I was home sick this week with a stuffy nose, sore throat and aching muscles—all the symptoms of a cold or flu. So what does a natural health blogger do when she’s sick? Research the effectiveness of natural flu and cold remedies, of course!
After a sleepless night of difficult breathing, the first thing I wanted to fix was my congested head.
Steam: One of the oldest remedies for clearing your nasal passages is to fill them with steam. The moist air loosens the gunk in your nose and throat and helps to move the mucus along. As the only requirement for this remedy is a source of hot water, you can try this trick in a variety of places: in the shower, over the stove while you're cooking, with a cup of tea at work, etc.
If you're having trouble breathing because your nose is clogged, cover your head and a bowl of hot water with a towel and inhale the steam. The moisture will move the mucus along, helping you to breathe again. Photo By assbach/Courtesy Flickr
Wanting maximum relief, I opted for the "steam tent". For this remedy, boil a pot of water on the stove. When steam starts to rise, drape a towel over your head, lean over the pot and inhale. The towel should trap the steam in. Naturally, make sure to keep your face at a safe distance from the pot so as not to scald your skin.
Although I felt somewhat silly bowed over the stove with a towel draped over my head, I found this remedy effective. While my nose wasn't completely cleared, my breathing was almost normal after the steam tent!
Once I could breathe again, I turned my attention to my sore throat. A quick Internet search found a variety of remedies and cure-alls for this ailment, from drinking a cup of tea to gargling with salt water to sipping on a hot toddy.
Lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, honey and cayenne pepper tea: Among all the natural remedies I turned up for a sore throat, these four items appeared the most. The acidity in lemon juice and apple cider vinegar kills bacteria, honey soothes and heals, and cayenne pepper is a pain killer and healing aid.
I felt overwhelmed with the multiple possibilities of mixing these ingredients, so I started with a tea recipe that called for all four: 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon of honey, juice from a fourth of a lemon and a dash of cayenne pepper mixed well in a cup of hot water.
Although it sounds disgusting, the ingredients were in such minimal amounts that they didn’t overwhelm my palette (or gag reflex). However, because the ingredients were in such minimal form, I found the pain relief to be minimal as well.
To ease the pain of a sore throat, add lemon juice, honey and apple cider vinegar to a cup of tea. Photo By boo lee/Courtesy Flickr
Cayenne pepper gargle: My throat felt slightly less sore after the tea, so—with a little bit of new-found faith in the ingredients—I tried a different approach: the cayenne pepper gargle.
To make the gargle, I mixed about half a glass of warm water with half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. I gargled with the mixture a few times. After gargling, my mouth felt on fire—but my throat felt much better!
Side note: The key with any sore throat treatment is to persist with it. Gargle once every hour or have a few cups of tea to get the best results.
Ginger bath: With my nose and throat feeling better, I turned to my final complaint—my aching body. To soothe my muscles, I shaved about four tablespoons of a fresh ginger root, placed them in a cloth bag and let hot water run over them while I drew a bath. Ginger’s warming properties increase circulation and help muscles to relax. The ginger bath relaxed my whole body and let me get a few hours of desperately need sleep.
These are only a few natural remedies for cold and flu symptoms. What remedies do you use when you’re sick? What works for you, and what doesn’t? Share your favorite remedies in the comments section for all readers to benefit!