Natural Solutions For Cold and Flu Season

Natural Solutions For Cold and Flu Season

I just got over a bad cold, and it was a doozy! When I get sick, I dive into my cupboard of Supplements, Vitamins, Teas and Essential Oils.

Today, I’m going to share a few of my tips with you. Because when you get sick, you want it gone FAST. The thing is though- you need to be prepared, and keep your immune system up, as well as have these on hand for when that bug does hit.

Vitamin C

How much vitamin C do you get in the average day? If it’s not a lot, you’ll definitely want to up your intake if you get a cold or flu.

Lots of studies have looked at whether vitamin C can fight colds and flu. This came off the back of research from Linus Pauling, a Nobel prize winning chemist. He claimed a strong link between vitamin C and good health, including treating the common cold through very high doses of vitamin C. His research involved taking up to 18,000 mg of vitamin C every day, which is far beyond the recommended daily amount of 75 mg (for women) and 90 mg (for men).

Since then, the link between vitamin C and colds has been the subject of a lot of research. The results haven’t been as emphatic as Pauling’s claims but vitamin C has been put forward as a way to make colds shorter and less severe.

According to the results of several studies, vitamin C can cut colds by around a day and make symptoms less intense. This generally involved doses of 200 mg or more. This doesn’t seem to prevent colds and a series of trial comparisons involving over 11,000 people strongly suggested that taking vitamin C every day doesn’t protect you if you’re exposed to a cold virus. However, it does show promise in reducing recovery time by almost 10%. And for children, recovery time has shortened even more.

Why is vitamin C so effective for tackling colds? One theory focuses on the concentration of vitamin C in immune cells. When you get sick, this is quickly reduced and your immune system weakens. Getting plenty of vitamin C helps to address this. It’s a fine line though - high doses of vitamin C can cause unpleasant side effects such as diarrhea and abdominal pain.

Eating plenty of vitamin C rich foods can help too. Red bell peppers are a great dietary source of vitamin C, along with citrus fruits and kale. When I’m sick, I crave grapefruit!

Zinc

The link between vitamin C and recovering from colds is pretty well known but there’s another nutrient that is super important for getting over colds and flu more quickly … zinc!

The benefits were highlighted back in 1984, when a study showed that getting plenty of zinc could help people to get sick less often. According to more recent studies, taking zinc supplements when cold or flu strikes can reduce your symptoms by a day or so. This is more likely if you start taking zinc as soon as you first notice cold or flu symptoms - preferably within 24 hours.

So, how does zinc help? One theory is that it stops the rhinovirus from taking on a life of its own. This is the virus that is responsible for most common colds and for the most part, it thrives in your upper respiratory system when you get sick. Taking zinc could stop this from happening to the same extent, which is super important for helping you to recover sooner.  

Lozenges are generally recommended over sprays. The latter is super convenient but has been linked to loss of smell (sometimes permanently!). Dissolving lozenges slowly in your mouth gives plenty of opportunity to coat your throat and come into more contact with rhinovirus. Don’t go crazy with how much zinc you take though … too much can potentially weaken your immune system and make you more likely to get sick!

The evidence is mixed as to whether taking zinc can stop you getting sick in the first place and most experts agree that it won’t prevent colds or flu. Think of it as an option to cut the length of colds and flu and make symptoms less severe, rather than a surefire way to not get sick.

Don’t forget about food sources of zinc too. Meat, shellfish, legumes, nuts, seeds (especially pumpkin seeds), whole grains and eggs all contain good amounts.

 
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Echinacea

Last time anyone in your family got sick with a cold or flu, what type of remedies did you try? If you’re anything like most people, you’ve probably tried a whole heap of decongestants, cough drops and painkillers, probably without much success.

When colds or flu strike, try reaching for some echinacea! This herb can be super helpful for getting over cold and flu symptoms more quickly and it’s a great immune booster too. According to research, it encourages your body to produce more white blood cells so you can bounce back quicker from illness and infection.

There are a few different species of echinacea, namely Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea pallida, and Echinacea angustifolia. Echinacea purpurea is the species that has been researched the most and it’s the one you’ll find in a lot of echinacea supplements (not always). Ideally, you want supplements that use freshly harvested herbs rather than dried herbs. Research says that these are packed with active substances - as much as 3 times more than their dried counterparts.

There’s no set recommended dosage for echinacea at the moment and supplements can come in different forms such as oral, liquids, tinctures and teas. Liquid forms can be more effective for fighting colds and flu than oral supplements as they come into direct contact with the throat and coat it. It’s worth noting that tinctures are usually combined with a small amount of alcohol so they’re not suitable for everyone.

If you decide to take echinacea, do it as soon as you feel the first signs of cold or flu. As long as you’re not taking massive doses, side effects tend to be mild and not everyone will get them. Upset stomach, headaches and fatigue are a few that have been reported.

Note: A word of caution if you’re allergic to daisies, chrysanthemums or marigold, or if you have asthma, an autoimmune disease or are on blood thinners, Experts don’t recommend that you use echinacea in these situations.

Essential Oils

Aromatherapy is an easy and super effective way to both treat colds and flu and to prevent them from striking in the first place.

There are quite a few essential oils that can improve immunity through their antibacterial and antiviral qualities. Here are just some of them that you might want to start including in an aromatherapy routine:

  •  Eucalyptus oil is a natural decongestant - perfect for clearing a blocked nose and congested sinuses!

  • Other decongestant essential oils include Clove, Lemon, Basil, Ginger, Frankincense, Peppermint, Rosemary and Sage.

  • Oregano oil supports the immune system and is both antibacterial and antiviral.

  • Other antibacterial and antiviral essential oils include Basil, Bergamot, Eucalyptus, Fennel, Lavender, Lemon and Tea Tree. 

  • Black pepper oil can be a great choice to tackle the aches and pains of flu. Fir is another one that works well for this, especially in combination with clove oil.

  • Struggling with a sore throat? Try Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, Sage or Ginger essential oils. A couple of drops rubbed in the palm of your hand and inhaled can help to relieve the pain.

  • Peppermint, Black pepper, Chamomile, Lemon and Tea Tree oils can all help to bring down a flu related fever. Add a drop or two to a cold compress and place on your forehead or chest.

So, how do you use essential oils? There are a few different options for getting the benefits:

  • Diffusion helps essential oil molecules to permeate the environment in your home and for ones that have antiviral, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, they can fight microbes that could make you sick.

  • Inhaling the scent of essential oils has the same type of effect and you can do this by inhaling from the bottle or adding a drop or two of essential oil to a tissue or cotton wool ball.

  • Aromatherapy room spritzers can be a super convenient alternative to using a diffuser, especially if you’re away from home.

  • You can even create a natural hand gel to kill germs - perfect for when you’re not able to wash your hands! Try adding a few drops of tea tree to aloe vera gel and jojoba oil for an antibacterial hand sanitizer.

Related reading:

Essential Oils and Your Immune System

How To Get Over A Cold, Fast!

Stress Can Compromise Your Immune System

Gaylene Gomez, NNCP, C.H.N.

A little bit about me! I'm Gaylene, a Holistic Nutrition Coach for women. I work with busy, professional women to help them learn about healthy, simple lifestyle changes they can easily implement to reduce belly bloat, lose weight and get through their day with sustained energy. My clients are committed to their health and excited to learn about healthy eating and natural living. I feel proud of them for taking charge of their health and I'm so lucky to work with these amazing women. 

Learn more about me here: About Me