20 Best Natural Home Remedies For the Cold, Cough & Flu

cold flu cough natural remedies runny nose headaches fever chills

With winter coming up, it’s only right to talk about the inevitable fevers, runny noses, and just being miserably sick.

Do you always find yourself getting a cold or the flu a few time every year? 

Do you feel like your immune system is always on vacation?

The common cold that plagues us year after year is right around the corner. If you live in an urban area, you know that avoiding sick people in tight areas (subway, buses, apartment buildings, skyscrapers, department stores) is near to impossible.

The #1 defense system to staying germ-free is hand washing!

Plain ol’ soap and water is more than enough to wash off all those pesky germs. It also prevents transmission of germs from other people to yourself.

You touch so many things all throughout the day – your phone, the subway pole, ATM buttons, door handles, keyboards, money, pens. This allows for germs to be passed on from person to person every millisecond! Gross.

If your immune system is even the tiniest bit compromised, the cold virus will find you and take full advantage. Chronic stress, a poor diet, and other factors weaken the immune system.

Herbs, vitamins, and minerals from around the world have been used for centuries to alleviate the symptoms of the common cold, cough, and flu.

When you’re sick, you are probably used to reaching for the nearest OTC medications in weakness and desperation. But OTC meds all have nasty side effects and can harm your body in the long run.

They also don’t work that well. Why?

It’s because OTC meds are designed to mask the symptoms, and not deal with what is making you sick in the first place.

What if you gave mother nature a chance to let its natural vitamins and herbs alleviate your worst symptoms–with little to no known side effects?

You can find some examples below for natural remedies that really work. You can use more than one at a time, to find what best works for you. The good news is, you can use these remedies year round (even when you’re not sick) as a preventative measure!

Tip: Get a few of these remedies ahead of time. That way, if you do get sick, you don’t have to drag yourself outside in the cold, to the drugstore.

Remedies For the Cold, Cough & Flu

1. Probiotics

probiotics natural white plain yogurt jars
Your own immune system is your first line of defense in fighting a cold or the flu.

When we do not have enough “good bacteria” in our system, pathogens take over and leave us susceptible to disease, cancers, and disorders.

80% of our immune system is found in our digestive system, so it is vital to maintain appropriate levels of probiotics in our gastro-intestinal system.

Live beneficial microbes in the digestive tract makes up a health gut. These good bacterias prevent an invasion of pathogens that make us sick. They also improve digestion, prevent constipation, synthesize Vitamin K, and keep a balanced pH level.

A lot of times, our beneficial microbes are accidentally wiped out by procedures that are intended to get rid of bad bacteria. These include: antibiotics (pill form, in our milk, meat, poultry, fish), recent surgeries, diarrhea (flushes out good and bad bacteria altogether), colon cleanses, too much fiber (destroys bacterial membranes), protein deficiency (protein creates mucin which is needed to create intestinal mucous – where bacterial flora thrive).

Method: Make sure to take probiotic-containing foods year round. Naturally occurring foods can be found in: water or milk Kefir, kombucha drinks, non-commercial unflavored yogurts, fermented foods, sauerkraut.

Quality probiotic capsules can also be found at your local health food store or online.

Recommended:

2. Echinacea

echinacea pink flowers dried loose leaves tea
Echinacea is a North American coneflower that is widely used in the United States and Germany.

Studies show that echinacea can reduce inflammation, relieve pain, boost the immune system, and prevent the cold and influenza virus from replicating itself in your body.

Echinacea also has known anti-viral, antibacterial, and blood cleansing properties. The way it fights off the cold and the flu is by increasing levels of properdin.

Properdin is one of the chemicals in the body responsible for fighting off bacteria and viruses. A study found that echinacea can reduce your chances of catching a cold by 60%, and shorten the length of a cold by 1-4 days.

Method: Echinacea comes in the form of tinctures, capsules, or teas.

I find that the pure tincture forms work the best. At the very first sign of a cold, mix 2 dropperfuls of the tincture into a cup of water to prevent further onset. Repeat up to three times a day.

Recommended:

3. Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

bragg organic raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar glass jar
Organic apple cider vinegar’s (ACV) antibacterial and antiviral properties kill the microbes that cause sore throats. It also helps to loosen up and expel excess mucous from the chest that makes it hard to breathe.

ACV contains prebiotic inulin–which builds up the immune system and sends out fighting white blood cells.

ACV also helps to balance our body’s pH levels. The acidity and alkalinity of a food is measured using a pH scale.

