What is Influenza?
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. It affects millions of people worldwide each year and can result in mild to severe illness and, in some cases, even death. Influenza is most prevalent during the fall and winter months, which is referred to as flu season. The virus can spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and it can also be contracted by touching contaminated surfaces or objects and then touching the mouth, nose, or eyes.
The symptoms of influenza can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, fatigue, and headaches. While most cases of the flu are mild and resolve on their own, certain individuals are at a higher risk of developing complications from influenza, such as young children, older adults, pregnant women, and individuals with underlying medical conditions or weakened immune systems.
Home Remedies for Flu
While there’s no cure for the flu, there are natural remedies that might help soothe flu symptoms. They may also help shorten how long you have the flu.
We'll review 10 natural remedies and explain how to use them and why they can help.
Drink water and fluids
Staying properly hydrated becomes even more crucial when you're battling the flu, whether it's respiratory or stomach flu.
Hydration plays a vital role in maintaining moisture in your nose, mouth, and throat, aiding in the removal of accumulated mucus and phlegm.
In cases where you may not be eating or drinking regularly due to flu symptoms like diarrhea and fever, you are at risk of dehydration.
To ensure you stay hydrated, consider consuming:
- Coconut water
- Sports drinks
- Herbal tea
- Freshly squeezed juice
- Nourishing soups
- Hydrating broths
- Raw fruits and vegetables
You'll know you're consuming enough fluids if:
- You urinate regularly.
- Your urine appears nearly clear or pale yellow.
If your urine is a deep yellow to amber color, it's a sign that you may be dehydrated.
Additionally, it's advisable to minimize smoking as much as possible, as it can further irritate your nose, throat, and lungs.
Get plenty of rest
Getting ample rest and prioritizing sleep is crucial when dealing with the flu. Sleep can have a positive impact on your immune system, empowering your body to combat the flu virus effectively. It's advisable to set aside your regular activities and make sleep a top priority to aid in your swift recovery.
Drink warm broth
Consuming warm chicken or beef bone broth serves as a beneficial method to maintain hydration while experiencing the flu. It contributes to the loosening and dissolution of nasal and sinus congestion.
Additionally, bone broth naturally contains high levels of protein and essential minerals, such as sodium and potassium. Sipping on broth provides a valuable means of replenishing these nutrients during the flu. Furthermore, protein plays a significant role in the regeneration of immune cells.
While ready-made options are available for purchase, it's advisable to seek out varieties with lower sodium (salt) content. Alternatively, you can prepare your broth by simmering chicken or beef bones. This allows you to freeze portions of the broth for future use.
Up your zinc intake
The mineral zinc holds significance for your immune system, as it plays a vital role in the production of germ-fighting white blood cells. Research indicates that zinc may have the potential to alleviate symptoms of the common cold and flu. Zinc aids in the body's defense against the flu virus and can impede its rate of multiplication.
During the flu season, you have the option to incorporate zinc into your regimen through either a zinc supplement or a multivitamin containing zinc. Normally, a well-balanced daily diet should provide you with an adequate amount of zinc. Foods rich in zinc include:
- Red meat
- Dairy products
Rinse with salt water
A warm water and salt rinse, often referred to as a saltwater gargle, can provide relief for a sore throat and aid in clearing mucus. Here's how to perform a saltwater rinse:
- Boil or warm up water, allowing it to cool to warm or room temperature.
- Mix 1/2 teaspoon of salt into 8 ounces of warm water.
- Draw the saltwater solution to the back of your throat and gargle it for approximately 10 to 30 seconds, ensuring it reaches your mouth and throat.
- Spit the water into a sink, and repeat this process 2 to 4 times.
It's important not to swallow the saltwater and refrain from allowing children to gargle with it until they can safely gargle with plain water.
Drink herbal tea
Numerous herbs possess natural antiviral and antibacterial qualities. Star anise, known for its distinctive star shape, has historically been the source of oseltamivir.
