7 Natural Cold and Flu Remedies

natural remedies for cold and flu

*Note from Sarah: Another wonderful post by Katie of Wellness Mama!

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” but if you forgot that ounce, sometimes the pound of cure is well worth it too!

If you or your child catches a cold or flu this year, there are some natural remedies (that you probably already have at home) that can help shorten the duration and lessen the symptoms.

Simple things like getting enough rest, staying hydrated and drinking herbal teas can often make the biggest difference, but some other simple remedies can help if you want to take a more aggressive approach.

Home Remedies You Probably Already Have At Home

1. Garlic

Garlic naturally has a lot of antibiotic and antiviral properties and it can really help lessen the severity and time of an illness, in my experience. For maximum potency, finely mince a couple of cloves and drink it water. (Nasty, I know, but it works). This can be repeated every few hours until symptoms are gone. [Note: Pregnant women should not take more than 1 clove a day, and children often will not take this remedy.]

2. Herbal Face Steam

This remedy is great, especially for respiratory illnesses. In a large (2 gallon) pot, bring a few cups of water to a boil. When water boils, turn off heat and add a couple tablespoons each of rosemary, thyme and oregano. Stir well, cover for up to five minutes, and remove lid. Drape a towel over the head and lean over the pot, breathing in the steam. This will help loosen congestion and kill any bacteria that has accumulated in the lungs or respiratory track.

3. Hydrogen Peroxide

At the first sign of illness or ear infection, a few drops of hydrogen peroxide can do wonders! To keep the illness from getting worse, lay on one side of your body and put a dropperful of Hydrogen Peroxide in one ear. Let it stay in there until it stops bubbling and then repeat on the other side. This is especially useful for kids!

4. Cinnamon

Great at more than just increasing insulin sensitivity! To help with congestion and achy muscles, stir 1/2 tsp of cinnamon powder into hot herbal tea and drink. It is slightly spicy but can really take the edge off of congestion.

5. Coconut Oil

What does it not do? A few extra tablespoons of coconut oil can help shorten the duration of an illness. The lauric acid in coconut oil is thought to dissolve the  lipid coating around some viruses and make them more susceptible to attack by the immune system.

6. Apple Cider Vinegar

I know, it smells and tastes horrible! A teaspoon in warm water gargled and then drank can help sore throat symptoms and some sources also suggest that it can help kill viruses and bacteria.

7. Vitamin C 

Ok, so this one you might not have around, but Vitamin C is well known for its illness-fighting capabilities. We get powdered Vitamin C, since it can be added to applesauce, other foods or even smoothies to get kids to take it. I just mix into water and drink.

At the first sign of illness, we take 1/4 to 1/2 tsp every few hours until we reach bowel tolerance and then back down to half of the dose until symptoms disappear.

There are many other herbs and vitamins that can be helpful during illness, but these are our staples. Thankfully, between a healthy diet and these natural remedies, none of us get sick often, and illnesses don’t usually last long at all.

What are your at-home treatments for illnesses? Any tips or natural remedies that work well for you? Share below!

[Note: These treatments are not meant to replace medical care, especially in severe illnesses. Consult with your doctor before using natural remedies, especially if you have a medical condition or are pregnant. If symptoms of any illness don’t improve after a few days, consult your doctor.]

Comments

  1. says

    @ Joshua- it is definitely one of the ones we always have on hand and take regularly (and check blood levels a few times a year) but I’ve found that for acute treatment, it isn’t as effective as the ones above, though taken preventatively, it makes a tremendous difference!

  2. Amy says

    Sally Fallon chicken broth; miso soup, Dr. Bronner’s eucalyptus bath ; grapefruit seed extract/salt/hydrogen peroxide in the neti pot; Gypsy Cold Care Tea; hot toddies made with whiskey, lemons, cinnamon sticks and whole cloves.

  3. says

    Handy to have this list – just in case! I just realised the other day though that since I started eating Paleo a couple of years ago I haven’t had a single cold! I’m sure it’s not coincidence as I used to seem to get every cold going!

