The flu is nothing to sneeze at. Body aches, fever, chills and a runny nose all make for a draining few days. And with the flu jab potentially doing more harm than good, it’s easy to feel like you just have to grin and bear it.
But luckily, there are plenty of natural ways to relieve symptoms. From soup to salt water, here are our top natural flu remedies.
1. Salt Water
An oldie but a goodie. Your grandma might have recommended gargling salt water to ease a sore throat, and there’s a reason why. When our throats hurt it’s because the cells in the mucus membranes have become swollen and inflamed. Salt works by drawing out the water, shrinking the swollen cell and easing the pain. On top of that, it helps wash away the excess mucus, giving a stuffy nose the chance to drain
For a simple sore throat remedy, fill a glass with warm water, mix in one teaspoon of sea salt and gargle for 30 seconds. The salt will work almost instantly to relieve the pain.
2. Keep Hydrated
When you feel the flu coming on, make sure you drink plenty of water. By keeping mucus membranes moist, water can help relieve dry eyes and other common flu symptoms.
As well as easing the symptoms of the flu, good hydration can also help prevent it. A recent study found that those who drank just three glasses of water a day were five times more likely to suffer from a blocked nose or sore throat than those who drank eight. Those who drank more water also made a speedier recovery, with fewer respiratory infections, headaches and skin problems.
3. Steam Bath
Breathe easy with steam. At the first sign of a cold, steam your face with hot water and a few drops of essential oils (eucalyptus, tea tree and lavender work well). Not only does the steam ease sinus pain, but the oils can also help fight off infection.
To make a steam bath, add a few drops of essential oils to boiling water. Drape a towel over the top of your head to trap the steam and breathe in through nose for five to 10 minutes.
You may never have heard of Astragalus before, but this ancient Chinese herb has been used for thousands of years to stimulate the immune system. One double-blind trial found that people who were given 100 mg of Astragalus extract in combination with a flu vaccine reported lower frequency of colds and flu compared with those who received only the flu vaccine.
According to Dr Randy Horwitz, "Research shows that the 50 or so different compounds in astragalus work by stimulating immune cells, such as T cells, phagocytes, and macrophages, to fight off disease. In Asia, it's even given to cancer patients."
5. Ginger Tea
Ginger boasts a whole load of antibacterial, antiviral, analgesic and anti-inflammatory qualities, helping you fight the flu on all fronts. As well as reducing pain and boosting the immune system, this super-root is also packed full of gingerol and shogaol compounds, which help stimulate perspiration and reduce body temperature.
To make an invigorating tea, simply steep fresh ginger root in boiling water. For an even punchier drink, try adding ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder and a pinch of cayenne.
Turmeric Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory and offers a host of other health benefits, so combining it with the ginger will give your body a real shot of goodness when you're feeling under the weather.
Elderberry has been used for centuries to treat cold and flu, and now research has proven it really does work wonders. Studies show that chemicals in elderflower and berries may help reduce swelling in mucous membranes, including the sinuses, and help relieve nasal congestion.
So what makes this fruit so special? Well, elderberries are particularly high in phenolic compounds, with exceptionally high levels of anthocyanins, as well as being a good source of water soluble vitamin C.
7. Raw Garlic
It may be the last thing you want to eat when you’re feel poorly, but raw garlic can help relieve symptoms of cold and flu. Garlic contains compounds called allion and allicin, which have direct antiviral effects, giving it the potential to ward off the flu virus at its early stages. In fact, a recent study showed that those who took a garlic tablet every day were more than 50 percent less likely to develop common colds than those taking a placebo.
To get the most out of garlic’s flu-fighting properties, try chewing a raw clove every three or four hours. If the flavor is just too strong to stomach, cut the clove into small pieces and swallow like a pill.