Flu can make you miserable, like Adam, from Brighton, England, here! – Photo Courtesy: Adam Bronkhorst
Whenever we’re in the middle of flu season, which lasts from about November to March, this time of year certainly reminds us that the flu can be terrible. The aches, pains, and sheer mucus production sap your strength, turn you into a social pariah, and make you feel miserable for weeks. And lately in the news, we’ve been hearing even more frightening flu-related news: for instance, this season, 99% of the newest flu cases are actually resistant to common flu antiviral drugs like Tamiflu. Compare this with last year’s 11%, and you will see what a massive instance of drug resistance this is.
So, isn’t it time to investigate what we can do to prepare ourselves against the flu and make sure it never gets a strong foothold in our bodies? There are several natural remedies that we can take as preventative or corrective measures, to both boost our immune systems and kick out the flu once it arrives. Here is an outline of some of the most popular, common, and effective ones:
1. Vitamin C
During flu season, it’s important to add more of this powerful immune-booster to your diet. It’s most effective in a therapeutic vitamin C shot, but this can be difficult to obtain; nevertheless, vitamin C is good for anyone, as a whole food supplement or in fruit.
This “herbal heavyweight” is one of the most effective herbs against colds and the flu, period. The herb is most effective in tincture form, but, because it’s unregulated, tinctures can come in many strengths and are often diluted. One author describes the taste test: “After you have taken the tincture, the back of your tongue should feel numb or tingly”. This should help you determine the strength and purity of your tincture.
Echinacea is best taken, like any remedy, at the onset of a cold or the flu. Another helpful aspect to this wonderful herb is that it relieves a sore throat: I don’t often read about this, but when my mother gave me Echinacea drops diluted in water (to ward off the nasty taste), I found that my sore throat bothered me less. As a result, I kept a glass of water and Echinacea nearby at all times. I’m sure it helped me recover.
3. Cayenne pepper
Cayenne contains capsaicin, which is the stuff that makes all hot peppers taste hot. It also makes you sweat and makes your nose run; this can help to expel the mucus from the body and move out the infection in the process. Add a few drops of the tincture to a honey lemon tea – but don’t add too much, because cayenne is also a stomach stimulant, and might give you a bellyache.
Many ancient medical traditions (like Ayurveda and Tibetan) praise this plant for its warming effect on the body. It’s true; ginger feels spicy hot on the tongue, so it works especially well in tea. It’s also loaded with antibacterial compounds. For the tea or infusion, you should use fresh ginger, not pickled sushi ginger.
I have praised the virtues of garlic before, but it really is a wonderful plant. It’s a natural antibacterial and antifungal, so a diet rich in garlic (and onions, the other stinky antibacterial kitchen favorite) can help the immune system tremendously. It’s also an expectorant, so if the flu is in your chest, garlic can help bring it out.
Maria (Niina) Pollari is a poet, editor, writer and translator. She wrote two chapbooks, Fabulous Essential (2009) and Book Four (2011). Pollari’s writing has been featured in numerous literary journals as well as the Brooklyn Rail and Jezebel.com. She has received her Master’s in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College.