Home Remedies for Cold and Flu Season

Coughs, sore throats, and stuffy noses...

are all common symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections, which are most commonly bacterial or viral in origin.  Naturopathic home remedies can provide much needed symptom relief, while helping to treat the underlying infectious organism, and enhancing your immune system for a speedy recovery.  Below are some of my top cold and flu recommendations.


Steam inhalation:  

Steam inhalations are a form of hydrotherapy, and provide a hot, moist air bath to the upper respiratory tract to enhance blood flow, immune activity, and healing.  Expectorations are enhanced by loosening up mucous, and congestion is decreased.  Fill a ceramic or glass bowl halfway with boiling water, and drape a towel over your head, taking slow, deep breaths to breath in the hot steam.  Wipe your face with a cool cloth as needed.  Continue the treatment for 20-30 minutes, up to 3x/day.  You may choose to add 3-5 drops of an antimicrobial essential oil, such as eucalyptus, lavender, or thyme.  Use extra caution with hot water.  For extremely young or elderly individuals, eliminate the towel for a less intense treatment.  Ask your naturopathic doctor (ND) for further guidance if you have a pre-existing cardiovascular condition.


Turmeric and Honey:  

Turmeric is anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anti-bacterial, and honey is a natural antimicrobial agent and emollient, helping to soothe the pain of a sore throat.  Combine 1 teaspoon of honey (local or manuka) with ½ teaspoon turmeric to make a paste.  Consume ½ teaspoon, 2x/day. 


Hot Ginger, Lemon, Cayenne:

While traveling through India, I noticed that a “Hot Ginger Lemon” was on the menu at most restaurants.  This combination is such a wonderful tonic for digestion and inflammation, and is one of the best treatments for upper respiratory tract infections.  Ginger is antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory, as well as energetically warming, enhancing circulation to facilitate healing.  Lemon contains vitamin C and acts as a soothing astringent, and I often add a pinch of cayenne, which further enhances circulation and helps to relieve throat pain.  Simmer 5 tablespoons of chopped fresh ginger with 7 cups of water for 30 minutes, add the juice of 1 lemon and ¼ teaspoon cayenne.  Consume 1-3 cups/day.


Neti Pot:

Pathogenic microorganisms can easily thrive in the warm, moist lining of the nasal passages and sinuses.  Performing nasal lavage is one of the best ways to flush microbial invaders out and reestablish a healthy microbiome.  A neti pot is a device used to direct a warm, saline solution into one nostril while your head is tilted to the side, facilitating the flow of water out through the other nostril.  Use one cup of warm, clean (distilled or purified) water, combined with ½ teaspoon sea salt.  You can also add the contents of a probiotic capsule (ask your ND for a recommendation).  I usually recommend using the neti pot first thing in the morning and before bed until your symptoms improve.


Apple cider vinegar/sea salt gargle:

An apple cider vinegar and sea salt gargle is excellent both for acute throat infections, and chronic tonsillitis.  Apple cider vinegar is astringent, helping to heal inflamed tissues, and is also a source of beneficial bacteria.  Sea salt is antimicrobial, and the act of gargling helps to rinse away bacteria and viruses.  Combine 1 cup hot water with 1 tablespoon organic apple cider vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon natural sea salt, let cool slightly, and gargle 2-3 times.


I often make herbal or nutraceutical recommendations based on a patient’s individual symptoms, in addition to the above home therapies.  If you have cold or flu symptoms that are not responding to home treatments, it’s important to contact your naturopathic or medical doctor for further evaluation.