Cold and flu season is hard to avoid, no matter what you do to not get sick. There are, thankfully, many steps we can take once we feel a cold coming on to lessen the impact and shorten the duration. I have several remedies in my natural medicine cabinet that I pull out when I feel that scratchy throat, extreme fatigue or sinus pressure. Some of them don't taste great, sure. But the results are worth it! Below I share my favourite natural cold and flu remedies that are easy to prepare, and most of them are made with inexpensive ingredients. First, let's work to prevent that cold and flu in the first place!
5 Ways To Fight Flu Season
- Sleep: Optimal sleep is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system.
- Keep it clean: Wash hands regularly, and use a netty pot to clean out the sinuses.
- Take the right supplements: Immune modulators like reishi mushroom are super for ensuring a strong and healthy terrain. Lactoferrin is another powerful immune modulator. It is advisable to take both in supplement form throughout cold and flu season, as well as during periods of intense stress.
- Avoid sugar and eat well: Glucose and Vitamin C compete for uptake. The more sugar we eat, the less we are able to absorb Vitamin C. Vitamin C increases the activity of our white blood cells, including antimicrobial and natural killer cell activities. It's recommended to high dose on immune-enhancing foods like red peppers and cucumber – both rich in Vitamin C – and culinary mushrooms like shiitakes.
- Manage stress: There is no greater hindrance to our health than stress. That's where stress reduction activities come in. Watch a comedy, go for a walk, sit in a sauna, stretch and breathe deeply and boost your immune function. Mindfulness meditation has been shown in studies to increase circulating antibodies.
My top 10 Favourite Natural Cold and flu Remedies
Have you tried this one? Spoiler alert: it tastes bad, but it's one of the most effective cold remedies I've ever tried. It's a mix of horseradish, garlic, onions, ginger, cayenne and apple cider vinegar, all of which have extremely potent anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. This remedy is in tincture form, so it's one of those natural cold remedies that you can keep in your pantry and it lasts a long time. It's something you could use year round, but it may take some time for you to build a tolerance to the unpalatable taste!
You can get full instructions for my favourite fire cider-making method here.
Elderberries are the opposite of fire cider in the taste department, but they are no less effective at dampening colds and flu. They are packed with antioxidants, particularly Vitamin C, and studies show that elderberries can help shorten the duration of colds, and even help air travellers prevent and shorten the length of the common cold.
As a bonus, elderberry syrups are extremely tasty. Grab my favourite elderberry syrup recipe and enjoy!
Chaga and Reishi Mushrooms
Known as the king and queen of the mushroom world, chaga and reishi both help to boost and modulate the immune system, protect against colds and flu, and they have anti-cancer properties. Tougher whole mushrooms like chaga and reishi will need to be boiled or tinctured for consumption, but you can also find mushroom powders in natural health food stores or cook with other culinary mushrooms, like in my famous mushroom soup recipe.
Turmeric is a highly anti-inflammatory spice. It has anti-microbial properties and it can aid with respiratory conditions as well like bronchitis and coughs. There are many different ways you can consume turmeric in your diet, but when it comes to natural cold remedies I prefer these recipes:
- Turmeric Tea: One of the most popular recipes on my blog, which contains other anti-inflammatory spices.
- Cold and Flu Tonic: This recipe combines turmeric with citrus and ginger for extra Vitamin C and immune-boosting power.
Bone Broth (or Vegetable Broth)
Rich in minerals and amino acids, research indicates that bone broth can act as a remedy for the common cold. It's also warm, soothing and easy to digest if you have a scratchy throat or an upset stomach. If you're vegetarian or vegan, you can instead load up your broth with immune-boosting veggies like garlic, onion, turmeric, ginger, mushrooms, goji berries and fresh or dried herbs.
Our digestive tract plays a large role in immunity, and probiotics and fermented foods help to support and strengthen our immune system. Research indicates that probiotics may help to prevent respiratory infections and a recent meta-analysis of 20 trials found that probiotics shorten the duration of colds in both children and adults.
While you can certainly add a high quality probiotic to your regime, fermented foods are a simple and effective way to consume a healthy dose of probiotic cultures. If you make them yourself, you'll also save a lot of money! Some recipes to try:
- Fermented Nut Cheese
- Coconut Kefir
- Kombucha (make sure you let this one ferment for a long time to eliminate the sugar, which can dampen immunity)
- Preserved Lemons
For fermented foods that have a brine, don't forget to save it to drink or use in other recipes. Sauerkraut juice was one of the first things we gave to our son to build his immunity and gut health.
Raw honey has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties and is a powerful antioxidant, helping to strengthen the immune system. The antiseptic properties of honey help to clean wounds, support the digestive tract and inhibit bacterial growth. It also promotes healing, reduces swelling and prevents infections.
Research on honey and the common cold shows that it can provide relief from cold symptoms, particularly coughing and mucus production. You can take a little bit of honey on its own, or mix it with one of the other cold remedies mentioned below.
Chopped Garlic + Honey
This is a tried-and-true remedy, and most of us probably have garlic on hand and honey in the pantry, so it's simple to make. Garlic is fantastic for banishing symptoms of colds and flu, and for boosting the immune system. Mince or crush one large clove of garlic and down it with a spoonful of honey to help it go down easy. You can also try this trick with a bit of cinnamon too, which adds extra anti-inflammatory properties.
Ginger is another wonderful anti-inflammatory herb and as natural cold and flu remedies go, it has a lot to offer. It reduces nausea, alleviates pain from a sore throat, reduces cold symptoms, and stimulates the part of the immune system that produces anti-bodies, amping up your body's natural defences. My ginger tea recipe is a favourite of mine during cold and flu season and if you're feeling brave, you could add a bit of garlic to this one too!
Lemons, limes, oranges and citrus fruits are loaded with Vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that shortens the length of the common cold and boosts immunity. Our adrenal glands use up a ton of Vitamin C during times of stress - and illness is certainly a stressful situation in our bodies. You can juice citrus, eat whole oranges or grapefruit, or add slices to hot or cold water. And don't forget to use the zest - there is a concentration of nutrients in the zest, too.
Here is one of my favourite warm elixir recipes to help me keep my immune system running optimally.
Yield: 2 servings
- 1 Tbsp raw cacao power
- 1 Tbsp dandelion root extract
- 1 tsp reishi extract
- 1 Tbsp hemp seeds )
- 1 Tbsp prepared Irish Moss(optional)
- 1 tsp buffered vitamin C powder
- Raw honey to taste
- 2-3 cups warm or hot water or herbal tea
- Place all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. With less powerful blenders, you may want to pour through a nut sack or fine mesh sieve to ensure a smooth drink.
- Drink up!
The effectiveness of natural cold and flu remedies may depend on your constitution when you start taking them and your tolerance for the ones that aren't as tasty. Try experimenting with some of these to discover which ones work best for you and your family. And let me know if there are more natural cold remedies not listed here that work for you!