    • says

      Well heck. Just when I get busy and don’t check your blog, you come back and start posting again. Now I’ve got to catch up.Glad you’re back. Sorry you’re not feinleg well.Hope your little vitamin C cocktail helped a bit :)

  4. Neal W. says

    All bunk.

    The only reference you have is for vitamin C, but further studies have failed to replicate the findings of your reference.

    For shame.

    • Sarah says

      The alternative to trying totally harmless home remedies when sick with a cold or flu is to tough it out or to take over the counter cold medicines that have been proven harmful and ineffective for adults and especially to children. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cold-remedies/ID00036

      If your choice is to NOT try these home remedies, so be it, but please do not be rude to someone who is giving out helpful information for families who would rather take a more holistic approach to health care.

      • Leslie says

        The term “home remedies” is lost on some people. Keep moving, Neal W…keep moving. Even FDA drugs like pseudoephedrine work for some people. and not others even with “studies”. Geez.

      • Kim says

        I so agree as not everyone is the same and not all scientist are correct nor have all information as they dont have the time or money to do studies as they are very expensive.I however tried many of the tips and IMMEDIATELY felt better (I have the flu).I did these in order as listed but a little different on a few:
        1) I ate a dinner mint type peppermint
        2) I drank some chai tea with an added tsp of cinnamon and a little honey
        3) I drank 1/3 C apple cider vinegar with added honey for sweetness to be able to drink it
        4) baked a clove of garlic in oven for 20 mins at 350 covered with coconut oil (used cloves with oil drizzled on them on a piece of gf Rudi’s bread)
        I also use a humidifier and air purifier and drink immune boosters like blueberry juice and get protein from bean soup made with beef broth (I used butter beans).
        The last time I had the flu due to a compromised auto immune system I had influenza for over a month this time I felt bad yesterday and started this when I awakened and well I can type now (arms were way to sore to do it earlier) and feel so much better TY TY TY TY TY did I say ty?!!?!?! :) Keep up the great work!!!!!!!!!!!! <3

    • Marissa says

      Neal, don’t knock these home remedies until you’ve tried them. I was a skeptic, too, once. Not any more, especially after a nasty bout of bronchitis that conventional medicine wasn’t helping to get rid of. So I tried the garlic, coconut oil, and vitamins d and c remedies. Bronchitis finally got better with these treatments. (It was actually an urgent care doctor that recommend the garlic and vitamin c. I researched more on natural cures and decided to do the coconut oil and vitamin d, too.)

      Just because the money isn’t there to fully study the effects of these home remedies doesn’t mean they don’t work.

    • says

      Studies funded by pharmaceutical companies, and designed to show how safe and useful their expensive drugs are, will never encourage the use of cheaper, safer alternatives. Maybe some of these remedies aren’t terribly effective for some people, but they are less riskier than many of the FDA approved “treatments” with their endless list of side effects.

      And like Erik, the hydrogen peroxide works for me!

      • Heather says

        In addition to the above statements, one must remember that there is a lengthy list of site effects normally attached to FDA approved treatments which many people do not want to deal with. So please, don’t knock it because you haven’t found a “study” to back something up. Ask a grandparent how they used to fix themselves up when commercial and processed syrups, etc were unavailable or unattainable to them. I would beleive them before a study funded by a company which oddly enough will have data that comes out in their support no matter what.

  5. Lauren says

    I credit my acupuncturist (and my Italian grandma before her!) for this: a cup of ginger tea followed immediately by a hot bath or shower. Dress in layers and layers and wear as long as tolerable. Sniff some eucalyptus oil and keep up with the ginger tea; it’s healing properties amaze me!

