Natural Ways to Combat Colds and Flu

Cold and flu season has not been kind to my family this year. From what I hear, it has not been kind to anyone’s family this year. I do not think we have had a single day since September that at least one member of our family was not dealing with one bug or another. We have battled ear infections, stomach viruses and countless colds. To top it all off, our four year old tested positive for the flu!

In spite of all the incredible medical advancements in our modern times, traditional western medicine still does not hold a candle to our body’s natural ability to fight off viruses. In order to do its best work, our immune systems need support. And while it is tempting to reach for the NyQuil for every sniffle, many over-the-counter remedies can work against healing. When we mask the symptoms of illness, we can actually make things worse! Of course, you should always see a medical professional for any serious illness. But even if you find yourself inevitably filling the syringe with that timeless pink bubble gum flavored amoxicillin, you can still support your body’s germ-fighting processes and use gentle ways of soothing symptoms.

In addition to getting plenty of rest, and drinking plenty of fluids, here are few of our favorite ways of combating seasonal sniffles:

Fire Cider

I only just recently discovered fire cider, and I wish I had known about it sooner. Fire cider is an herbal tonic made out of apple cider vinegar, honey, garlic, horseradish, ginger and much more. You can find countless different recipes and uses for this fiery fermented drink, but any way you make it (or buy it) it is full of antibacterial properties, immune-boosting ingredients and a general burn that is sure to clear your sinuses.

Elderberry

Elderberry has gotten very popular recently. So popular in fact, that most store-bought versions sold out in the area this cold/flu season. It makes sense. Studies suggest elderberry has the ability to reduce cold/flu symptoms. It may even shorten the duration of an illness by up to three or four days. Elderberries have 300% more antioxidants than blueberries and increase the production of inflammatory cytokines which helps boost the immune system. You can buy elderberry syrup over the counter at most health food stores, when it is in stock. You can also make it yourself. There are even recipes for gummies and lollipops for kids. Or, you know, finicky adults. 

Aromatherapy

In our home, we often diffuse essential oils. Essential oils are powerful substances. Not all oils are safe for children, pregnant women or people with underlying health conditions so caution is encouraged. However, when used appropriately, aromatherapy is shown to relieve pain, discomfort and anxiety and promote relaxation. Some oils can also relieve nausea, promote sleep, and ease depression. The oil diffuser or cool mist humidifier also adds moisture to the air, which can help ease respiratory symptoms.

Herbal Tea

Putting the kettle on at the end of the day has become a part of my nightly ritual. This is especially true when I am fighting a cold.

Herbal teas contain polyphenols. Specific herbs have specific medicinal properties that can help with symptoms of cold, flu, and digestive upset. Drinking herbal tea is a soothing way to stay hydrated while you are ill. Hot beverages are good for digestion, sore throats and congestion. While you can go to any local grocery store and find herbal tea blends for an array of complaints, we also have a beautiful local tea shop here in Chattanooga. The lovely tea connoisseurs at Wildflower Tea Shop and Apothecary will help you choose the perfect blend for you. They also have tinctures and tonics for a variety of health concerns.

Honey and Lemon

When we feel the sniffles coming on, I always make sure to have honey and lemons. We will use honey and lemon in tea as well as in homemade cough drop and syrup recipes. Lemon is full of vitamin c, and is great at soothing an irritated throat and cutting through mucus. Honey soothes sore throats and cough, and helps everything go down a little easier. 

Probiotics

Keeping your digestive system healthy through cold and flu season, and through any round of antibiotics that you might find yourself taking, is essential. One way to do that is by making sure that you have plenty of good bacteria in your gut.

While you can walk into any drug store, health food store, or grocery store and find a plethora of bottled probiotics to choose from, we choose to forgo the pills and gummies and get our probiotics the old-fashioned way: through our food. Thankfully, there are so many delicious ways to make sure that you are getting plenty of probiotics in your diet. Yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, water or milk kefir, dark chocolate, pickled vegetables, kvass, and, my personal favorite, kombucha are just a few of the delicious ways to add more probiotics to your diet. Keeping yourself healthy during cold and flu season is a wonderful excuse to head down to Frothy Monkey and enjoy a cup of Blue Indian Kombucha on tap.

Chicken Soup

It sounds too cliché to be true, but chicken soup really is good for the soul and for colds too. A handful of scientific studies have shown that chicken soup seems to contain anti-inflammatory properties that ease cold symptoms, although how it works is still a mystery. Homemade chicken soup made with high quality broth is also nourishing and hydrating. The steam can help clear congestion. Taste of Home’s chicken soup recipe is our favorite. Usually, I make a big pot at the first sign of the sniffles. We just keep warming it up and dishing it out until the cold has made its rounds. 

While cold and flu season is never fun, there is something to be said for tuning into our bodies during times of illness. Rather than popping pills to mask signals of imbalance, perhaps we should start to see those signals as an invitation to rest. Perhaps, we need to learn to care for ourselves in a way that is respectful of the vessel that carries us through life.

When our family comes down with something, we cancel our plans. We turn on the diffuser, make a cup of tea and settle in for a lazy day. I hope that as they grow, my boys will continue to see value in listening to their bodies. I hope they choose not to ignore it in favor of the “never slow down” mentality of our busy world. The next time you start to feel the sniffles coming on, I would encourage you to pause and consider what your body really needs to heal. Rather than forcing your body to carry on with business as usual while it attempts to mend, choose instead to rest, hydrate, nourish and soothe until your body finds its way back to wellness.

How do you care for yourself during cold and flu season? Please share your tips, tricks and recipes with us! 

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