These days, it’s difficult to turn on the news without hearing about how rampant the flu virus has become. Currently, it has hit all 50 states, with the 48 contiguous states showing a widespread outbreak. Some schools have closed due to the high number of affected children. With most of us spending the majority of our time indoors, our offices, schools, and homes can become breeding grounds for bacteria and viruses. With windows closed, we’re all breathing the same air, potentially inhaling airborne viruses from those around us.
To protect yourself from illness during these cold months, there are natural antiviral and antibacterial preventive measures that you can take. If you find yourself experiencing symptoms of the cold and flu, these remedies can help you to get back on your feet much quicker and healthier than most conventional treatments.
Drink plenty of water
When your body is properly hydrated, your body is able to function properly and rid itself of toxins. As your body temperature rises, you may become dehydrated, which can worsen or lengthen the duration of your flu symptoms, like dizziness, light-headedness, headaches and dry mouth. With proper hydration, your body is better equipped to handle infections. If cold or tepid water isn’t appealing to you in the colder months, try warming it up. Add a squeeze of lemon juice or a drop or two of lemon essential oil.
Use Essential Oils
Essential oils are very helpful in eliminating viruses and bacteria in the environment around us, making them very powerful in preventing and eliminating illness. You can diffuse the oils in your home or office, make a disinfectant spray to clean your hands and the hard surfaces you encounter, add them to hot water to steam your face, and add them to a relaxing and detoxifying bath.
For a disinfectant spray, you can use a 2-oz. glass spray bottle, add distilled water, filling ¾ of the bottle. You can then add 10 drops of a blend like Thieves®, which will be discussed further below. Close the bottle, and shake vigorously for about one minute. Use this mixture to spray your hands as a hand sanitizer. Spray on doorknobs, faucets, and other hard surfaces where viruses and bacteria are known to linger.
Steam is especially beneficial in relieving congestion and loosening up mucus in your nasal passages. You can add water to a large pot and boil. Once the water has reached its boiling point, allow it to boil for 2 minutes. Carefully remove the pot from heat and place it down in front of you on a heat-bearing surface. Add a few drops of Eucalyptus or Oregano essential oils. Place a towel over your head and lean over the pot. Remain over the pot until the steam ceases.
For your bath, run your water as hot as you can stand it. Add ¼ cup of Himalayan salt and a few drops of Lavender and Eucalyptus, or stay in the bath for about 40 minutes to detox and allow your body to absorb the minerals from the salt. When done, it’s a good idea to allow yourself time to rest.
As a rub, add Eucalyptus to your favorite carrier oil – coconut, avocado, jojoba, almond, or olive oil. Use the mixture to rub onto the soles of your feet for detoxification. For sore muscles, massage the mixture into painful areas for relief.
What are some great essential oils for cold and flu season?
Eucalyptus oil is antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral. It can be used to treat a cough, sore throat, and congestion. For fever relief, Eucalyptus can be used to lower your body’s core temperature. As Eucalyptus oil is naturally analgesic (pain reliever) and anti-inflammatory, it is also effective in the treatment of sore muscles.
Lavender is one of the most popular essential oils due to its pleasing aroma and relaxing benefits. In addition to being a sedative, Lavender is also antimicrobial, antiseptic, antiviral, and analgesic. For headache relief, rub a few drops on your temples. Add it to your favorite carrier oil to use as a muscle rub. It is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and can be used to relieve the symptoms from burns and allow for a speedier recovery.
Thieves® oil is a proprietary blend of Clove, Lemon, Cinnamon, Eucalyptus Radiata, and Rosemary essential oils, made by Young Living that has been shown to be very effective against viruses. With each oil boasting antimicrobial, antiviral, and antiseptic properties, this blend is great to include in your DIY disinfectant spray and sanitizer. It is also a great oil to diffuse. When I travel on flights or in areas that are heavily crowded, I always have it handy for use.
Include immune boosting herbs
Healing with plants goes back to the beginning of man’s time on the Earth. As time progressed, people began to learn about those that were helpful in overcoming illness, and those that were better left alone. Even though it may seem that our exposure to disease has increased, there are still some herbal remedies that have stood the test of time. During the cold and flu season, you can use herbal remedies in tinctures, teas, or in food preparation. Incorporating healing plants into your daily routine may be your solution in protecting yourself from viral infections. Tinctures and extracts can be added to a glass of water, juice, or simply placed into the mouth by a dropper. Because the extracts and tinctures are usually very bitter, most prefer to add them to water.
