Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tis the season... (natural cold and flu remedies)

"It's not the flu", or so reporters are telling us. But the symptoms are just about the same: fever, achy-ness, sometimes nausea or gastro-upset. (Matt got a rash with it too, but we're not totally sure that it was related). And it's spreading like wildfire.

So I thought I'd share with you some of my favorite cold and flu remedies. At least, these have been working for us so far.

First a disclaimer: you have to understand that when I say "working for us", I mean that rather loosely. With four preschool kids, we spend a fair amount of the winter sick. Two winters ago we were down for about 4 months in a row. My goal for each winter is to be healthier than the previous, not sickness-free.

After that very sick winter, two years ago, my Mother-in-law, who participates in one of the better-known Multi-Level-Marketing health supplement things tried to convince me that we would all have better health if we took that product. Being too frugal to shell out $100 a month for each kid for this product (!), I took to reading ingredients. They were almost entirely things that we get aplenty from our food - folic acid (yep, we eat dark green veggies), vitamin A (yep, we eat carrots), calcium (we drink milk and each cheese), and so on. All the ingredients, it seemed to me, could be had in a diet that was reasonably high in fruits and veggies (as ours is). Finally I found a difference: fish oil. Aha! We don't eat fish (too expensive, not a fan of the fishy flavor... and we live in the midwest).

So I bought a fish oil supplement (strawberry flavored, by Nordic Naturals), and dutifully gave the kids a 1/2 teaspoon a day. I bought some in capsules for me too, partly because they are cheaper that way, and partly because the idea of eating straight oil kind of weirds me out. (Note that it's worth the extra money to buy the good brand of fish oil, and it must be refrigerated. They don't always tell you this, but the stuff does go rancid fairly quickly).

It made a difference right away. Not a huge difference, but one that I noticed -- we still got sick, but it was shorter lived, and I didn't feel like we were always on the verge of illness.

That was the biggest change we made. But there's other little ones, which together have helped a lot. I'll go through them quickly.

EPY tea and garlic oil are becoming my old standbys.

And did I mention candied ginger? Ginger in general is just about the greatest thing for sore tummys. My brother-in-law also claims that it might prevent the flu. I don't know (we rarely get stomach flu anyway). Candied ginger is practically candy. The kids actually ask for it.

I told you about lobelia, and echinicea-eyebright, and how to make and use your own tinctures.

And I'm sure you already know about Vitamin C - we drink it as Emergen-C. Yummy.

Finally, let me tell you about the virus blend. This was suggested to my mother by a doctor, and it's not entirely natural, but it does work.

At the onset of virus symptoms (namely cold or flu, but we've also used it for mono) take:

800 I.U. Vitamin E
50 mcg Zinc
800 mcg Folic Acid

Take this mixture twice the first day, then once each day until symptoms are gone (which will in general be 2-3 days).

This fall was the first time that I tried this with my kids -- I halved the doses, and ground up the Zinc and Folic Acid, then mixed it with honey. It still tastes bad, but the kids will eat it. They don't mind chewing the Vitamin E gel-cap. Weird kids. when I tried it for the first time, the kids had been sick for two weeks, and I was dreading this winter. They were well in three days, and stayed will for three weeks (until the "not the flu" of last week).

What ways do you keep your family healthy, and return to health when you're down?


  1. This year I've been flushing my sinuses and it seems to make a big improvement. I use a bulb syringe and alternate sides as I squirt a mixture of 1C warm water and 1/4 tsp no-iodine salt. If you have never done this, you will be amazed at how clearly you can breathe after you do this. My doctor said to not plug the other nostril while you do this and to keep your mouth open, although other people say to do the opposite.

  2. I take fish oil too. I just have the capsules and I cut them open and squeeze them into the kids yogurt and applesauce. They have never noticed. I also give them echinacea and that seems to shorten the colds. Great tips!

  3. These are great tips! I have to laugh because my WFMW post was about crystallized ginger *L*

  4. My kids don't get sick often. The best thing we have found is monitoring sources of sugar and eliminating most sources when they start to come down with something. By sugar I mean candy, cakes, cookies, soda, corn syrup and juices. Sugar stuns the immune system for around 3 hours, leaving you more able to come down with a bug.

    When they do get sick, aloe vera juice soothes upset tummies and a little extra, powdered vitamin C gives immune system a boost.

    Another idea, I like to add tea tree oil to a pot of water on the stove. Let it simmer on low all day. It helps to breathe easier and it's supposed to help "clean" the air.

    Also, unless it's downright freezing, I try to crack windows and doors for at least 15 minutes a day to get fresh air in the house.

    And lastly, since we live where it's been cold and my kids don't like to play outside too much, I make sure we spend some time reading or doing something in front of a window or door where they can get sunlight. Vitamin D from the sun is a definate immune booster (despite what mainstream medicine says).

    One last thought, my middle daughter used to be "sick" all the time. One year she went through five rounds of antibiotics in a row. She still had a sinus infection. We recently eliminated milk from her diet. Her sinuses have been completely clear since then.