50 Ways to Fight Colds and Flu

A few weeks ago, as I was writing an article on deadline, I started to come down with the flu: fever, chills, runny nose. Doggedly, I tried to push on with my work, but my concentration was waning and my brain felt foggy. Defeated, I had to leave my office, take a Chinese herb formula for cold and flu, and crawl into bed with a cup of echinacea tea. That article ended up being three days late, but what I did was the most important part of fighting illness get plenty of rest.

One of the basic tenets of natural healing is the body will heal itself, given a chance. Most people try to ignore the fact that they're sick even if they've already succumbed to germs or a virus by taking every medication they can find to stop the symptoms. It's easy to forget that what the body needs most is rest and TLC. Taking herbal and homeopathic remedies can certainly speed your recovery, but nothing not even echinacea or vitamin C can replace the basics of rest, fluids and more rest. That said, naturopath and nutritionist Candace Paul, N.D., Ph.D., who practices in Valley Center, Calif., offers her expertise and 50 natural ways to prevent and treat colds and the flu. Information about homeopathic remedies for colds and flu are from the book Homeopathic Self-Care (Prima) by Robert Ullman, N.D., and Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, N.D. This list is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the care or advice of a physician.

How to Prevent a Cold or Flu

  1. Vitamin C. Paul recommends 3,000 mg. per day for prevention. "Try to feed your body in advance by taking extra vitamin C during cold and flu season," she says. "This way, when you're exposed to an onslaught of germs, you won't be as likely to come down with it."
  2. Stock up on probiotics. Acidophilus and bifidophilus are friendly bacteria that help your gastrointestinal tract function and keep invading bacteria at bay. Probiotics also counteract problems caused by taking antibiotics, which kill the friendly flora, wreaking havoc on your digestive and immune systems. "If you keep the flora in balance, you're less likely to get respiratory and other infections," says Paul.
  3. Go for the garlic. This antiviral, antibiotic herb is available in a number of high-potency preparations, including odor-free tablets.
  4. Supplement with 15 mg. per day of zinc, which is necessary for proper immune function.

If you get a cold or flu

  1. Stop eating sugar, which impairs the immune system. "There are plenty of studies that show that even a teaspoon of sugar will reduce [the immune system's] killer cell activity in your body for three hours after you eat it," says Paul.
  2. Increase your intake of vitamin C to 6,000-8,000 mg. a day. Reduce this amount if you develop diarrhea. Vitamin C shortens the duration of colds and reduces severity of symptoms.
  3. Drink plenty of water, herbal tea and vegetable juice to hydrate the respiratory tract. Sleep with a humidifier. Minimize or dilute fruit juices, which contain natural sugars that cripple immune function.
  4. Take echinacea and goldenseal. Cut colds or flu down to size by using the antibiotic herbs echinacea and goldenseal. Take them at the first sign of symptoms, and use them only while you're ill.
  5. Eat warming, nourishing foods such as chicken soup. According to traditional Chinese medicine, colds and flu are yin in nature, meaning they possess cold and damp qualities, even if you have fever, Paul explains. To chase away the cold, damp qualities, stay warm, eat hot foods and get plenty of rest.
  6. Eat soups seasoned with garlic, ginger and cayenne, all warming herbs that increase circulation and can ward off colds.
  7. Avoid mucus-forming foods. Dairy products and red meat can worsen clogged sinuses.
  8. Boost amounts of supplemental zinc to about 100 to 150 mg. for a few days. Caution: High doses of zinc taken for more than a week can actually suppress immune function.
  9. Get a natural antibiotic effect by taking colloidal silver for infection.
  10. Eliminate coffee, alcohol and cigarettes, which make it hard for the immune system to function, especially when the body should focus on getting well.
  11. Take 15,000-25,000 IU of vitamin A to enhance immunity. Caution: Vitamin A can be dangerous for pregnant women.
  12. Destroy viruses and prevent cold sores around the mouth by taking an amino acids complex. One of those aminos, L-lysine, works against cold sores.
  13. Make an herbal foot bath to reduce fever and fight infections. Pour a few drops of eucalyptus, pine, sage or rosemary into hot water and soak your feet ? the skin absorbs the oils' medicinal properties. You can also use this method for a baby with a cold, says Paul. Simmer a clove of garlic in olive oil until it's infused with garlic. When the oil cools, dip in a cotton ball, wipe the garlic oil on the baby's toes, cover with socks and wrap feet in plastic bags.
  14. Nip the flu in the bud with homeopathic Anas barberai, usually found under the brand name Oscillococcinum. Take this homeopathic at the very first sign of symptoms.
  15. Zap viruses by taking an extract of rosemary, an excellent antiviral.
  16. Take Chinese patent medicines such as Shen mai or the herbal blend, Cold Snap, which strengthen the body's natural defenses and drive out unwanted invaders.
  17. Cleanse your system of pathogens with herbal blood cleansers such as pau d'arco or red clover, which allow your liver to clear out toxins.
  18. Rebuild your body's defenses by taking a daily multivitamin/mineral.

