11 Natural Flu Remedies That Can Make You Feel Better Faster (Or Avoid Getting Sick Entirely)
This flu season has hit the United States especially hard. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 37 children have died from the flu so far this season, and between Oct. 1 and Jan. 20, there have been 11,965 laboratory-confirmed flu-related hospitalizations reported. With many weeks left to go in this year’s flu season, it’s so important to protect yourself from the flu virus. That means getting the flu shot, and going to the doctor if you notice any flu symptoms. But once you've taken those measures, there are natural flu remedies that help you avoid getting sick, on top of getting vaccinated, and help you feel better faster if you do get sick.
Dr. Megan Meyer, the director of Science Communications at the International Food Information Council Foundation, tells Bustle that what we ingest can have a huge impact on how we avoid and recover from the flu. “Different foods and micronutrients can be helpful in keeping your immune system strong," she says. "Following a balanced diet that incorporates healthy fats, lean proteins, whole grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables is a great way to protect yourself against this year’s cold and flu season. But there are a couple specific components you can add to your diet to help alleviate some symptoms and/or lessen the chances of getting sick,” she says. You may have some of these natural ways to combat the flu in your cabinet already, or can easily grab them from the corner store. These are not replacements for going to the doctor, especially if you're sustaining a high fever over multiple days, if your vomiting won't let up, or if you feel any chest pain or pressure. However, if you're just feeling lousy, they may help you get back up to speed more quickly.
1. Vitamin C
This one you may have heard before. Some studies have shown that deficiency of vitamin C has led to depressed immune response, at least in animals, according to Harvard Health, so taking extra vitamin C when you're trying not to get sick definitely can't hurt you. If you’re being proactive and trying to ward off the flu, Dr. Axe recommends taking 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C, whether by eating citrus or taking a supplement. If you already have flu symptoms, take up to 4,000 milligrams.
Dr. Meyer tells Bustle, "It’s important to stay hydrated when you are sick." Water helps flush the flu virus out of your system. Adding lemon, honey, and cinnamon to hot water can also help prevent mucus buildup and soothe a sore throat. Keep a full water bottle by your bedside and get up to fill it when it's empty. Healthline.com also recommends gargling “with 8 oz. of warm water, 1 tsp. of salt, and 1/2 tsp. of baking soda" to soothe a sore throat.
Echinacea is a natural anti-inflammatory, and research suggests that it can slightly lessen the chance you'll catch a cold, as well as neutralize inflammation-causing bacteria (though the flu is a viral, not bacterial, infection). It's been used for centuries, though, as a general illness remedy, and at worst it'll help you stay more hydrated. Try drinking echinacea tea or taking it in a supplement.
4. Vitamin D
Research has found that lack of Vitamin D is associated with increased flu infections. Your body creates naturally Vitamin D when it’s in the sun (which, of course, isn't around as much as usual during flu season). The recommended daily amount of Vitamin D for folks between age one and 70 is 600 IU (international units). So take a walk outside and soak up the sun. Vitamin D can also be found dairy milk, eggs, salmon, almond milk, and in supplements.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar
6. Face Steams
Common kitchen ingredients can help you fight off the flu too. According to Healthline.com garlic boosts the immune system, which can help you avoid or recover more quickly from the flu. Dr. Meyer points to a clinical trial that found consuming aged garlic extract reduced severity of reported symptoms and duration of symptoms. Dr. Meyer points to a clinical trial that found that "consuming aged garlic extract reduced severity of reported symptoms and duration of symptoms." (The jury is still out on whether it can save you from vampires.)
Probiotics can restore beneficial gut bacteria that ultimately boosts your immune system and prevent infections, according to University of Maryland Medical Center. Probiotic foods come in many forms — yogurt, kombucha, kimchi, and more all have probiotic elements, and you can get supplements containing probiotics, too. You can find them at your local grocery store or online.
9. A Warm Bath
Warm baths don’t speed recovery, per se, but if you have the flu, you’re probably dealing with some aches and pains. Submerging your muscles in warm water can help with discomfort, and the steam from the bath can help loosen up clogged sinuses.
10. Clove Oil
Clove oil is a natural anti-inflammatory, according to Dr. Axe, and it has anti-microbial benefits as well. Add a few drops to an essential oil diffuser or humidifier, or to naturally clean surfaces that need to be disinfected. If you're inclined to put it on your sick, though, make sure to put it in a carrier oil, like olive or coconut oil, as the essential oil itself can be quite strong.
11. Fresh Air
Ever notice the air inside your room when you're sick gets sorta... stale? The flu virus has a better chance of surviving a room with dry, recycled air, according to a 2009 study. Keep a humidifier running or, better yet, making sure to get some time outdoors to get that vitamin D.
There are plenty of ways to avoid or quickly recover from the flu. Stay safe this flu season by combining natural remedies with a vaccination and a trip to the doctor.