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What are natural treatments for cold and flu?

Eucalyptus oil is commonly used to treat colds, coughs and congestion. It can help to break up phlegm and mucus. It comes in all kinds of forms including tinctures and teas as well as topical oils. Those with asthma should probably not use eucalyptus oil routinely, because it may trigger an asthma attack. It is important to consult with your doctor before using any herbal preparation.

Here are some natural methods for managing flu symptoms:
  • Gargle with saltwater to soothe a sore throat.
  • Use a humidifier to moisten the air and help ease congestion and coughing. Be sure to clean the filter often so that mold doesn't grow.
  • Several studies have found that zinc lozenges may reduce the length and intensity of colds and flu, and that nasal zinc gel appears to reduce the length and intensity of illnesses related to those viruses. Zinc nasal spray does not show the same effects, however. Consult with your healthcare professional for more information.

The symptoms and, possibly, the duration of a cold or the flu may be helped by using the following home-care treatments:

  • Drink extra liquids (such as juices, water, tea or chicken soup) to avoid dehydration. Staying hydrated will keep the moist linings of your nose and throat from becoming dry. Mucus will stay moist and flow out of your body. (A runny nose is better than a stuffy nose.)
  • Gargle with salt water to soothe sore throat pain. The salt and water will shrink the mucous membranes in your throat and decrease the pain from inflammation.
  • Slow down a little. Rest when you get home from work or school.
  • Get extra sleep. Your body needs more rest as it fights off the infection.
  • Use a humidifier to keep the air moist. This will help prevent the delicate linings of your nose and throat from drying out. Cool mist humidifiers are preferred because they are less likely to allow fungus to grow in the machine. Presence of fungus in the machine can lead to increased symptoms in people with allergies.
  • Take hot showers to relieve nasal stuffiness. Steam will shrink the mucous membranes in your nose and throat and will aid mucus drainage.
  • Treat nausea by slowly drinking the thick syrup from a can of peaches, pears, mixed fruits or mandarin oranges. Chewing any form of ginger also helps relieve nausea.
  • If you develop diarrhea, don’t drink any milk products until the diarrhea stops. Any intestinal inflammation reduces lactase (the enzyme for digesting milk sugar). Eat bananas, rice and applesauce.

 

Stacy Wiegman, PharmD
Pharmacy Specialist

There are many natural treatments that people try for colds and the flu. But, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, so far there's little scientific evidence that they work.

Research has shown mixed results for three popular alternatives used to treat or prevent a cold: vitamin C, echinacea and zinc. More studies are needed on all three. Of these treatments, zinc has shown the most promise, with daily doses of more than 70 milligrams (mg) shortening the duration of colds.

There is currently no scientific research that supports the use of alternative remedies for the flu, but people do often try certain substances to prevent or treat it. These include echinacea, Chinese herbal medicine, elderberry, ginseng and green tea. If you are considering an alternative remedy for a cold or the flu, talk with your doctor about it.

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, MD
General Practitioner

There are many natural remedies for cold and flu that will shorten the duration of colds and sooth your symptoms. Watch integrative medicine specialist Tieraona Low Dog, MD, share her favorite herbal remedies for cold and flu for kids and adults. 

Dr. Peter Bongiorno, ND
Naturopathic Medicine Specialist

Watch as naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist Dr. Peter Bongiorno suggests some natural treatments for cold and flu symptoms.

 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.