When cold and flu season hits, it’s nice to have an assortment of home remedies for coughs on hand to sooth sore throats. We’ve tried just about all of these at one point or another, depending on who’s coughing and what type of cough they have. I hope you find them useful as well.
Home Remedy for Coughs #1 – Honey and Cinnamon
Pour some honey in a small container ( I used an 8 ounce mason jar) and mix in some cinnamon to taste. Take one spoonful as needed to quiet cough. Both cinnamon and honey are anti-bacterial and anti-viral, and the honey coats and soothes the throat. (Bottom right image in photo.)
This is the final post in our “Cold and Flu” series. One could go on almost indefinitely with healing options, as our bodies are very complex and a great many things influence our immune response, but I think this series represents some of the best “tools” available for boosting your immune system.
This post discusses how herbs, spices, traditional remedies and your kitchen sink can help boost your immune system and protect you from colds and flus.
Herbal Antibiotics for Colds and Flus
You are probably aware (hopefully) that most colds and flus are not caused by bacteria, they are caused by viruses. Therefor, standard antibiotics are useless as a remedy for colds and flus. There are now anti-viral medications, but they are most effective if administered early on, and may have some side effects. Plus, who really wants to schlep into the ER when you feel lousy and your immune system is already compromised? Secondary infections are often more dangerous than the original virus.
It turns out that many common herbs are not only antibacterial but also antiviral, and have minimal to no side effects. In the book Herbal Antibiotics, Stephen Harrod Buhner presents his top choices for cold and flu fighting herbs, including echinacea, wormwood root, balsam root, boneset, red root, licorice, sage, garlic and honey. (While not technically an herb, honey is often used in herbal medicine and so is included in the book.) Complete dosing instructions and contraindications are given in the text. I highly recommend the book, as it gives not only practical information on herbal use, but an overview of the history of antibiotics and how antibiotic resistance spreads. Technically, he includes both herbs and spices in his arsenal, as various plant parts are used.
An example of the easy to use recipes that Stephen provides is The Best Cold and Flu Tea, which contains:
2 teaspoons sage
juice of one lemon (or one teaspoon lemon balm herb)
Pinch cayanne pepper
1 tablespoon (15 ml) honey
To prepare the tea, pour one cup boiling water over sage and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Strain out herbs, ad remaining ingredients, and drink hot.
Best Herbs and Spices for Colds and Flus
One of my favorite remedies for cold and flu season is a big batch of chicken soup. Chicken contains an amino acid called cysteine, which can thin the mucus in your lungs and make it easier to expel. Proper soup often includes an assortment of herbs and spices, many of which have healing properties. The Weston A Price Foundation website states:
Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons–stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain.
I always include bay leaf in my soups, which is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Parsley is loaded with vitamins and minerals, and can act as a stomach soother. Sage is another herb that is popular with poultry, and is also anti-bacterial and anti-viral. Fresh sage is best when available because many of the beneficial compounds are concentrated in the oil. Celery, too, has a long history of medicinal use.
Other spices that are commonly used in holiday cooking that help boost your immune system are cinnamon, nutmeg, rosemary and cloves.
Rule of thumb: strongly scented and flavored herbs and spices come with strong oils that can add flavor, improve your health and often extend the life of your food.
Put some extra cinnamon or nutmeg in your eggnog. Be generous with the spices in your pumpkin pie or scones. Throw some extra sage in the stuffing. Make a rosemary vinaigrette for your salads. Experiment with the flavors. Regular use over time will help boost your immune system.
How Can Your Sink Fight Germs?
While frequent hand washing is an obvious answer (please skip the anti-microbial soaps – plain soap and water acts as a surfactant to lift germs away without breeding superbugs), your sink may help keep you healthy in another way – if you use copper faucets. A recent study in Europe demonstrates:
Under normal daily conditions the level of multi-resistant Staphylococci Aureus (MRSA) bacteria decreased by a third, and their resettlement on copper door handles and switches decreased considerably.
In our home, we have copper handles on all the cabinets, and copper faucet in the kitchen and brass door handles (brass is typically 63% copper and 37% zinc). Not as much copper as in the study, but we’re not coping with MRSA. If you don’t have a big budget, you may want to consider just swapping out drawer pulls in your most germy/heavily used areas, like near the kitchen or bathroom sinks.
If you’ve found this post useful, please share it with your friends.
You may also enjoy the other posts in the series:
Preparing for Cold and Flu Season: Step 1 – Probiotics
Coping with Stomach Flu Symptoms (Why the BRAT diet may not be your best choice)
Preparing for Cold and Flu Season with Essential Oils
The Best Vitamins and Minerals for Fighting Colds and Flus
and the related post:
What are the best vitamins and minerals for fighting colds and flus?
There’s been a lot of hype in recent years about this supplement or that supplement being able to prevent colds and flus or lessen their duration and severity, but how much is real and how much is hype? Here are the top choices for my cold and flu arsenal.
Vitamin C has been demonstrated to have a strong anti-viral effect. Orthomolecular.org states: “In high doses, vitamin C neutralizes free radicals, helps kill viruses, and strengthens the body’s immune system. Taking supplemental vitamin C routinely helps prevent viral infections.” It has been shown to be effective against both the swine and bird flu.
This week’s installment on prepping for cold and flu season is a guest post by my friend, Jo, from Jo’s Health Corner. Jo has a TON of great information on her site about using essential oils, and she’s shared some of her experience preparing for cold and flu season with essential oils.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are concentrated extracts that have been distilled from aromatic trees, herbs, and grasses. They are located in leaves, stems, fruits, roots, flowers, and bark of different plants. The essential oils are responsible for the plant’s unique aroma.
