Colds and flu suck. When we get them, we just want to feel better. Most people run to the store and buy over-the-counter meds. And while there’s nothing really wrong with that, there may be a better way. What if you could make your own remedies to feel better faster?
I am a strong believer in natural remedies. Home remedies are often the core of the homesteader’s health plan. You have more control over what you are putting in your body. You can tailor each remedy with what your body needs. Why not give them a try? Here are the 10 best remedies for cold and flu.
Fire Cider is an old folk remedy that uses food as medicine. There are many variations and recipes for this wonderful tonic, but most have a base of raw apple cider vinegar (preferably with the “mother”). Then they include lots of powerful, pungent herbs. Here is a great recipe for fire cider from Joybilee Farm.
Fire Cider is a powerful immune booster, and helps you recover more quickly from illnesses. You can take it as a preventative medicine (1 tsp. per day) or when you are sick (2 tsp. per day). It is very powerful medicine, with a sweet, spicy, savory flavor. The spiciness makes it one of the best cold and flu remedies.
I love elderberries! Elderberries have powerful anti-viral properties, but they must be cooked. Elderberry syrup is the perfect way to harness their goodness. It is delicious. You might even have to remind kids that it’s medicine!
It shouldn’t be used in babies under 12 months old, however, as it contains honey. Honey isn’t good for babies. If you want to make some elderberry syrup for your baby, make it with sugar instead of honey.
As with Fire Cider, there is many different recipes for elderberry syrup. This one is one of my favorites, by Back To Our Roots. The commercial version, Sambucol, has become very popular. Stores just couldn’t keep it on the shelves last winter. That’s why it’s perfect (and easy!) to make your own!
Elderberries have been known to be one of the best cold and flu remedies for thousands of years. I have a very detailed post, and identification video, on elderberries that you should check out.
If you’ve never had a hot toddy, you’re missing out! It’s a lovely drink, even when you’re not sick. It just feels like fall. You can replace the alcohol with apple juice, but honestly the alcohol helps to relieve the aches and pains of the flu. The alcohol is also anti-bacterial and helps thin mucus.
Again, there are many different recipes for hot toddys, even from different geographical locations. There is a Scottish version with whiskey, a Canadian version with brandy, and a midwestern version with bourbon. Here is another good recipe from Joybilee Farm, for a ginger hot toddy. The addition of the ginger helps add heat to the concoction to help kick fevers and adds another healing element.
Mullein tea is an easily foraged remedy that has been used for ages. If you’re not familiar with mullein, it is a fuzzy looking plant that usually grows on the sides of the road. It gets very tall in its second year, up to 8 feet tall, with a huge spike of tiny, bright yellow flowers.
Mullein is an expectorant and has emollient properties. This means that it helps your lungs expel mucus and soothes the lungs at the same time. A word of caution, though, mullein leaves have tiny hairs on them that can cause irritation on sensitive skin, and irritate throats if not properly strained. It is worth it, though, as it is one of the best cold and flu remedies.
I have another post and video specifically about identifying and using mullein if you want to know more.
To make mullein tea, you just gather some of the fuzzy leaves. You can put them in a tea infuser, or in a coffee filter with a twist tie to secure. Or you can just put the loose leaves in a mug if you just want to strain it after infusing. Then just heat water to almost boiling and add to the mug, and allow to steep for 15 minutes.
If using fresh mullein, use approximately 3 TBSP mullein leaves to one coffee cup of water. You can also add dried or fresh peppermint, or add some honey to sweeten. You can drink this up to 3 times a day.
Apple Cider Vinegar.
A shot of apple cider vinegar (preferably with the “mother”) is great for all kinds of ailments. As a cold and flu remedy, it is usually combined with some lemon juice and raw honey. You can even add garlic or ginger for an extra punch.
If you have the time (about a week) to let it infuse, you can make the fire cider recipe above. If you’re sick now and just need some relief, you can simply warm some water with a splash or two of vinegar and add whatever additions you feel like your body needs. For more direction on identifying which herbs to add, check out my post on herbal actions.