The pH scale runs from 0-14 (zero being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline). The optimal blood pH level is closest to 7.4 (slightly more alkaline). There are home kits that can easily test the pH levels of your water, food, saliva, or urine.

A balanced body is less appealing for bacteria or cancer cells to thrive.

Method: Mix in 2 teaspoons of ACV into a cup of pure filtered warm water. You can squeeze in a wedge of lemon (vitamin C). Add a dash of ceylon cinnamon powder (antiseptic). Mix in raw organic honey (soothe sore throats). Drink up to 3 times a day.

Recommended:

4. Olive Leaf Extract (OLE)

olive leaf extract green leaves black olives
Olive leaf extract (OLE) is known for its ability to increase energy, fight cancer cells, lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugars, improve cardiac health, antiviral and antibacterial properties, antioxidant effects, and boost the immune system.

OLE was used as a medicinal herb by the ancient Egyptians. In the 1800s, the green olive leaves were used as a treatment for malaria.

Oleuropein is a polyphenol in olive leaf extract that protects against mental decline, maintains blood sugars, improves symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and prevents cancer.

Oleuropein can also encircle tumor cells and prevent it from replicating, growing, and moving. A study published in the Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications in 2005, showed spontaneous tumors that disappeared after 9-12 days in mice who were given oleuropein.

Method: The recommended dose is 500 milligrams, once a day. OLE comes in capsules or tea form.

Make sure the capsules contain Oleuropein.

Recommended:

5. Cayenne Pepper (Capsaicin)

cayenne spicy red peppers dried powder
Considered a miracle herb, cayenne pepper is used to alleviate intestinal ulcers and heartburn, relieve joint and muscle pain (capsaicin is an active ingredient in many OTC meds).

For a common cold, cayenne pepper can be used to break through congestion and warm your body, while decreasing inflammation. Cayenne pepper contains high levels of vitamin C, which is great for colds and the flu.

Cayenne pepper is also known to boost metabolism, open nasal passageways for congestion, maintain blood sugars, soothe psoriasis symptoms, increase blood circulation, lower blood pressure, quicken blood clotting (good for nose bleeds or any other internal bleeding), and decrease the effects of heart disease.

Capsaicin is one of the major ingredients in red peppers. The spicier the pepper, the more capsaicin it contains.

Capsaicin works by inhibiting substance P–a chemical in the body that is involved in inflammation. Substance P communicates pain, heart disease, and other disorders with the body.

Capsaicin cream is commonly used to soothe arthritic aches and pains and open wounds.

Capsaicin is also used to treat heart attacks, halt internal bleeding, and slow tumor growths (particularly in prostate cancers).

Dr. John Christopher, a herbal physician, has healed patients with heart attacks and internal hemorrhaging instantly with a tablespoon of cayenne pepper mixed with warm water.

A study published in the Journal, Cancer Research in 2006, showed that capsaicin has the ability to kill cancer cells by inducing apoptosis (programmed cell death). Cayenne pepper powder causes instant efficient blood flow and circulation.

Capsule form of this pepper is considered to be not as effective as the powdered form. Cayenne pepper is rated according to its heat index. Start of by taking 40,000 SCUs, and eventually up to 90,000 SCUs.

Method: Recommended dosage is one teaspoon of organic cayenne pepper a day, and slowly work your way up to one teaspoon, 3 times a day.

Recommended:

6. Turmeric

turmeric herb fresh roots orange powder
Turmeric is one of the most studied spices on this planet. The main ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. Curcumin is treasured for its disease preventing and tumor fighting abilities.

Numerous studies have also shown turmeric to be great at improving heart health, expediting wound healing (while reducing scar tissue), relieving arthritis inflammation, reducing risks of Alzheimer’s Disease, decreasing symptoms of allergies, defending against depression, rebuilding muscle tissue, and treating gastric disorders. It is even a great and natural teeth whitener.

Due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, turmeric, in addition to honey, have been widely used to treat the common cold, coughs, headaches, sore throats, and congestion. There are a few ways to enjoy turmeric.

Method: (Drink) Add turmeric powder to your favorite tea, and flavor it with ginger and raw organic honey.
(Syrup) Sprinkle ground turmeric into a spoonful of raw organic honey. This method is good at soothing an infected throat.
(Paste) Add some filtered water to ground turmeric. Rub the ointment onto inflamed joints or insect bites. This paste is also useful for whitening teeth and to soothe eczema or dermatitis.

Recommended:

7. Green Tea

green tea matcha fresh powder drink
Green tea is one of the healthiest drinks on the planet. It is the staple drink of Japan, and the Japanese have some of the longest known life spans.

