Jan 26, 2012

Natural Remedies for Cold and Flu

Today's guest post is by Erin.  She is a wealth of information.  I asked her to share some natural remedies for cold and flu because, well, 'tis the season!  I love that most of these remedies are inexpensive, none are toxic, and best of all they can be done in the comfort of your home.
 - Julie

It's that time of year. The marquee at Walgreens says, “Get your flu shot before the rush!” I won't be rushing to get a flu shot, but Walgreens does have a decent selection of more natural remedies.

Today I am sharing some of the ways Dr. Mom treats the sickies in our home.

General recommendations include increasing probiotics, eliminating sugar, decreasing protein, taking vitamin C, and increasing the intake of warm fluids.

You want the body to be able to focus on fighting the intruders, not digesting difficult foods. Sugar basically paralyzes the immune cells for varying amounts of time (up to several hours). I’ve also seen a recommendation to avoid dairy products since they can increase mucus production in some people. We use sodium ascorbate as our source of vitamin C. It is a powder that is easily added to food—you can use it like you would use salt. It’s also easy on the stomach. If you prefer to use a whole food source of vitamin C, this is a good brand. As soon as anyone starts sneezing or having a runny nose in my house, I make a batch of Children's Composition Tea and GOOT.

Sore Throat
Sweet and Sour Tea: apple cider vinegar (ACV), honey, and hot water. The proportions of each are up to your personal taste. ACV is pretty strong so start out with just a little—you can always add more.

- Throat Coat Tea by Traditional Medicinals. Comes in a box of 16 tea bags. Available at Kroger, Drug Emporium, and Whole Foods. Tastes great and works wonders. It also comes in a syrup (made with glycerin and honey) and in lozenges.

- A cup of hot homemade chicken stock.

- Frozen blueberries. My kids love this one.

Stuffy Nose/Cough
- The goal here is not to dry up all that mucus. That can lead to infections. You want to work with your body and help get it OUT!

- Did you know that you should only blow your nose gently (if at all) and never hold one side closed? Blowing out of only one side can drive the mucus into your sinuses and cause infection.

- Mullein tincture. Mullein is a great herb for respiratory ailments. Several of our tinctures are alcohol-based (as opposed to glycerin), so if I'm using it for the kids I put the drops into a hot cup of tea. That evaporates the alcohol. The tincture can also be rubbed onto the skin. We buy our tinctures from Mountain Rose Herbs.

- Lobelia. This herb is a bronchial dilator. From the Mountain Rose Herbs website: “Lobelia has emetic and anti-spasmodic effects, which has led to it being used to treat asthma and food poisoning. It is a physical relaxant, and can serve as a nerve depressant, easing tension and panic.” We like to rub the tincture on our feet and chest. There is some debate on taking it internally, so do your research first.

- Marshmallow. No, not the fluffy white things. It’s a soothing herb for the mucous membranes and can be very helpful for bronchitis. This is another tincture we put in hot tea. *Side note: it is also amazing for urinary tract infections.

- Eucalyptus essential oil. Do NOT take internally!!! It is quite toxic. However, eucalyptus vapors are very helpful because they are antiseptic. We like to add a few drops (1 or 2) to a dab of coconut oil and rub it on our chests—a homemade vapo-rub. You can also put the oil on a damp rag and place it somewhere near you while you sleep. Just be sure babies and toddlers don't get a hold of it and put it in their mouths.
- Herbal Vapor Inhalation Treatment. Another option with eucalyptus oil is to make a steam bath using a shallow pot of water on the stove. Heat the water just short of boiling, take it off the stove, and place the pot on a table. Pull up a chair, add 4-5 drops of the oil, and drape a towel over your head to direct the steam. Lean over the pot and inhale the vapors. I would also recommend closing your eyes since the eucalyptus can burn a bit. Continue inhaling the steam for 5 minutes, adding more drops of oil as needed. Rosemary is a good herb to use with this technique as well. If you use fresh herbs, simmer them in the water for 5 minutes before inhaling the steam.

- Sinus Rinse/Neti Pot. Not for young children. We like this brand.

- Prop up. This is a very simple step you can take to assist your body in getting rid of the intruders. We actually put our younger ones in their car seat to sleep if a stuffy nose is waking them up at night. And, no, we don't leave them in the car. We put the car seat in the crib. :)

- For older children and adults with a nighttime cough, we have found the homeopathic remedy called “Bronchial Cough” to be invaluable. It's made by Hyland’s.

- Throat Coat Tea by Traditional Medicinals can also be beneficial for some coughs.  Available at Kroger, Drug Emporium, and Whole Foods.

Ear infections
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 80% of ear infections clear up on their own without prescription antibiotics. And who wants all those side effects? But, man, are ear infections painful or what?

- Homeopathic Earache drops. Amazing pain relief.

- Onion or garlic drops. Mince some fresh onion or garlic, add olive oil, and heat gently. Strain, let cool to body temperature, and put 4-5 drops in the ear. Repeat 3 X per day for 3-5 days.

- Heat. Use a rice-filled sock, hot water bottle, whatever—it feels goooood.

- Prop up. It helps keep the Eustachian tubes from getting blocked. See above explanation.

- Onion compress. Yes, food is medicine.

Fever is your friend. It is how your body kills the intruders. Suppressing a fever can even be detrimental. It interferes with the process of naturally acquired immunity.

- Loose, 100% cotton pjs. Cotton lets your skin breathe and feel more comfortable when it's hot with fever.

- Children's Composition tea. A blend of peppermint, yarrow, and elder flower. We bought the bulk herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs and made our own blend.

- Ginger bath. You can use fresh grated ginger or ginger powder. Ginger is a warming herb and assists the fever in doing its job. Make sure the bath water and the bathroom is warm enough to keep away chills.

- Garlic. It is antibacterial and antiviral. My 5 and 7-year olds will take it off a spoon if I mince a clove and cover it with honey. Don’t chew! Just swallow. GOOT is another great way to get garlic into your system.

- Enemas. Not a pleasant topic for some, but they can be quite helpful. Intruders can’t be eliminated if the bowels are blocked up. Diluted GOOT and Children’s Composition can both be used for at-home enema solutions. Here are some instructions for a coffee enema. You can find other instructions online.

- Elderberry Syrup. Also the preferred treatment for the dreaded flu. This tastes really good and is easy to make. We bought our dried berries from Mountain Rose Herbs.

- Lemon Wrap. We haven’t tried this one, but next time someone gets a fever…

Some of you will probably notice that I didn't mention Echinacea. My husband is allergic to it! It's in the same family as ragweed, so he gets hay-fever symptoms when he takes it. Not pleasant.

These are just a few of the myriads of natural remedies available. Try some out and see what works for your family.  If you know of something I've missed, please leave a comment and tell me about it.

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  1. This is a lot of wonderful information. I am bookmarking this to refer back. Thank you Erin!

    We use Unkers. Ours was purchased at an Amish store but you can also get it online. It has so many uses. We use it to quiet coughing kids. I was so skeptical at first. You rub it on their feet. It actually works quite effectively.

    It is now our first "go-to" when we have a symphony of coughing during the night.

  2. Water – drinking more water can help soothe your throat as well as loosen the mucus inside your nostrils. It keeps your nose and throat moist, which makes it easier to blow out the phlegm. Water is a natural detoxifier. Thus, it aids your body flush out the toxins.



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