Natural cold and flu remedies and immune support

Support your immune system with a few natural helpers – here are Liz’s favourite homemade cold remedies.

Natural homemade cold remedies

Garlic

beat the winter bugs

Research shows that garlic’s health-giving properties help improve many disorders. This includes lowering rates of heart disease, blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.

Studies published in American Family Physician show a daily dose of garlic can also decrease the frequency of colds in adults.

The best way to get the benefits from garlic is to eat it raw, as heat reduces its benefits. Purists maintain nothing beats munching a raw clove of garlic each morning, but this inevitably leads to serious dragon-breath! Mixing with milk in the mouth before swallowing has been shown to reduce this.

Liz’s preferred option for optimum health benefits – without the halitosis – is to take a daily garlic supplement.

Elderberry

Reputed to help stave off flu (and reduce its duration if you do succumb), allergies and general respiratory ailments, Liz has personally found elderberry syrup to be helpful.

Whether this is due to its high levels of vitamin C (more than oranges) or other plant chemicals, such as immune-boosting anthocyanins, is not entirely clear.

When not making her own, Liz especially likes Dr Suraya Diaz’s Elderberry Syrup. An elderberry immune support supplement is also an easy way to up your intake.

If you have any berries left over, they also make a wonderful elderberry jelly. This is a densely dark confection with a taste much like bramble or blackberry conserve.

Ginger

Ginger natural homemade cold remedies from Liz Earle WellbeingOne of the world’s healthiest wonder-foods, ginger comes from the root of the plant Zingiber officinale, a plant that shares its family tree with other medicinal botanicals including turmeric and cardamom.

Possibly better known for helping helping to prevent nausea – especially travel and morning sickness, ginger has powerful natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, giving it great immune-boosting abilities.

Ginger is so concentrated that a little of the fresh root goes a long way. Being a root, it’s relatively easy to store. You can keep ginger for several weeks in a cool dark pantry or bottom of the fridge.

Keep slices of the root for up to six months in the freezer. This means there’s always a piece at the ready when required. Make bug-beating tea by steeping a small slice in a mug of hot water, adding a squeeze of lemon juice (for vitamin C) and a spoonful of Manuka honey to taste (for sweetness plus additional antibacterial properties). If you really don’t like the taste, ginger root capsules can be a helpful alternative.

Mullein

Both the leaves and the small, bright yellow flowers of mullein are used in traditional herbal medicine for various respiratory conditions including asthma, bronchitis, cough and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It can be taken in capsule form and is traditionally famed for its expectorant ability to help promote the discharge of mucus.

It’s also a time-honoured herbal remedy for persistent, irritating coughs with bronchial congestion. Some herbalists will also use ear drops made with mullein to help acute ear infections. Mullein contains around 3% mucilage and small amounts of saponins and tanins. We think that these together are responsible for the soothing action on our mucous membranes and give the plant its expectorant properties.

Historically, mullein has been used as a herbal remedy when treating cases of asthma and pneumonia. Despite this, there are no scientific studies to support this. Make mullein tea by pouring 1 cup (250ml) of just-boiled water over 1-2 tsp (5 – 10g) of dried leaves or flowers and steeping for five to 10 minutes, and can be drunk three to four times a day. It may also be found combined with other lung health related herbs, such as marshmallow.

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Wellbeing Wisdom

  • With garlic supplements, look out for ‘allicin potential’ or ‘allicin yield’ on the pack as good formulations will contain this more stable form of the health-giving compound
  • Keep a piece of ginger root in your cupboard for a reviving slice in hot water, sweetened with a little lemon and honey to taste