Scratchy throat? Pounding headache? Fatigue? Stuffy nose? Throat feeling like you're swallowing razor blades?
Having a cold is never fun, but especially not during the holiday season!
The old me would have self medicated with painkillers, decongestant sprays and cough medicine, but now I prefer to support my body naturally and avoid the use of conventional medicine whenever possible.
(That being said, I'm not 'anti-medicine'. If I ever get hit by a car I'm going to want all the drugs I can get! I'd like to be taken to A&E, not a herbalist please.)
If you are currently suffering with a cold/flu virus or you can feel the first symptoms developing (thanks to the unhygienic cashier who sneezed then handed you your change), give these 10 natural remedies a try!
1. Avoid dairy & sugar
A chocolate milkshake would probably be the worse possible choice when you're sick. Dairy and milk products are mucus forming, therefore thats going to make a runny nose and hacking cough 10x worse. Sugar creates inflammation and suppresses the immune system by negatively impacting the function of white blood cells (WBC) .
Swap your dairy for plant based milk/yogurts like coconut, almond, hemp and hazelnut. If you fancy something sweet go for fruit or something like a mug of golden milk (a dairy free drink made with warming Ayurvedic spices).
2. Combine garlic and Manuka honey
Wait what? Yep, you read it right! Raw garlic is amazing at fighting infection, as is manuka honey, which also helps to mask the taste of the garlic. What you want to do is crush and peel 1 clove of garlic, leave it to sit for 15 minutes (this 'actives' certain compounds) then swallow it whole, washed down by a spoonful of raw manuka honey. Repeat this every 3-4 hours until your symptoms are relieved!
If you experience digestive upset from this recommendation, try adding roasted garlic into meals. This isn't as effective but it can still provide some medicinal properties. You can also try garlic capsules as these tend to be better tolerated. Look for a supplement that contains Allicin, as this is the active compound.
3. Add in medicinal herbs
Speaking of herbs and spices, this is one of the best ways to support your immune system during times of illness. Focus on herbs with 'warming' properties such as ginger, cinnamon, garlic, cloves and turmeric, and add them to drinks, soups, broths, stews and curries.
Shots of ginger juice can be very effective, along with elderberry syrup (avoid ones with added sugar & additives), as these are both anti-inflammatory and anti-viral plants.
4. Sip on bone broth
The bone broth trend is still going strong for a reason! The positive effects on immunity are undeniable, because of the healing nutrients, minerals and amino acids found in high quality broth. Did you know the reason chicken soup is recommended when we're sick? It's because traditionally chicken soup was home-made using chicken bone broth, however we've been led to believe that the canned stuff on the shelf provides the same benefit. Sadly, that's not true.
You can either make your own in a slow cooker for 12-24 hours, instant pot for 1-2 hours or buy it pre-made from the store. Make sure the bones are from healthy, grass-fed or pasture raised animals though, else you aren't going to get all the beneficial nutrients (and may be exposed to some nasty stuff).
5. Do some gentle movement
Some people swear by 'sweating out a cold' at the gym through intense workouts, however this can often make things worse. Instead, I recommend gentle movement like yoga, walking and light stretching to promote blood flow and circulate our lymph fluid. Building up a light sweat also increases core body temperature, which stimulates immune cells, and it can help to promote the excretion of toxins through the skin.
6. Take a hot bath
Not only are baths super relaxing, but soaking in hot water for at least 20 minutes can help to induce a fever that helps your immune system fight off infection! You may feel terrible during the bath as your temperature rises, but it really does help to support your body's natural processes.
Add in some epsom salts, essential oils and grab a book, to make it a more enjoyable process. Then wrap up in some snuggly PJ's and a blanket in front of the TV.
The reason that we feel so tired and weak when we are sick is because our body is telling us to rest! This is the time to go to bed early, take a nap in the afternoon and wake up at 10am. The more sleep you get, the quicker your body will be able to fight the infection and get better. Skip the 7am bootcamp class and cocktails with friends, and instead catch some Zzzz's.
8. Take supplements
Nutrients like vitamin A, C, D and zinc are needed for proper immune function and may help to reduce the length of a cold.
Vitamin C has been extensively studied for it's benefit on the immune system. An effective naturopathic protocol is to take 1,000mg of vitamin C every hour until bowel tolerance (fancy way of saying loose stools or diarrhoea). I know it doesn't sound fun, but it does the job, in my opinion!
9. Use essential oils
You can rub essential oils onto your lymph nodes, chest or bottom of your feet when diluted with a carrier oil. This is a safe and effective way to deliver the immune supportive properties through the skin. The best oils to support immunity are eucalyptus, clove, frankincense, lemon, peppermint and ginger. Stronger oils like oregano, melaleuca and thyme are better to diffuse, rather than use topically.
I personally love the blend 'On-Guard' by DoTerra.
10. Try the wet sock technique!
This is an old naturopathic remedy that has been used successfully for many years! First, soak your feet in hot water for a few minutes then immediately put on some cotton socks that have been soaking in cold water. Put a pair of thick wool or bed socks over the top and sleep with these on. In the morning your socks should be dry and you should be feeling better!
The alternating of hot and cold creates a pumping mechanism that stimulates your circulation and lymphatics. The results are an active immune system and decreased congestion
Did you read my previous post on supporting immunity and how to prevent a cold/flu virus? You can check it out here.
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