Another way to consume your herbs is to drink them as teas. When you’re feeling under the weather, warm beverages help to relieve sore throats, suppress coughs, and can ease nausea. In fact, according to the LIVESTRONG™ article, Why is it Healthy to Drink Hot Water?, Dr. Michael Wald, the director of Nutritional Services at Integrated Medicine and Nutrition in Mount Kisco, New York states that “hot water increases the circulation to the gastrointestinal tract and decreases the amount of mucous [sic] in your sinuses, esophagus and gastrointestinal tract, decreasing the ability for viruses, bad bacteria or fungi to grow or infect your body.”
To make a tea with the root, stems, or leaves of your herbs, add your plants to a saucepan pan. Add water and bring to a boil. Allow the herbs to boil for about 10 minutes, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and allow the mixture to steep for another 20 – 30 minutes. Once complete. Remove from heat. Pour tea into your cup, using a strainer. If you prefer a sweeter option, raw honey can be added.
What are some great remedies to help you combat the flu virus?
Echinacea is antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory. It has been used for years to prevent the onset of colds. Studies have shown that regular use of Echinacea can reduce your risk of catching a cold by 50%. If you already have a cold, it can reduce the duration by 1.4 days
Goldenseal can boost your immune system by keeping your respiratory and intestinal tracts clean. It is antiviral and anti-inflammatory. Goldenseal is also used to lower fevers associated with prolonged illnesses. As a hepatoprotective agent, meaning that it’s protective of the liver, it cleanses the blood and detoxifies the body.
Elderberries are natural immune boosters that protect the body from bacterial infections and prevent the onset of influenza. In a 2001 NCBI study, the antiviral properties in elderberries were shown to be effective against influenza and reduced the duration of flu symptoms to 3-4 days. For sore throats, a syrup or juice can be made from elderberries to calm inflammation and soothe irritation. It can also be used as an expectorant.
Ginger strengthens the immune system by helping to break down toxins and cleanse the lymphatic system with its antiviral and antibacterial properties. It’s main component, gingerol, is very effective in reducing and preventing harmful inflammation. Fresh ginger has been found to be able to stimulate the cell lining along the respiratory airway to secrete a signaling protein called IFN-β, which can contribute to counteracting viral infection by blocking the ability of the virus to attach to cells lining the respiratory tract.
Raw garlic is antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal. It has been used for centuries as a natural antibiotic to treat bacterial and fungal infections. Enriched with Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6, folate, Vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, sodium and zinc, garlic supports and builds your immune system, relieves nasal congestion, and helps to eliminate toxins. It can be consumed in a tea, eaten raw, or added to food.
Oregano oil is a very powerful treatment for the cold and flu due to its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic and antioxidant properties. Oregano contains carvacrol, an antimicrobial that neutralizes bacteria in the body, Vitamin C which promotes the production of white blood cells, and Thymol, an anti-fungal and antiseptic which detoxifies your respiratory tract. With all of these properties, Oregano oil can strengthen your immune system, making it more effective in ridding your body of viral infections.
Apple cider vinegar has been used as a remedy to treat infections for years. According to an NCBI study, it has been proven to exhibit antimicrobial properties at a concentration of 25%. Dr. Axe also adds, “the healthy bacteria found in apple cider vinegar may promote immunity and support healthy lymphatic drainage.” Although there are various forms of ACV, it is best to purchase it as raw and unfiltered.
For a tea that can help in relieving your flu symptoms, try this combination.
3 cups of water
½ inch of raw ginger root
1 Tablespoon of raw and unfiltered apple cider vinegar
½ lemon or 2 drops of lemon essential oil
1 drop of clove oil
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
3 drops of stevia
Add water to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add slices of ginger root. Continue to boil the ginger for 10-15 minutes, then allow it to simmer for another 20 minutes. Strain the mixture into a mug. Add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and squeeze ½ a lemon (or 2 drops of a lemon essential oil) into your tea. Finish with a dash of cayenne pepper. To add some sweetness, add 3 drops of stevia.
Although the winter weather may be quite cold during the winter months, forcing many people to stay indoors rather than spending any considerable time outside, it’s still important to get some fresh air and sunshine. Your body requires sunlight exposure to produce Vitamin D which is important for improving your immune response.
During the winter months, which encompass cold and flu season, people are more susceptible to Vitamin D deficiencies. Studies have shown that those with less than optimal Vitamin D levels experience more colds, influenza, and respiratory infections. Although you can find Vitamin D supplements in your local health food store, sun exposure produces a water-soluble form of the vitamin that allows it to pass freely throughout your bloodstream. The supplemental form requires cholesterol or fat for transportation, so bundle up and make it a daily practice to take a brisk walk or run outside, depending on your level of fitness.
Nature has blessed us with many ways to keep our bodies healthy, even in times when viral infections are widespread as they are now. We can build our immunity naturally and become less susceptible to the changing strains of the flu virus during the cold, winter months.
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