About two years ago, I woke up one day feeling sicker than I'd ever felt before (I think it's accurate to say my symptoms were worse than those during my college bout of mono). By the time I realized what was happening, it was too late for a dose of Tamiflu, and thinking back, some natural remedies for flu would have been a great option—other than sleep, I mean.
You see, the flu is not like a cold where you want to lay in bed and binge on Netflix between naps while sipping tea. You don't want to hear any noise, you don't want to eat, and you find it difficult to move. And guess what? "Flu season is not right around the corner—it's now and for the next couple of months," says Carly Brawner, holistic nutritionist, health coach, and founder of Frolic and Flow.
The good news is that Brawner has taken the time to share the personal flu busters she uses when she feels like she's coming down with something. (By the way, she wanted us to note that the best form of illness prevention is sustained healthy eating, consistent movement, stress management, and sleeping well.) Brawner insists the below "treatments" will not only prevent you from getting sick, but they'll also shorten the amount of time your cold or flu last (woohoo!).
Below, find the top six natural remedies for flu, courtesy of a holistic nutritionist. Here's how to beat seasonal sickness.
Neti Pot or Nasal Rinse
It's smart to use a Neti Pot at the first signs of mucus buildup—don't wait. Although the whole process of flushing out your nose can seem gross, it will be well worth it in the long run. "Irrigating the nasal passages can loosen mucus and encourage bacteria to exit," says Brawner. For chronic sinus infections, she suggests these nasal drops because a sugar alcohol called xylitol helps to fight biofilm (the root cause of chronic sinus problems.
When you suspect you have a bug, aim to drink about two to five ounces of ginger juice each day, either in tea or straight. "Ginger is an amazing antiviral, and not just because it's trendy on Instagram," Brawner says. "It gets between viruses and the walls of your upper respiratory tract so they can't attach." If you want to keep something in the house for when illness strikes, Brawner says these orange ginger shots will do the trick (bonus—they're tasty).
When it comes to supplements, it's all about being strategic and knowing what you're putting in your body. Brawner takes cod liver oil because its vitamins A and D help the immune system stay up to snuff. She also suggests consuming 35 milligrams of zinc at the first sign of illness (and for a few days after), plus loading up on vitamin C.
You can take a teaspoon of this traditional medicinal herb once a day for prevention and up to a tablespoon a day while you're sick. The fruit is packed with vitamins, including A, C, and B, plus potassium and antioxidants. You should check with your doctor first before using it if you have autoimmune issues, says Brawner.
And you need to drink tons of it since hydration is the key to getting rid of pathogens. Ideally, you'll drink at least 80 ounces a day (add fresh lemon juice for a kick of flavor). Or if you want something sweeter, try these detox waters.
Brawner takes this amino acid whenever she flies, travels, or thinks there's a possibility of sickness (it's also an antiviral). You should consume this supplement for about four days (but you need to talk to your doctor before using it long-term).