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12 Flu Natural Remedies

by Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DMN, CNS

Published: June 11, 2018

Flu natural remedies - Dr. Axe

People with a depressed immune system or nutrient deficiencies may be more prone to catching the flu or a cold. Stress, lack of sleep and exposure to toxins can worsen flu symptoms.

Fortunately, there are flu natural remedies that can help.


What Is the Flu?

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. These viruses spread through the air from person to person.

Signs and symptoms of flu may include:

Although anyone can get the flu, young children, pregnant women and adults 65 years old and older are at greater risk of developing serious flu-related complications. (1)


Conventional Treatment

Conventional flu treatment includes antiviral drugs and vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends injectable influenza vaccines for everyone over 6 months and older. Vaccine injections are available as an inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV) and a recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV).

There are a few things you should know about the flu vaccine ahead of time. For one thing, it doesn’t work right away, but takes about two weeks before it is effective. This is why the CDC recommends getting the vaccine in the fall, before the flu season is at its worst.

Another thing you need to know is that you can still get the flu even though you’ve been vaccinated. The virus that’s used to make the vaccine does not always “match” the virus that is circulating the community. The effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies from year to year because flu viruses are constantly changing, which is called antigenic drift, and experts do their best to pick the viruses to include in the vaccine many months before flu season begins. It’s not possible to be 100 percent sure which flu viruses will be most prominent in any given season, so the protection of a flu vaccine is not guaranteed.

In fact, 2017–18’s flu vaccine was widely considered a failure. A study released by the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, tracked flu cases among 4,562 children and adults in the U.S. from November 2, 2017–February 3, 2018. They found the flu shot was 36 percent effective overall — meaning it reduced the chance of getting the flu by about a third. (2)

Meanwhile, the vaccine’s effectiveness against the most common strain (H3N2) this past flu season was even worse: 25 percent. So while a flu shot can be between 50 and 70 percent some years, lately this is not the case.

There are also side effects from getting the flu shot, such as soreness or swelling at the site of the injection, body aches and fever. These vaccines often contain dangerous chemicals and preservatives, which can cause adverse reasons, and, on rare occasions, they may even cause severe allergic reactions. (3)

The CDC recently made some additions to the 2007 guidelines on nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to protect oneself and others against the flu. Some of the recommendations for personal NPIs include: (4)

  • Staying home when you’re sick.
  • Staying home if you’ve been exposed to a sick family or household member.
  • Covering your coughs and sneezes with a tissue.
  • Washing your hands or using hand sanitizer.
  • Covering your nose or mouth with a mask or cloth if you are sick and have to be around others at a community gathering of people.

Implementing these behaviors can help stop the spread of flu. You may be wondering how to get rid of the flu in 24 hours without medicine. If you or a loved one already has the flu, read on below for some home flu natural remedies you can use to find relief from your symptoms.

 

What is the flu? Flu natural remedies - Dr. Axe

12 Flu Natural Remedies

So, how do you get rid of the flu naturally? Home remedies for the flu include vitamins C and D, herbal supplements, essential oils, probiotics and eating healthy. Try these flu natural remedies to help relieve your symptoms.

1. Vitamin C (1,000 mg 3–4x daily)

Vitamin C helps with immune system function and boosts white blood cells. Research shows that vitamin C has shortened the duration of colds and can decrease the number of colds in physically active people. (4)

Take 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C daily to ward off a cold or the flu and up to 4,000 milligrams daily when you are experiencing symptoms. For the most dietary vitamin C, eat whole fruits and vegetables.

2. Vitamin D3 (2,000 IU daily)

Vitamin D is produced in the body by sunlight and regulates the expression of over 2,000 genes, including those of the immune system. Unfortunately, up to 90 percent of people are deficient in vitamin D. (5a) Recent research shows that low vitamin D levels are linked to higher rates of cold, flu and respiratory infections. (5b)

Many physicians believe that current recommended daily amounts of vitamin D are far too low, and that 2,000 units rather than 200–400 units per day is a better choice. You can also order home testing kits to test your vitamin D levels.

3. Echinacea (1,000 mg 2–3x daily)

This herb can help your body fight off infections, but it is best to take it at the first sign of illness.

An extract of echinacea was tested in a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial in 2013. Researchers found that the echinacea effectively treated respiratory tract infections in the short- and long-term, and didn’t cause the same resistance as a popular flu medication, oseltamivir, often causes when treating this illness. (6)

A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study conducted in 2000 indicates that drinking five to six cups of echinacea tea per day as soon as upper respiratory symptoms developed, and reducing the number to one cup of tea over a 5-day period, was effective for relieving cold and flu symptoms. (7)

Echinacea acts as an anti-inflammatory, which can help reduce bronchial symptoms of cold and flu. It directly attacks yeast and other kinds of fungus.

