Influenza. Right about this time of year you start to hear everyone jabbering about it. How it’s time to get your vaccine, what the strain is like this time around, all sorts of nasty stories…not fun stuff. The flu virus chiefly attacks the respiratory system with one of three strains, known as A, B, and C (somebody was feeling a creative burst when they came up with that.) When you get ill, your body becomes a battleground on a microscopic level as the virus marches in and begins to take over your own cells, multiplying and killing it. Unfortunately there is no true cure for a virus, so these home remedies aim at easing the symptoms, and keeping your body as strong as possible so it can fight off the virus. Influenza virus, often simply called “the flu”, should not be confused with gastroenteritis-known as the stomach flu.
1. Drink Plenty of Clear Fluids
Could this get any more cliché? Probably not. Does that mean it’s useless advice? Absolutely not. Sometimes, clichés are cliché for a reason. Many times we find ourselves searching for a fast cure, and we neglect the basics. It’s important to drink fluid for a few reasons, the first being fever. The flu creates a higher fever that causes you to sweat, thus, decreasing the fluid in your body. It’s also just common sense that you need to stay hydrated to keep your body running, and you need that more than ever when you’re ill. In addition to the above, drinking enough has a direct effect on your comfort level. Keeping the mucous membranes moist can help thin secretions.
You will need…
-Fresh, cool, water
-Chicken soup (especially the broth)
Stick to clear fluids, such as chicken broth, water, or tea. Your appetite will be low, and these are easy on your stomach while providing the much needed nourishment and hydration your body requires.
2. Spicy Warm Ginger Tea
Ginger is good for just about anything that ails you. Upset stomach, congestion, nausea, inflammation…you name it. When you’re feeling sick, a piping hot cup of ginger tea will chase away chills, help congestion, and even ease some of those awful aches you have.
Numerous studies have found that it can warm you up from the inside out, as gingerols (one of gingers main constituents) may improve circulation when they slow down the process of clots forming. And that infuriating muscle pain? It’s the result of your body releasing an all-out attack on the virus. The acute inflammation of the muscle tissue is the body’s response as various proteins and white blood cells rush to remove the offending virus. Two main players here are prostaglandins and leukotrienes, both of which are powerful mediators for inflammation-but the gingerols can slow their function, therefore easing the inflammation, and thus, the pain.
Technically you’ll be making a decoction, which is necessary when dealing with the tough rhizome that is ginger. It’s a little harder to extract the constituents from the tough plant, so it is simmered over low heat for a half an hour to release all that healing gingery goodness. I usually will add lemon and honey to my decoction to make it even yummier-and to get the benefits of the lemon and honey as well.
You will need…
-2 inches of fresh ginger root
-4 cups of cool water
*This recipe is for 4 cups, feel free to adjust accordingly if you would like more or less.
Slice the ginger into disks and place it in a small pot. Turn the heat to low and bring the water to a slow simmer. Cover and let it simmer for at least 25 minutes, up to 45. If you’d like you can let it infuse further overnight to create a more concentrated decoction, but this isn’t necessary. Strain, pour the liquid into your favorite mug, and add a dash of fresh lemon and a swirl of honey. Enjoy!
3. Simple Salve
This is an easy and unintimidating salve to make for nights when the muscle aches are hitting particularly hard. It contains Wintergreen essential oil, which is truly nature’s pain reliever. It’s actually what inspired the aspirin that you see on drug store shelves everywhere, being composed of roughly 85% methyl salicylate, the main component in aspirin. Wintergreen needs to be treated with respect, as it is so powerful. This salve should not be used on children. Yes, this is a wholesome salve, but just because it’s natural doesn’t mean there isn’t risk. It is possible (and indeed happens) to experience dermal toxicity when amounts of topical analgesics (pain releivers) are used in excess. Cases like that have involved OTC products using pure methyl salicate, but it’s always good to exercise caution. Remember, natures remedies helped keep us alive until the advent of modern day medicine-natural remedies can be extremely powerful.
You will need…
-2 tablespoons of beeswax
-4 tablespoons of coconut oil
-10 drops of wintergreen essential oil
In a double boiler over medium-low heat melt the coconut oil. Add in the beeswax, and wait until it melts completely. Stir the two together thorough, remove from heat, and quickly drop in your wintergreen oil. Blend thoroughly, and pour immedietly into a little glass jar (or whatever container you wish to keep it in.)
This will keep for up to a year if stored in a cool dark place out of direct sunlight. Apply sparingly over sore muscles, massaging it in with your fingers using firm pressure.
