The common cold. More likely than not, you will get it some time during the next few months, especially if you have little ones.
Before you reach for an over-the-counter cough and cold medication, think about this: over-the-counter meds are intended to treat the symptoms of coughs and colds, not the underlying disease. Research suggests that these medicines haven’t been proven to work any better than placebos. Plus, they can potentially have serious side effects, including triggering allergic reactions, fatal overdoses and complications with other health medications.
So what do you do if you or someone else in your family is hit with a cold? Aside from lots of rest and drinking lots of water, below are my favourite natural remedies to help boost the immune system, restore the respiratory tract, and calm heavy coughs.
- Mullein – This herb has many beneficial properties. We make it into a tea to help calm coughs and make them more productive. It can even be used for bronchitis and asthma.
- Marshmellow root – This is another great herb for coughs and sore throats. Again, the best way to use it is as a tea, so just follow the same instructions as above to make a calming marshmellow root tea.
- Salt water gargle – For best results, try to gargle salt water once every 30 minutes to sooth sore throats
- Apple cider vinegar – Vinegar helps kill the bacteria in the throat and soothes irritation. Mix 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar with a couple teaspoons of raw honey (optional) and 1 cup of water. Drink this six or more times a day until symptoms disappear. If you can skip the honey, it’s even better, but the taste will definitely be stronger!
- Diffuse essential oils that help calm and soothe coughs while you’re sleeping. I like to use eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary, clove, cinnamon, pine, cypress, lavender, and/or thyme chemotype linalool (the latter four are safe for babies). For our premade blend, see here.
It’s important to remember that a fever is your body’s way of fighting an infection during a flu or infection, so suppressing a fever is not advised unless it is a high fever (i.e. above 38 degrees Celsius for babies 0-3 months and above 38.9 degrees Celsius for children older than 3 months and adults) . Keeping that in mind, there are a number of natural remedies that help relieve the symptoms of fevers and help bring temperatures down naturally. Here are our family’s go-to treatments.
Elderberry flower – The flowers of elderberry plants can be used to help bring body temperatures down by inducing sweat production. The best way to use them is in a tea. To make elderflower tea, mix two teaspoons of the herb in a cup of boiled water and let it steep for 15 minutes. Strain out the elderflower. Drink three times a day as long as the fever continues.
Lemon wrap – This popular home remedy helps ease a fever by drawing blood and the heat to the feet. Start by warming your feet in hot water or use a hot water bottle. Then soak a pair of cotton socks in warm lemon juice, wring them out, and place them on the feet. Slip on dry wool socks over top of the cotton socks.
Lavender, peppermint, or lemon essential oil – Any or all of these oils can be diluted in a carrier oil (for adults, put 3 drops in a teaspoon of carrier oil; for babies and young children, put 1-2 drops in a teaspoon or 5 mL of carrier oil) and apply on the bottoms of the feet. For babies and young children, avoid peppermint and just use lavender and/or lemon essential oil.
- Elderberries – Elderberries are powerful in treating and preventing cold and flu viruses from sticking to the respiratory tract. Check out our recipe to learn how to make your own elderberry syrup.
- Bone broth – Bone broth is terrific for boosting the immune system. It’s a great source of collagen and gelatin, and is loaded with nutrients like amino acids (the building blocks of protein), which can help reduce inflammation.
Oregano oil – Oregano contains thymol and carvacrol, which both have antibacterial effects. People traditionally use essential oils containing thymol to relieve headaches, diarrhea, and coughs. It can be taken orally or used topically when it is diluted in a carrier oil such as olive oil (put 1-2 drops in a teaspoon or 5 mL of carrier oil). For topical application, the chest and back of neck area are both good areas to put it on.
- Echinacea – Echinacea is a native North American plant that has been used for many generations for medicinal purposes. Research has shown that echinacea cuts the chances of catching a common cold, and reduces the duration of the common cold. Echinacea tea is easy to make. Just follow the steps above for making mullein tea.
- Garlic – Garlic is both antibacterial and antiviral, so it’s great for fighting off colds and flu. You can take garlic supplements, but I like to incorporate them into my cooked meals as much as possible, including in my bone broth.
Do you have other favourite natural remedies for colds and flu? Share with them us in the comments below!