  6. Jordan5 says

    I have used all remedies except for cinnamon, coconut oil and hydrogen peroxide, which I will definitely try. I LOVE the apple cider vinegar when I feel a sore throat coming on and has NEVER gotten worse, only better! It’s THE best for sore throats! As a child my mother would mince up raw garlic and mix it in with my food during the fall and winter months. As an adult, I have had to abstain from this remedy due to my husband’s dislike for garlic (body odor!).
    I am all about natural remedies /holistic approaches especially when they are the best things for our bodies and they do work!
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Sarah says

      My mom used to use garlic the same way and we always used the apple cider vinegar trick as kids as well and the peroxide, all worked great!! : )

  7. Shannon says

    Perfect timing! One question–what do you eat when you’re sick? Crackers, sports drinks, etc. are out. This is the first time I’ve been sick since going paleo, and none of the paleo foods sound good. That said, I know the box of saltiness I’m craving would only make things worse stomach-wise. FWIW, this is the longest I’ve gone without getting sick in years, and I think the only reason this broke through is because my toddler has been fighting it off for over a week. Going to try some of the remedies, since I can’t take cold meds–they make me too dizzy to function.

      • Shannon says

        Hmmm…maybe I’ll make it with some garlic, too! Tried the apple cider vinegar and it really helped. Thanks guys!!

    • says

      A lot of times I just fast… for me, it seems like I heal faster when I don’t eat. For the kids or when I do eat, we usually stick to things like applesauce, coconut flour muffins, soup, etc. I agree with Michelle though… chicken soup is great!

      • Laura B says

        I don’t know if there’s any science to back this up, but it seems like just giving your body a rest from digesting probably helps. And when you do eat something, eating simple, nutrient rich food like bone broth feels so good.

        I mean the bottom line here is that there are no cures for colds, we just have to keep our bodies running as efficiently as possible so they can fight off the cold. These remedies allow us to feel comfortable and able to rest and recuperate. If anything, over the counter cough and cold medicines just hinder our body’s efforts.

      • beatrice says

        I’m glad you posted about fasting and healing faster. I never talk about this to my friends or family for being thought odder than what they already think I am but I too fast when I’m sick and for some reason it works for me too!

    • jennifer says

      You could have some Schar saltines. They aren’t paleo but they are Gluten free and taste just like the regular saltines….

  8. says

    I’ll add one more — alfalfa tablets. I call them my “magic sore throat pills.” I’m prone to tonsilitis. Whenever my tonsils start to bother me, I just take the recommended dosage for a few days and it always clears right up.

  9. Sarah Lemmon says

    Thank you for posting these Wellness Mama articles. I had never heard of her site before and now I am having fun going through her old articles, learning new things and sharing on facebook. Thanks for the great resource!! :)

  10. Sujata says

    My “go-to” recipe for colds or sniffles of any kind – lemon juice, grated fresh ginger, honey in a mug with hot water. Drinking it puts me in a better frame of mind right away!

  11. Helen Maleh says

    I am new to Paleo and would appreciate all the information and recipes I can get. Thank you for your information

  12. Jen says

    Gypsy Coldcare Tea by Traditional Medicinals works great! You can buy it at most health food stores and some grocery/drug stores. At the first sign of a cold I start drinking a cup every hour. You can also throw the 6-10 bags into a hot bath to soak your whole body or just your feet.

  13. maria says

    Hi,

    This probably belongs with your previous post, but I thought that you might notice it here better. So, I have been using flax seed gel to style my hair, and it has worked fine. But now I have a new pixie crop, and the flax is not so good with that. I would like something that I could scrunch into my hair to get support and active my curl. Is there a recipe for home made salt spray or something similar? Or another kind of gel? Or maybe just a better recipe for flax seed gel? (I have used a pretty random recipe, with flax, water, honey, jojoba oil and it hardens my hair when it dries, plus it straightens it, which I definitely do NOT want, I want curl :) )

    Thanks

    Thanks, and sorry if this was a stupid question. You just seemed to know a lot about these things. And I would like to chuck that can of parabens and silicones and PEG etc.

  14. Maria says

    Hi Katie. Thank you for the link, I will try those. Do they work to put on damp hair and then let dry?

    To your question. Yes, I quite like it short. I think :) It is new, and I am just getting used to my new reflection in the mirror. And mine was actually a very spur of the moment kind of thing. My hairdresser just got bored of my hair growing project middle stages and suggested this :) If you want an interesting essay on having short hair, google Joan Juliet Buck & short hair. That convinced me that this was a good decision (even though there are parts in it I do not agree with, like the weight comment, I think it captures the experience quite well).

