From a stuffy nose to body aches, headaches and coughing so much that it keeps you up at night, getting sick is never fun.
Of course, the best way to avoid getting a cold or the flu in the first place is to live a low-stress, healthy lifestyle, where you eat lots of anti-inflammatory foods and get plenty of sleep. However, if you’ve already on your second box of tissues this week, you’re probably more interested in finding out how to get over those nasty cold and flu symptoms as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, when you get a cold, the flu or even a mild case of Covid-19, there’s no magic bullet that can cure you immediately, but there are lots of all-natural remedies you can use to lessen your symptoms and help you feel better faster.
Here are several all-natural remedies for a cold and the flu that you can try.
(Please note that the symptoms of a cold and flu may also be symptoms of Covid-19. If you feel that you have any of the symptoms of Covid-19, such as fever, fatigue, a dry cough or shortness of breath, please contact your physician).
GET A LOT OF SLEEP
As soon as you start to feel a cold or flu coming on, your first line of defense should always be to go back to bed. “It’s absolutely vital to get a lot of sleep,” says Tanya Tanzillo, a nurse practitioner and a functional medicine practitioner at the Center for Holistic Medicine. Sleep helps bolster your immune system and increases the production of T-cells, which fight off foreign invaders. Just remember, however, that you have to actually sleep for your body to fight off an infection. Spending the day “resting” while watching Netflix and checking your phone doesn’t cut it. Here are a few tips to get better sleep when you have a cold or the flu:
- Sleep with an Extra Pillow
If you’re waking up to cough or blow your nose all night, you won’t get a very restful sleep. To sleep more soundly, try elevating your head to relieve your congested nasal passages. You can either put an extra pillow under your head, or you can try putting pillows between the mattress and the box springs so you’re inclined on a gentle slope.
- Use a Cool Mist Humidifier
Tanzillo also recommends using a cool mist humidifier in your bedroom, which can reduce congestion and help you sleep more soundly. Plus, higher humidity can help stop viruses and bacteria from spreading, which may prevent the rest of your family members from getting sick.
WHAT TO EAT
- Avoid Eating Mucus-Producing Foods
If your cold symptoms include a runny or stuffed up nose or cough, Dr. Jerry Gore, clinical director of the Center for Holistic Medicine, says it’s a good idea to avoid eating any foods that will produce additional inflammation, especially refined sugar, as well as foods that create mucus in the body, including dairy products, bananas and peanut butter. Instead, he recommends eating lots of apples, pears and raw vegetables, which can help reduce mucus.
- Stay hydrated
“Staying hydrated is so important when you have the flu,” Tanzillo says. That’s because your body is using liquid to produce mucus, and you can also lose liquid if you are sweating from a fever. Hot liquids like soups and tea can with honey can soothe the inflamed membranes in your nose and throat. Tanzillo says bone broths are excellent as well. “The collagen in the bones has amino acids that are the building blocks that can help your immune system repair,” she says.
- Don’t Eat Too Much
There’s an old-fashioned saying that goes, “feed a cold, starve a fever,” which is not too different from what Dr. Gore recommends. He says when you have the flu, it’s best to cut down on your food intake in general. “Don’t eat a lot of food while you’re fighting off the flu. Just eat enough to maintain health,” he says. “It’s better to under-eat rather than over-eat.”
WHAT SUPPLEMENTS TO TAKE
There are many different supplements that are traditionally used to reduce the severity of cold and flu symptoms. Here are a few essential ones. However, for specific dosage information, please contact your physician.
- Vitamin C
Research has shown that taking vitamin C can reduce the length and severity of the common cold. That’s because when your body is fighting inflammation or an infection, your immune cells pump more vitamin C to help the cells fight off the infection. So, if you’re starting to feel sick, load up on foods that are high in vitamin C, such as oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes and more, or take a vitamin C supplement, such as Ester C, or a whole foods vitamin C product that has acerola cherries in it.
- Vitamin A
Vitamin A also plays a key role in the immune system and is known as the anti-infection vitamin because of its role in helping the body fight viruses and bacteria. It can be found in foods (such as carrots, sweet potatoes, kale and spinach) or can be taken in a supplement form.
Taking zinc supplements at the onset of a cold or flu may help to shorten the length of your cold and get you back on your feet faster. Dr. Gore recommends taking 15 to 50 mg of zinc a day when you’re sick, however for specific dosage information, please contact your physician.
- Vitamin D
Typically we get our Vitamin D from the sun, so it’s not surprising that when the days get shorter and we don’t get as much exposure to sunlight, our vitamin D levels drop and we’re more likely to get sick. If you feel a cold coming on, Tanzillo recommends taking a vitamin D supplement to help boost your immune system to get you back on track.
WHAT HERBS TO TAKE
Traditions also have shown that there are many different naturally occurring herbs that can fight off infections. Here are a few you can try:
Derived from a group of flowers similar to a daisy, echinacea has traditionally been used to fight off colds. It is thought to increase the production of white blood cells, which attack bacteria.
- Oil of Oregano
This essential oil – made from the same spice usually used in Italian foods – can be very effective in fighting colds and flus and has antiviral and antibacterial properties. You can either take it in drops that are diluted in water or in a capsule form.
HOMEOPATHIC REMEDIES TO TRY
Homeopathic remedies are a great way of treating a cold or a flu because usually they don’t cause any adverse side effects and you can take different types of homeopathic remedies tailored to the specific symptoms you are experiencing. Here are a few of the most common homeopathic remedies that Dr. Gore recommends for people with cold or flu symptoms.
- Aconite 30c
Taking aconite can be very helpful when taken at the very first hint of a cold. Dr. Gore says, “When you have a sudden chill and your energy goes down, take aconite and it may prevent you from getting sick.”
Another homeopathic remedy that can be very effective if taken at the first sign of getting sick.
- Gelsemium 30c
One of the most popular homeopathic remedies for the flu is gelsemium, which is ideal if your flu symptoms come on slowly and you are experiencing droopy energy, heavy eyelids or fatigue.
If your flu symptoms include severe pain in your limbs and back and if you almost feel as if your limbs are broken, try eurpatorium.
HAVE A HEALING ATTITUDE
How you mentally approach being sick can also have a big impact on how quickly you will be able to recover. “This is a time to rest, a time to take a break from life’s stresses,” says Dr. Gore. “It’s not a time for self-criticism or worry. It’s a time for self-nourishment and self-love.”
So instead of blaming yourself for being sick and worrying that you’re missing work, Dr. Gore recommends embracing your sickness as a sign that your body just needs a break.
Tanzillo says often patients try to push themselves to continue working from home instead of resting, but they recover more quickly when they give in to being sick. “When patients can unplug and take care of themselves, they’re going to fight the flu faster,” she says.