When I’m sick with a cold or flu, I really like warm water, vinegar, lemon juice, and some honey. Ginger is also a great addition when I need some extra warmth. Depending on what you take with the apple cider vinegar, it can be a great cold remedy.
I discovered thyme tea a few years ago when I had an awful cough. It’s a great tea to drink to boost immunity, and is a great expectorant. It helps your lungs expel excess mucus. Thyme is also anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and antiseptic. It is also anti-spasmodic, helping to calm the coughing fits that are so common with colds, flu, and bronchitis.
Thyme tea is made by bringing a cup of water to a boil, then remove from the heat. Put the thyme in the water and steep for about 10 minutes. You should cover while steeping to keep the beneficial oils in the tea. When the 10 minutes is up, simply strain and drink.
You may want to sweeten it with some honey, as it is pretty pungent. Thyme has been considered one of the best cold and flu remedies for hundreds of years.
Echinacea is a superb immune booster. The best way to get this is through an extract or a tincture. You can buy echinacea extract or tincture in a health food store, or you can easily make your own tincture easily. Echinacea is commonly known as purple coneflower.
To make a tincture, you can simply gather leaves, stems, flowers, and roots of the purple coneflower, and put them in a mason jar. Then fill up the mason jar with cheap vodka and allow to sit in a dark cupboard for 4-6 weeks, shaking daily. At the end of the infusion period, simply strain out the plant pieces.
This tincture will keep almost indefinitely. Take a small dropper full daily to boost immunity. Note: this tincture doesn’t taste good. It may be easier to take if you dilute it in some water or tea with some honey.
You can get more instruction in my post on making tinctures.
It’s pretty common knowledge that Vitamin C is a great immune booster. Doctors advise taking a Vitamin C supplement at first sign of a cold. There are many types of supplements you can take. Of course you can buy vitamins at the store, but it’s also easy to get added homemade Vitamin C.
Some people dry orange peels and grind them into a powder that you can add to drinks. Elderberries are also a great source of Vitamin C. The best natural source, though, is rose hips. Rose hips are the small fruits that stay on the rose bushes long after the flowers die. It has been said that rose hips have more Vitamin C than oranges.
During wartime, children in Europe would gather rose hips to help the adults make rose hip syrup. It was considered crucial to provide this to the community, as fruits were somewhat scarce.
Rose hips can be made into syrup or jelly, but the easiest and fastest way to get their Vitamin C is through a good ole cup o’ tea. They can be used fresh or dried in tea. I find that the flavor is just right on its own, without any sweeteners. And with such high Vitamin C content, rose hips are one of the best cold and flu remedies.
Homemade Cough Syrup.
Cough syrup is a necessity when you have a nagging cough. Of course you can buy it at nearly any store, but why not make your own? Pineapple juice is reported to be 10 times more effective than most commercial cough syrups. Honey is incredibly soothing for coughs as well.
You can make a simple but effective cough syrup just by covering onions with honey in a glass jar. Let this sit in the fridge for about a week, then strain. Another variation is using sage instead of the onions. You could even do ginger in the honey, or mullein. The possibilities are nearly endless. This syrup is so easy you should try a few varieties of it, to see which you like best.
Electrolytes are helpful in replenishing minerals that are lost when we are sick. They also help prevent dehydration and give you an energy boost. Of course anyone can buy Gatorade, but it’s so easy to make your own that you might want to consider it. Typically, an electrolyte drink includes sugars and salts, and often Vitamin C.
This is a great recipe for homemade electrolytes from Don’t Mess With Mama. It is so crisp and refreshing, and has no artificial ingredients.
What cold and flu remedies do you use?
I hope you have found these cold and flu remedies helpful. I’m using a few of them right now while I’m trying to recoup from this flu. Have you tried any of these? Do you have others that I should include in this list? Please share in the comments!