  15. Elle says

    Every household should have a NeilMed nasal irrigator. It functions like a Neti Pot (which was awful–I felt like I was drowning), but is much, much more pleasant and easier to use. There is no twisting your head to get the right angle so the water can flow properly. The NeilMed is a squeeze bottle. You just add the pre-measured powder packet contents to the bottle, add tepid water to the line on the bottle, lean over a sink (or in a shower) and gentle squeeze the bottle content into each nostril.

    I heard about this from my doctor after I went to her for one of my previously frequent sinus infections. I fully expected to be given antibiotics, like in the past, and instead she gave me a NeilMed sample kit. With the 1st treatment my sinus infection was gone. I was amazed. I used to have to go through 3 rounds of antibiotics.

    My doctor says next time use the NeilMed at the first sign of a cold. Also, some people who have chronic sinus trouble, or allergies benefit from using this pro-actively once or twice a day.

    This is available at just about every drugstore, general merchandiser, and I think even Costco has it. My doctor said I could make my own powder with I think she said sea salt, and baking powder. I tried, but if you don’t get it just right it can end up stinging your nasal cavity. Make it easy on yourself and just get the bottle with the little packets.

  16. Jenny says

    We swear by neti pots and eucalyptus oil in the shower! I also do the steam you recommended above but with eucalyptus oil and at night, lavender oil too (to help me sleep). We have buffered vitamin C and I also take some Chinese herbs, an isatis root pill and Southern Ban Lan Gen Chong Ji tea. I just started taking IgG 2000 DF (immunoglobulin G) for my digestive system but am looking forward to seeing if it also helps me from catching colds or the flu this season, as others report. This will be my first autumn/winter on the Paleo Schtick and I am REALLY looking forward to seeing how much better I fare. If nothing else, I have a shitload of homemade chicken stock in the freezer to drink if I do get ill, and know what other foods will keep me feeling nourished.

  17. Kim says

    I agree with natural remedies, I have 4 boys, ages 14, 16, 19 and 21 yrs. They have never Taken Antibiotics, I hope they never will need to. We have always approached symptoms with research and careful action. We consult our doctor, they give their best guess and prescribed their required medication,

    (fortunately, for us, our dr. has always agreed with us that we are our best advocate. We start with what works, don;t always give in to the masses) Garlic, Echinecea, Goldenseal, nasal washes with saline (salt Water) , vitamin C. water, moist air environment, rest, LOVE, prayer and HOT organic chamomile TEA calms the nerves…. (

    ps . Not scientifically supported.. But I believe our over the counter Tylenol/Advil/Motrin etc..fever reducer and pain killers interfere with the bodies natural process of healing. Use in moderation.. A high fever is not 100, it can be a sign that our body is doing what it should. Let it work. We need to stop fooling our body that there isn’t a problem. We only rob it of being able to heal naturally.

  18. Jeanette Lopatka says

    Fermented Cod Liver oil is a staple in my house! When I stop taking it, I get sick. Also, following a nourishing traditions diet it important…. Make Bieler broth (homemade chicken stock, add zucchini, celery, and green beans) the veggies can be either whole or blended. you can add coconut milk and coconut oil to make it “creamy” Try to avoid meat at this time as it is taxing on the kidneys when you are sick with the flu. To the person who made the post regarding immune system and digestion, you are absolutely right! Every time you put something in your mouth, you call on your immune system to do a job. If it is already doing a job fighting a cold, you don’t want to ask it to do more! http://www.westonaprice.org has more great ideas!

  19. Vitadoc says

    Elderberry syrup… studies from Israel to back this up. Vitamin C-seen people do 30-40,000 mg a day or more when ill with virus. Healthy people aren’t going to be able to get near those dosages. Zinc lozenges , mushrooms (shiitake , maitake, reishi) extracts or use in soups/broths …the beta glucans in mushrooms are very good at mobilizing the immune system. I love colostrum as well for overall immune system.

