We’re officially in the home stretch of cold and flu season. Yep, that’s right — hopefully all that sneezing will subside in just few more weeks. While it’s possible to come down with a cold or the flu at any point during the year, suffering from either typically happens from December to February.
To get you through this last week of flu season and help you tackle any off-season ailments, we pulled together three natural cold and flu remedies to try if you feel the sniffles coming on. These science-backed options are great if you prefer taking a natural route to recovery. (Less drugstore, more apothecary.) But the best part? If you’re too sick to stray far from your duvet, you probably already have these ingredients in your kitchen.
The use of honey in medicine goes back to Ancient Egypt, where people used honey to dress and treat wounds. And turns out, they were onto something. Today, doctors agree that honey can also be used to treat symptoms of a cold. Because honey is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, it fights infection and calms your throat, glands, and stomach, which can all become inflamed or irritated from a cold or the flu.
In one study, honey actually outperformed dextromethorphan (a cough suppressant found in Robitussin and Zicam) and diphenhydramine (an antihistamine found in Benadryl and Dramamine) in easing a cough. This study used buckwheat honey, which you can order online or find at your local Whole Foods. Adding a single serving of honey to your tea is an easy way to experience its benefits, or hey, go for it, you have our permission to enjoy some straight from the jar. After all, it’s medicinal!
Though your breath may stink, eating a clove of garlic may be worth it when you have a cold or the flu. Garlic has been shown to to boost your immune system. But how exactly does it do this?
Garlic naturally contains a compound called “alliin.” When you change garlic’s physical state by slicing, chewing, or grinding it, for example, alliin gets turned into another compound called “allicin.” Allicin affects our white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting viruses, giving them a boost to help you kick a cold. By the way, allicin is also responsible for the strong smell garlic emits once you chop it up (and garlic breath).
Medical studies on garlic back this up. One study gave 146 participants either a capsule filled with garlic or a placebo capsule over three months. The study found that the group who received the garlic pill had a 63% lower chance of getting a cold, and their colds were 70% shorter in duration.
If you want to give garlic a go, you can take it in capsule form like you would a vitamin or any other supplement. Or, of course, you can use it in cooking to add both flavor and immunity-boosting benefits to dishes.
There’s a reason our parents always gave us ginger ale when weren’t feeling well, ginger is shown to ease nausea or a sore throat. Two of the compounds that make up ginger, gingerols and shogaols, reduce inflammation. Meaning, they help the intestinal tract calm down if you’re feeling queasy. Similarly, ginger’s anti-inflammatory qualities can help soothe an inflamed, irritated throat or swollen glands. However, be aware that store bought ginger ale usually does not contain a significant enough amount of ginger to reap these benefits, so try adding a couple of pieces of raw ginger to your morning smoothie, a cup of tea, or just plain hot water.
If your symptoms persist more than a few days after trying the natural route, then it’s still a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor. But until then, grab a box of Kleenex, turn on Netflix, and cozy up with a mug of ginger tea with honey.