Well, darn it. We have the flu in my house. (Or at least, flu-like symptoms.) Apparently it is on the march through my community, and across the country - it is Flu Season! I am fervently praying that I do not succumb, while also preparing in case I do. Here is what I am doing. These same strategies work for colds, as well.
For the still healthy:
- Chicken soup/bone broth
- Herbal tea
- Homemade ginger-lemon tea with honey
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, extra sugar, dairy
- Eat plenty of veggies and fruits
- Immune support supplement
- Sinus rinsing, such as with a Neti pot
For the sick:
- All of the above, plus…
- Lots of water, frequently, in small amounts
- Raw honey, by the spoon
- Fenugreek tea
- Homeopathic flu remedies
- Homeopathic sinus/cold remedies
I am also making extra food and putting it in the fridge and freezer, just in case, because it is impossible to cook when you are lying on the floor. Use some care washing bedding when the sick one(s) are getting better. There will be lots of germs all over it. Make sure the recovering person takes a nice hot bath or two, and continues to get plenty of rest and tea and broth, and any other immune supports you are using. The flu virus can continue to live in/on the infected person for several days after they feel better—especially in the nose. If a hot bath is not happening, try heating some water, creating a little tent over your head with a towel, and breathing in the steam.
Chicken soup/bone broth
It is at these times that I am so thankful that I make, portion out and freeze large batches of bone broth. If you need to start from scratch, pick up a whole/bone-in chicken and either simmer, braise or roast the thing, pick off the meat, and then continue to simmer/slow cook the bones and ALL other non-meat bits in enough water to cover them, for up to two days (instructions here). You can freeze some of the broth for later, and combine the rest with your left-over chicken and some fresh veggies, ginger and garlic. Cook the soup until the veggies are soft. You now have what may be the only thing your poor sick person will need—or be able—to eat for several days.
Homemade ginger-lemon tea with honey
Cut a few thin slices of fresh ginger into a small pot and add water for the tea. Heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes (make sure it doesn’t run out of water). Use it now for tea, and/or let it sit and steep as long as overnight. Stir in a little fresh squeezed lemon and (once it has cooled a bit) raw honey, and drink while warm. Ginger is good for soothing nausea and body aches, and is a good immune system support, as are honey and lemon.
Immune support supplements
I am fortunate to have a Whole Foods nearby, but there are plenty of options available online. I picked up some Source Naturals' “Herbal Resistance", which has a blend of pretty much every immune supporting herb I’ve ever heard of, and then some. (Plus it was on sale.) But there were plenty of other choices, including a simple echinacea and goldenseal tincture, and of course good old vitamin C (with bioflavonoids).
Pediatricians have recently increased the recommended age for introducing honey to little ones, from one year, to two years, due to concerns regarding a bacteria that can live in the honey and overwhelm a baby’s immune system. For older children and adults, however, raw honey is an excellent support to the immune system, has anti-bacterial properties of its own, and many uses. It is particularly soothing for a cough, and I often give/take it before bed for nighttime coughing, right off the spoon. When you stir it into a tea, be sure the tea has cooled enough that your raw honey will not be cooked, or you will loose a good deal of its benefit.
This is a very old remedy for congestion. Fenugreek (methi) seeds are a common component in Indian cuisine, and may be found in Indian groceries, the “ethnic" section of regular grocery stores, or online. The livestrong.com site has the most straightforward directions I found, here. You can boil and steep the seeds in water for a quick version, but the more potent—and, incidentally, less strong tasting—version is to soak the seeds in water for 8 hours or so, and then either drink the strained liquid as is, or warm it and add honey to drink as a tea. Either way, this is a very effective remedy for reducing mucus production. I recommend setting it up to soak before bed for taking the next morning, and in the morning (or mid-day) for taking before bed. Because fenugreek has many other medicinal uses, take care and do some research before using it for long stretches.
In addition to washing out some of what’s clogging up your head, sinus rinsing can wash out a lot of the germs that are trying to build communities in your nose and sinus passages. Most people use either a Neti pot, or a special squeeze bottle. I personally prefer the Neti pot—a gentle rinse, as compared to the more aggressive cleanse possible with the squeeze bottle. It takes some practice, but once you figure out the right angle to tilt your head, it is not difficult at all, and it will definitely make you feel better. Use distilled or filtered and boiled water, to make sure you are not introducing something else nasty to your insides, warm it to just above body temperature (it should feel warm, not hot) and add the directed amount of the extremely fine salt that is sold for this purpose. This is an excellent way to start the day and end it, particularly when you feel stuffy or sticky, and determined use can keep you from being pulled under by a cold.
I am a big fan of the Boiron line of homeopathic remedies, including their flu remedy, and their Coldcalm, which are both compound remedies (several active ingredients). I also like their individual ingredient remedies—particularly the one for post-nasal drip. Hyland’s is another reputable brand. If you follow the dosing instructions, I find they are quite effective, and have no side effects—unlike Nyquil and such. Amazon and Vitacost are good places to look if you don’t have a well-stocked natural grocer nearby.
Good luck, and don’t forget to wash your hands, get plenty of fluids, and sleep.