words: Addi McNeel
Temperatures are dropping, and the leaves are beginning to fade, sure signs that fall is here, and winter is well on its way. Along with the colder weather, however, comes cold and flu season.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults average about two or three colds per year, and with children, the average is even higher. When colds strike, their effects can make you miserable. But before you head to the pharmacy, you might consider herbal remedies, which can address the discomfort colds bring, while helping your body heal. Flu, on the other hand, is serious business, and a flu shot is recommended. If you do get the flu, however, you’ll need to see your doctor. Even so, there are herbal supplements and teas that can support you while you recover.
Medicine aside, prevention is your best chance at stopping the common cold or the flu in its tracks. Other than washing your hands, covering your mouth when you sneeze and avoiding people who are already sick, there are a few other things you can do to reduce the number of colds you’ll get this season. If the cold or flu does get to you despite your best efforts, here are tips to help you heal faster and get back to being the healthiest, best version of yourself in no time! Keep your pantry stocked with these herbs and foods, and you’ll be better equipped to take flu season head-on.
Probiotics: According to a recent study in the British Journal of Nutrition, probiotics may be effective in helping prevent catching a cold or the flu. Probiotics keep good bacteria in your gut, which helps your digestive system to remain healthy and functioning while improving overall health. Probiotics are especially important to take while on antibiotics, as they replace the good bacteria that are being killed off along with the bad. This flu season, try incorporating yogurt into your breakfast several times a week. If yogurt isn’t your thing, try drinking kefir or kombucha, which are healthy drinks loaded with probiotics and support your immune defense. Probiotics are also available as supplements in powder form, liquid, tablets or capsules. They all work well, but look for a high number of live bacteria on the label and try to pick one that requires refrigeration when looking for the best source of probiotics.
Tea leaves: Try substituting tea for coffee this cold and flu season to help protect against viruses. If the idea of going coffee-free frightens you more than catching a cold, try substituting half of the amount of coffee you drink on a daily basis for tea. In a Harvard study, those who drank five cups of black tea per day for two weeks had ten times more interferon (virus and bacteria-fighting proteins) present in their blood than those who drank a placebo. The amino acid that is responsible for the immunity boost is also present in green and decaf tea.
Lemon and cayenne water: A cup of water with lemon juice, mixed with a dash of cayenne pepper has been cited to have many health benefits, including liver detox and weight loss. Also, a glass of this drink each morning keeps the immune system strong and prepared for the day ahead. Lemons contain a high amount of vitamin C, which has long been a natural immunity builder, and cayenne pepper contains an ingredient called capsaicin, which also strengthens the immune system. Both lemon and cayenne pepper contain antibacterial properties, which can help prevent you from getting sick. However, if illness strikes, the combination of these two ingredients can help heal you from the inside and work to reduce any symptoms that may occur with an infection. Because the lemon is highly acidic, try drinking this concoction through a straw to protect your tooth enamel.
Turmeric: Turmeric is sometimes considered a “superfood” because of its extremely high anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The active ingredient in turmeric, known as curcumin, is antifungal and antiviral, which can really help in preventing the flu virus from getting you sick this season. A great way to consume this superfood is by mixing the turmeric with black pepper before adding it to food. The black pepper will significantly increase the body’s absorption of the turmeric and its preventative properties.
Echinacea: Your great-grandmother probably swore by this herb to prevent colds or the flu – and for good reason. According to the medical journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, the University of Connecticut conducted a study that determined echinacea reduces the chances of catching a cold by fifty-eight percent. The age-old herb was also discovered to help heal the body if a cold does strike. According to the study, echinacea can reduce the duration of a cold by nearly one-and-a-half days. One of the best ways to consume this plant is by drying the leaves, roots and stems to form a tea, or purchase the herbal tea from a local grocery or health food store.
Ginger: The use of this ancient root as a natural remedy for colds and flu dates back thousands of years in Asia. In addition to several healing properties such as anti-inflammatory and immunity building, ginger has many benefits to curbing several symptoms associated with the flu. Ginger is a powerful, natural painkiller with strength comparable to over-the-counter ibuprofen, a natural expectorant, which expands the lungs and loosens up mucus or phlegm, and aids in curbing nausea.
Detox bath: Running a bath mixed with baking soda and Epsom salt can help pull toxins out of your body, and forces you to sweat out a lot of them as well. It can also be a great way to relax and ease body aches associated with the flu. In addition to drawing out toxins, Epsom salt can ease stress and improve sleep, reduce inflammation, improve absorption of nutrients and help prevent or ease migraine headaches. The baking soda helps to neutralize chemicals in the tap water and increase mineral absorption so that your body can take in the Epsom salt. The detox bath will cause you to sweat a lot, so make sure you are drinking water to stay hydrated, as a dehydrated body is the last thing you need while sick.
Cherries: Cherries can aid in helping you fall asleep when tossing and turning all night long due to illness is not necessarily on your to-do list. Tart cherry juice contains tryptophan, which induces sleep, and melatonin, which regulates the body’s internal sleep cycle. A study from Louisiana State University found that adults who drank tart cherry juice twice a day slept ninety more minutes a night for two weeks versus drinking a placebo.
If the Flue Strikes
While taking care of your health, body and immune system will significantly reduce the number of colds you catch during cold and flu season, sometimes colds or the flu strike despite your best efforts. If you get the flu, see your doctor, since flu can cause serious problems. Take your doctor’s advice and any treatment recommended, and continue to work on healing and nourishing your body while naturally alleviating the symptoms associated with the virus. This advice should make you breathe a little easier this fall and winter. If you have home remedies or other natural treatments you swear by, let us know. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org, or message us on Facebook at Do South® Magazine.