Cold Relief is as Close as Your Kitchen
When it comes to colds and flu, I’ve got some good news and some bad news. First, the bad news: cold and flu season has arrived and is here to stay for awhile. Now the good news: natural remedies for cold and flu symptoms are as close as your kitchen pantry and refrigerator. Mother Nature has provided us with natural and plant-based remedies that can help prevent illness or help you feel better faster once you’re already under the weather.
So before you reach for those pills in the medicine cabinet, consider one or more of these healthy, nature-made foods that heal. And another bonus – these natural healing foods taste great (well, with one exception, as you’ll see below) and have nutritional benefits that can help you get healthy and stay healthy all year round.
4 Natural Remedies for Cold or Flu
Yup, whether you’re a garlic lover or not, this “aromatic” bulb has some serious cold-busting power. Science tells us that freshly crushed, raw garlic has antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic, and antiviral properties – how’s that for broad-spectrum effectiveness? That’s the good news.
The not-so-good news is that allicin, the powerful antibacterial compound in garlic, is active only briefly after the garlic has been crushed and before it's heated. Folk remedies such as downing one to three whole cloves, or spoonfuls of freshly chopped garlic, daily are not for the faint of heart.
If you can handle raw garlic, more power to you, and hopefully, you’ll see some real benefits. Rumor has it that raw garlic can even help arrest the rush of symptoms accompanying the onset of colds and flu, but you’ll have to see for yourself.
If you’re not so keen on raw garlic – which is completely understandable – and while generally, I prefer whole foods for their freshness, potency, and overall greater benefit, garlic supplementation has been shown to be effective.
One study involving 165 people showed that individuals taking a garlic supplement for three months caught considerably fewer colds, 24 in the garlic group and 65 colds in the placebo group. That’s a pretty big difference! Garlic also contains vitamin C and an array of minerals, including sulfur and selenium, which enhance its immune-boosting benefits.
If you can tolerate raw garlic, you might consider adding some to your daily diet during cold and flu season to ward off colds before they start. And, of course, eating raw garlic when you feel a cold coming on can’t hurt either, although the scientific jury is still out on that one.
And if you’ve got “cold” feet about raw garlic, check out my recipe below for symptom-busting Garlic Ginger Lemon tea.
While not strictly vegan, honey has medicinal properties and loads of them. If you’re uncomfortable eating honey, skip this section. For starters, because it’s so thick and viscous, honey can relieve sore throat discomfort and cough by coating your throat.
The World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend honey as a natural cough remedy. Honey is antibacterial and antimicrobial, so it can ward off those bugs that cause illness in the first place. And while the jury is not yet in, honey may also have anti-viral properties.
Just be sure you don’t overdo it because of honey’s high sugar content. You can also make a gargle of honey mixed into salt water (with or without lemon) and use it at room temperature.
To be clear, we’re talking about honey labeled “raw and unfiltered,” not the highly-processed stuff heated to temperatures so high that honey’s beneficial vitamins, enzymes, phytonutrients, and other nutritional elements are destroyed. Local honey has the added advantage of helping alleviate allergies to local pollen, and of course, when you purchase local honey, you support your community and ecosystem.
(Caution: do not give honey to children less than one year of age.)
A warming root spice with wide-ranging culinary applications, ginger is also a natural remedy and a cold and flu-fighting powerhouse. Ginger contains sesquiterpenes, chemical compounds that specifically target the rhinovirus family, which is the most type of cold virus, and also contains substances that suppress coughing.
Ginger is a potent anti-inflammatory and is believed to reduce pain and fever, enhance digestion, relieve nausea, and is a mild sedative to boot, so ginger can help you rest calmly when you’re under the weather.
Lemons are loaded with vitamin C, believed to bolster the immune system and may reduce the duration of cold symptoms. Like honey, lemons also have antimicrobial properties. It’s easy to add freshly-squeezed lemon juice (with or without honey) to a glass of warm water or a cup of hot tea.
Lemon juice breaks up phlegm and may reduce the strength of cold and flu viruses in the body. Livestrong.com has lemon tonics specifically targeting cough, sore throat, and chest congestion.
Remember, Cold Relief is as Close as Your Kitchen
Be sure to keep plenty of lemons, ginger root, and garlic, staples of any kitchen, on hand throughout cold and flu season. I hope you’ll be well and can use these wonderful plants for culinary, not medicinal reasons, but if you do find yourself feeling a bit compromised, you’ll certainly be glad you have them around.
Natural Cold and Flu Remedy:
Lemon Garlic Ginger Tea
Makes 3 cups
3 cloves raw garlic, minced
3 in. fresh unpeeled ginger root, minced
3 c. water
3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp. honey (optional)
In a large saucepan, bring 3 cups water, grated ginger root, and minced garlic to a boil. Turn off the heat when the water boils, and add the honey, if using, and fresh lemon juice. Strain.
Sip a half cup, warm, three times per day. Refrigerate extra to use the next day.