 12 to 15 hours without it souring. It will, of course, take longer to heat the towel when it is completely cold.
3. Facial Steamer
A personal facial steamer can help relieve nasal congestion and stuffiness and decreases congestion which may cause sinus-pressure headaches. Most facial steamers have a little pan or depression where you can pour a few drops of something like eucalyptus oil into the water. This technique is a lot like using Vicks VapoRub with a humidifier, although you can just use plain water.
4. Herbal Teas
- Gypsy Cold Care
- Breathe Easy
- Echinacea Plus
- Throat Coat
Simply pour boiling water into your cup with the tea bag, cover with a saucer, and steep for 10 to 12 minutes.
5. Sinus Relief
I make sure I never run out of Dr. King's Natural Medicine Homeopathic Sinus Relief Spray, which I usually order from the Vitamin Shoppe. It is great for sinus-pressure headaches and most any sinus symptoms, such as sneezing, post-nasal drip, runny nose, congestion, and itchy eyes. During peak cold and flu season, I use it daily.
Remedies for Sore Throat
Salt Water Gargle
Saltwater helps to reduce swelling and loosens mucus.
Clay packs help draw out fluid and metabolic waste.
This herbal supplement helps soothe the throat.
Sore Throat and Laryngitis Homeopathic Spray
This spray offers a portable and natural alternative for sore throat relief.
1. Salt Water Gargle
Who hasn’t tried a salt water gargle for a sore or scratchy throat? It’s one of the easiest and cheapest remedies in the world. Here's how to benefit:
- Mix ½ teaspoon of non-iodized salt and ¼ teaspoon baking soda with 8 ounces of warm water.
- Gargle for 10 to 30 seconds, repeating several times.
- Make a saltier solution with 1 teaspoon of salt to draw fluid out of swollen tissues.
2. Clay Packs
Clay packs are useful for drawing out excess fluid and metabolic waste. Here's what to do:
- Hydrate swelling calcium bentonite clay with 2.2 parts water to 1 part clay.
- Hydrate swelling sodium bentonite clay with 3 or 4 parts water to 1 part clay.
- Hydrate the clay so that it barely holds together without falling apart.
- Apply to the external portion of the throat.
3. Slippery Elm
I only became aware of the benefits of slippery elm for sore throats or hoarseness a few years ago through a speech therapist I worked with. He said slippery elm is used by a lot of actors and singers.
You can get slippery elm tea from Traditional Medicinals as Herba Tussin or Throat Coat, or from Yogi as Throat Comfort. You can also get slippery elm lozenges by Thayers. I try to make sure I always have slippery elm tea or lozenges at my house and take some with me for speaking engagements.
4. Sore Throat and Laryngitis Homeopathic Spray
I try to have Dr. King's Natural Medicine Sore Throat and Laryngitis Homeopathic Spray on hand, though I don't need it often. I get laryngitis about once every year or two. Sometimes, I don't even feel sick, but I sound terrible, and it can linger for a couple weeks as hoarseness. I try to catch it early and start spraying this product to decrease the duration.
One year I got laryngitis while at my state conference and had to deliver my second lecture while whispering through a microphone. After that, I made sure to carry it with me every year that I was a speaker!
Remedies for Earaches
Garlic and Olive Oil
Garlic has many medicinal properties which have been shown to help fight infection.
Helps to passively remove debris from the ear canals.
Garlic and Olive Oil
I rarely get an earache, but one year I developed tremendous ear pressure hours before a forecasted thunderstorm (that never actually arrived). My ear pressure turned to pain that night, and I also experienced some same-sided throat pain.
My naturopath recommended mullein and garlic ear drops by Herb Pharm. They contain calendula flower, St. John’s wort flower top, mullein flower, garlic bulb, and organic olive oil. I bought some and have used it.
I first heard of ear candling in 2003 and tried it in a spa clinic. After that, my siblings and I did it on each other at home from time to time. I have reflux, so my ear canals are yeasty and often damp. Candling is a gentle way to remove wax and yeast. It can also relieve ear and sinus pressure. You can buy the candles (waxy paper tubes) from places like Sprouts and Whole Foods. In Texas, the larger HEB grocery stores and HEB Central Market carry them.
