9 Natural Cold and Flu Remedies (plus one)

A couple of you have emailed me about natural cold and flu treatments since we published the post earlier this week about cold medications possibly being harmful for children. Convenient timing: WebMD has a handy list that caught my eye. There are some smart tips which I’ll touch on briefly here. I’d also like for you all to please add in any relevant tips you happen to recommend. And while I’m at it, before we all head out for the weekend I want to thank you for being such a terrific group. Your diverse and thoughtful comments, criticisms, and links add value to every single post at our ever-growing health community. And your emails really do make my day. While I can’t always respond, I do read every single one. So, thank you.

Now, about this list. Simple, smart, natural. I like it.

1. Blow your nose properly. (Gently, frequently, and press one nostril at a time.)

2. Don’t cut sleep. (No need to wear your body down during cold and flu season.)

3. Gargle salt water, vinegar, or lemon water. (Or drink Sara’s devil’s brew…)

4. Drink hot liquids (tea, broth, even plain, hot water).

5. Take a hot, steamy shower or visit the sauna. (A personal favorite.)

6. Menthol and camphor. (The article recommends dabbing a bit under your nasal passages. These salves are also great on the chest and back of the neck if you’re really feeling poorly.)

7. Hot water bottles or ice packs to ease aches, fever and other discomfort. (We mentioned this earlier.)

8. Sleep with an extra pillow for proper drainage. (Not sure about this one. I place comfort over drainage, but maybe it works for you.)

9. Don’t fly. (If possible, don’t travel when you’re sick, especially long distances crossing several time zones. And in general, obviously, just take it easy.)

10. My extra point: make sure you’re living a preventive lifestyle to begin with so your immunity isn’t compromised. Get enough sleep, eat natural “primal” foods, consider supplementation, and most important at this time of year, control that stress.

Let’s hear your tips.

Further reading:

What About Flu Shots?

Is intermittent fasting healthy?

How to avoid jet lag (really)

Video: How to eat healthy at the gas station

10 Rules for Aging Well

Slice Photo on Flickr (CC)

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About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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23 thoughts on “9 Natural Cold and Flu Remedies (plus one)”

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  1. Ohhhh the devil’s brew 🙂 (Aaron’s already been one unfortunate victim). This stuff does work, though (whether real or placebo, it gets the job done). I’ve had two brief colds this year, and I credit my brew to clearing them up fast. I don’t really measure, but I mix about an ounce of apple cider vinegar with the juice of a whole fresh lemon, a dash of salt, and a whole teaspoon of cayenne pepper. And then I chug it. YUM! 😉

    By the way, guys, Mark did a cool interview with Gal over at 60 in 3: https://www.60in3.com/2007/10/05/10-questions-with-mark-sisson-of-marks-daily-apple/

    1. yeahh i put some ginger and garlic and turmeric too but basically thats it as im writting this im sufferingna cold but feeling the “devil’s brew” (i love the name)
      in my body, i feel hot and just the litttle sniffles, my sickness is dying internally hahaha!
      yeah im pretty sick.
      ill beat it though.
      ive been using this for years, but i always get sick this season.

  2. I used to drink three or four shots of JD, but have recently switched to Tequila….

    Just kidding, seriously, just kidding.

    I have been fortunate for over the last 18 months to not have caught a flu or a cold. I believe it is the supplementation that has prevented the occurrence. I honestly believe that I will not get sick and I haven’t. Kind of a bummer in a way, as I never take a sick day. Oh, well.

    However, in the past I have found the key is sleep. If one is sick, sleep as much as possible. Drink the hot liquids, but even cold liquids if one cannot stomach hot liquids. And I don’t mean JD.

    As for elixirs, such as Sara’s, the cayenne pepper will certainly clear the nostrils, but maybe should be avoided if one has the flu. I have used hot Chinese mustard and obtained similar results.

    To reiterate, in my experience, sleep appears to offer the best solution to a faster recovery.

  3. Tequila…that can be dangerous 😉

    Good point about the flu. Don’t forget wasabi! 🙂

  4. I’d like to turn around Mark’s thanks and send one his way (and to Sara, Aaron, and the Bees). I’ve made several unsuccessful attempts at losing weight and getting healthy over the last few years. Something just clicked when I first happened on that link to the Apple. Now I’m walking passed that almost daily table of donuts at work without batting an eye, and I’m in the kitchen preparing meals instead of just pouring a salad bowl full of cereal. On Aug 12th I weighed 242 pounds–this morning I was 218. Reading this blog daily is a big help in keeping the motivation high!!

