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Written by Blair Wolff   
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Thursday, 11 January 2018

Home Remedies for Cold and Flu

As soon as you start to feel that itchy throat, get the chills or sneeze that first sneeze, do you run to the drug store and purchase as many over the counter remedies as you can fit into your shopping cart? Are you popping cold meds before you even leave the store? Do you call your doctor and demand antibiotics to be called into your pharmacy immediately? I, too, am guilty of having done all these things. Unfortunately, there might not be a single cure for the common cold since “there are so many types of virus and they mutate rapidly.”1 Similar to the cold, the flu is also a virus so antibiotics won’t work since they only kill bacteria. Getting the flu shot is recommended but it is not foolproof.  Recent studies show that the vaccine only “reduces the risk of flu illness by 50% to 60% among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are like the vaccine viruses.”2 While there might be no true cure to your common cold and seasonal flu, rather then spending tons of money at the drugstore and going crazy over reading dosages, directions, active ingredients, inactive ingredients and above all panic inducing warnings, try some good, old-fashioned and natural ways to ease your suffering.

Overdoing the Over-The-Counter
Home Remedies for Cold and Flu - Handfull of over the counter pillsi
It is important to note that while over-the-counter cold and flu products may work as effectively as natural remedies, they can be expensive and dangerous if not used properly.  In 2015, professors at California State University and University of California conducted a study and found that in five surveys of more that 600 adults, “most were unaware that taking two or more off-the-shelf pain relievers and cold medicines was risky, potentially leading to severe liver disease and other health risks.”3 So if you do decide to go the over-the-counter route, make sure to read directions and avoid making a cold or flu medication cocktail.

In addition to medication you ingest, beware of nasal decongestion products. Although some results of studies suggest that zinc can help to ease symptoms of the common cold, the FDA has warned against zinc-based nasal products.4 Frighteningly enough, “in 2009 taking zinc nasal products was linked to a permanent loss of taste and smell in some people.”5 Beware other nasal remedies such as Afrin and Neo-Synephrine. They might initially seem great since they can “shrink swollen tissues in seconds to minutes, letting in an exhilarating rush of fresh air,” however, “after three or four days of continuous use, the sprays can cause the nasal linings to swell up again, even when the cold or attack of sinusitis or allergy that originally caused the problem has passed.”6 Moral of the story, if you decide to drown your symptom sorrows with over-the-counter cold and flu products, just make sure to read all labels and directions carefully. Now onto the natural approach!

When you feel that nasty, unwanted cold coming on, rather than going into panic mode and buying every cold and flu product you can find at the drugstore, go the natural route to ease your symptoms. For nasal decongestion, instead of shooting your nose up with sprays, try making hot ginger tea. Gingerol, the compound found in the family ginger helps to relieve congestion since it “lessens inflammation of mucous membranes that line the nasal passages and the sinus cavity.”7 Once the swelling goes down, mucus can flow and work to dispel the virus.  Here is one way you can make a hot ginger tea. You will need:8
  • 6-8 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger root
  • A pinch of cinnamon (optional)
  • A squirt of lemon juice (optional)
  • A dash of honey (optional)
  • 4 cups of freshly boiled water
  • A glass jar (at least 1 quart)
Once you gather your ingredients, place the ginger and pinch of cinnamon into a quart sized jar and pour enough boiling water over it to cover the ginger. Steep for 30-40 minutes making sure the jar is completely covered so that the essential oil does not evaporate. Strain the concoction into a mug and add lemon and honey if you wish. Be sure to breathe in the steam to loosen up the mucous membranes, and enjoy!9 Other herbal teas to make you feel better when suffering from a cold or flu include:10
  • Peppermint tea: contains menthol that helps to break up congestion, has a calming effect, and naturally helps alleviate headaches and nausea;
  • Yarrow tea: relaxes you and helps with immune support, encourages your body to sweat to reduce fevers;
  • Clove tea: encourages sinuses to open for better breathing and soothing an upset stomach, makes it easier to cough up congestion in your lungs;
  • Licorice tea: aids in immune system support, helps to relieve sore throat, calms lung spasms, and thins mucus to help your cough be more productive.
Another classic way to naturally help reduce cold, flu, cough, and irritated sinus is steam inhalation.11 Steam inhalation is a “method of introducing warm, moist air into the lungs via the nose & throat for therapeutic benefit. The hot steam moistens the nasal passages, thus clearing your blocked nose and opens up congested sinuses allowing you to breathe more easily.”12 In addition, the hot steam circulating in your body causes temperature to rise and blood vessels to dilate, leading to improved blood circulation.13 Not only that, but the rise in body temperature notifies the immune system to increase the production of white blood cells creating a stronger defense against bacteria and germs.14 Here is a wonderful essential steam remedy. You will need:15
  • 5-10 drops of eucalyptus, tea tree oil, or a combination
  • A heatproof bowl
  • Water
  • A towel
Home remedies for cold and flu - Steam inhalationii
Once you have all of your ingredients, bring water to a boil and then pour several cups of the boiling water into a bowl containing the above listed essential oils. You may need to adjust the amount of essential oils you use if you are experiencing watery eyes or discomfort of any kind. Put your face directly over the bowl making sure to stay at a comfortable distance. Drape the towel over your head and bowl to trap all of the steam. Take in deep breaths and be sure to take breaks as needed. Blow your nose afterwards.  Repeat 2-3 times a day. Presto—breathe easier!

Other Great Natural Remedies
Another one of my favorite concoctions to help with a nasty cold or flu combines lemon, honey and garlic. It is a very simple remedy to make. All you have to do is crush up one medium-sized clove of garlic, put it in a glass and squeeze one lemon’s worth of juice in it, add a teaspoon or more of honey, and mix in warm water. Take this 2-3 times a day as long as symptoms endure.16 Garlic has been used for centuries going as far back as Ancient Egypt to help with a plethora of ailments. It truly is a magical! To learn more, check out this article !

Although there isn’t a true cure or 100% prevention for the common cold or flu, there are many natural and healthy ways to ease symptoms and quell your suffering.  So rather than drugging yourself with billion-dollar a year over-the-counter remedies, try some natural teas, essential oil steams, and eat that garlic!

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 10 January 2018 )