A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in 2006, showed that green tea can actually prolong your life by decreasing the prevalence of heart disease and stroke.

Green tea has six different kinds of antioxidants that differ based on which part of the plant it comes from (stems, bud, leaf). The distinctive mix of antioxidants make this tea an effective antiviral drink.

Some compounds that make this tea great are chlorophyll (blood cleanser), and a super antioxidant mix – Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG), flavonoids and catechins (reduces free radicals), theophylline (opens up the airway), and L-theanine (boosts energy and decreases anxiety and depression).

Overall, green tea is great for your health and immune system. Green tea is also great for improving brain function, increasing metabolism and physical performance, lowering risk of cancer and dementia, killing bacteria, improving dental health, and maintaining blood sugars.

Method: If you don’t already sip a cup everyday, you should consider adding it to your daily routine.

Mix 1 teaspoon of matcha green tea powder into warm filtered water. Enjoy!

Recommended:

8. Ginseng

ginseng fresh root and slices
Ginseng is an herb used in The Traditional Chinese Medicine for over 2,000 years.

It keeps the body tough by increasing the immune system against bacteria and viruses. It is also used to maintain blood sugars and diminishes the risk of certain cancers.

A study published by The Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2005, found that ginseng extracts increased the immune response and prompted the body to send out more natural killer (NK) cells during a microbial invasion.

Ginseng also improves the ability to persevere during stress. In 1950, a Russian scientist, I.I. Brekhman, reported that ginseng strengthens the body to endure physical tension, combat disease, and increase mental sharpness.

Panax ginseng (better known as Korean, Asian, or even Red Ginseng), is traditionally known as the true ginseng because of the types of ginsenosides (active ingredient in the herb) it contains.

The forms of ginsenocide best equipped for medicinal purposes is available in higher quantities in Asian ginseng.

American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) consists more of the ginsenocides that are better suited to handle and endure stress.

Method: If you are using ginseng to boost your immunity against a cold or flu, use 400 milligrams of Panax ginseng daily for up to four months.

If you are using this herb as a daily preventative measure, the recommended dose is 100 milligrams, twice a day.

Overdosing on ginseng can be harmful to your help and it also interferes with a lot of pharmaceutical drugs. Let your doctor know of any herbs or supplements you are taking.

Recommended:

(Capsules) Nature’s Bounty Ginseng Complex Capsules
(Tea) Korean Ginseng Tea

9. Elderberry (Sambucus Nigra)

elderberry tree with fresh leaves and blackberries
Elderberry is used as an antioxidant, anti-microbial, and a heart disease and stroke fighter.

The flower is used for upper respiratory infections, allergies, relieving arthritic pain, as an antiseptic mouthwash, treating gram positive and gram negative infections, and as a diuretic and laxative.

A study published in the BioMed Central’s Journal in 2011, found that Elderberry was effective in defending against influenza, certain bacterial Gram Positive and Gram Negative infections, and MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus), the hospital acquired infections.

Elderberries has over twice the amount of Oxygen Radical Absorbency Capacity (cancer fighting compound) than blueberries or cranberries. This herb also improves circulation, and minimizes risk for heart disease and stroke.

A study published in 2004, showed that elderberry protects the inside layer of blood vessels from stress.

Anthocyanins (antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that also gives food it’s rich coloring), from the berry is absorbed directly in the blood vessel, providing a stronger and healthier barrier. This chain reaction decreases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

The Blackberry Elderberry is the only species of the Sambucus family that is not poisonous. Elderberry refers to the name of a shrub.

The berries and the flowers (Elder Flower) are the only portions used for medicinal purposes, and the berries must be cooked before use.  The leaves, bark, and roots are toxic and should be avoided.

Method: Edible elderberry is available in different forms: syrup, lozenges, and tea. The recommended dose differs depending on the form you are using.

If you are trying to combat a cold, cough, or flu, use elderberry within the first 48 hours of any symptoms.

Recommended:

(Capsules) Now Foods Elderberry Extract Capsules

(Syrup) Now Foods Elderberry Liquid

10. Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus)

eucalyptus herb fresh green leaves
Eucalyptus is one of the world’s most important herbs. The leaves come from tall evergreen trees that originated in Australia and Tasmania.

The benefits from eucalyptus’s essential oils or tea leaves are endless. The oils are used to treat infections, pain, anxiety, cancer, diabetes, digestive problems, dermatitis, asthma, upper respiratory infections, mastitis, sore throat, colds, flus, spasms, leprosy, encephalitis.

A study was published in The Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical BioMedicine in 2012, showed that E. Globulus’s natural antibiotic effect was strong enough to combat the gram negative bacteria (E. coli), as well as gram positive bacteria (S. aureus).

E. coli and S. aureus are infections that can be life threatening for people with weakened immune systems, due to its resilience against antibiotics.

Method: You can use Eucalyptus’s essential oils for topical use, a humidifier additive, a spray, or aromatherapy use.

Recommended:

11. Goldenseal

goldenseal herb with fresh green leaves and white flowers
Goldenseal has antiseptic properties and boosts the immune system by activating the spleen. The spleen hosts many of your defense fighting cells.

Goldenseal contains Berberine, which activates macrophages–specialized white blood cells that attack bacteria, viruses, fungi, and cancer cells.

Method: Recommended dose is 10-15 drops, 2 to 3 times daily, for up to 10 days.

Recommended:

12. Garlic & Onion

garlic cloves white sliced onions scallions
Garlic and onions are packed with antioxidants. They are a powerful antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal weapon against the common cold or the flu.

Garlic and onions contains allicin, a strong compound that appears shortly after it is sliced open, and before it is cooked.

Garlic – (Method): If you cannot handle eating the entire clove raw, you can hold a slice of garlic in your mouth and suck on the juices for 15 minutes.

You can also finely mince 1-2 cloves of garlic, mix it into a glass of water, and drink it.

Another method is to take the finely minced pieces and put it on a piece of fruit and cover it with honey. Honey is also soothing to the throat.

Onion – (Method): Try placing sliced onions around your house. It is believed to attract bacteria towards it while “cleansing the air”.

You can also steep raw sliced onions into honey and take spoonfuls the next day in intervals, like cough syrup.

Make sure to use more onions in your cooking when sick.

Recommended:

(Garlic) Nature’s Bounty Odorless Garlic Softgels
(Onion) Full Spectrum Onion (Bulb) Caps

13. Vitamin D

vitamin d 3 coated pink pills packaged
Vitamin D is the only vitamin that is produced by our own bodies in sufficient amounts. The amount multiplies after exposure to sunlight.

The body can make all the Vitamin D it needs, following a 30-minute sunbathing session!

Vitamin D helps move calcium into the bones and also boosts our immune system. It does this by sending out neutrophils, monocytes, and natural killer (NK) cells to defend the body from intruding microbes.

Researchers have found a link to Vitamin D deficiency and influenza.

Multiple studies have found that Vitamin D blocks the replication of multiple strains of the flu and reduces the risk of the flu by 50%.

If you do not get at least 30 minutes of direct sunlight a day, it is best to eat a lot of foods rich in Vitamin D or take supplements.

Method: If you are going to take supplements, make sure to get D3 (cholecalciferol) and not D2 (ergocalciferol). The recommended daily dose is 2,000 IU.

Recommended:

14. Zinc

zinc zn green capsules
Zinc has been scientifically proven to decrease the symptoms of the common cold and flu.

Zinc is responsible for the proper functioning of over 3,000 proteins in the body. Zinc is also know to decrease blood pressure and maintain blood sugars.

Method: The recommended dose is at least 75 milligrams a day for the duration of the cold. Zinc is safe for pregnant and breast feeding women.

Recommended:

15. Ginger

ginger sliced roots and fresh tea
Ginger has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and pain relieving properties.

Ginger has long been used by Ayurveda (originated from India 3,000 years ago) and Traditional Chinese Medicine (older than 2,000 years) – two of the oldest medical systems in the world.

According to Ayurvedic medicine, ginger has the power to boost the immune system, warm the body, and rid the lungs and sinuses of toxins.

Ginger has the ability to treat respiratory illnesses such as coughs, upper respiratory infections, and asthma. Western medicine has also recently shown links between ginger and asthma relief.

The aroma of ginger is also pleasant enough to soothe the body and aid in digestion. Because of this, ginger is also great to keep handy for anyone who easily gets nauseous.

Method: Slice up 1 cup of fresh ginger (peeled), 1 lemon (with some rind), and 1 pear.

Place it in a pot of filtered water. Boil the water for at least one hour. Mix with raw organic honey (great at soothing sore throats), and enjoy!

Supplements are a great option as well if the taste of ginger is too strong for you.

Recommended:

16. Cinnamon

cinnamon powder and sticks
Cinnamon comes from the bark of small trees found in Asia and the Middle East. Is it one of the oldest spices known today. It has been used by the ancient Egyptians as medicine and was considered more precious than gold.

Although most people only think of cinnamon as a sweet holiday spice, it is actually packed with nutrients – manganese, calcium, and fiber.

