Natural Remedies for Cold and Flu Season

By DONNA DeFORBES/ecoRI News contributor

Oral medications and pharmaceuticals are becoming an “emerging contaminant” in our local waterways, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

They get excreted through our waste and flushed into the sewer system. Residues released during drug manufacturing also get discharged into the environment, where they have a accumulating effect.

With such environmental side effects, it would be helpful to opt for more non-toxic healing options. And with cold and flu season just round the corner, now is the time to stock up on natural remedies.

Illness prevention
You can increase your overall immunity by getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and eating healthy. However, sometimes a virus still manages to sneak in. Here are a few remedies for combating colds and flu, more effective if tried at the very first sign of sickness:

Avoid certain foods. If you feel yourself beginning to come down with something, avoid sugars, dairy and fried or processed food, as they slow down the body's healing abilities. And ditch the alcohol, which dehydrates and weakens the immune system.

Hydrogen peroxide. I'm not sure why this remedy works — although some doctors believe it’s because viruses enter through the ear canal — but I’ve tested it many times at the first inkling of a cold, and it staves them off. Using a dropper, put three to four drops of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide into an ear while lying on your side. Wait about 5 minutes for it to sink in, turn over and repeat with other ear.

Apple cider vinegar. This can be used in both the onset of illness or during it. Drinking 1-2 tablespoons of cider at the first sign of a cold can reduce it’s impact. Drinking it straight isn’t very tempting, but it’s just as effective mixed into tea, water or eaten as a salad dressing. You can also add some cider to your bath for eliminating toxins and boosting your energy.

Treatment options
If you are already sick, here are some non-toxic remedies from which to choose:

Neti Pot. This ancient tool is an excellent way of clearing sinuses. Use it with a natural sea salt (Himalayan or Celtic) and warm water two to four times a day while sick. Some people recommend adding colloidal silver to the rinse to kill off the germs in your sinuses.

Healing foods, spices and drinks. There is some truth to chicken soup being good for a cold. The truth is that broths can be healing — they contain minerals the body can easily absorb and the steam eases congestion. Cinnamon, nutmeg and turmeric are warming spices with anti-inflammatory properties to boost your immune system. Herbal teas soothe congestion and prevent dehydration, while green tea contains catechins that boost your body's immune system. Also be sure to double up on foods high in vitamins C and A such as oranges, kiwi, broccoli and spinach.

Garlic. With its powerful anti-viral properties, raw garlic can help prevent or reduce the length of sickness. It’s also helpful in bringing up mucus. Eat it raw or use a quality garlic supplement.

Essential oils. Derived from plants and flowers, therapeutic-grade essential oils can be used in myriad ways for treating illness: inhaled from an aromatherapy diffuser and absorbed through a massage; warm compresses; or in a bath. Some of the best oils to try for a cold, cough or flu include tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, lemon and thieves.

Healing herbs. Some herbs that have antiviral and antibacterial properties can aid in fighting colds and flu; often, they shorten the duration of your symptoms. Such healing herbs include echinacea (stimulates white blood cells), licorice root (inhibits virus growth), elderberry extract (can inhibit the flu virus enzyme) and feverfew (relieves fever and inflammation). You can find herbal supplements or make your own teas and syrups using fresh herbs.

Rhode Island resident Donna DeForbes is the founder of, a blog that explores ways to make going green fun and easy for the whole family. She is a contributor to Earth911, MammaBaby and author of the e-book “The Guilt-Free Guide to Greening Your Holidays.”