One year when I was in South Carolina for an extended visit, I got sick with sinus and allergy symptoms. When this happens, I get fluid behind my eardrums and sometimes my ears stay stopped up for one or even two months!
My dad’s wife is a massage therapist and did the candling for me while I was home. She did two candles each ear. It really drew out the fluid and yeast. The next two mornings, I awoke with my outer ear canals all crusty. It seems the candling did something to help my ears continue to drain! It was the first time in years that I was “sinus sick” but didn’t have the lingering stopped up ears. I visit S.C. about twice a year and always have her do the candling twice on each ear.
Video: How to Use Ear Candles
Remedies for Coughs
Garlic-Thyme Cough Syrup
Offers many natural, medicinal properties to boost the body's immune system.
Cough Homeopathic Spray
On-the-go spray for throat relief.
Garlic-Thyme Cough Syrup
Garlic-thyme syrup is a natural antibiotic, immune-system builder, lung cleanser and tonifier. Here's how to prepare it:
- Prepare 1 ½ ounces of crushed, fresh garlic and ½ ounces of chopped, fresh thyme in 1-quart of water.
- Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer until the liquid is reduced to 1 pint.
- Take 1 tablespoon of garlic-thyme syrup every 3 hours.
If you're not up for the preparation, you can get herbal cough syrups at health food stores. I tried one. It had a very strong taste but worked pretty well.
Cough Homeopathic Spray
Dr. King's Natural Medicine Cough Relief homeopathic spray is another option for coughing. It's very convenient when you're on the go and much easier than trying to take a syrup by spoon; it only takes a couple of seconds to use.
Remedies for Detoxification
Offers many medicinal properties that help aid the body in detoxification.
Castor oil can be absorbed transdermally and offers various essential nutrients to the body.
Garlic Foot Soak
This method offers another way to draw out impurities and warm the body.
Miscellaneous Liver Cleanses
Milk thistle extract, rosemary, and thyme help support the liver and gallbladder.
When you’re fighting an infection, it's not a bad idea to do something to help your body detoxify. Most strategies that assist the liver in detoxifying will do.
Ginger cleans the liver and blood. In terms of using it as a remedy, grating the ginger breaks it down and boiling it concentrates the potency. Soaking in it in the bath allows the ginger to penetrate through the skin into the tissues. Drinking one ounce of ginger water jumpstarts the liver. Here's how to benefit:
- Grate one large ginger root and boil everything—skin, pulp, and juice in a large pan of water for 20 minutes.
- Pour it through a strainer to remove the ginger pulp and skin. Keep the water for the bath, and reserve one ounce to drink.
- Place a layer of towels and a blanket on your bed. Run a hot bath.
- Add all of the ginger water except 1 ounce; soak for 10 minutes in the bath.
- Towel dry immediately.
- Drink the one ounce of reserved ginger water. Wrap yourself in towels and a blanket on your bed for 30 minutes. (Bundling up in towels and blankets induces a sweat, allowing toxins to leave the body.)
- Sleep immediately after.
I felt that my sinus and throat symptoms were at least slightly better after the ginger baths. This method may not offer immediate relief, but the bath seems to flush out toxins and speed recovery overall.
Video: How to Make a Castor Pack
Assisting the liver in detoxifying will help fight an infection. Use Palma Christi castor oil, available through Edgar Cayce website, or another 100%-pure castor oil to make a castor pack. I use pure castor oil by NOW. Here's how to benefit:
- Pour castor oil onto a thin cloth. The cloth should be saturated but not dripping. Place the cloth over the right side of the upper abdomen over the liver.
- Place a plastic bag over the castor pack, such as a plastic grocery bag.
- Place a heating pad over the castor pack. If you prefer, pads with a protective barrier are available from Edgar Cayce. Heat on high for 60 minutes.
- After your detox, clean your skin with witch hazel. As an alternative, you can mix 2 teaspoons of baking soda in 1 quart of warm water for cleaning your skin.
The castor oil acts as a cleanser and offers nutrients to the organs. Heat drives the castor oil through the skin to the tissues; it is gentle with no contraindications.
