Cold & Flu: How to Treat with Herbs
By Dr. Jennifer VanDeWater, PharmD
Integrative Therapeutics Board of the The Wellness Company
With Cold & Flu season approaching, here are some tips to help prevent and treat illness with a naturalistic approach.
Prevention is Key
Staying healthy is the goal! Keeping your immune system strong is the key. While many factors impact immune health, spending time outdoors is one of the easiest and most rewarding ways to boost the immune system. Natural sunlight, fresh air, and walking barefoot are all beneficial for staying healthy and boosting immunity. For those who are unable to bask in the natural sunlight, supplemental Vitamin D is essential for a strong immune system. Other behavioral interventions shouldn't be overlooked, either. Things as simple as laughter, community and social connection are truly medicine! Just a few minutes a day spent laughing will give the immune system a boost that lasts for 24 hours.
Herbal Remedies for Cold and Flu
If you find yourself in need of herbal remedies to treat the cold or flu, here are some recommendations. Hot tea is a natural decongestant that breaks up mucus and opens the nasal passages. There are certain teas that aid in the process. Lemon, honey, and ginger tea are not only soothing but will boost Vitamin C. Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory and will help open the nasal passages. Pine needle tea is another amazing option for nasal congestion. Warm broth, especially chicken soup, is a nutritious way to curb congestion. Chicken soup is not only comforting but helps to prevent illness and aid in recovery.
Headaches are quite common and not just when suffering from a cold or flu. Drinking plenty of water and staying well hydrated is the best headache prevention. When feeling unwell, it is important to maintain adequate hydration to alleviate other symptoms as well. Herbs and essential oils can also be helpful. Peppermint, which can easily be added to water or hot tea, is a natural headache reliever. For a topical application, eucalyptus oil massaged onto the forehead for 15-20 minutes combined with the peppermint drink is a great combination for reducing headache discomfort.
It's important to recognize that coughing is the body's attempt to remove the infection. If a productive cough is present, the body is trying to clear the mucus and cough suppression is not recommended. Instead, consider choosing a natural remedy to aid in breaking up or thinning out the mucus, making it easier to expel. Hyssop tea is an expectorant and antispasmodic which will help with a productive cough. Wild cherry bark in a soothing herbal drop will help break up the mucus and calm the urge to cough. Elderberry syrup or tea is not only recommended for cough suppression but is an amazing general immune booster as well.
Aches and Pains
The pain and discomfort of body aches during the flu can bring stressful days and sleepless nights. Turmeric, an indian spice which contains a powerful antiinflammatory compound called curcumin, is a natural pain reliever. Turmeric has antioxidative properties and increased benefits when combined with other herbs. White willow bark is another option, which is very similar in structure to aspirin and contains plant chemical compounds known as polyphenols and flavonoids. These plant compounds may help ease your flu-related body aches.
The Importance of Rest
Don’t forget to rest! A good night’s sleep is especially important for both recovery and prevention. Adequate sleep and a bedtime routine will help boost immunity and aid the body in the healing process. If you're struggling with sleep, check out our natural sleep remedy, and see this article for our five favourite tips for getting a good nights sleep. Do not overdo it with work or strenuous activities. Restful days, sleep filled nights, good hydration, and specific herbals are key for optimal recovery!
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About the Author:
Dr. Jennifer VanDeWater, PMD, is a registered pharmacist licensed in Maine, New York, and Vermont. Dr. Jen is The People's Pharmacist. She is one of the founders of the Integrative Therapeutics Board of The Wellness Company, and a global leader in reinitializing continuum of care processes between pharmacists, patients, and their doctors.