By Cassie Johnston
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I used to think that we were powerless when it came to fighting the cold and flu viruses because modern medicine tells us we are. I’d get sick, shut down, and basically just let myself be miserable for a week (or more), until my body finally kicked the yuckiness to the curb. There is no cure for the common cold, right?
Except, no. While there might not be a magic pill you can take to get your cold virus to say adios, there is certainly a lot that can be done to help support the immune system, and in turn, help reduce the severity and duration of viral infections. We are absolutely not powerless when we get a cold—not by a long shot. I’ve been guided on an amazing journey into natural immune support this year by two local naturopaths, and a big thing I’ve learned is this: there are as many natural ways to support the immune system and fight off viral infections as there are people suffering from them. You have an arsenal at your disposal!
The breadth and depth of natural immune support is really exciting but also can be really overwhelming. So that’s why, today, I’m showing you my personal favorite things to do when I start to feel the tickle in the back of my throat. This list is in no way comprehensive, but it’s the things that we’ve found to be the easiest to implement in our house. And, best of all, it’s been working for us. Since we started enacting this protocol whenever we feel a little throat tickle, none of us have gotten full-blown sick (and one of us is a three-year-old—holy germ magnet, Batman). I consider that a damn miracle.
One big thing you’ll notice missing from this list: vitamins and supplements. I believe a vitamin and supplement plan should be something you come up with in conjunction with your healthcare professional—not get from some random blogger. The high dosages of many of the vitamins you’ll grab from store shelves can cause unpleasant side effects in some and even be downright dangerous in others. I don’t believe supplements are something to be played around with.
That being said, I do have a very personalized supplement plan given to me by one of my naturopaths for when I am really sick and my body just can’t seem to get over a cold (like, when you’re going on week four of the worst cough ever) that involves Vitamin C, Vitamin A, NAC, and Vitamin D and is taken in high dosages in a short burst. This supplement protocol is what I use as a last resort. I definitely prefer to stick to whole food, whole herb, gentle home remedies when fighting off the common cold.
Remember: more isn’t always better, sometimes it’s just more. So the next time someone tells you to take 40578 million grams of Vitamin C to cure your cold (please don’t, that’s hyperbole), remember that a smoothie probably would have done the trick (and without as many bathroom trips—high doses of Vitamin C can wreck your bowels). This philosophy also applies to the number of home remedies you try. You don’t have to do everything on my list—in fact, I don’t even recommend it. Don’t be a helicopter parent to your body—give it enough support to succeed on its own, but don’t bombard it with every remedy under the sun.
A final disclaimer before I get to the list: I have absolutely zero healthcare training—everything I’ve learned about natural medicine has been thanks to lots of reading, lots of experimenting, and my great natural medicine practitioners. All the remedies listed here are generally considered safe for healthy individuals and are incredibly gentle and mild, but you should always consult with your healthcare professional before embarking in any kind of medical treatment—even the natural kind. You should see how many times a week I text my doctor… Alright, onto my favorite home remedies!
You know the feeling. You have a little bit of a weird tickle in your throat or you sneezed a certain way and it felt different. You think you’re getting sick. Don’t just sit back and let it take over, now is THE time to act. Here are my must-do’s when I first start feeling gross:
And then, if I want to expand my arsenal a bit, I try to incorporate a few of these options next:
You wake up in the morning and feel like you’ve been hit by a truck overnight: the sniffles, the sore throat, the aches—you’re sick and there is no denying it. What do you do now? Well, this is when I ramp it up a bit! Here are my must-do home remedies when I’m really sick:
So then, after that, I tend to rotate in-and-out different treatments throughout the span of my illness. Here are a few I like:
Like I said, those lists above aren’t even close to comprehensive. Some folks have success with lymphatic massage or essential oils or gargling apple cider vinegar or putting peroxide in their ears (yes, really) or plastic-wrapping onions to their feet (also, really) or slamming a whole bottle of whiskey (not recommended). Every body is different, and with natural medicine, there is no one remedy that’s going to work on everyone. It’s going to require some trial-and-error on your part to find out which home remedies do the trick (and which don’t) AND which remedies are reasonable to add to your already hectic life.
To make this really easy for us to reference, I turned my list into a Cold and Flu Protocol Printable that I laminated and have taped to the inside of one of our bathroom medicine cabinets. This is an easy way for the whole family to reference what needs to happen when we’re feeling under-the-weather. I thought you might like the printable, too! You can download it (for free) below.
I hope we’re coming to the end of the current cold and flu season (and, unfortunately, coming into allergy season—aaaaachooooo!), but if you happen to catch one of the late-season bugs, I hope you’ll find some home remedies here that help you get through it. I promise you aren’t powerless! Stay healthy, friends.
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Thank you! But wish I had seen the printable before I hand wrote all your great ideas! LOL.
Really loving these all natural crunchy posts! I took an intro to herbalism class last spring and we got a copy of Rosemary Gladstars book which I agree is a great beginners book. We’ve been pretty lucky around here when it comes to cold and flu this year, but I’ll definitely be trying that magic sock thing and the ginger tea next time we are sick! Thanks for all the new (and easy!) ideas :)
Last year I heard about how a high sugar meal will depress your immune system for hours afterwards, and it was a total wakeup call for me – up until that, my MO whenever I felt like I was starting to get sick was “whaaa whaaa, I deserve to treat mahself by watching movies and eating chocolate!”. Now that my 3.5 year old is in preschool and brings home every virus under the sun, illness avoidance is the most effective motivation for me to stay away from sugar! Hot lentil soup with a really tasty broth is my go-to now, and I try to listen to my body and let it fast if I don’t have an appetite.
YES. Before I heard the sugar thing, my sickness food of choice was lime sherbet—by the bucketload.
Can you actually sleep doing the wet sock thing? All I can think about is camping and sleeping with wet feet and how it’s torture. I don’t think I could sleep with my feet being wet and cold….
I love this post! So many awesome ideas to try….well….hopefully I won’t have to try any of them anytime soon! Thanks a bunch!
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