Herbal tea can be a valuable ally in your body's battle against the flu virus. A steaming herbal infusion also provides soothing relief for your throat and sinuses.
You can prepare a flu-fighting herbal tea by combining star anise with other herbs such as:
- Green or black tea
- Fresh or dried ginger or ginger paste
- Fresh garlic
For a touch of sweetness, consider using pure honey as a natural sweetener. Honey, royal jelly, and other bee products are recognized for their inherent antiviral and antibacterial properties.
Use essential oils
Certain types of essential oils have the potential to protect against specific viruses and bacteria. For instance, a study has shown that tea tree oil can help combat the flu virus by slowing down or even halting its rate of multiplication. This study suggests that using tea tree oil within two hours of infection might be particularly effective, as it could hinder the flu virus from replicating.
In practice, you can incorporate a few drops of tea tree oil into your liquid hand soap when washing your hands or mix it into your lotion. Some commercially produced mouthwashes also include tea tree oil as an ingredient.
Other essential oils derived from plants and herbs may also serve as natural antibiotics and antivirals. These include:
- Cinnamon oil
- Peppermint oil
- Eucalyptus oil
- Geranium oil
- Lemon oil
- Thyme oil
- Oregano oil
It's crucial to use essential oils as directed and avoid ingestion, as many of them can be toxic if consumed. Most essential oils should be diluted with carrier oils like almond or olive oil before applying them to the skin. Similar benefits can be obtained by adding fresh or dried herbs and spices to your food.
Additionally, diffusing essential oils into the air with a diffuser may be effective against certain viruses and bacteria. However, it's essential to be aware that aromatherapy can have an impact on children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and pets, so caution is advised.
Use a humidifier
The flu virus has a longer lifespan in dry indoor air, which can contribute to its easier spread. Colder outdoor temperatures typically result in lower humidity levels indoors, exacerbated by heating and air conditioning usage. To mitigate the presence of flu viruses in the air, using a humidifier to introduce moisture in your home and workplace can be beneficial.
Inhaling steam from a pot of warm water can provide relief for your nose, sinuses, throat, and lungs. Steam inhalation, also known as steam therapy, utilizes water vapor to help loosen mucus congestion.
The warm, moist air can alleviate swelling in the nasal passages and lungs, potentially soothing symptoms like a dry cough, irritated nose, and chest tightness.
Here are ways to heat water for steam:
- In a pot on the stove
- In a microwave-safe bowl or mug in the microwave
- Using a vaporizer
It's important to avoid the steam from boiling water and exercise caution by testing the steam's temperature before inhalation. Keep your face and hands at a safe distance to prevent scalding or burning. For added antiviral and antioxidant benefits, you can incorporate a few drops of essential oils or a medicated vapor rub into the water.
Eat a Bland Diet
When dealing with the stomach flu, it's advisable to adhere to a bland diet and consume small, hand-sized portions of food at a time. The stomach flu often brings about symptoms like nausea, cramps, and diarrhea, and bland foods are generally easier to digest, potentially alleviating these symptoms.
Opt for foods that are gentle on the stomach, such as:
- BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast)
- Cooked cereals like oatmeal and cream of wheat
- Gelatin (Jell-O)
- Boiled potatoes
- Grilled or boiled chicken
- Soups and broths
- Electrolyte-rich drinks
On the other hand, it's wise to steer clear of foods that might irritate your stomach and digestion while you have the stomach flu.
Foods to avoid while you have the stomach flu:
- Spicy foods
- Fried foods
- Fatty foods
In conclusion, while there is no cure for influenza, adopting home remedies can help alleviate symptoms and promote a quicker recovery. Natural approaches aim to address specific symptoms, such as congestion, sore throat and fatigue, and may contribute to overall well-being during flu recovery. However, individuals should always consult healthcare professionals if symptoms persist or worsen.