9 Self-Healing Remedies for Cold & Flu

As the temperatures go down and the wind picks up, so do the cold and flu. It’s estimated that one in three Americans suffer a seasonal cold at least once a year; school kids and the elderly get them more and can have much more serious health repercussions. 

The Eastern Medicine perspective

Eastern medicine classifies the common cold as a wind pathogen that invades from the exterior. Wind cold is differentiated from wind heat, based on the finer difference between a cold and a flu, a difference most of us are quite familiar with from a symptom standpoint. The flu, as a result of the mutating influenza virus, is a more severe form of the common cold and has similar symptoms with the addition of fever, body aches, and vomiting.

At the early stages of a cold (or wind cold) Chinese medicine suggests that perspiration can help remove the pathogen from the skin—which is probably why steamy chicken soup and hot tea are such widely accepted forms of therapy.

The flu (wind heat), in contrast, is characterized by high fever, sweating, sore throat, cough, headaches, and a yellow nasal discharge. Clearing the pathogens and relieving the symptoms with herbal prescriptions are most recommended in Chinese medicine.

The best way to deal with a cold is not to get one.

When patients visit to my office sniffling and coughing, I administer treatments and recommend soothing home remedies, such as the ones that follow. I also educate them on simple ways to avoid catching a cold or the flu in the first place, starting with:

1. Wash up. You’ve heard it a million times, probably because it works! Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.

2. Power up with herbs. Here’s one you probably haven’t heard of, but which is a famous remedy in Chinese medicine. Prevent or dispel invasive wind with astragalus root, siler root (fang feng), schisandra berries, and atractylodes (bai zhu). Western medicine calls these herbs adaptogens, which increases the body’s defense and helps the immune system work better in stress. They can be found separately in health food stores or in a formula called Jade Screen in Chinese pharmacies. As always, herbs should be used according to individual needs; consult with a licensed practitioner for a customized formulation. 

Bonus tip: You may want to keep your medicine cabinet stocked with our best-selling formulation of immune-boosting herbs, called Cold / Flu.

3. Supplement your immune system. The following daily supplements can help boost your immune system, although you should consult with your physician to make sure these doses are appropriate for you. 

  • Up to 50 milligrams of zinc taken daily is said to help reduce symptoms of the common cold.
  • Up to 3000 milligrams of vitamin C daily has been shown to reduce the duration of a cold.
  • Vitamins E, A, and the B complex are antioxidants that help support a healthy immune function.
  • Thymus extract (200 milligrams) can help stimulate the immune system.

4. Home Remedy: Garlic-Ginger tea. For wind cold, make a tea by boiling one chopped garlic clove, three slices of ginger, one chopped scallion, some basil, and a pinch of cinnamon in three cups of water for five minutes. Strain. Drink the tea hot and get into bed. Cover up and prepare to sweat. Sweating opens the pores, releasing trapped pathogens from the skin. Drink at least three cups of this tea every day until symptoms subside. 

5. Home Remedy: Soothe symptoms with salt. Fill an 8oz. squeeze bottle with one teaspoon of sea salt. For wind cold, irrigate your sinuses with warm salt water twice daily to clean your nasal passageways. Gargle with warm salt water to relieve sore throat and take hot baths with Epson salts to sweat.

6. Home Remedy: Lemon-Pepper-Honey tea. Lemon and honey are well known soothers for cold, but the pepper kicks up the effect. For wind cold, make a tea by boiling one whole lemon, one teaspoon cayenne pepper, and one tablespoon of honey in 3 ½ cups of water for 10 minutes. Strain and drink three cups a day.

7. Home Remedy: Citrus-greens juice. For wind heat (flu), juice a head of cabbage, one cup dandelion greens, two cucumbers, and two oranges. Drink three glasses daily.

8. Home Remedy: Inhale herbal steam. To relieve congestion, boil a pot of water and turn off the heat. Add 10 drops of Tonic Oil, which consists of oils of camphor, peppermint, eucalyptus, fennel and wintergreen. Inhale the fumes deeply for 10 minutes, covering your head and the pot with a towel. If you don’t want to make your own formula, you can purchase our blended tonic oil

9. Home Remedy: Mint-Chrysanthemum tea.  Make a tea with half a cup of fresh mint leaves and half a cup of dried chrysanthemum flowers by boiling in four cups of water for 20 minutes. Strain, and drink three cups throughout the day.

I hope this will help make this cold and flu season a healthier one. There are a number of tasty immune-boosting recipes in Secrets of Longevity Cookbook. You can find more about living long and strong in my book Secrets of Longevity: Hundreds of Ways to Live to Be 100, available on Kindle.

Follow me on Twitter to get insider tips and to ask your health questions.

May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

—Dr. Mao

This blog is meant to educate, but it should not be used as a substitute for personal medical advice. The reader should consult his or her physician or clinician for specific information concerning specific medical conditions. While all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that all information presented is accurate, as research and development in the medical field is ongoing, it is possible that new findings may supersede some data presented.

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