Winter breeds diseases. There’s no getting around the fact that all those office parties, school functions and holiday gatherings leave you vulnerable to an onslaught of seasonal germs. Once you’re hit with the cold or flu, you may want to just snuggle up in bed and binge-watch TV. And while that’s a great way to spend your Saturday, your everyday obligations don’t melt away when you’re down with a virus.
The viruses that cause flu and the cold can be tough to beat, and there aren’t any cures for either. Fortunately, you don’t have to waste your time, energy and money on over-the-counter drugs. These haven’t been proven to help much, anyway, meaning you’re probably better off sticking with nature’s offerings instead. Best of all, natural cold remedies can be customized to your preferences in some cases. Here are six natural remedies to soothe your mind and body when you’re down for the count.
In general, tea offers a bevy of benefits to healthy and sick people alike, especially if you stock up on the herbal variety. Good options include lemon, peppermint, ginger and eucalyptus. If you’re not a fan of these flavors on their own, try combining different ones together to brew one that tastes better. Lemon and ginger, for example, pair well together because lemon balances out ginger’s spicier flavor. You don’t have to get fancy, either. Commercial tea companies offer a variety of herbal teas that you can find at major grocery chains. Peppermint tea in particular can alleviate inflammation, and its characteristic taste is a soothing winter treat.
If tea isn’t your thing but you want the benefit of a hot liquid that soothes your throat, eases congestion or reduces inflammation, then try adding a natural element – like a lemon slice or a piece of ginger root – to boiling water and let it steep. Drinking these concoctions might not taste great, but you’ll appreciate the effects. If you need a little help drinking these, add a small bit of honey to the mix. Honey also soothes irritated throats, making it a good addition to your cup.
- Chicken Soup
Your mom’s famous chicken soup might give you the warm fuzzies, but is it really doing anything to help you fight your cold? Actually, yes. Believe it or not, there’s scientific support for sipping on this classic comfort food. If it’s made with veggies, like carrots and celery, chicken soup gives your white blood cells a boost. And you need white blood cells to defend against illness. When you’re sick, your white blood cells tend to slow down. Giving them a push to get moving can help you heal faster.
Plus, chicken soup contains, well, chicken. Protein can help you recover more quickly, and broth from the soup will soothe a sore throat without coating it in the copious amounts of sugar found in things like popsicles and lozenges.
- Salt and Steam
When you get a cold, you probably get congestion along with it, which can be a real pain to deal with. As the pressure builds in your sinuses, you’ll feel that pain in the form of plugged nostrils or, worse, a headache that makes everything worse. Few OTC medications do anything to alleviate this pressure, and the ones that do can create rebound congestion that lasts for months. If you want to relieve your stuffy airways, try salt or steam, or ideally a combination of both.
For steam, you can take an extra hot shower and close all the vents, but there’s a less tedious and time-consuming approach. Boil some water, adding in essential oils if you like, and place your head over the pot to breathe in the steam. It’ll help loosen your blocked nasal passages.
Next, create a salt solution that can be safely delivered through your nose for relief. Combine salt and warm water, and apply it to your nose using a Neti pot or a nasal irrigation tool, such as a bulb syringe. You can find complete directions online or on the box for the Neti pot kit. Just remember to use sterile or distilled water, or boil your water first, when flushing out your nostrils. You might get an infection if you use tap water.
You might feel like sleeping the day away when you’re sick – and you should. Don’t ignore your body’s plea for rest, especially when you’ve got a cold or the flu. The truth is that rest is just as essential to helping your body fight off infection as any other remedy. If you give your body a chance to chill, you’ll allow it to do its own job of sending in reinforcements against the virus that’s taken over. Pop in your favorite movie, grab a cup of tea and relax. A good night’s sleep can do wonders.
- Hot Water Bottle
Just as steam and salt water solutions can break up your nasal congestion, a well-placed hot water bottle can ease chest congestion. Just fill a hot water bottle and let it rest on your chest. Once that congestion starts to break down, your lungs will get to work expelling loose phlegm. Coughing up phlegm might not be pretty, but your lungs will eventually thank you. As an added bonus, hot water bottles can be especially soothing if you’ve got flu-induced chills and body aches.
It’s not just a pleasant spice to punch up your carrot cake. Nutmeg is an excellent sleep aid when you’re feeling tired and achy but unable to go to sleep thanks to your usual cold symptoms. Nutmeg contains tryptophan, and you may have heard that tryptophan can knock you out. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. But under the right circumstances, tryptophan can aid in making you sleepy. Grate some nutmeg into a tea or on top of a light carb-based snack. Combining nutmeg with carbs is the best way to make the most of this natural sleep aid.