Sore throat soothers

Soothe and heal a sore throat faster by sucking on zinc lozenges every few hours.

  1. Spritz your sore throat with an echinacea spray to fight infection.
  2. Drink tea made of mucilaginous herbs such as marshmallow or slippery elm, which coat and soothe the throat.
  3. Gargle with tea tree oil, a natural antiseptic. Add three to six drops of pure tea tree oil to warm water and gargle for a minute. Repeat three times a day. Caution: Do not swallow tea tree oil, which can kill the friendly flora in your digestive tract.
  4. Alleviate the pain of swallowing by trying a homeopathic combination sore throat remedy that may include the remedies Lachesis, Hepar sulph, Belladonna, Mercurius or Lycopodium.
  5. Gargle with warm salt water three times a day.
  6. Sip ginger tea, which relieves throat pain.

Cut the cough

  1. Take one or more of the expectorant herbs: lobelia, licorice, wild cherry bark, horehound or guaifenesin for a cough or bronchitis.
  2. Buzz away sore throats and cough by taking bee pollen or propolis. Caution: Not recommended if you're allergic to bee stings.
  3. Ease a cough with the natural cough suppressant, bromelain, an enzyme from pineapple. It can also soften and loosen hard, sticky mucus, according to Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (Prima) by Michael Murray, N.D., and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D.
  4. Sip hot ginger tea. Ginger stimulates circulation and helps clear sinuses and lungs of mucus.
  5. Alleviate a loose, rattling cough when bronchial tubes are full of mucus with the homeopathic remedy Antimonium tartaricum.
  6. Sleep better by taking homeopathic remedy Rumex if coughing starts from a tickle in your throat and worsens when you lie down.
  7. Expel phlegm by taking an herbal mixture of fenugreek and thyme.

Help for sinus congestion

  1. Steam open swollen sinus and bronchial passages by adding eucalyptus to vaporizer steam.
  2. Drain sinus congestion with a Honey Sinus Pack. Massage 1/2 teaspoon of honey over the sinus areas on your face to stimulate drainage.
  3. Use the herbs marshmallow and fenugreek to break up mucus and clear phlegm from sinuses or bronchial passages.
  4. Relieve sinus congestion with the bronchodilator herb ephedra, also called ma huang. Because this herb has serious side effects, use it only under doctor's supervision. Caution: People with high blood pressure or hypertension should not take ephedra.
  5. Help nasal congestion in which there's thick, yellow-green nasal discharge, sinus pressure and postnasal drip by taking homeopathic remedy Kali bichromicum. This remedy is best for a cold that might develop into a sinus infection.
  6. Stop a constantly dripping nose with homeopathic Allium cepa.
  7. Look for a combination homeopathic cold or sinus formula with a number of remedies that address various nasal symptoms.

If you have a fever

  1. Sweat out a fever with a hot tea made from feverfew, yarrow, catnip, ginger or peppermint. These herbs help the fever run its course and do its job, which is to burn off invaders. Caution: High fever for a prolonged period of time can be dangerous.
  2. Soak in a warm bath, then wrap up in lots of blankets and sweat.
  3. Continually drink fluids to avoid dehydration.
  4. Deal with the pain of achy muscles and bones from fever/flu by taking homeopathic Eupatorium perfoliatum or Gelsemium.
  5. Calm a fever that's intermittent and accompanied by chills, weakness, drenching sweats and exhaustion with homeopathic China.
  6. Bring down a fever with the herb boneset, which promotes sweating. Caution: Taking large doses could damage the liver.
  7. Reduce fever and aches with willow bark, which contains an aspirin-like substance.

    Next time you feel a tickle in your throat or notice a slight cough, reach for the herbal remedies and plenty of vitamin C. Then, go to bed and get your rest.