We're in the middle of another flu season, and the bugs are more vicious than ever. You can do your best to prevent infection before it happens, but if you wind up sneezing and sweating anyway, it's important to know how to treat during your illness-and heal afterward.
Prevent the flu: Reduce Your Chances of Getting a Bug
Even the flu vaccine isn't foolproof. A recent study found the most common flu shot was effective in only 59 percent of people. But you can naturally reduce your chances with herbs, food, and simple preventive measures:
Take herbs to prevent flu such as ginseng, echinacea, boneset, and Andrographis paniculata
Studies show the Korean (Panax) form of ginseng boosts immunity, wards off both colds and flu, shortens their duration, and can help the flu vaccine work better. Siberian ginseng, an herb that's not actually related to true ginseng, has similar effects, including immune-boosting antiviral activities. Other flu-preventive herbs include echinacea, boneset, and Andrographis paniculata. All of these are best used at the first sign of illness, so keep some on hand and take them the minute you start to feel sick.
Source Naturals Wellness Formula
Reach for zinc to bolster your immune system
Zinc lozenges have been shown to reduce duration of colds and flu when taken at the very first signs of sickness. Follow label directions for dosage. You can also use these if people around you are sick to bolster your immune system.
Quantum Health Thera Zinc Elderberry Lozenges
Wash your hands
Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Don't use antibacterial soaps or hand sanitizers-some contain ingredients that contribute to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Use a natural antiviral soap that contains tea tree, lavender, and/or eucalyptus oil. And choose natural hand sanitizers made with lavender or other botanicals.
EO Lavender Hand Sanitizer Spray
Clean up your diet and take probiotics daily
Keep your body strong with clean, whole foods. Avoid dairy, sugar, coffee, alcohol, and fried foods. Increase your intake of probiotic-rich fermented foods, and take a probiotic supplement daily: studies show probiotics can reduce the incidence of colds and flu. And enhance your meals with garlic. It has antibacterial and antiviral properties.
Nature's Answer Probiotic Lite (shown here in Raspberry Lemonade flavor)
Head for homeopathy such as Oscillococcinum to stop flu
Oscillococcinum, a homeopathic remedy that's widely used in Europe, can stop the flu in its tracks. It works best if taken the moment you feel something coming on.
Homeopathic Single Remedies for the Flu
In addition to Oscillococcinum, the following homeopathic medicines can help if you are coming down with the flu. Here are the primary symptoms indicating each-pick one that most closely matches your symptoms:
- Arsenicum: a flu that begins in the middle of the night, and includes chills, vomiting, and a sense of anxiety and restlessness.
- Eupatorium: aching in the bones and onset with chills, followed by fever.
- Nux vomica: nausea, cramping, chills, and cold.
- Rhus tox: stiffness, pain, tossing and turning; especially useful for flu that follows exposure to cold and damp weather.
- Aconite: a flu that comes on very suddenly and includes a high fever and anxiety that are worse in the evening.
- Phosphorus: a flu that shows up in the chest almost immediately, and is marked by desire for frequent cold beverages.
- Mercurius: sore throat, bad taste in mouth, and frequently alternating hot and cold.
- Belladonna: sudden high fever, red face, pounding or pulsing headache.
- Bryonia:aversion to motion, headache, body aches, dry cough, and irritability.
- Gelsemium: extreme fatigue, chills, aches, and a decrease in thirst.
Home Remedies for Flu Treatment: Soothe Symptoms and Speed Healing
Caught a bug anyway? The best advice is to lay low and nourish your body as best you can. Rest, hydration, and healing herbs can shorten the duration of colds and flu. Cancel appointments, turn off your phone, and head to bed with the following remedies:
Steam with oils
Warm, moist air opens up bronchial passageways and soothes irritation for faster healing. Fill a pot with water, bring to a steamy simmer, and remove from heat; add a few drops of essential oil-juniper contains antiviral compounds that can fight infection, or try tea tree, thyme, or rosemary-and lean your face over the pot, being careful not to get too close to the hot steam. Cover your head with a towel, and inhale deeply. To steam all day long, keep a pot of water with a few drops of essential oils simmering on the stove, and run a warm-air humidifier in your bedroom at night.