  5. From just coming off of a nasty cold, I have to say BIG doses of sleep seem to be the only way to get me back on my feet … liquids and TLC always help too!

  6. Yep, definitely sleep as much as possible. Way too many people try to “work through” a bug and end up spending two weeks sick (and contagious) when they could shake it off in two or three days if they just took the hint and spent that time sleeping.

    Also, even if you aren’t determined to treat without drugs, let fevers burn. They’re uncomfortable, but all experiments done so far indicate fevers really do shorten illnesses; even a reptile will recover faster from a virus if you give it access to higher-temperature heat sources than it usually prefers.

  7. @ Dave C,
    WOW! Congratulations on your weight loss. Keep up your motivation, you’re on the right road to the ideal weight you desire to be, good for you!!!
    Thank You Dave for sharing that with us,very proud of you, you’re doing wonderful, that’s quite an accomplishment!!!

  8. Thanks, Donna. I’ve hit a bit of a snag because I strained a hip flexor doing some weight work, and I can’t take my long walks. I can ride a bike as long as I don’t go to hard, but it doesn’t seem to work as well for me. I guess Grok didn’t have a Cannondale while developing our primal DNA! 🙂


  9. After trying Sara’s evil elixir I wasn’t sure if she was trying to cure me or kill me! 😉 That stuff is no joke.

    Congratulations Dave C! We are all so happy to be a small part of your success. Keep up the healthy lifestyle!

  10. I second that Dave. Keep it up! 🙂 And thanks!

    P.S. Don’t listen to Aaron. My brew is great.

  11. A question on rest, in case anyone sees this buried in the archives – at the start and end of a cold, should workouts be limited in favor of rest, or is it better to keep active? (Basically, I’m asking if I should go to the gym today, as I think I’m coming down with something.)

  12. Jaime, if it’s a head cold, you’re safe to work out if you feel “up to it”. If it’s a body cold/flu, stay in bed. Follow your instincts – if you’re really, really wiped, better to rest.

  13. This may not be for everyone, but at 71 I find it still seems to work. My wife and I never take a flu shot. We lived in Texas and managed retirement homes (lots of old people). They almost all took a flu shot, but we never did. Some of the residents got the flu; we never did. I guess we try to follow a healthy diet and life style, and it has worked and still works.

  14. Has anyone heard of an organic product called Previn C? My husband and I just returned from a cruise and he caught a bug that had flu-like symptoms. When we docked in Puerto Rico, the pharmacy recommended Previn C and it seemed to work…he was fine for the rest of our vacation, but I don’t know much about it. I liked that he didn’t have to ingest anything – it only uses a organic mixture of fluid that you place in your nostril to coat hairs and mucosa. Anyone know anything? Is it legit? Can you obtain in the US?

  15. To get relief from running nose, cough, headache, fever, chills, tiredness a great homeopathic treatment is required. The effects of vomiting due to less intake of food, nausea, and appetite loss should also be reduced by it.

  16. I haven’t been sick for years, and I am absolutely certain it is because I eat so many living probiotic cultures every day. Home made yogurt and home made raw sauerkraut (or kim chi) contain millions of beneficial bacteria who seem to boost my immune system. I also take 5,000 IU of Vitamin D3 daily, sun bathe as soon as it is warm enough and gargle with Listerine when I brush my teeth.

    1. I second the Vitamin D recommendation. I also take 5,000 IU of D3. I used to be plagued by frequent colds. We have long months of dark days in the winter and I thought it might be something to do with this (lack of sunlight, hence lack of Vit D). I haven’t had a cold since I started taking it over a year ago.

  17. Vit C – 2 grams at least a day…you may need more. You’ll never get a cold again.

  18. Onions can be very helpful for curing or atleast relieving the common cold. My grandma used to give me 2 tablespoons of onion juice at bedtime during cold, and I felt better the next morning.

  19. Caught a cold this weekend. Drank Devil’s Brew while listening to Bitches Brew. Much better now.