You can store your castor pack in a plastic Ziploc bag in the refrigerator for reuse. Reuse the castor pack cloth up to 10 times, then discard.
Garlic Foot Soak
My naturopath’s office provided instructions for one quart of water, which seemed counterintuitive for soaking two feet. I modified the instructions for ample water. Here's how to benefit from a garlic foot soak:
- Crush 20 cloves of garlic and let stand about 10 minutes to help the enzymes surface.
- Pour 3 quarts of water in a pan. Add crushed garlic as the water begins to boil. Bring to a full boil, then turn off the heat. Allow it to cool to tolerance.
- Pour garlic water into a large container and submerge your feet. Soak for 30 minutes.
I found it necessary to add 2 cups of hot water twice to keep my soak pleasantly warm.
Other Liver Cleansers
Take milk thistle extract capsules (often sold as silymarin). Milk thistle softens and soothes tissues and enables the body to heal from inflammation. It has been helpful in the treatment of cirrhosis of the liver, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and hepatitis. I usually take silymarin after my endoscopies to help flush out the drugs. We also used Milk Thistle on our spaniel when she had a reaction to her Frontline flea treatment.
You may also want to try fresh rosemary or thyme tea. Here's how to benefit:
- Chop the leaves and stems finely.
- Use 2 tablespoons per cup.
- Steep in hot water for 10 minutes.
- Drink 1 cup before and after meals.
The tea stimulates bile production and detoxifies and aids the gallbladder and liver.
Remedies for Immune Support and the Prevention of Infections
Herbal Infection Protocol
A handful of supplements that offer a variety of immune-boosting support.
Garlic and Parsley Soup
A strongly concentrated herbed soup with a broth base that is warming and offers essential nutrients.
Hemp is rich in the omegas and can be combined with a variety of superfoods for a tasty treat.
Dailey Advantage Supplements
Multi-nutrient supplements that can be taken daily to boost the immune system.
Herbal Infection Protocol
The “Infection Protocol” is ideal for anytime I feel like I'm coming down with a cold, the flu, or related sickness. At the slightest sign of sickness, such as a tickle in my throat, stuffy ears, pressure in my ears, heaviness in the chest, or whatever signs I recognize in my body, I take one each of the following every 2 hours, for one to two days:
- 500 mg echinacea, lymph builder and cleanser. The lymph system is a cleansing system of the body and a huge component of immune system health.
- 500 mg goldenseal, a natural antibiotic
- 500 mg cayenne, a blood cleanser
- 500 mg vitamin C, which acts as an immune system booster, a connective tissue builder, and an antioxidant.
Garlic and Parsley Soup
To benefit from a garlic and parsley soup, follow the recipe below:
- Peel, separate, and chop one head of garlic or about 20 cloves.
- Gently sauté the garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat for about 2 minutes.
- Add one quart or liter of chicken or vegetable broth, and one bunch of washed parsley, coarsely chopped.
- Lower the heat to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Strain and drink one cup every hour during acute sickness.
Video: Hemp Smoothie Preparation
Hemp has emerged in popularity as one of the most nutritious and beneficial foods available, so consider making an immune-boosting smoothie. My naturopath’s recipes are often vague on the amounts of ingredients to include, so here’s my current best guess on the smoothie ratios:
- 2 cups of unsweetened vanilla hemp milk
- 3 tablespoons of hemp hearts
- 1 tablespoon of golden flaxseed meal
- 1 tablespoon goji berries
- 1 teaspoon slippery elm powder
- 1 ripe banana
- stevia to taste
Combine in a blender, then sip throughout the day.
Daily Advantage Multinutrient Supplement
Multiple family members and at least one friend take Daily Advantage multi-nutrient supplements from DrWilliams.com. My father and I have been taking them for several years. One thing that I really like is that half of the supplements that I need for my prophylactic sinus survival regimen are in there. That saves me a lot of time in preparing my supplements.
Each box of Daily Advantage contains 60 packets, which is a one-month supply. Each packet contains 8 capsules, which you can review in the photos above. Take two packets per day. Shop on major American holidays like Memorial Day and Labor Day for big discounts.
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You take full legal responsibility for whatever decisions you make regarding your own health care.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2011 rmcrayne