Sometimes, despite looking after yourself and taking all kinds of precautionary measures you still catch that dreaded cold or flu.
The resulting body aches, fever, chills, congestions, throat ache, cough, runny nose and other symptoms are no fun especially when you have little time to take a step back to recover.
The most common approach is to take some medicine to try and suppress symptoms but there are a few things you can do to actually improve the function of your immune system and tackle the virus directly.
This way you can help shorten the duration of your sickness so that you are back on your feet and feeling like yourself again as soon as possible.
Battling a virus can take a lot of energy. Wherever possible, listen to your body and rest. Not always an easy thing to do, especially when you have work or home demands or small children. Still, try to make it a priority and lie down, put your feet up, and get some shuteye whenever you are able to. Eliminating non-essential tasks for a few days is not going to hurt anyone.
Vitamin C is one of the nutrients that are key for immune health. When you are down with a cold or flu, you can up your intake of vitamin C to give your immune system some extra support.
Liposomal vitamin C is absorbed most efficiently but if that is not available where you live, you can take ascorbic acid, anywhere from 1000 to 4000 mg per day, up to bowel tolerance. Start with 1000 mg and gradually increase the dosage. When you experience loose bowel movements you need to cut back the dosage.
Ginger has powerful anti viral properties and it is one of my go-to home remedies for when my children have a sore throat. Here are two ginger recipes that help battle your cold or flu.
Ginger Honey Syrup:
- Peel and grate a knob of ginger root and place it, in batches, in a garlic press to squeeze out the juice. (I find this the quickest and easiest way to extract ginger juice).
- Combine the juice in a small bowl with honey (which is also anti viral) to sweeten and keep it in the fridge.
- Take one teaspoon of this syrup a few times a day.
Ginger Honey Lemon Drink*:
- Juice 1-2 pounds of ginger, place juice in a jar and refrigerate. Please note that in these quantities you are better off using a juicer or it will take forever to extract all the juice.
- Place 2-4 ounces of ginger juice in a mug with the juice of one-half lemon and a tablespoon of honey. Add 1/8 tsp. of cayenne pepper and 6 ounces of hot water.
- Drink 2-6 cups of this a day, sipping slowly throughout the day.
* Recipe from chriskresser.com
Elderberries have powerful immune-enhancing and anti-viral properties and they are well known for treatment of colds and coughs and other acute infections.
You can buy elderberry syrup in most health food stores, although most contain sugar. If you can get your hands on the dried berries, here is a simple recipe for making syrup at home *:
- 4 cups cold water
- 2 cups organic dried elderberries
- 1 organic cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp. freshly grated ginger root
- raw local honey
- Combine the berries and herbs with cold water in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow herbs to simmer for 30-40 minutes.
- Remove from heat and mash the berries in the liquid mixture.
- Strain the berries and herbs through a cheesecloth, squeezing out and reserving the juice.
- Measure the liquid and add an equal amount of honey.
- Gently heat the honey and juice for a few minutes until well combined. Do not boil!
- Bottle in sterilized glass jars. Store in refrigerator and use within 12 weeks.
* Recipe adapted from Mountain Rose Herbs.
Zinc is an important immune boosting nutrient that many people don’t get enough of in their diet. Oysters, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, cashews, lamb, chickpeas and mushrooms are some of the foods that provide good levels of zinc to be sure to include these in your diet regularly.
Additionally, when you are battling a cold or flu you can boost your zinc intake temporarily by taking 30 mg of zinc picolinate or zinc gluconate.
Garlic is a powerful herb for treating colds and flus and a sore throat. It boosts the body’s natural immune function by stimulating the production of white blood cells. It acts against pathogenic bacteria, viruses and parasites, while at the same time supporting the development of beneficial flora.
Here is a recipe from Megan Liebmann, herbalist and herbal educator, for a powerful immune boosting concoction that you can turn to when you’re under the weather. Prepare a batch when cold or flu season is underway and use it for prevention or to shorten the duration of your cold or flu:
- 1 medium white onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- 4-5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 4 tablespoons freshly grated ginger root
- 3-4 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish root (you can leave this out if it is not available where you live)
- Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar (raw, unfiltered)
- Cayenne powder
- Combine the onion, garlic, ginger, and horseradish in a wide mouthed glass quart jar and fill the jar with enough warmed apple cider vinegar to cover the herbs. Place the jar in a warm spot in your house, ideally near a sunny window, and let sit for 3-4 weeks.
- Strain, then discard the spent herbs. Add the honey and cayenne pepper to taste; this is where you can make the fire cider more or less kid friendly. The finished product should be spicy, sweet and give you a good ‘kick’! Store in the fridge.
- You can add a tablespoon to your morning drink of warm water with lemon or use it to make salad dressings.
* Adapted from Rosemary Gladstar
While these cold and flu remedies are extremely useful for getting back on your feet faster, it is important to note that the most powerful way to prevent catching a cold or flu is by taking care of your diet and lifestyle on an on-going basis.
A healthy and nutrient dense diet, sufficient and good quality sleep, exercise, hydration and stress reduction are all key for building a strong immune system.
Additionally there is a powerful connection between the health of your digestive system and the health of your immune system. It has been estimated that more than 70% of your immune system is housed in your gut. A compromised digestion is therefore bound to affect the function of your immune system and your ability to ward off colds and flu. If you are falling sick often, this may be an area to look into. You can read more about that here.
The important take-away is this: look after your health by restoring balance in all areas. When a cold or flu does slip through, follow the tips outlined above and you’ll be back on your feet in no time!