Some of the most powerful anti-microbials known today
Essential oils have been used in perfume making for a long time. It is easy to overlook the important fact that essential oils are some of the most powerful anti-microbials known today. I think they should be used in every home during cold and flu season since they are very important in fighting many types of infectious disease. It is said that glove makers and perfume makers were spared in England during the plague. The entire city of Buklesbury, England, was spared from the plague because it was the center for the lavender trade. Lavender is a known for its anti-microbial properties.
Don’t wait until you get sick
You don’t have to wait until you are sick to take advantage of the healing benefits of the oils. Most essential oils are antiseptic and bactericides, which will inhibit bacterial growth. Some oils are also anti-fungal and antiviral so you can see why they are beneficial during flu season. You can use essential oils in many ways around the house to boost your immune system. I like to clean with my favorite bacteria busters such as cinnamon, clove, lemon, eucalyptus, lavender, thyme and pine. Not only do they assist in cleaning my house but they also benefit my immune system. I also like to diffuse oils in my diffuser several times a day. You can make a room spritzer and spray in the air if you don’t have a diffuser.
Basic Spritzer Recipe
2 ounce glass bottle with spritzer/mister top
1 ¾ oz ounces of distilled water
10-30 drops of various essential oils ( I use less amount when I use intense aromas)
Optional: ¼ teaspoon vodka or witch hazel to emulsify the oils and water. It is important with thick oils like myrrh and jasmine.
Fill the bottle with water, add oils, and shake before each use. Make your own blend or try my favorite spice recipe:
2 drops cinnamon
1 drop clove
2 drops mandarin
You don’t need to buy the whole store
It is not necessary to have a whole bunch of oils at home, it is more important to choose wisely what oils to buy. The oils need to be of high quality so they posses the therapeutic properties you want. Quality is very important since many companies dilute their oils with synthetic substances to cut cost. This can cause harm and change the therapeutic effect of an oil.
I put together a list of oils that are most useful during this time of the year. You don’t need all of them, but research has shown that there is a greater antimicrobial activity when several oils were combined. Therefore, I like to mix several different oils into one blend for enhanced therapeutic value.
I make sure that I have at least a couple of different immune stimulants at home during cold and flu season. Immune stimulants can strengthen the immune system by directly inhibiting the micro-organisms, or by stimulating the immune system. The essential oils of lavender, eucalyptus, lemon, rosemary, tea tree and thyme are considered immune stimulants. Dr. Jan Valnet, M.D, lists eucalyptus, garlic, sandalwood, cinnamon, lavender, German Chamomile and peppermint as being very useful.
Clove, thyme, oregano, cinnamon, mountain savory, and peppermint are said to have the strongest antimicrobial actions. Tea tree, pine, patchouli, lavender, cajuput, and black pepper are other oils with antimicrobial properties.
Get rid of the toxins! Essential oils also have depurative (cleansing) properties that eliminate waste material and toxins. Germs don’t attack healthy tissues, so it is important to keep the internal environment clean. Angelica root, carrot seed, cypress, grapefruit, juniper berry, lemon, and rosemary have depurative properties. I like to add these oils to massage oil, unscented body lotions, bath salts, and body spritzers.
Be ahead of the game and use them before you need them. Be creative in how you use the essential oils during this time of the year:
- Make your own perfume
- Diffuse oils in your diffuser
- Use the essential oils for cleaning
- Sniff straight from the bottle
- Add essential oils to the Vita Flex points
- Add essential oils to lotion, liquid soap, or shampoo (make sure they don’t cause skin sensitivity)
- Add a few drops to dishwashing soap
- Put a few drops on a handkerchief and inhale
- If the oil is not contraindicated, mix with bath salts and take a healing bath
How to use essential oils when someone is sick
There are different things you can do if you get sick. Here are some of the things that I do:
- At the first sign of a stuffy nose I inhale deeply straight from the bottle. I also diffuse appropriate oils in my diffuser
- I mix the essential oils with massage oil and apply on affected areas such as chest, sinuses, or back
- I add a few drops on a handkerchief and inhale deeply. Sometimes I put 2 or more drops into the palm of your left hand, rub clockwise with the flat palm or your right hand. Cup your hands together over the nose and mouth and inhale deeply. Don’t touch your eyes!
- My son successfully cleared congested sinuses within a few hours by doing steam inhalations with anti-viral and expectorant oils last week. Add a few drops of oil to a bowl of warm but not boiling water. Inhale the steaming vapors from the bowl. To increase intensity, drape a towel over your head and bowl before inhaling.
- I add a few drops to drinking water and gargle for a few minutes if I have a sore throat.
- I often add essential oils to the Vita Flex points on the bottom of the feet. This is especially useful for children since some oils may be too strong to apply on other parts of the body.
- I used to drop cypress under my daughter’s pillow when we lived in Wales several years ago when she was coughing a lot due to moist weather.
Essential oils can be used in so many various ways so be creative. As mentioned above, you don’t need a lot of oils. The best anti-microbial oils are strong and may irritate the skin so inhaling and diffusing may be better choice when used as prevention. Oregano, cinnamon, clove, black pepper, and thyme are some of my favorite oils but I don’t apply them topically unless necessary for a specific condition. I may include them in a in a rub used topically for a small area, but I would not add them to a bath or a whole body massage blend.
Spice oils are very intense so it is best to mix them up with some other oils before diffusing them in the room. For example, diffused clove oil can irritate the eyes so it should not be diffused more than a couple of minutes at a time. Spice oils such as cinnamon and clove can be mixed with citrus oils to make them less irritating.
Johanna is an aromatherapist and she blogs about health, essential oils, real food, natural remedies, and nutrition on Jo’s Health Corner. She also runs Naturally Sports & Wellness together with her husband.
Other posts in this series include: