5 Natural at Home Remedies to Treat the Flu and Common Cold

Cold and Flu Got You Down?  While this is certainly no fun, it can be a good time to check-in and give your body some much-needed TLC.

Here are some recommendations for natural at-home remedies to treat the flu and common cold.

1. Sleep – listen to your body and rest as much as you need! Allowing adequate rest gives your immune system the chance to fight off infections, such as the influenza virus.

2. Hydrate – normally I recommend folks drink about ½ their body weight in ounces of water each day, but this often needs to be increased during sickness. Water is essential for proper immune function and is also the ultimate decongestant, helping to thin and move mucus. Adding some electrolytes with a pinch of sea salt and/or rotating in a homemade electrolyte drink can also be helpful. Here’s a homemade electrolyte drink recipe you can try: 8oz water + 1/4 tsp sea salt + 1⁄4 tsp baking soda + 1 Tbs raw honey.

3. Only eat easy-to-digest, whole foods – Focus on cooked vegetables and broths/soups. The age-old cure of mom’s chicken and vegetable soup is great, as is bone broth. Adding garlic and onions, as well as herbs such as rosemary, sage and thyme can be especially beneficial for their immune-boosting and anti-microbial properties. Include foods rich in Vitamins A and C such as greens, squashes, carrots and cruciferous vegetables.

  • Also – Avoid processed foods, especially sugar, which feeds bacteria and viruses and avoid mucus-forming foods such as dairy and citrus.

4. Try some herbs like Elderberry and/or Echinacea – find a high-quality (ideally without sugar) liquid elderberry syrup and take as-directed on the bottle. Elder berries also make a great tea. This herb has wonderful antiviral activity and also tastes great. Another commonly used herb with antiviral activity is Echinacea and can usually be taken safely as-directed. Note – as with anything, quality here is very important. Some high-quality brands you can find in stores and online include Wise Woman Herbals, Gaia Herbs and Herb Pharm.

5. Supplement with essential immune-boosting nutrients such as Vitamins A, C, D and Zinc. These can be taken individually, but there are also lots of great combination products out there so experiment and see what works best for you.

Some general guidelines for adults are below, but for kids make sure to adjust dosing based on body size:

  • Vitamin A – Has great anti-viral activity and can be used at higher doses for a short period of time. While sick, supplement with up to 25,000 IU/day, but not more unless otherwise directed by a physician. Note: anything above 10,000 IU/day can cause birth defects so women who are pregnant or may become pregnant need to be cautious.
  • Vitamin C – Is a powerful antioxidant and therefore takes some pressure off the immune system. It can usually be safely taken up to bowel tolerance but I would recommend starting with 1000-1500mg/day. I prefer a whole food-based supplement, rather than just the ascorbic acid component, when possible. Some brands I like for this include Innate Response and Ecological Formulas.
  • Vitamin D – Is very important in maintaining immune health. You can usually double a typical daily supplement dose during acute illness (for example – use 4,000 IU/day rather than the typical 2,000 IU/day for an adult). With Vitamin D, you want to make sure to get the active form called cholecalciferol or Vitamin D3.
  • ZincIs also key for healing and immune health. I usually recommend taking Zinc the form of Zinc picolinate or Zinc citrate and adults can take between 25mg-50mg/day for acute illness. Do not use Zinc long-term unless otherwise directed by a physician.

Bonus tip:

Utilize “hydrotherapy” (i.e. water therapy) – one simple technique you can try includes aiming the shower at first your chest and then back for a good 15-30 seconds with cold water at the end of your hot shower. Upon exiting the shower, quickly dry off and wrap yourself in a few dry towels or warm clothes. This process stimulates blood and lymph flow, which improves immune function.

Your Naturopathic Doctor can also provide individualized recommendations and formulations for your needs. This may include specific homeopathic remedies, herbal formulations, nutritional products or any combination thereof.

Hopefully these tips will help you and your family recover from illness with ease this Fall/Winter. And remember – the best treatment is always prevention! Maintain your health by addressing the foundational aspects like staying hydrated, rested, eating whole foods, managing stress and moving your body.

About the author:

Dr. Bridget Casey

Dr. Bridget Casey is a Naturopathic Doctor at Richmond Natural Medicine, where she enjoys seeing patients of all ages and a variety of conditions, including hormone dysregulation and chronic digestive disorders. Dr. Casey utilizes various forms of natural medicine, including herbs, nutrition, homeopathy and lifestyle counseling. She received her doctorate in naturopathic medicine from the National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM), in Portland, OR and completed her residency in family practice right here at RNM.  Click HERE to learn more about Dr. Casey.

Disclaimer: Note – the above are generalized recommendations and are not to be construed as medical advice. If you have a health condition or specific concerns, you should consult with your physician before initiating any therapies.