It’s that time of year when the sniffles get us down. With scratchy throats, tickling coughs, and the ubiquitous runny nose, being sick is never fun. And, while it’s true that sometimes you just have to let viruses run their course, there are natural remedies that have been proven to alleviate some of those annoying cold and flu symptoms and help you feel better.
For 12 years, I’ve successfully used homeopathy in conjunction with other home remedies. There’s still no instant miracle cure, but getting lots of rest and using these remedies at the first sign of a cold will help you feel better fast.
4 Feel-Better-Fast Remedies
1. Stay Hydrated
I know you’ve heard it before, but this might be the most important tip of all! My favorite feel-better beverage is a soothing tea made with a few slices of ginger and lemon and sweetened with honey.
You can also try broth, herbal teas, ginger ale, and good old chicken soup. Stay away from caffeinated beverages like cola and coffee, which can have the opposite effect and lead to dehydration. Having 8–10 glasses of healthy fluids a day will help immensely.
2. Make your own electrolyte drink
If you have a stomach bug that’s causing dehydration, you can make an electrolyte solution by combining 2 tablespoons of sugar, honey, or agave with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1 quart (4 cups) of water. You will need to use hot water to dissolve the solids first, then let it cool down so you can drink it. Sip on room-temperature electrolyte solution slowly but continuously while awake.
Garlic has antibacterial properties that chase colds and vampires away (source). It’s best consumed raw as cooking can destroy its beneficial properties. If you’re feeling brave, mash up a small head of garlic and mix with raw honey to take by the spoonful.
4. Elderberry Syrup
Elderberry syrup is a great thing to keep in your fridge during cold and flu season. If taken as soon as flu symptoms appear, it can shorten the duration of the flu by 3–4 days (source). We like this syrup made with raw honey and propolis (source). Just make sure you’re getting elderberry extract — jams, jellies, and juices won’t have the same effect.
3 Homemade Sore Throat + Cough Remedies
5. Homemade Honey-Thyme Cough Syrup
A few years ago, I found a recipe for a homemade honey-thyme cough syrup, and I was immediately in love. Honey is very soothing for a sore, scratchy throat. It has been shown to help calm a tickling cough, too (source). Thyme contains thymol, which has healing properties and is a powerful antimicrobial that is particularly good for respiratory and bronchial infections (source).
The recipe is very simple. Boil 2 cups of water in a pan. Remove from heat and add 3 tablespoons of fresh thyme. Let it steep for at least 10 minutes, or until cool. Stir in 1 cup of honey. Continue stirring until dissolved. Strain out the thyme, if desired, and transfer to a glass jar. Mark the date on the jar. Keep refrigerated for up to 2–3 weeks.
6. Sore Throat Gargle
Scratchy, itchy sore throats can benefit from a saltwater gargle. The salt helps loosen things up. Use hot water first and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt per 8 ounces water. This will help to dissolve the salt into solution. Then let it cool to warm and gargle with it a couple of times a day.
7. Apple Cider Vinegar
The health benefits of apple cider vinegar (ACV) are too long to list! It has been used for centuries for all sorts of conditions and ills. Gargling with equal parts apple cider vinegar and warm water is great for a sore throat, and the acidity will kill germs (source). For sinus drainage, use 1 teaspoon of ACV in 1 cup of warm water. But use caution —too much apple cider vinegar can cause irritation. Make sure to dilute it, and you’ll still be able to enjoy the benefits.
3 Natural Congestion Remedies
8. Humidifier + DIY Peppermint Steam
The most annoying thing about a cold is the mucus, am I right? It’s so aggravating not to be able to breathe through your nose. To help with congestion, use a humidifier. The damp air really helps at night in dry weather, or when it is cold out and the heater is being used inside. Just take care to clean it properly after each use to prevent mold.
No humidifier? Not a problem. You can also heat some water in a pot on the stove and carefully hold your head over it with a towel draped down. Just be careful to turn off the stove first and not to get too close —steam can cause burns. I add a few drops of peppermint essential oil to the water, which helps clear out the nasal passages. It’s a good idea to keep your eyes closed with that one. :)
You can also make a soothing homemade vapor rub out of coconut oil, shea butter, and essential oils. I like this recipe.
9. Homemade Nasal Spray + Neti Pots
Making a homemade nasal spray is so easy (and has fewer chemicals!) Mix 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 8 ounces of hot water. Stir to dissolve the solids into solution. Let it cool to room temperature. Then fill a neti pot or bulb syringe and use it to flush out the nasal passages. While tipping your head forward a bit over the sink, hold one nostril closed and gently squirt or pour the water through the other nostril and let it drain into the sink. This seems a little weird at first, but the warm, salty water will help draw out the mucous congestion, and you will feel much more clear afterward.
10. Chicken Soup
It seems that mom was right —chicken soup really is the best medicine for a cold (source). This soup has anti-inflammatory benefits and helps clear congestion, not to mention it is soothing and comforting. And don’t worry, it doesn’t matter whether it’s homemade or store-bought —both work just as well.
What about you? Do you rely on natural remedies when you have a cold?53