#18: Fight Back With These Natural Remedies

February is right around the corner and unless you’re somewhere warm, you’re likely between the covers or under a heavy winter coat. With the cold weather comes everyone’s least favorite party-crashers: the cold and flu. While we’re no stranger to fighting winter ailments with conventional meds like Robitussin, Advil Cold and Sinus and Mucinex, we prefer natural remedies as our first line of defense.

So, why do we prefer natural remedies?

First, natural remedies can be just as effective or even better than conventional medications especially when taken at the very first sign of sickness. That’s because these natural remedies support your body’s immune system, instead of suppressing or hiding symptoms. While the conventional OTC meds stop your runny nose, watery eyes and nasty cough, they can prolong the duration of the illness by blocking your inflammatory pathways which are the immune system’s first fighters.

Second, many natural remedies like elderberry syrup possess anti-viral properties and contain antioxidants that reduce or eliminate damage to cells caused by free radicals. In fact, a study in Israel showed preliminary evidence that elderberry extract can shorten the duration of cold and flu symptoms.

Third, many, if not all OTC remedies contain additives such as dyes, synthetic fillers, chemicals and artificial sugars. These additives are derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), can overburden your liver (not good when you’re using your body’s vital resources to get rid of the bad guys) and may cause other unwanted short and long term side effects. For a discussion on some of the worst offenders, check out this great post by the Food Babe.

Here are some of our favorite cold and flu-fighting natural remedies:

Vitamin D - The best way to fight the flu is to make your immune system strong enough to kill the virus before it sets up shop in your body. You can support your immune system by supplementing with Vitamin D and upping your dosage in the winter months. This is probably the most important form of flu and cold prevention there is. You can read more about the importance of Vitamin D in this post from a few weeks ago.

Elderberry Syrup - Hippocrates, the Greek father of medicine, kept elderberries in his medicine chest for good reason. As we mention above, they have strong antiviral properties and high levels of antioxidants. You can buy elderberry syrup from Whole Foods or your local healthfood store but you will pay top dollar for it and many brands contain additives like stevia and fructose. If you want to make your own, click HERE for our Elder Gummies recipe! If you don’t, we recommend Nature’s Answer.

Power Shot - Oregano oil is a potent anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral agent. That means that it’s good at killing bad guys! Add 2-3 drops of oregano oil mixed with ½ cup of water and a good squeeze of organic lemon. We take this 3 times a day when we feel the sniffles coming on but a few words of caution here - it is quite strong, so expect a slight burning sensation, do not use for more than a week at a time and avoid if you have high blood pressure or other heart disease.

Gargling with salt water -  The benefits of gargling with salt water are so well recognized that the American Journal of Preventative Medicine endorses it. The reason why it’s so effective is that the sodium kills the bacteria and draws out the moisture in infected areas of the throat. We also recommend using sea salt as opposed to table salt for several reasons. While table salt is higher in sodium, it also has added anti-caking agents, including sugar (the last thing you want when you’re sick), has a harsher, unpleasant taste and could harbor bacteria. Add a half tablespoon of sea salt to an 8 oz. glass of lukewarm water, stir, sip and gargle for 10-30 seconds at a time. Repeat as needed. 

Pau D’Arco Tea Pau D’Arco tea bags are available in most health food stores. It is a tree bark from South America, praised for its medicinal properties. Effective against fungi, bacteria, viruses and parasites, Pau D’Arco tea should be a staple in your natural medicine chest. Add 2 slices of fresh ginger for added anti-inflammatory power. If you have a scratchy throat, add a teaspoon of raw honey. 

Shiitake Mushrooms - Mushrooms can boost the immune system by up to 300%. That’s why we eat more of them in the fall and winter. When you feel the sniffles coming on, add these to your grocery list. A simple saute in grassfed butter with a pinch of pink himalayan sea salt is all it takes to make food as medicine.

We hope these natural remedies will serve you well in the upcoming months. If you have a natural remedy that you can’t live without, we’d love to hear about it! Head on over to our Facebook page to share your tips.

Stay tuned to our blog later this week to get the recipe for our Mexican Graveyard BoneBroth - strong enough to raise even the toughest ranchero from the dead...

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