5 Natural Remedies We Used to Fight the Flu This Year

When the flu hits hard, we fight back with homemade, homegrown remedies. Some work well for prevention, others help recovery and some do both.

by Rachael Dupree
PHOTO: Rachael Dupree

Despite our best efforts to stay healthy this winter, our household—like many—didn’t escape the flu. Getting outside for daily walks around the farm, washing our hands religiously, and loading up on vitamin- and mineral-rich foods are a few strategies we use to keep our immune systems strong, but every once in awhile the bug gets the best of you. It’s a normal part of life, and even though it makes you feel crummy for a week or so, it can make your illness-fighting capabilities stronger in the long-run.

I like to keep a few homemade—and homegrown when possible—remedies on hand to nurture our sick family and keep us comfortable while fighting the flu. Keeping the body hydrated is key during any illness, so I like to turn to liquid “medicine” in the form of teas and soups. Here are some natural remedies we used against the flu this year.

*Note: While our family believes most minor illnesses can be treated at home, please consult your doctor or natural health practitioner if you’re not familiar with using natural remedies. Also note that high fevers and dehydration that can accompany the flu can warrant a trip to see a medical professional, so please monitor for those things while treating at home.

1. Elderberry

One of my favorite herbs for cold and flu season, elderberry offers a dose of vitamin C while also keeping the symptoms of illness from getting out of hand. When the threat of a cold or flu is imminent, I’ll take a dropperful of elderberry tincture with meals for prevention. When we are sick, I make up a soothing tea with elderberry and catnip to break a fever. Kids might find this remedy goes down easiest in syrup form made with honey. Safe for all ages, this is one herb we must have when flu strikes.

2. Catnip

Catnip is an herb beneficial to caretakers and the sick alike. It’s a mild sedative, so when brewed alone into a tea, it can help caretakers stay calm and can help the sick rest and regain a sense of homeostasis. However, this herb also shines in conjunction with other herbs. I use a homemade tincture made with catnip, chamomile and valerian to help with the head and body aches that accompany the flu. Catnip can also induce sweating to break a fever when combined with yarrow, elderberry or elder flower into a warm tea. Again, catnip is gentle enough to be used with patients of all ages.

3. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an adaptogen herb, meaning it can help the body cope with stress. While ashwagandha generally isn’t recommended to treat acute conditions, such as a cold or flu, you can use it to help build up the immune system during recovery or if you’re susceptible to illness from not getting enough rest. I’ve been putting ashwagandha tincture in my water to get my energy back up after the worst of the flu has passed. (Ashwagandha has abortive properties, so don’t use it if you’re pregnant.)

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4. Bone Broth

I’m a big believer in food as medicine, and bone broth is the quintessential cold and flu remedy. When the flu knocked out our appetites, we replenished the minerals in our bodies and gave ourselves a healing boost by sipping on a little bone broth made from high-quality organic chicken bones. As an added bonus, it’s high in electrolytes, which can keep the body hydrated better than drinking water alone. It’s also a great vehicle for other immune-boosting herbs, such as garlic and ginger. We always make bone broth after roasting a chicken and keep it our freezer for use in future soups—or for times like this, when we all get sick.

5. Massage Oil For Aches

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your body during a bout of the flu is to get rest, but that can be difficult with the aches, pains and stuffy nose that accompanies the illness. I make an easy massage oil using olive oil with a few drops of lavender and rosemary essential oils mixed in. Rub it on the temples, neck, shoulders and chest to offer relief from aches and open up the nasal passages—a little goes a long way. Make sure you research essential oils before using this on children.

These are just some of the tools we like to keep on hand to ride out the flu, but there are many other options that can help, as well. What are your favorite natural remedies for cold and flu season?

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