Check out our other home remedies posts: 12 Easy Home Remedies for Toothache, 14 Amazing Home Remedies for Cough, 10 Natural Remedies for Headaches (And Tips for Prevention), and 15 Old Home Remedies that Actually Work.
Going to check out the fire one especially. Never heard of this so very interested. Need to broaden my plant gathering knowledge and look for this plant next summer. I make apple cider vinegar and use it all the time
Fire cider is awesome! It uses stuff like onions, garlic, lemons, ginger, etc and you just let it sit in apple cider vinegar! It will definitely up the healing properties of your homemade vinegar. I love to forage, follow me for some great, easy things to use for plant medicine.
I use several of these and find rosehip syrup and lemon juice in hot water great for killing off a cold if you drink it at the very first sign of starting to get ill. Using pineapple juice as a cough medicine is not something I have heard of and will certainly try that if I need to.
I’ve never tried lemon juice with rose hip syrup, I’ll have to try that! And yeah pineapple juice is really effective at controlling coughs, and you don’t have to worry about taking too much like with cough syrup!
I love these ideas! I did a similar post a few months back, but didn’t know to include rose hips! I have a bag of dried rose hips on my shelf, and was wondering how I could use it! I’ll definitely be making up some syrup out of it for this cold and flu season! Thanks for all the ideas!
Thank you, Kristi! Rose hips are great, even just steeped in hot water and drank as a tea! Pleasantly sweet and tart at the same time, doesn’t even need sweetener. I’m planning on making rose hip syrup as Christmas gifts this year!
Excellent article and great natural ways to prevent or help you if you get sick with the flu or cold. All of these are proven to help keep your immune system strong and fight viruses. I use echinacea and Vitamin C at the first sign if a cold. I actually take vitamin C daily and increase if I feel any cold symptoms. Thanks for sharing your natural and effective ways to help the cold and flu. Sharing on social media Have a healthy, happy & blessed day!
Thank you, Marla. I need to be more diligent on taking Vitamin c…it would help me get sick less often!
Great ideas! I love hot toddys and commonly buy echinacea tea – I might have to make my own extracts of it next year!
Thanks Lacey! Echinacea tincture is super easy, but doesn’t taste good! You could probably put it in a hot toddy to mask the flavor and get the benefits of both at the same time!
Someone recently recommended elderberry syrup to me for my asthma. Have you every tried basil tea? Holy Basil grows wild here. It is great for any cold especially those with runny nose. We used it when my god daughter was a baby. A few drop and her runny nose stopped right away. Now we add tumeric and she asks for it everytime she feels the sniffles coming on.
Thanks Monetta, that’s a great suggestion! I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve heard lots of good stuff about Holy Basil, and I’m going to add that to my herbal garden plan.
I take vitamin c regularly as well as echinacea! Both help with immunity. I have a very old and super big rose bush and never knew I could use the rose hips for syrup. That’s on the list of home remedies to try! I make a honey and garlic mixture that works great for colds. I got the recipe from Doug and Stacy! Great post thanks for sharing!
Thanks Annie! Have you done anything with those rose hips from your rose bush? Rose hips are great for all sorts of things!
Elderberry is my #1 go to! Love it, grow a amazing amount of these bushes here on the farm, rosehips are a close second..
I have everything on your list in my house 🙂 I love pineapple juice for coughs, it does wonders!
Hi Val! Isn’t it great to use the free stuff around us to heal ourselves and our family? I have a huge elderberry bush at my place as well, as long as I can get to the berries before the wild birds do!
We use most of these but I’ve never heard of Muellin tea! Sounds great!
Thanks for the comment, Mary! Mullein tea is great for lung issues, you should definitely try it when you have a bad cough! It doesn’t taste great, but not bad either. Just make sure you strain it to get the little hairs out of the tea.
Great list! I made Fire Cider for the first time ever this year! I thought it would be nasty, but I like it! I also infuse oil with Mullien and garlic for earaches! works awesome!
Thank you Joy! Yeah, garlic oil is great for earaches. Even better with mullein!!