Getting the flu is the worst! Hopefully you can find some relief in one of the best natural flu remedies I've listed below, to help you recover faster.
You hold a large bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup in one hand and cradle a box of tissues against you with the other. Every fiber of your body aches and the noodles from your soup feel like sandpaper sliding down your throat. Not to mention, you are isolated to your room so you don’t infect the whole family. You’ve noticed the little heads straining around the door to get a glimpse of you to make sure you are still alive. It’s flu season and you are now another statistic for this year’s victims.
Even if you dutifully get a flu shot, it doesn’t guarantee protection from all the various strains that are floating around in the air you breathe. Having a head cold, with all the sneezing and puffy eyes that accompany it, is much less of an impact than the dreaded flu. Flu symptoms can run the gamut from a high fever, sore throat, and body aches to headaches and respiratory symptoms. Those are just a few of a host of symptoms the flu thrusts on your body.
“Can’t we just run to the doctor and get some meds to conquer the flu?”, you ask.
Well, yes… and no.
Conventional medicine doesn’t “cure” the flu. What it really does for you is control the symptoms of the flu…and potentially not so great at that. By now, you’ve likely heard of Tamiflu, the “wonder drug” for speeding your recovery from the flu. Despite claims made (and fabulous marketing) on the part of the makers of Tamiflu, unfortunately, it may not be so wondrous after all.
In fact, a recent Cochrane review suggests that Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) is not only NOT as effective as initial claims made it out to be…but it could also potentially be dangerous.
“Oseltamivir reduced the time to first alleviation of symptoms by 16.8 hours… and by 29 hours… in healthy children. [source] The benefit of oseltamivir in asthmatic patients was insignificant. Pneumonia, hospitalization, and virus transmission were the major concerns with the disease for which benefits have been claimed in various studies. However, Cochrane review failed to establish any definitive benefit on these parameters.” (source)
“There had been no mention of adverse effects associated with the use of this drug in the published trials. Post-marketing surveillance had uncovered adverse effects like raised liver enzymes, hepatitis, neuropsychiatric events, cardiac arrhythmia, skin hypersensitivity reactions including toxic epidermal necrolysis, Stevens-Johnson syndrome and erythema multiforme, metabolic side effects and renal events.[source] In some cases, increased QTc prolongation was seen in ECG in the treatment group compared with placebo during on-treatment periods. The most important serious adverse events which raised concerns were neuropsychiatric events such as depressed mood, behavior disturbance, panic attack, suicidal ideation, delusion, delirium, convulsion, and encephalitis. These were reported more frequently in children than in adults and generally occurred within 48 h of drug intake.[source]” (source)
You can also purchase all kinds of over-the-counter remedies. There are multiple shelves full of medicines to treat just about everything you have on your complaint list. You can even choose just ONE that treats them all at the same time! (Although that’s not what I’d recommend!)
Best Natural Flu Remedies to Help you Recover Faster
If you’re looking for a natural (and possibly healthier) alternative to prescription and over-the-counter medications, here are some of the natural herbal remedies that have been proven to be effective at treating symptoms of the flu as well as providing antiviral aids. Herbal remedies are nature’s offering to ease many of the symptoms that plague our bodies when we are sick. When the flu strikes, your first course of action should be rest, hydration, and good nourishment. Along with these, this list of remedies will go a long way to make the flu more bearable and shorten the duration of your suffering.
Best Natural Flu Remedies (Herbal Preparations)
Thyme Oil or Dried Thyme
The oil from thyme is loaded with antimicrobials to fight against infections in the body. Thyme is excellent for respiratory infections and chest congestion. Historically it’s been used as an expectorant to loosen up phlegm in the chest and promote easier breathing. (Who doesn’t like to breathe, right?)
For congestion, try this tea made with thyme:
Steep (2) teaspoons of fresh or dried thyme in (1) cup of hot water for ten minutes. (Just breathing in the steam will help!)
You can also add thyme essential oil or fresh thyme to a warm bath or diffuse for aromatic respiratory support.
In Ayurvedic medicine, licorice root is used as an expectorant. It works to loosen phlegm in your upper respiratory system and contains antiviral properties. Although it may be much more fun to just eat licorice candy while you are down with the flu, you actually need the licorice root for the medicinal benefits. You can make a soothing tea from licorice root.
Boil (4) ounces of water. Add about (1) teaspoon of dried licorice root and remove from heat. Allow to steep for five minutes and strain out the root before drinking.
*Warning: Not recommended for pregnant women. Licorice can interact with certain prescription medications and/or potentially increase blood pressure. As with any medication or supplement, herbal or otherwise, be sure to discuss treatment options with your primary care provider before starting any new treatment.
For most people, just the smell of garlic soothes the senses (if your nose isn’t too stuffed to enjoy it). Garlic can naturally boost your immune system and helps prevent respiratory infections such as the common cold and flu.
It won’t cure the flu (the influenza viruses that cause the flu are pretty resilient), but garlic may help you recover faster. If you’re tough, you could chew on a raw garlic clove (maybe crush it and mix it with honey to sweeten it??), but for most people, to help ease flu symptoms, you can take garlic supplements. Naturally, you can always throw a little garlic in your food to continually partake of its preventative properties as well as enjoying its food-enhancing flavor as well!