Some of the benefits of this spice include: antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, controls blood sugar, improves colon health, protects against heart disease, and boosts brain function.

Another benefit of this herb is that it is naturally sweet and low in calories!

There are two different kind of cinnamon: Cassia Cinnamon (cheap and can be toxic if taken in large amounts – found in most supermarkets) and Ceylon Cinnamon (pure, sweeter, more nutrient dense).

Method: Mix with 1 teaspoon of raw organic honey (great for cold, flu, and coughs) with 1/4 teaspoon of organic ceylon cinnamon.

Take twice a day for the duration of your cold. You can also make a tea consisting of cinnamon, honey, lemon, and ginger.

Recommended:

17. Oregano Oil

pure oregano essential oil dropper and plant
Oregano is one of nature’s most powerful antibiotic.

Oregano oil contains terpene and carvacrol. These are natural chemicals that actively fight off bacteria, fungus, yeasts, parasites, and viruses.

One study done by the United States Department of Agriculture found that oregano oil has such a robust reaction against germs that it could efficiently kill off Salmonella and E. coli infections.

Method: Take 2-3 drops, three time a day, during the duration of your cold or flu.

Make sure to have a glass of water handy to wash it down with – it is not the tastiest oil in the world.

Certain oregano oils do not come diluted (potent), so it is advised to place 5-6 drops into an empty vegetarian capsule and take it 3 times a day, for the duration of the cold or flu.

Recommended:

18. Coconut Oil

coconut oil solid white meat
Coconut oil is nature’s most powerful antiviral compound. Coconut oil contains Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), which are digested differently and much quicker than other saturated fats.

MCTs go straight to the liver and is converted into energy or turned into ketones. They have positive effects on brain disorders such as seizures or Alzheimer’s Disease.

Coconut oil contains a large amount of lauric acid (also found in human breast milk) which is strong enough to kill harmful pathogens that cause life threatening infections.

The oil is effective in destroying viruses and bacteria that are found in the flu, measles, herpes, mononucleosis, liver disease, AIDS, lung infections, sinus infections, gonorrhea, gastric ulcers, ringworm, and toxic shock syndrome–just to name a few.

Coconut oil has the ability to kill off all the intruding pathogens, while doing no harm to our own healthy cells.

Saturated fats found in coconut oil can also maintain cholesterol. It lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol, while raising the HDL (good) cholesterol.

For weight watchers, coconut oil curbs the appetite, while increasing fat burning rates – especially around the abdomen area.

For external use, coconut oil is great for moisturizing the skin and hair, without clogging pores. It can also be used as a natural sunscreen (blocks 20% of harmful UV rays) and soothes sunburns.

Method: Take 1-2 tablespoons daily, year round to maintain a good immune system.

For best results, take two tablespoons daily at the first sign of a cold or flu.

Recommended:

19. Nasal Rinse

nasal rinse netty pot with saline salt water sinus irrigation

Nasal irrigation has been used for centuries and most likely originated from Indian Ayurveda medicine.

Nasal rinses are used to clear and unclog nasal passageways. Irrigation removes debris and irritants, while moisturizing and soothing inflamed mucous linings.

Methods: Mix 1 teaspoon of sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 cup of warm filtered water, 6-8 drops of betadine.

Use a neti pot or a bulb syringe to rinse out each nostril with your solution. Repeat 3 times daily.

Add 1 drop of diluted oregano oil to your mix for added antimicrobial effect.

Recommended:

20. Foods to Avoid

fried unhealthy oily processed food
A high sugar diet can suppress the immune system, while causing even more inflammation throughout the body.

Fatty foods and processed/refined foods (hard to digest) and dairy products (produces excess mucous) should be avoided whenever you are feeling ill.

For optimal immune power you need to eat a diet that gives you lean proteins, broth based soups, teas, and bland or easy to digest foods.

Smokers are more susceptible at developing infections and are known to catch more colds than non-smokers. Smoking drags out the duration of a cold and causes harsher symptoms.

Final Word

There is no known cure for the common cold as of yet, but there are ways to battle the symptoms. If you want to avoid getting the cold, cough, or flu all together this season, you have to be proactive in caring for your immune system now.

It takes time and commitment to build up a strong immunity. If you do get sick, we wish you the speediest of recoveries, while using our natural home remedies.

Comments

  1. I like that you talked about how 80% of our immune system is found in our digestive system. It makes sense, then, that most of the remedies for the cold and flu are swallowed. I think that, even when you can’t seem to keep colds away, you should try to find the cold or flu remedy that is right for you.

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