  20. Laurelia says

    Great suggestions here. I’m with Lauren and the ginger tea. Fresh ginger slices boiled in water work best for me, sweetened with a little honey. Anti-inflammatory, reduces symptoms, and seems to help things progress faster. Also, I teach voice to kids out of my home. Though I encourage them to stay home when they are sick, they often do not. So I daily take an immune-boosting tincture that includes cat’s claw and reishi mushroom. Plenty of sleep and staying warm are helpful too!

  21. Julie says

    I’ve been doing Whole 30/Paleo and I’m on week 3. My daughter is on day 4 of the flu and I succumbed yesterday. Interestingly, while I’m tired and have had fever, I have minimal head or chest congestion. I’m guessing because of grain and milk elimination from my diet.

  22. Renee says

    I woke up with the sniffles and feeling a bit under the weather for the first time in a long time. I grabbed a cup of peppermint tea (I seem to be out of Gypsy Cold Care) and googled “paleo battling a cold.” I ended up here…AGAIN! After the first couple ideas, I took a pause to add cinnamon and coconut oil to my tea (plus a spoonful straight-up) then continued reading. Don’t know how well it will work, but it sure tastes good! You’re fast becoming my resource for everything…recipes, workouts, health info. Maybe next time I’ll forget about Google and come straight here.

  23. jennlove says

    hi i just googled paleo flue cure and i came upon your blog. let me start by saying i am not full on with paleo but i firmly believe in its benefits. i havent been this sick in 2 years and i stopped eating completely paleo about 6 months ago, i try to stay at least 80% paleo but here i am with the flu and i know i could have avoided it. i have a lot of chest congestion and pain and just got over a pretty terrible sinus infection. i also have body aches headaches and am severly tired and i have body aches. my question is, should i try all of these suggestions you have on here ?…or which ones have you sen to be more important?… thank you :]

  24. Catherine says

    Thank you for this great source of information. Trying out your garlic suggestion–warmed up some homemade bone broth that I grated fresh ginger and garlic cloves into and I will be sipping that this evening. Going to try the hydrogen peroxide in a bit. Thanks again!

  25. A says

    I’ve used garlic as a remedy for many colds and also for bladder infections with success. I haven’t had to take antibiotics for over 1.5 years, whereas I had to take them 2-3x/year before.

  26. Mary Sondra says

    I learned from my Dad to make a garlic soup for colds. Mince 3 cloves of garlic, add 2 T of chopped fresh parsley, 3 T coconut oil, 2 T of water, a sprinkle of oregano, thyme and rosemary to taste, and heat till warm and oil is melted. Yummy! Chew it up well, and don’t skimp on the parsley–it neutralizes the garlic odor! This soup serves one, but can be made in larger quantities and shared with the whole family if colds are going around, for either healing or preventative measure. Take 3 or 4 times a day till symptoms are better.

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  28. Ashley says

    For children you can mince up some garlic, mix it with coconut oil and then rub it on their feet and put their socks over it (the socks will smell like garlic afterward). I do this also, and if you put enough you can taste the garlic after rubbing it in your feet. It is much better than eatting it raw!

    Thanks for the Apple cider trick, I had never tried that one before and found it helpful!

  29. mommyme says

    As a mommy currently taking care of her 2 sick babies. I am all about trying to find natural remedies to cure these colds. I have used many different alternatives. I am not sure if any of you are trying to find really good information but I found this article and I found it to be really helpful – the Progressive kids probiotic really works. http://www.vivamagonline.com/natural-immunity-boosters/

  30. bryanambition says

    You should probably mention that it’s not just plain apple cider vinegar that is so beneficial–you need raw, unfiltered/unpasteurized apple cider vinegar “with the mother” (it will say this on the label). The “mother” is filmy particles you see floating around, and ensures your batch is live and full of beneficial enzymes. The most famous brand is probably Braggs, followed by Biona (especially here in the UK). Take a shot-sized amount in a large glass of water a few times a day (especially first thing in the morning) and it’ll work wonders.
    This stuff is magical–it’s my go-to for every kind of sickness I’ve ever had!

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