Different preparations have different concentrations of echinacea. Some common preparations and dosages include:

  • Tablets containing 6.78 milligrams of echinacea extract, two tablets three times a day
  • 900 milligrams of echinacea root tincture daily
  • Five to six cups of echinacea tea on the first day of symptoms, and then 1 cup a day thereafter

 

4. Elderberry (10 mL daily)

It is believed that this herb can deactivate the flu virus and naturally boost immunity. The flowers and berries of elderberry are said to boost the immune system, treat flu and relieve sinus pain.

Elderberry does seem to attack flu viruses and reduce bronchial inflammation. A preliminary study found that when 15 milliliters of elderberry syrup was taken four times daily for a five-day period, it relieved symptoms of influenza an average of four days earlier than those taking a placebo. (8)

5. Oregano Oil (500 mg 2x daily)

Oregano oil has a powerful antiviral effect. I like to use oregano oil to fight viral infections and although there aren’t studies evaluating the efficacy of oregano on influenza specifically, there is research that indicates the powerful antiviral properties of the essential oil. (9, 10)

6. Zinc (50–100 mg daily)

Zinc supports immune function and has an antiviral effect. (11, 12) It works best when taken at the first sign of illness. Zinc may lessen the symptoms of the cold virus, but excessive amounts aren’t good for you. Zinc pills and sprays do not seem to be effective.

Take 50–100 milligrams of zinc daily to ward off or treat cold and flu symptoms.

7. Brewer’s Yeast

This popular supplement contains B vitamins, chromium and protein. It is used for cold, flu and other respiratory tract infections. In fish, brewer’s yeast stimulates immunity by positively influence the microbiome, which may also improve digestive function. (13a)

Research conducted at the University of Michigan Medical Center found that a yeast supplement was able to reduce cold and flu symptom severity, and lead to significantly shorter duration of symptoms in patients. (13b)

8. Essential Oils for Flu

Rubbing peppermint and frankincense essential oil into the neck and bottoms of the feet can naturally support the immune system. (14, 15)

I also like to use clove oil to protect my body against infection and speed recovery from the flu. Research confirms that clove oil has antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. (16)

9. Chiropractic Care for Flu Prevention

During the 1918 flu epidemic, flu patients that received chiropractic care survived much more readily than those that didn’t. This is because chiropractic care focuses on the health of your nervous system, which can help to boost your immunity. (16)

A 2011 study showed some promise for chiropractic adjustments and their potential to help boost the immune system. (17)

10. Probiotics 

Restoring the beneficial bacteria in your gut can help boost your immune system considerably.

A lab study conducted in 2017 showed that a particular strain of probiotics, Bacillus bacteria, demonstrated anti-influenza activity, with complete inhibition of the influenza virus. (18)

A 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials evaluated the effects of probiotics and prebiotics on the immune response to the influenza vaccination. The results showed that participants who took probiotics and prebiotics showed significant improvements in the H1N1 and H3N2 strain protection rates. This suggests that taking probiotics may elevate your immunity. (19)

11. Get Fresh Air

Indoor winter environments can be a source of concentrated toxins and germs. The dry air we inhale as we heat our homes during the winter makes airways more reactive and sensitive to viruses.

An added bonus to time spent outdoors in the winter is the extra bit of sunlight you receive.

12. Top Foods for Flu Recovery

Also, these are the best foods to consume while you recover from the flu.

Light, easy-to-digest foods: Include soups with bone broth, cooked vegetables or herbal teas to help with digestion. Don’t force yourself to eat.

Water: Adequate hydration is the key to flushing out the virus from your system. Fluid helps your body to flush bacteria and viruses from your system. Drink approximately half your body weight in ounces daily of either spring water or reverse osmosis filtered water. Green and black teas are potent immune system boosters and antioxidants. Try to drink at least eight ounces every two hours.

Hot water with lemon, honey, and cinnamon:  Honey and cinnamon helps prevent mucus buildup and keeps you hydrated.

Ginger: Make a ginger tea and add raw honey.

Garlic and onions: Both of these vegetable help boost immune function.

 

12 flu natural remedies - Dr. Axe

7 Real Life Steps to Stay Cold & Flu-Free All Year Long

Step 1: Eat Real Food

Now if you’ve been a regular reader on my site, you’ll know what I mean by “real” food. But for those of you who don’t, let me explain. Real food is the food that is most natural, found in nature with the least amount of processing involved before it reaches your table.

This food keeps us healthy and helps us naturally fight disese. Foods like apples, carrots, raw nuts and seeds. Foods that haven’t been loaded with hormones, pesticides and other unnatural chemicals. These are the foods you can grow (or raise) in your own backyard in an organic garden or by raising your own chickens for example.

