Natural Ways to Not Feel Like Crap During Colds and Flu

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Once upon a time, or actually twice upon a time now, we’ve met up with several families for a week of vacation. With 20+ kids in one house for a week, what could possibly go wrong?

Turns out, lots of things, but one in particular:

All the kids getting sick. In a row. All week long.

It was super fun… or not so much.

Easy Natural Cold and Flu Remedies

The incident not-so-lovingly-known as “the great minor cold pandemic of family vacation” was not serious and passed pretty quickly, but we had a rough couple of days.

Thankfully, many of the moms were well-versed in natural remedies and collectively pulled out the herbs, spices, raw honey, garlic, essential oils, and supplements to get the kids through it pretty quickly.

Important…

Of course, it’s important to see a medical professional for any major or serious illness. Back then I didn’t have a doctor I could text, and in most cases would end up taking the kids in and paying a co-pay just to have a doctor tell me to give my kids water and soup!

Over time I learned and started turning to natural remedies. (And we do go to the doctor for anything major or serious or that lasts longer than a few days.)

For viral illnesses that conventional medicine can’t do much for anyway, I turn to these natural remedies. They won’t knock out all symptoms or provide the same pain relief of over-the-counter drugs, but they help ease the crappish feeling of a cold (super scientific term, eh?).

Kitchen Remedies to Ease Discomfort

Even if I don’t have access to my whole natural medicine cabinet, some simple grocery store remedies can make a big difference! These are my go-to kitchen remedies:

Lots of Water

I find that we all feel better when we stay well hydrated, but especially during illness. Doctors often recommend rest and hydration for minor illness and the advice is sound. At first sign of illness, we make sure to sip water all day to support the body’s natural healing process. This remedy is mostly free but super important.

Raw Garlic

One of nature’s most potent remedies is also one of the easiest to find in any grocery store. It has been extensively researched in over 5,000 studies for its natural ability to help the body recover. Raw garlic is available in many stores and relatively inexpensive. To take it, I mince it and drink with a small amount of water. For my kids, I’ll also mix with honey or maple syrup or add to food to tone down the taste.

Face Steam

I love this incredibly soothing remedy that is easily made with kitchen herbs. What I do:

  • Boil 1-2 cups of water in a large pot and remove from the heat.
  • Add 2 teaspoons each of thyme, rosemary, and oregano.
  • Cover the pan for 5 minutes with a lid, and then remove lid and let the sick person lean over the pot (careful not to touch it). The person covers his or her head with a towel to hold in the steam and breathes the steam to help ease discomfort.

We try to breathe in the steam as long as we can, or for about 15 minutes. This seems to help loosen congestion and soothe the throat and sinuses.

See the full recipe and method here.

Herbal Teas

Herbal teas can also be very soothing during illness. I keep my ten favorite herbal teas on hand all the time, but we drink them often during illness. Many herbal teas are now available in regular grocery stores. I personally like chamomile and peppermint for easing discomfort during colds and flu.

Bone Broth and Soup

Chicken soup is the age-old remedy for illness, and we also turn to broth and soups when we don’t feel well. These can be made with ingredients from a regular grocery store. Homemade bone broth and homemade chicken soup are soothing remedies during illness and a source of protein and minerals.

When I don’t have homemade, I buy this brand that is long simmered from grass-fed bones for the gelatin many other store-bought brands don’t have. I order online for the best price, but it is now easily found in most grocery stores.

Lemon Juice or Ginger

I find fresh lemon juice and fresh ginger in water especially soothing for illnesses involving respiratory issues or sore throat. During illness, I’ll squeeze an entire lemon and slice a piece of ginger into hot or cold water for a soothing drink. Lemon juice is beneficial in other ways too and many people drink it each morning. Again, this is something you can pick up quickly when needed.

Electrolyte Drink

When my kids really don’t feel well and don’t feel like drinking, I sneak some remedies in by making a natural electrolyte drink. They like the flavor and I’m able to get some vitamin C and minerals in. We also take our favorite electrolytes whenever we travel in case we don’t have the ingredients for homemade.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Certainly not a favorite remedy for many due to the strong taste, but apple cider vinegar can really soothe a sore throat and has many benefits. I’ll drink a teaspoon (or up to a tablespoon) in water during illness. Adding honey makes the taste more palatable.

Other Natural Remedies

A few of my other favorite natural remedies are not readily available in all stores, but I always keep them on hand:

Elderberry

Elderberry is a great natural remedy with a long history of use. I keep dried elderberries on hand at all times to make several different remedies.

Homemade elderberry syrup is my go-to during any illness. The homemade version is very similar to Sambucol, which is available nationwide in many places.

Vitamin C

Many studies show that vitamin C can really help battle cold and flu. We always have it on hand and take it every few hours during illness.

Detox Baths

A detox bath may not really speed recovery during an illness, but it certainly seems to help ease discomfort. I often turn to these detox baths during minor illnesses to help ease symptoms.

Herbs to Help Remedy Cold and Flu

There are many herbs that support the body when healing from an illness. I always keep these around just in case:

  1. Nettle Leaf: 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, nettle makes a powerful immune supporting and illness preventing remedy.
  2. Elderberry: Well-known for supporting the immune system. You can find conventionally made elderberry syrups at many stores now, or to save money, make your own. Here is the recipe.
  3. Ginger: Fresh ginger root can be steeped in boiling water to make a tea that is very effective against sinus symptoms and congestion. Ginger baths are a soothing way to stop some of the discomfort of body aches.
  4. Yarrow: This is a common herb for children. Many children’s remedies include yarrow for its soothing properties. It is naturally bitter, so it is often good to include peppermint and stevia leaf (or raw honey) when making a tea. It is great for the liver and kidneys and supports the endocrine system.
  5. Chamomile: An absolute staple for our kids. Chamomile is calming and seems to help children sleep. It tastes great and is easy to get kids to take. We use it in tea and tincture form. My kids always ask for chamomile tea with raw honey when sick.
  6. Peppermint: Great for all digestive disturbances and for calming a 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. Take as a hot tea or cold tea during illness in any amounts.

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Scott Soerries, MD, Family Physician and Medical Director of SteadyMD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

How do you keep from getting sick or remedy it naturally when you do? Share your tips below!

Sources:

  1. Braun H, Von andrian-werburg J, Malisova O, et al. Differing Water Intake and Hydration Status in Three European Countries-A Day-to-Day Analysis. Nutrients. 2019;11(4). doi: 10.3390/nu11040773
  2. Lissiman E, Bhasale AL, Cohen M. Garlic for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;(11):CD006206. doi: 10.1002/14651858
  3. Ulbricht C, Basch E, Cheung L, et al. An evidence-based systematic review of elderberry and elderflower (Sambucus nigra) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. J Diet Suppl. 2014;11(1):80-120. doi: 10.3109/19390211.2013.859852
  4. Mathes, A., & Bellanger, R. (2010). Herbs and Other Dietary Supplements: Current Regulations and Recommendations for Use to Maintain Health in the Management of the Common Cold or Other Related Infectious Respiratory Illnesses. Journal of Pharmacy Practice, 23(2), 117–127. https://doi.org/10.1177/0897190009358711