Updated: Sep 19, 2019
Back-to-School Illnesses and Flu Season are upon us once again. I thought I'd share, in detail, my go-to, immune-boosting, bacteria and virus-crushing arsenal of natural remedies. These are potent herbs and plants that have centuries of healing history behind them. I'm proud to say that it's been many years (at least 6) since anyone in my household has needed to use conventional antibiotics. Read-on for details so that you can stock up as well.
Oil of Oregano
My number one go-to is oil of oregano. Oil of Oregano (OOO) is the essential oil from the leaves and flowers of the oregano plant. Based on current scientific literature, OOO has potent antiviral, antibiotic, antifungal, anti-cancer, anti-parasitic and anti-inflammatory properties. It's even been shown to be effective against antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains. I use it for coughs, colds, flu, sore throats, toothaches, and practically anything else. As soon as someone in the house feels the slightest achy-breaky, has some digestive complaints, or if I hear any sniffles or coughing, I whip out my trusty little bottle.
It works best when taken at the outset of an illness. It’s an uphill battle once the virus or bacteria has taken full hold. Look for high-quality vendors that document the level of carvacrol (a minimum of 70% is good), which is the active ingredient in ooo. If your bottle says it's not for ingesting, that's a good indicator that your vendor is not selling pure oil of oregano.
A few drops under the tongue several times a day is good for fighting colds, the flu and respiratory ailments. Chase it down with some water right away. It burns, and can irritate skin, so be careful. For young kids, apply a few drops at the bottom of their feet, on their arches (it won’t burn or irritate there) several times/day, and especially at night, and put socks on right away. When diluted with a carrier oil such as olive, almond, jojoba, coconut, etc., it can be applied on skin wounds and inflamed areas.
Lemon - Ginger - Honey Tea
This is one of the yummiest ways to fight a cold, sore throat or flu. The key here is to use fresh ingredients. When anyone in the house is fighting a bug, I will make a full teapot of this at the start of the day so that any and all can help themselves to multiple servings throughout the day.
For a one-cup serving, start with 1-2" of ginger, grated. If it's organic, I leave the peel on, just give it a good scrub with a vegetable brush. Squeeze a 1/4 wedge of fresh lemon juice. Add 2 teaspoons of raw honey. Add hot water and mix well. I encourage my kids to drink it all, including the small bits of ginger that gradually sink to the bottom. (Newbies, though, may prefer to have it strained.)
Turmeric - Cinnamon - Honey Paste
Turmeric, an age-old Ayurvedic spice used for millennia, is enjoying it's time in the spotlight here in the west. As a potent anti-inflammatory root, recent studies on turmeric have shown promising results in treating not just inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, but have also showcased it's powerful antioxidant effects in individuals with heart disease and cancer. I always have turmeric on hand in my kitchen. I tend to add it to everything - from omelets and kababs to stir fry and curries. It has a mild taste, so it's not an intrusive spice if you want to throw in a pinch here and there.
This is an easy adjunct remedy for any viral or bacterial infection and is especially soothing for a sore throat as the thick paste gently coats the back of the throat. Little ones especially enjoy the taste of this one.
Take one teaspoon of turmeric and mix well with one to two tablespoons of honey. If there's a cough involved, add a half teaspoon of cinnamon as well to the mixture. Mix well and have a teaspoon 3-4 times/day.
Garlic Capsules (Allicin)
Garlic is another must-have in the natural arsenal. It's a potent anti-bacterial that also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. I keep a bottle of capsules on hand as it's much easier and more convenient to take in capsule form. Allicin is the compound that is produced when garlic is crushed or cut. It's also what gives garlic that classic garlic smell/taste. Studies have shown allicin to inhibit bacterial growth. One large study showed that garlic supplements reduced the number of colds in the study group by 63% compared to a placebo. Another showed that it reduced the length of colds by 70% from from 5 days in the placebo group to just 1.5 days in the garlic group.
Finding a good quality supplement is key here as the processing of allicin is rather delicate. Find a good brand that doesn't have any added fillers, colors, or flavors. I like Thorne, Pure Encapsulations, Gaia, NFH, Himalaya and Vita-Aid. (I'm not paid or sponsored to list those brands, they are simply companies I've come to trust through my practice.) I would follow bottle directions on this, based on potency, but doubling-up on the dose would probably be okay if you really need to pull out all the stops.
Astragalus Root Tea
This last remedy is more for overall immune support. It's not going to do much in the midst of an acute virus or cold, but having this regularly during flu season (and otherwise) will help build up your immune system, making you less vulnerable to illness.
Astragalus is a root that has been in use for millennia in Chinese medicine. Known as Huáng Qí, or milkvetch, it is most commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine as an anti-inflammatory and immune-booster. You can find the dried roots in most Chinese grocery stores or even on Amazon. Steep the roots in boiling water for 5-7 minutes and add a touch of honey to help with flavor. You can also throw a few roots into your next pot of soup. Drink a cup or two everyday throughout the cold season to help fortify your immune system. It can also be readily found as tea bags, capsules, and powdered form. Follow bottle directions if you opt for the prepared forms, but generally 60 g/day for a few months is considered safe for most people.
Common sense reminder: Please seek proper medical advice before adding supplements to your regimen, particularly if you're pregnant/nursing, have existing medical conditions or are taking prescription medications. Just because it's "natural" doesn't mean it's not potent.