4. Let Yourself Be Sick
We live in a lightning-fast paced world and sometimes it’s simply not feasible to even contemplate lounging in bed, even when ill. But how sad, that we’re so stressed and rushed that we ignore our bodies when they tell us slow down! It’s nature’s most basic way of communicating that it’s time you take a break. Back in the day it was those signals that kept us alive-don’t get lulled into a false sense of security simply because you can get away with it now. It may not be a life-or-death battle but your body is dispatching all its forces to get rid of this thing-help it out a little.
You will need…
-A nice place to curl up and read a book (or watch TV)
There is no shame in taking some time to let yourself recover. You aren’t being lazy, or selfish. Best to get over the flu then languish for longer than you would if you’d rested in the first place.
5. Take a Shower
I have had great personal success with this little gem. Sometimes, when you’re feeling sick, it’s like taking a shower just re-invents you. You slough off the old sick germy layer and voi la! There’s a brand new you underneath. The warm/hot water helps with aches and chills, and works wonders with congestion. Most of the time, you feel a heck of a lot better getting out of the shower than getting in it. Aside from the obvious clearing of congestion thanks to the heat and steam, is there any scientific backing to a shower curing what ails you? Not really. But if it makes you feel better (which can lead to you actually getting better) than why not? Afterwards you can get back in your jammies and curl up in bed and you’ll feel nice and clean, which makes it much easier and more enjoyable to relax and heal yourself.
6. Flu Bath Salts
Relaxing, healing, and invigorating, the essential oils in these bath salts are the perfect blend to chase away the flu blues. Tea tree oil and eucalyptus combine to kill germs and break up mucous while a touch of lavender helps the body de-stress and unwind. You can use whatever ratio you prefer for this blend, however I tend to use a higher ratio of tea tree oil and eucalyptus to the lavender. The magnesium rich Epsom salt fights achy muscles and the warm bath water gets rid of those bone-deep chills.
You will need…
-6 drops of tea tree oil
-3 drops of eucalyptus oil
-2 drops of lavender oil
-1 cup of Epsom salt
-2 tablespoons of liquid oil (olive, grapeseed, jojoba, etc.)
-A glass container with a tightly sealed top
Mix the essential oils with your choice of liquid oil, and place the Epsom salt in your container. Pour in the oil blend and stir thoroughly until everything is mixed well with the salt. Fill the tub halfway with warm water, add 2-3 tablespoons of salt, and fill the rest of the way. Soak, relax, and breathe deep!
Remember to stir before each use, as the oil has the tendency to settle.
7. Make an Inhaler
This is a great way to get all the benefits of essential oils on the go, anytime you need it. Lime, lavender, black spruce, eucalyptus and tea tree oil combine to make a great inhaler that will help your body fight the flu. Click here for instructions on how to make it.
You will need…
-Some sort of mouse or mousepad to click above. Or a finger, if you’re using a tablet or cell phone.
Is it the flu or a cold?
Influenza and the common cold both effect the respiratory system, but there are several key differences between them. Even with these differences, many flu home remedies can become cold home remedies and vice versa, as the symptoms are quite similar-they just tend to be worse with the flu than a cold. Keep in mind that symptoms vary from person to person and virus to virus so there is no solid set of rules to determine what you have without going into your doctor.
Onset: A cold will almost always start gradually, and usually very predictably. You start getting a sore throat, which will feel better in a few days. But as that starts to recede, the congestion kicks in. You’ll have a stuffy nose and a productive cough will start to clear gunk out of your chest and throat. The flu, on the other hand, has an abrupt onset. You can feel fine in the morning, and then feel downright horrible all at once that afternoon.
Phlegm/ mucous: Always a compelling topic, phlegm/mucous can be a general indicator of whether you have a cold or the flu (not always though, especially if there are complication with the flu, such as pneumonia.) A cold tends to start with thinner discharge and then later produces a much thicker, darker, mucous that will keep you coughing up nasties and struggling to blow your nose enough. The flu generally produces a thin, watery discharge and the cough is dry, not productive.
Severity: Many of the symptoms are the same, but the flu is much more severe than the cold. Your aches will feel several times achier than if you had a cold, and about 80% of flu cases have a fever, versus the relatively small amount of healthy adults that get a fever with the cold. If you do have a fever with your cold, it will not spike as high as the fever with the flu (above 100.5 degrees) which lasts for.
Duration: You will typically get over a cold within 10 days. The flu can last up to two weeks.
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