Immune Support

Feel Better Faster with these 9 Natural Flu Remedies

By Justin Fowler-Lindner

Flu season typically runs from October through March, as the germs responsible for the flu thrive and survive in colder temperatures. Roughly 8 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu every year, according to a 2018 study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). And even if you get a flu shot to help prevent from contracting the illness, you may still be at risk.

In fact, flu shots are becoming less and less effective as the flu virus continues to grow resistant and evolve.

The solution?

Good ‘ol fashioned home remedies.

Some of the most effective natural flu remedies include:

  • Elderberry
  • Echinacea
  • Hot tea
  • Probiotics and prebiotics
  • Vitamin D
  • Essential oils
  • Bone broth
  • Fresh air
  • Neti pot

The flu preys on weakened immune systems, but if you make healthy choices, you may be able to avoid the flu. 

Let’s take a closer look at the best natural remedies for the flu.

Flu vs. Common Cold

The flu, or influenza virus, is a respiratory virus that spreads through the air. It typically causes mild to severe symptoms like fatigue, fever, headache, chest discomfort, and cough.

Both the flu and the common cold are viral infections that affect the upper respiratory system.

The flu, however, is more contagious, hits faster, and generally causes more severe symptoms like chills, sweats, fever, and achy muscles.

Types of Flu

There are four types of the flu virus:

  • Influenza A
  • Influenza B
  • Influenza C
  • Influenza D

Influenza A and B are responsible for the seasonal flu epidemics that happen in the United States every year. Type C generally causes mild symptoms and is not thought to contribute to seasonal epidemics. Influenza D affects cattle and does not spread to humans.

Signs and Symptoms of the Flu

The flu can hit hard, and when it does, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Chest discomfort
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea

Symptoms like sore throat and stuffy nose are less common. Vomiting and diarrhea are also less common and occur more often in children.

Most patients recover from the flu in less than two weeks, but symptoms can often be eliminated within a few days using the right treatments.

9 Natural Flu Remedies

With the right combination of holistic treatments, you may be able to reduce the severity of flu symptoms and feel better faster. 

Here are nine of the best natural flu remedies:

1. Elderberry

Elderberry is high in vitamin C and other compounds that support immunity, reduce inflammation, and fight the flu.

For example, a 2004 double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in The Journal of International and Medical Research found that elderberry can treat influenza A and B viruses. In the study, 60 patients with the flu were treated with elderberry four times a day for five days beginning within 48 hours of onset. Researchers concluded that, “Elderberry extract seems to offer an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment for influenza.”

2. Echinacea

Echinacea contains a high concentration of anti-inflammatory and antiviral compounds that may help treat bronchial symptoms of the flu. It’s most effective when taken at the first signs of illness.

In a 2013 double-blind, randomized, controlled trial in Switzerland, researchers found that echinacea extract can have broad antiviral effects against respiratory viruses. The study tested the efficacy of echinacea in contrast to the popular flu medication Oseltamivir. After four months of treatment, echinacea proved to be more effective at long-term and short-term resistance to viruses.

3. Hot Herbal Tea

Tea can be a pleasant way to soothe a sore throat and stay hydrated. These hot liquids are often used as a remedy for colds, and may help soothe your nose and throat by clearing out mucus.

In a 2008 human study, 30 participants with the common cold or flu were asked to drink a hot beverage. Although researchers didn’t find any objective improvement in respiratory symptoms, test subjects reported a significant subjective improvement in symptoms like chilliness, fatigue, and cough.

Ginger is an excellent source of anti-inflammatory compounds like zingerone, gingerol, paradol, and shogal. Combining ginger tea with lemon juice and raw honey can also be impactful in alleviating symptoms, since lemon can boost vitamin C and raw honey can relieve cough.

In a 2007 study, honey was shown to be more effective than the pharmaceutical cough suppressant dextromethorphan at relieving cough and improving sleep

4. Probiotics and Prebiotics

Taking probiotic and prebiotic supplements, as well as eating foods like artichokes, broccoli, and cauliflower can help reinforce your gut lining and boost your immune system.

According to a 2017 meta-analysis of clinical trials on the effects of probiotics and prebiotics, researchers found that patients who took them regularly were more resistant to influenza A.

5. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a hormone that’s produced by the skin in the presence of sunlight and can be taken as a supplement.

According to a 2015 study published by the The College of Family Physicians of Canada, low vitamin D levels are linked to higher rates of the flu and other respiratory infections. Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is common in the United States. However, studies show that taking vitamin D supplements at 5,000 IU twice daily can help reduce the risk of illness.

6. Essential Oils

Several essential oils have powerful antiviral, antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal qualities that can boost immunity and decrease the risk of the flu.

Oregano oil is particularly well-known for its ability to fight viruses. According to a 2011 study published in The Brazilian Journal of Microbiology, the compound carvacrol found in oregano oil may be responsible for the herb’s potent effects. Oregano oil should not be ingested for more than ten consecutive days due to the potential for side effects like stomach irritation.

Other immune-boosting essential oils include:

The active compounds in essential oils can be ingested, absorbed through the skin, or inhaled as aromatherapy. All it takes is a 1-2 drops per dose to experience their benefits.

7. Bone Broth

Chicken soup may be more than just a comfort food, since bone broth from chicken and beef is packed with minerals and amino acids that support the immune system. Plus, bone broth contains large amounts of collagen: a protein that gives structure to the cells, repairs gut damage, and strengthens immunity.

For example, a 2007 study concluded that the amino acids in collagen can modulate inflammation and may have wide-ranging effects on infection and disease.

8. Fresh Air

Getting outside and breathing the fresh air is good for the lungs.

In the winter, the air indoors can get stale and dry and has a higher concentration of germs that may compromise the immune system. Ultimately, these conditions can make you more susceptible to viruses. Plus, the sun hitting your face should help boost vitamin D and strengthen immunity. 

9. Neti Pot

To combat congestion, you can use a neti pot for nasal irrigation. A neti pot is a device used in Ayurvedic medicine that looks similar to a teapot, and it works by rinsing the nasal passages with sterile salt water.

If you don’t have a neti pot, a steamy shower with hot water may also help relieve congestion. 

Preventing the Spread of the Flu

With flu season in full swing, it’s important to do what you can to prevent the spread of the flu. According to the CDC, you should consider taking the following preventative measures this flu season:

  • Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze. 
  • Stay home when you’re sick. 
  • Stay home if you’ve been exposed to a sick household member. 
  • Wash your hands regularly.

If you have to go out of the house when you’re sick, wear a mask over your mouth and nose to protect others when you cough and sneeze.

With the right precautions and the right natural remedies, you can stay far away from the flu this time of year.

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