8 Herbs & Spices to Fight the Flu & Common Cold Naturally
We are deep into cold and flu season and sometimes it’s impossible to avoid getting sick. If you work, you may take public transportation. If you have kids, they go to school surrounded by hundreds of other kids. If you are an active person in society, you go to the grocery store, the mall, the library … everywhere other people go. So while it may be impossible to completely protect yourself (other than living in a bubble, but who wants live like that?), there are ways to boost your immune system naturally. The easiest things to do include washing your hands (especially if you take public transportation), drinking a lot of water and tea (avoid sugary sodas) and getting plenty of rest. But there are a number of spices you probably have sitting your cabinet that, when added to your diet, can help. You may already be using some and helping yourself get healthy. See how easy that is?
Using garlic while you cook is great to add robust aromas and flavors to your food. But to get the real health benefits from garlic, you want to keep it raw. Garlic is packed with allion and allicin, which contain natural anti-viral and antioxidant properties, which may help reduce your chances of getting the flu. It may sound gross to eat a clove of raw garlic, but it’s been said to help boost your immune system and also may help reduce the time you’re sick if you get the flu. If you can’t stand the taste of garlic, there are a number of garlic supplements you can get, too. We also read that you could poke holes into a clove and leave it on the side of your bed to get the benefits while you sleep. You may end up sleeping alone for a bit though.
Turmeric & Cinnamon
These two spices are often found in your spice cabinet so they’re easy to get and easier to use. And they both offer strong anti-inflammatory properties. You can sprinkle some turmeric into soups, stews, sauces and more to not only only add wonderful flavor, but also benefit from its powerful agents. An article by Dr. Andrew Weil says that turmeric and its active component, curcumin, have numerous health benefits, including having “antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer” properties. Cinnamon also helps as an anti-inflammatory in addition to being a warming spice. It’s great sprinkled on oatmeal, mixed in to yogurt or used as a spice in pasta sauce and more.
We’ve noticed that as soon as the flu started spiking, our supply of elderberry products starting flying off our shelves. People have so much faith in sambucol, a black elderberry extract, that they snatch up products containing it quickly. Elderberry, which grows around the world, has been found to cut the length and severity of the flu if taken at the first signs of feeling ill due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. Keep in mind that elderberry is beneficial in treating the flu, not preventing it.
Remember when the lifeguard at your local pool would use zinc oxide on her nose to prevent sunburn? Well that won’t help you if you get a cold, but taking zinc at the onset of a cold can help reduce its duration and sometimes nip it in the bud and prevent it from becoming a full-blown, knock-you-on-the-couch cold. There are plenty of zinc lozenges out there. One that we love combines the power of zinc with elderberry. You can also get your zinc fix by eating oysters, crab, whole grains, lean meats, lentils and dark chocolate.
Ginger isn’t just a palate cleanser while eating sushi; it’s been used in Asian cooking and in Eastern medicine for centuries. It is widely used to help curb upset stomachs and nausea, but its compound gingerol is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant and has been said to aid in helping relieve headaches as well as flu and cold symptoms by helping you sweat. You can steep fresh ginger in hot water to make a tea, eat raw ginger or take it in supplements or oils.
If you can handle the heat, go to the kitchen! While it’s better known as adding some serious spice to Latin American, Asian and Southwestern cuisine, taking cayenne pepper when you have a cold or the flu can help you breathe better if you have a stuffy nose. Adding cayenne to soup, tea or even a fresh green juice blend will allow its active ingredient, capsaicin, to help thin the built-up mucous in your nasal passages.
Lastly while mint may not do much to beat down the flu or a cold, it can help you feel better while you’re fighting either one. Menthol, a main property in the herb, can help open up nasal passages. Its cooling and soothing essence can also aid a sore throat so drinking an herbal mint tea or adding some fresh mint leaves to a pot of boiling water and breathing that in can be very healing.