Aura Cacia Tea Tree, White Thyme, and Juniper Berry essential oils
Soothe sore throats
Calm your itchy, raw throat with mucilaginous herbs that coat the sensitive membranes. Slippery elm, fenugreek, and licorice are best, and licorice has the added benefit of glycyrrhizin, a compound that acts as an expectorant to loosen mucus and also has powerful antiviral and microbial actions. Look for these ingredients in cough drops or cough syrups, or use dried herbs and make a throat-coating tea. Check with your doctor if you have high blood pressure-licorice can elevate blood pressure in some people. And use osha tincture or syrup: made from a root that's rich in antiviral and antibacterial compounds, osha has a mild numbing action that helps soothe sore throats, and can treat other symptoms of the flu, including coughs and lung and nasal congestion.
Herbs Etc. Singer's Saving Grace Extra Strength Soothing Throat Spray
Take vitamin C
Many studies show it not only prevents but also treats flu and other viral infections. Start with 250-500 mg four to six times a day, for up to 2,000 mg a day. Studies suggest taking vitamin C frequently throughout the day, rather than in one concentrated dose, is best, unless you're using a time-release product. For maximum effectiveness, choose ascorbic acid in combination with bioflavonoids and other associated micronutrients. If higher doses of ascorbic acid upset your stomach, try buffered forms (Ester-C) or liposomal vitamin C. These two types of vitamin C are thought to be easier to absorb than traditional ascorbic acid.
American Health Ester-C 500 mg Tabs
Make a pot of chicken soup
It's more than folk medicine. Modern studies show chicken soup is filled with ingredients that reduce inflammation, ease symptoms, and promote healing. Add lots of garlic to boost immunity. Other healing ingredients to simmer in your soup:
Onions are rich in quercetin, an anti-inflammatory and immune-supportive antioxidant
Ginger is an antiviral that's especially helpful for healing respiratory illnesses.
Shiitake mushrooms are powerful antivirals, and they also enhance immunity.
Bone broths, including chicken, are rich in vitamins and minerals. Look for ready-made versions that taste just like they were homemade.
Recover from the Flu with These Natural Remedies:
Heal Your Body Post-Flu
It's not unusual to take several days, or even a couple of weeks, to feel better after the flu; the flu virus is a systemic illness, and impacts almost every part of the body, so recovery can be slow. Ease back into your routine, and keep supporting your body with these natural measures:
Nourish your body with protein, fruits and vegetables, and probiotics
It's normal to have less appetite after the flu, but it's also critical to nourish and rebuild your body. The body especially needs protein to rebuild and heal. Nutrient-dense smoothies made with hemp or rice protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, yogurt, and chia and hemp seeds add protein, fiber, antioxidants, and immune-boosting probiotics to your diet. Try this: combine 1 cup plain yogurt with 1 cup fresh or thawed frozen berries, 2 tablespoons protein powder, 2 teaspoons each chia and hemp seeds, and a handful of spinach. Purée until smooth and drink immediately.
Natural Factors VegiDay Plant-Based Protein
Cure your cough
An ongoing cough is common after the flu because the virus leaves airways swollen and sensitive, and the body is still trying to rid the lungs of mucus. Raw, unfiltered honey may be superior to over-the-counter cough medications, and it's also rich in antiviral and antibacterial compounds to reduce the risk of further infection. To expel mucus, try herbs that act as expectorants. Some of the best include eucalyptus, elecampane, coltsfoot, angelica, hyssop, fenugreek, mullein, thyme, and osha. Look for them in combinations, as tinctures, or as teas.
WishGarden Herbs Get OVER It!
Boost energy gently
Low energy is one of the most common complaints after a bout of the flu. Gently restore yours with adaptogens that help the whole body recover. Some of the most popular: ashwagandha, schisandra, holy basil, rhodiola, and maca. Be sure you're getting enough vitamins and minerals; a food-based daily supplement can fill any gaps. Resist the urge to turn to coffee for energy. If you need a little caffeine, drink black or green tea instead. Both contain immune-supportive compounds, and tea also contains theophylline, a compound that benefits respiration.
Gaia Herbs Adrenal Health Daily Support
View our Raspberry-Ginger Flu Gummies Recipe