The other foods that many Americans consume on a daily basis are what I like to call “fake” foods. These are the foods you’ll find on shelf after shelf, aisle after aisle at the grocery store. Foods that have been highly processed, modified and so transformed from their original state that they hardly resemble the original food at all.

Think cheese curls, soda, fruit snacks, microwave meals, etc.

Eating a variety of real, healing foods provides your body with all the nutrients it needs to function and stay healthy. This should be your first food choice on a daily basis.

Step 2: Exercise

Although when you think of preventing a cold, you don’t necessarily think, “I’d better exercise if I don’t want to get sick,” this is one of the best ways to improve your overall health and stay healthy during cold and flu season.

According to researcher Michael Flynn, who studies the impact of exercise on the immune system at Purdue University, 30 minutes of exercise, three or four times a week, is the best way to boost your immune system. Any more could actually begin to have the reverse effect. (20)

Flynn explained that one study found running 10 miles a week boosted the immune system but raise that to 20 miles a week and you increase the risk for infections.

This is why I recommend burst training as opposed to long distance cardiovascular exercise.

Step 3: Get Plenty of Sleep

Now this old wives’ tale still holds true today. When you’re sick you need to get plenty of rest, but you can’t really “catch up” on sleep or make up for weeks or months of too little sleep.

Getting enough sleep on a regular basis is key to maintaining good health. Studies show that lack of sleep is associated with health problems and the inability to lose weight. According to the Harvard Women’s Health Watch, one adverse effect of not getting enough sleep is a compromised immune system. (21)

Step 4: Enjoy Life!

There’s nothing like stress to bring on all sorts of physical ailments including colds and flus. According to Laurel Mellin, associate clinical professor at the University of California in San Francisco and founder of EBT Inc., 80 percent of health problems are stress-induced.

Mellin has developed a new approach for dealing with stress. It involves using the tools already in place in your brain to move through stress and quickly get to feeling peaceful and balanced. (22)

One of the best ways to beat stress is to balance your life with fun. Remember the saying “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”? Well, no play will make Jack a miserable and dull boy. Take time to enjoy life and build joy everyday. Whether it’s taking time to listen to your favorite music, or going to the movies or theater, or playing sports with your family or friends, it’s vital to include fun in your day — especially when it’s the last thing you feel like doing.

Step 5: Get Plenty of Vitamin D

More and more is being revealed lately about the vast health benefits of vitamin D. Previously known to impact bone health, vitamin D deficiency is now implicated in many health issues. (23)

According to long time vitamin D researcher, Dr. Michael Holick, the best way to obtain vitamin D is through safe sun exposure. That’s right, he advises you to get sun – but safely. In his book entitled “The Vitamin D Solution,” Holick says that a lack of vitamin D (that many Westerners are unknowingly suffering from) can wreak havoc on the body, including the immune system.

To beat a cold or flu make sure you get plenty of safe sun exposure on a regular basis. If you live somewhere that only gets sun seasonally it’s a good idea to take a vitamin D supplement until your levels are adequate enough to take you through these sunless seasons.

Step 6: Take a Whole Food Multivitamin

Taking a multi-vitamin is a great step towards protecting your health. But not all multi-vitamins are good for you. It’s vital that you choose a whole food multi-vitamin, not a synthetic one. Whole food multi-vitamins are as close to the real source of the vitamins and minerals that you can get. In fact, your body will be better able to recognize it, digest it and absorb the nutrients in it. Some high-quality multivitamins will come with fermented (pre-digested) nutrients, which may make the nutrients easier to absorb.

Step 7: Avoid Sugar

Sugar is one of the worst things to consume, especially if you’re trying to stay healthy — and who isn’t? Sugars weaken the immune system and help bacteria to grow. Avoiding sugars is key to staying healthy, particularly when you’re under stress or in the middle of cold and flu season.

There are great, all-natural sweeteners on the market so you don’t have to go without. Try stevia or raw honey in moderation. (And avoid artificial sweeteners — they’re fake foods!) Be sure to check labels of the foods you’re eating and avoid sugars here too.

No one wants to come down with a cold or the flu anytime. When you take the above seven steps to stay healthy, you’ll not only beat colds and the flu, you’ll also be protecting your body from other more serious chronic diseases that could really compromise your health down the road.


Precautions

If you or a loved one experience complications from the flu, such as pneumonia, or have a high fever that won’t go down, see your healthcare provider right away. If you catch the flu and you have a chronic condition, such as asthma, or you are pregnant, see your doctor.


Key Points About Flu Natural Remedies

  • The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus.
  • Conventional flu treatment includes antiviral drugs and vaccines.
  • Try flu natural remedies to help relieve your symptoms.
  • See your doctor right away if you get the flu and you have a chronic medical condition or you are pregnant. Also, get medical care if you experience flu complications, such as pneumonia.

Read Next: Use Antiviral Herbs to Boost Immune System & Fight Infection


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