As someone who’s spent years dealing with a compromised immune system, preventing colds, flu, and infection has become a priority for me. In particular, I’m always looking for the most effective natural cold and flu remedies.
The key to preventing and fighting off viruses is building up strong immunity, but it’s often easier said than done. Of course, good nutrition, sufficient sleep, and proper stress management are all critical to maintaining a healthy immune system. But despite our best efforts, sometimes those pesky bugs still get us.
Although medication has its time and place, it often treats only the symptoms and causes undesirable side effects. Instead, I’ve come to lean on several natural, immune-supporting remedies that have proven to be more effective, healthy, and safe (when used properly). These natural cold and flu remedies are my go-to’s for fighting off and treating those nasty viruses. And yes, I’ve found that they actually work! Even when I do get sick, the duration is much shorter and my symptoms are far more manageable than they have been in the past.
***The following is my personal experience with these natural remedies and should not replace professional medical advice. Please consult your healthcare practitioner before starting any supplementation, especially if you have a medical condition.***
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Natural Cold and Flu Remedies
1. Bone Broth
Bone broth has been around for ages, and it’s the reason that good old fashioned chicken soup — the kind that’s made from scratch — is still one of the best things you can consume when your body is in need of a little TLC. In particular, it has been shown to have medicinal properties when treating upper respiratory tract infections. Among its many other health benefits, bone broth supports a healthy gut, boosts immunity, and reduces inflammation. I use my bone broth as a base for soups or just to sip by itself. Just be sure to use bones from organic, pasture-raised sources. Adding garlic and onion can add more immune-boosting benefits. I also like to add some turmeric to my soup for added anti-inflammatory support.
Typically, you’ll get the best healing results with long-simmered bone broth, but if you have a histamine intolerance or are still in the early stages of healing your leaky gut and have to avoid long-simmered broth, you can still enjoy the benefits by consuming meat broth (i.e. meat stock) or short-simmered Instant Pot broth instead. (If you’re not into making your own and would like to have quality pre-made bone broth stocked up and conveniently ready to consume at any time, here is my favorite shelf-stable bone broth.)
2. Oregano Oil
Oregano oil’s antiviral properties make it one of my top natural cold and flu remedies. It has been found to be particularly effective for upper respiratory tract infections (in addition to other viruses). At the advice of a functional medicine doctor, I started taking oregano oil capsules at the first sign of a cold, and it has been one of my favorite go-to’s ever since. If I feel like I’m under the weather, I up my intake to two capsules a day, and find it to be quite effective. Just be sure to always take it with a full plate of food, as it can cause stomach upset otherwise. I like and use these oregano oil capsules.
3. Elderberry Syrup
Immune-boosting elderberries have been used for centuries as a natural remedy. Studies show that they effectively treat a variety of ailments, including colds and flu. I have yet to try making elderberry syrup from scratch, so I purchase pre-made elderberry syrup instead, like this one. It can also be helpful with seasonal allergies, so it’s a win-win for me.
4. Raw Honey
Raw honey, with its antiviral, antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties, has been a favorite healing remedy for centuries. It has been shown to boost immunity, aid as a cough suppressant, and help treat bacterial infections, ulcers, and nausea. Active Manuka honey has been found to be particularly beneficial (here is a list of certified brands). A small bite of raw honey is always soothing when I have a sore throat. Be sure to consume only raw, unpasteurized honey, preferably from a local and responsible beekeeper, and check with your doctor first if you are immunocompromised (and honey of any sort should never be fed to a baby under one year old).
Since the bulk of our immune system lies in the gut, probiotic-containing foods play an important role in keeping both the digestive tract and immune system healthy. The best way to get probiotics is via foods like fermented vegetables, such as unpasteurized and unprocessed pickles and sauerkraut, which contain live cultures (this usually requires fermenting your own foods at home, although the Bubbies brand does offer a live culture commercial option). Since I’ve recently discovered I have a histamine intolerance (which means I have to cut back on fermented foods), I now rely solely on a quality probiotic supplement as part of my daily diet.
6. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has been used as a healing remedy for ages due to its believed antimicrobial, antifungal, anti-glycemic, and anti-inflammatory properties. While there are many anecdotal claims as to ACV’s health benefits, there also numerous published studies showing that ACV can aid with diabetes management, weight loss, and healthy digestion (and unlike other vinegars, ACV is alkalizing to the body.). It is also touted for its ability to support the immune system (and is believed to help fight sinus congestion, sore throat, and allergies), and it’s no wonder with its prebiotic and probiotic properties. I like incorporating a teaspoon of ACV in my morning tea, particularly while I’m feeling under the weather. Just be sure to always dilute it (never drink it straight), consume it in moderation, and consume a raw, unfiltered version (save your distilled white vinegar for cleaning and laundry!).
Studies have shown that among its many health benefits, cinnamon has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. It’s been praised for its ability to fight against colds, sore throats, coughs, and even some stomach bugs. Cinnamon should be consumed in moderate amounts, and if you are on medication, consult your doctor if you are considering taking it as a supplement.
8. Essential Oils
I’ve already raved about oregano oil as one of my favorite natural cold and flu remedies, but there are many other essential oils that can help fight viruses and alleviate symptoms. Studies show that essential oils, such as cinnamon bark, lemon-grass, clove, and thyme oils, have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that can help fight viruses. Meanwhile, oils like eucalyptus can be used to help alleviate sinus congestion. I like this “thieves oil” blend, which I use aromatically in a diffuser. If I use it topically, I use this pre-diluted roll-on version. I find that essential oils can be especially effective while using them in combination with some of the other remedies listed above.
The following is my favorite tea remedy when I’m fighting a cold. It is also helpful in soothing the tummy!
- 1 cup hot filtered water
- 1 teabag of your favorite organic herbal tea (I like peppermint)
- 1 tsp raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp raw (or certified Manuka) honey
- ¼ tsp organic ground cinnamon
Simply steep, stir, and sip!
What are some of your favorite natural cold and flu remedies?