It’s officially cold and flu season, and it’s already hit the nation hard this year. As busy professionals (and moms) we know how tough it can be when viruses hit-home—so being prepared is a must. To help, we’ve organized our favorite science-backed, go-to natural remedies which can help you fight off colds and flu fast.
#1: Go to bed, and go to sleep ASAP
Easier said than done, right? But rest (which means taking the day off work, childcare, etc.) is truly your very best ally in a speedier recovery for several scientifically documented/common sense reasons. #1: It reduces the risk of complications, such as pneumonia1. #2: Sleep allows your body’s flu-fighting immune cells to better attach to the virus2, and boosts your overall immune response3. #3: Sleep reduces stress, and stress is a significant antagonist to your immunity.
So, call in to work, arrange for childcare, grab a big bottle of water and a thermos of immune-boosting tea, and hit the hay for the day.
Extra tip for nursing moms: Few things are more stressful than coming down with a virus when you’re nursing a baby. However, per the Center for Disease Control the flu cannot be transmitted via breast milk. Plus, your milk produces antibodies that will protect baby from contracting the virus before you even notice your own symptoms4! So, have your husband or partner bring baby to you to nurse like usual, wash your hands before nursing, then give baby back and get back to sleep! You’ll also want to drink lots of fluids to keep up your supply, and you can also wear a protective mask during nursing sessions for extra insurance.
#2: Pop some oscillococcinum straight away
This once hard-to-find homeopathic remedy is now widely available online and at retail stores across the nation. It’s been proven to shorten the duration of cold and flu symptoms when taken at the first signs of infection with zero side effects5.
Since oscillo works best when taken at the first sign of symptoms (scratchy throat, runny nose, sneezing, etc.) we recommend stocking up ahead of time so you have it when you need it.
#3: Keep the air clean
This is an excellent preventative and treatment measure for stopping the spread of airborne pathogens. The easiest way to do this is to open your windows for 10-20 minutes in the morning and afternoon. Better yet, if it’s not too cold out, keep the windows cracked all day. Otherwise, running a high-quality air purifier and diffusing immune-boosting/antimicrobial organic essential oils like cinnamon, tea tree, eucalyptus, thyme, frankincense and lavender6 can help you get better faster.
#4: Elderberry syrup and elderflower tea
There are plenty of herbs that help boost immunity. But, it’s hard to beat the elder plant for both proven effectiveness and palatability. Elderberry syrup is very popular with families because it’s affordable, tastes great, and has been proven to significantly reduce the duration and symptoms of cold, flu, and upper respiratory infections 7, 8,9. Note: research shows it is most effective when taken within 24-48 hours of onset of symptoms.
When choosing an elderberry syrup, be sure to look for a brand sweetened with honey and/or stevia, and avoid brands with added sugar (as sugar depresses immune function), artificial colors, flavors (even natural flavors are a no-no), or preservatives. We like Joyspring brand for our daughters!
We also recommend drinking elderflower tea. While not as well-known as the berry, the flower of the elder plant also contains anti-viral, anti-microbial properties and is delicious and soothing to sip on with honey10.
#5: Let a healthy fever burn
So many of us were taught that a fever is a dangerous thing to be treated with over-the-counter drugs; when in fact a fever is one of your body’s best defenses against viruses. Plus, research shows there is zero evidence that the presence of a fever worsens the course of an illness or causes long-term neurological damage11. Thus, if you lower a healthy fever you can actually hinder your body’s ability to fight off infection.
What is a healthy fever? Firstly, a fever is defined as a temperature over 100.4, so anything less than that is no cause for concern. Second, most doctors will tell you not to let a child’s fever go higher than 104 degrees and 103 for adults. Note: Since opinions on this can vary based on your health history, age, etc. it’s best to talk to your doctor for individual advice.
Typically, fever that accompanies the flu is around 102-103, which is perfectly safe to leave alone. The best medicine is to stay hydrated, rest, and support your immune system with the remedies suggested here. If you do need to take steps to reduce your fever, elderberry tea can be effective, as can a lukewarm bath, eating a few bites of food, the homeopathic Belladonna, and iodine baths. We avoid drug-based fever-reducers like NSAIDs, as they have all been associated with dangerous side effects like a significant increase heart attack risk or stroke (and by significant increase we mean 50% or more)12, autism (when given to children to reduce fever and in pregnant women)13, renal insufficiency, and liver damage14 to name but a few.
#6: Try oil of oregano or olive leaf extract
Many people reach for the popular herb, echinacea when they get sick—and we LOVE echinacea too—however, new research has shown echinacea is most effective as a preventative15. Thus, we reach for olive leaf extract or oil of oregano when dealing with any type of virus.
The active phytochemical compound in olive leaf extract, oleuropein, has been proven to help suppress viruses while boosting the immune system1617. Oil of oregano not only fights the flu but is also antibacterial (which is excellent for co-infections of the sinuses, ears, upper respiratory tract, etc.) and can also help calm an upset stomach18.
#7: Stay hydrated with these liquids
Staying hydrated is critical to a speedy recovery. Our go-to liquids include plenty of filtered water, coconut water (look for 100% coconut water without preservatives or natural flavors), herbal teas, lemon water, hot lemon water with raw honey and ginger, and homemade chicken soup with bone broth.
#8: Keep surfaces clean
The healthiest way to do this is to remove the germs instead of killing them, because killing them can leave behind resistant bacteria. To do so, the FDA recommends using a simple soap-based product19, like Branch Basics All Purpose or Bathroom. If you need to take disinfecting a step further, you can use equal parts distilled white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide (stored in separate bottles) on the affected area.
#9: Change your sheets daily
When you’re down and out, changing your sheets is probably the last thing on your mind. However, if you keep sleeping in the germs you’ve shed the night before it can put a damper on your recovery. We recommend washing them in hot water with a natural, fragrance-free laundry soap. And if you’re just too sick to change the whole bed at least change your pillowcases daily. It will really help.
- Get to bed ASAP and sleep.
- Pop some oscillococcinum at the first sign of symptoms (better safe than sorry).
- Remove germs from the air by opening windows and running an air purifier.
- Start taking elderberry syrup right away to shorten the duration of cold or flu, add in elderflower tea for an extra immune boost.
- Let a healthy fever burn!
- Take oil of oregano (great for viruses and bacteria) and/or olive leaf extract.
- Stay hydrated with water, coconut water, herbal teas, and chicken soup.
- Keep surfaces clean with non-toxic methods.
- Change your sheets daily (or at least your pillow cases).