Natural remedies for cold and flu
We all know the symptoms of the common cold well and many of us have also experienced the dreaded flu. On average each year, we become infected with a cold (sore throat, cough, mild fever) two to four times. Another 15% to 20% suffer with the flu. Since both the cold and flu are viral infections, they cannot be prevented, but we can relieve symptoms. Read on for our top 10 most effective natural remedies below.
Echinacea is a traditional medicine used by Native American tribes for a variety of ailments. It may help to boost the immune system to fight infections. Check with your GP before taking echinachia since it has been know to interact with other medications.
Black and green tea contain catechin, a phytochemical thought to have natural antibiotic and antioxidant properties. Adding freshly cut ginger and lemon to hot water can also sooth the throat and help with congestion.
Vitamins C and D
Both vitamins C and D have been studied extensively in their relation to preventing the symptoms of the common cold and flu. Making sure you have plenty of both in your diet can make the cold or flu shorter and more mild. Look for natural food sources to add these vitamins to your daily diet.
Eating infection fighting foods
Eating well will strengthen your immunity and you’ll fend off viruses more easily. Try adding these foods to your diet to give your immune system a cold fighting boost.
- Garlic – used in herbal medicine for centuries. It’s been shown to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal effects
- Coconut water – natural sugar to fuel your body and is full of electrolytes, which helps to rehydrate after suffering a fever, diarrhoea or vomiting.
- Bell peppers – high level of vitamin c, an important vitamin in staving off cold symptoms
- Honey – antibacterial and antiseptic properties and soothes a dry cough.
- Ginger – used in herbal medicine and as a home remedy best known for its anti-nausea effects. Add fresh ginger to hot water, or your cooking to reap it’s benefits.
- Probiotics – allow the good bacteria in your gut to multiply, helping your immune system fend off unhealthy bacteria. Get yours from probiotic supplements or yogurt.
Eating a diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables is key. Try to limit meat as well as processed and fried foods.
Salt water gargle and nasal spray
Gargling can help to ease a sore throat and rinse out irritants temporarily. Try with half a teaspoon of salt dissolved in 8 ounces warm water, four times daily.
Nasal sprays and drops help to thin mucus and flush it out, proving an effective method for relieving painful sinus congestion.
Dry air can cause mucus to become thick and dry. In turn, this may lead to a congested nose, sore throat, and sinus pain. Humidifiers help by adding moisture to the area, which can help to ease congestion and relieve dry, irritated sinuses.
Rest helps your body to heal by directing more energy to fighting the virus. Most of our recovery is done in our sleep, allowing our immune system to better fight viral infections if we are well rested.
Look after your sinuses
Blow your nose often rather than breathing mucus back into your throat. Avoid adding pressure to your sinuses. This can cause ear ache by sending germ filled mucus into your ear canals and is often the result of blowing your nose too hard, take it easy! Apply hot or cold (either works) compresses to congested sinuses – frozen peas and a warm cloth work just fine to ease tension.
A UK study found that high doses of zinc supplements (a popular natural remedy for colds and flu) may shorten a cold by almost three days. But there are also findings with worrying side effects. Most hazardous of all, some oral zinc products contain cadmium, which at high doses can lead to kidney failure. Please check with your GP before taking zinc supplements.
Recognise when your body just needs time, rather than remedies
Know when to not treat viruses at all. The symptoms of a cold and flu are part of your bodies natural healing process and evidence that your immune system is working well. A fever is your body’s way of creating an inhospitable environment for a virus to live in. So if you do endure a moderate fever for a day or two, you may actually get well sooner. Coughing is another productive symptom since it clears your airway of mucus that can carry germs to your lungs and the rest of your body. A congested nose increases blood flow, warms the infected area and helps mucus carry germs out of your body. Sometimes we just need to let nature run its course.
Serious conditions such as sinus infections, bronchitis, meningitis, strep throat, and asthma, can look like the common cold. If you are worried about your symptoms, get in touch with your GP.
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