A balanced and easy approach to healthy living.

Cold and Flu Prevention and Treatment: Natural and D.I.Y


In my home, viruses and bugs like to play musical chairs with our immune systems. First my daughter gets sick, then me, then my husband, and then the cycle starts all over again. A couple of months ago I was perpetually sick for more than 4 weeks. I finally had enough of it! I committed to being consistent about my cold-prevention regimen, and so far, so good.

One of the amazing things about natural remedies, is that you can use them to both prevent AND treat. Often, you just need to increase the dose and frequency of the remedies when you are actually sick. Here is what I do, below. I offer DIY alternatives, when possible. You can do all of these together, or mix and match.

Elderberry syrup (store-bought and homemade); garlic, ginger, Vitamin C and zinc losenges

Elderberry syrup (store-bought and homemade), garlic, ginger, vitamin C and zinc lozenges

1. Daily multi-vitamin and C: When I’m feeling good, getting sleep, and people around me aren’t coughing and sneezing, I don’t take a multi-vitamin every day. I eat pretty well, and it’s best to get your nutrients from real food. But during flu season, I take my multi every day, just in case, and I add additional C. If someone in the house is sick, I’ll take a C vitamin several times during the day. Make sure to consult your health practitioner about the right C-vitamin dosage for you.

2.Eat lots of garlic and ginger: both are immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory agents. Use them as often as you can in your cooking. They are great in stir-fries, soups, and you can make great sauces and marinades with them. Try to under-cook them a little bit so they have maximum nutritional value, if you can handle the flavor. I enjoy making a ginger-teriyaki sauce for salmon and veggies: combine soy sauce, minced garlic and ginger, honey and orange juice (optional). People always ask me for the recipe.

Here are some AWESOME TIME SAVERS to make cooking with garlic and ginger EASY and QUICK:

  • You can buy whole, peeled, organic garlic in health food stores. This way, it’s ready to go.
  • GINGER DOES NOT NEED TO BE PEELED! Did you know that? Buy organic, wash it, and then mince it with the skin. I do this all the time, and nobody notices it wasn’t peeled.
  • At the beginning of the week, mince garlic and ginger (separately) in a mini-food processor or blender, and then store them in separate containers in your fridge. This way, you can just grab a pinch (or a handful!) and throw it into whatever dish you are cooking! They will keep for about 3-7 days in the fridg.

3. Elderberry (Sambucus): relieves coughs and congestion, enhances immune function, lowers fever, soothes the respiratory tract and is effective against flu viruses. Awesome, right??? It’s typically found in syrup form in health food stores and online in a bunch of varieties for adults and children. It tastes good: like berry-flavored maple syrup.  My favorite is Nature’s Way “Immune System Syrup,” which includes also includes echinacea, propolis, zinc, and vitamin C. The directions instruct you to take a certain amount for daily consumption to prevent illness, and an increased amount for when you are sick. Note: if you are pregnant, elderberry is not recommended, though it’s generally ok for nursing mothers and infants and toddlers (read more here). As always, consult your doctor.

But, I promised you DIY, right? And the syrups can get a little pricey (about $10-$20 for 8 oz). So here’s how you can make it yourself: To start, buy organic, dried elderberries. For about $20 (or $14 for the non-organic version) you can make yourself a bunch of bottles of the syrup, probably enough to last you a few months or the whole season!  I found and used a recipe from one of my favorite natural-living blogs: the Soft Landing. I omitted the clove powder from the recipe, otherwise all the other ingredients were already in my kitchen! The glass jar in the photo, above, contains my home-made version!

4. Oregano oil: Some people refer to oregano oil as “nature’s antibiotic.” It’s made from varieties of the plant found in the Mediterranean region, not the kind you find in stores. Numerous studies have been done illustrating its antiseptic and healing properties (see summaries here). It has a strong taste, but you only need a few drops at a time. And, it seems expensive, but it’ll take you many months to go through it, since it’s so potent. I usually buy the Oregonal brand–you’ll be convinced by the amazing reviews on Amazon!

5. Zinc: Another immune-system booster, in lozenge or supplement form. Follow directions on the label. Zinc supplements should only be taken when treating a cold. Do not exceed 100mg. Consult your doctor.

Happy Preventing and Happy Treating! I’d love to hear about your favorite cold remedies in the comments section!

2 thoughts on “Cold and Flu Prevention and Treatment: Natural and D.I.Y

  1. Which brand sambucol do you recommend for toddlers? Any ideas for cold relief when you are preggos?


    • Hi Jodi, great question. I recommend Gaia Herb’s Black Elderberry Syrup because unlike other brands, like Nature’s Way, there are no artificial flavors, colors or other additives. They happen to have a kid’s version, but I have the regular version at home, and it gives dosage for both adults and kids. In other words, if you have adults taking it too, get the regular kind and use it for the whole family; if it’s just a kid taking it, get the kids’ kind if you prefer.

      Re: cold relief for pregnant women: homeopathy is considered fine for babies and pregnant women because the healing component is diluted many times over. My favorite homeopathic brand that makes all sorts of cold, flu and sinus treatments is Occilococinum–they make a product called “Cold Calm”, Sinusalia, and something for flu-like symptoms. (All available on amazon.com and in health food stores).

      Otherwise, take the max amount of vitamin C and zinc that your doctor allows. Sleep early and often :)…wash your hands…and have a piece of dark chocolate for some anti-oxidants, but not before bed. Hope that helps!


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