On the first day of 2018, I woke up sick.
Not a little under the weather. Not hungover. Full on, down-for-the-count, five-boxes-of-tissues ill. I thought I’d be better in a day or so, as I am with most of the (rare) colds I encounter, but alas, this was no minor bug.
I was one of tens of thousands of Americans to fall victim to 2018’s particularly wicked flu season, courtesy of the H3N2 flu strain. For seven consecutive days, I consumed cough drops like candy and slathered vaseline all over my poor, tortured nose. Great way to kick off the new year, am I right?
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I feel like I went through an entire Costco-sized pack of cold medicine in that short time. But when Nyquil couldn’t quite cut it, I also turned to natural remedies for additional relief. Here are some of the best natural flu and cold remedies (that actually work) to relieve symptoms and speed up recovery.
Natural remedies for a sore throat
Apple Cider Vinegar
I was skeptical when I read on the internet that gargling and swallowing apple cider vinegar would ease my sore throat — but I was desperate enough to give it a try and, despite the strong taste, it really did help.
Simply add one tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar to eight ounces of water. Gargle a mouthful, then swallow. Repeat up to three times, then swish your mouth with water to rinse the acid off your teeth.
Ginger Turmeric Milk
My best friend swears by this to ease her sore throat and cough when sick. Both ginger and turmeric are antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory and come with a hefty dose of antioxidants. Mix ½ teaspoon of powdered turmeric and 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger with ¼ cup water and a ½ cup of dairy, almond, or coconut milk. Heat until the milk almost boils, then sweeten if desired. Consume up to three times daily.
Natural remedies for a cough
Thyme is an official, approved remedy for treating coughs and upper-respiratory infections in Germany, and rightly so: It’s packed with cough-suppressant compounds. Muddle up thyme leaves and cover in boiling water, leaving to steep for 10 minutes. Bonus: Buddha Teas sells a thyme tea if you don’t feel like DIYing it.
Honey and lemon
Sometimes the simplest remedies are the most effective. Honey and lemon are mild antibiotics that soothe and coat the throat, suppressing the cough reflex. Drink in warm water or add to your tea of choice.
Natural remedies for congestion
To get some relief from sinus pressure, add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a bowl of hot water. Drape a towel over your head and lean over the bowl, allowing yourself to breathe in the steam for up to 10 minutes.
Available online or at your local health food store, Xlear is a natural nasal spray containing saline and xylitol, helping to keep your sinuses clear and moisturized.
Natural antiviral remedies
My Swedish friend swears by Echinacea as a way to get over colds and flus faster. Scientists tested the effectiveness of echinacea in a double-blind 2013 study, finding that it can help fight off infections when taken at the first sign of illness.
When you start noticing you’re getting sick, dissolve a dropper of echinacea extract (you can find it in health food stores like Sprouts and Whole Foods) in water and drink, up to three times daily.
While we’re still waiting for the evidence to support that oregano is the miracle many claim it to be, a few notable studies suggest the essential oil has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties which will help your body fight off the flu. Add 20 to 30 drops to a tablespoon of water and swish around in your mouth a few seconds before swallowing. Repeat four times daily.
While many of these natural remedies have proven effective in my own life, they’re not meant to completely replace over-the-counter cold medicine or a doctor’s recommendations. And, as always, tons of water and rest are the best natural remedies out there.