This herb is a powerhouse of prevention for colds and the flu. Research has shown that echinacea actually binds to white blood cells and activates them for action against infections.
A study done in 2015 on dogs (not humans, but still) showed that “these extracts (echinacea hydroethanolic) might have appreciable immunostimulatory activity.”
More research is really needed, but echinacea is a time-tested immune supportive herb, used by many for hundreds (if not thousands) of years.
It can be a little difficult to sort through information on how much to take. I prefer to drink echinacea in tea form, which is especially comforting when suffering from a nasty cold. You could also take echinacea in tincture or supplement form. But, most important is to make sure it comes from a reputable, organic source.
*Allergy Alert: If you have allergies to ragweed, be cautious when considering supplementing with echinacea, as those with ragweed allergies have reported a similar reaction to echinacea.
Elderberry Extract or Syrup
Elderberries are by far one of the most delicious natural flu remedies! You will most likely find this extract at your local drugstore under the name of Sambucol or Sambucus. The name derives from the name Sambucus nigra, the Latin term for elderberry. You can also purchase on Amazon here, although, I prefer to make it myself using organic elderberries.
Elderberry has been proven to be very effective in fighting viruses and is a strong antioxidant. It also revs up the immune system and is reputed to shorten the duration of a cold or flu. You will be up and running in no time! You can use the liquid supplement mixed with warm water to make a tea, but, be aware that elderberry syrup can be a little acidic on the stomach and you certainly don’t want another side issue to deal with on top of the flu.
There is a little more background and some other benefits listed here: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/elderberry
Research has shown that taking elderberry extract (or elderberry syrup) during a flu can greatly shorten the duration of illness from 6(ish) days to around 2-3 days. (source)
Compared to Tamiflu, that’s actually pretty awesome… much cheaper and sans the nasty potential side-effects.
Check out our new DIY Elderberry Syrup Kit!
Oil of Oregano
Oil of oregano is an excellent source for anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral benefits. It is also used to ease upper respiratory symptoms, which makes this natural flu remedy a good one to keep on standby. The oil should be mixed with a carrier (coconut or olive) oil when considering topical application, and rubbing the dilution on the chest to open up the airways and ease breathing.
* Be mindful that oregano oil is a “hot” oil and can be caustic to sensitive skin. Use caution.
You could also add drops of oregano essential oil to a vaporizer and inhale the steam for additional relief, and/or add a few drops to a diffuser to help fight off cold and flu viruses in your home or workspace.
Other Natural Flu Remedies
Homemade Bone Broth
I’ve written an article on the benefits of bone broth and how I make my own continuous bone broth in the crock pot. A broth, also called a “stock”, is made by boiling the bones of animals and adding vegetables and other spices to enrich its flavor and benefits. A bone broth is full of immune-boosting minerals and just sipping on it can make you feel better with the warm comfort it provides. Coupled with a good herbal tea, you are setting down a fast path for recovery.
We know that vitamin C is the “Mr. Olympian” of the vitamin world. Sadly, with all the stresses we face in life, it is easily depleted from our systems. Vitamin C is known to be most effective either before or shortly after the onset of flu symptoms and comes packed with rich immune-boosters and antioxidant properties, which can make it a wonderful addition to your arsenal of natural flu remedies.
When the symptoms of the flu arrive, consider taking high doses of vitamin C to get your immune system kicked in. It is generally recommended to take around 3000 mg spread throughout each day until you are on the mend. After that, you can reduce your intake to 500 mg per day and continue this routine daily for immune system health. As with any supplement, please consult with your primary care provider before starting any new treatment.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) has become mega-popular over the last few years to remedy everything from moldy showers to mirror streaks, but the real power behind this liquid is when it’s taken internally. ACV is highly acidic, so it should be diluted before use.
You would think that since ACV is highly acidic, it would be bad for the body, and this may be true in part. However, ACV has been shown to actually have alkaline-forming effects on the body. Our bodies optimum states are naturally more alkaline (with a pH around 7.4) so, this is typically a good thing, and bodies at their ideal alkalinity can help support a healthy and thriving immune system.
You can try drinking (1) tablespoon of vinegar mixed with (8) ounces of water every three hours to kill yeast and many other unwelcome visitors in the body.
*Warning: Apple Cider Vinegar can theoretically interact with laxatives, diuretics, or medicines taken for diabetes or heart disease. If taken undiluted over long periods of time, it can also be abrasive to the teeth or esophagus. Be sure to discuss with your doctor first before supplementing with ACV.
I will also say that when choosing a quality apple cider vinegar, look for one that still contains the “mother” (this is a sign of quality fermentation) and is organic, since apples are one of the most heavily sprayed produce. This is the brand of ACV I personally use and recommend.
Getting the flu is pretty rotten, and, in some cases, can be downright scary. I hope you’ll find some relief in at least one of the natural flu remedies listed here. I also have a free informative download of my Top 20 ways to keep your family healthy through cold & flu season! <– Click here for instant download.
Hopefully, you can soon store that box of tissues back on the shelf and safely hug your family again. Keep that pot of chicken noodle soup around though. It’s not just a good choice for the cold and flu season, but great all year round! Stay healthy!