Natural Ways to Not Feel Like Crap During Colds and Flu

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Once upon a time, or actually twice upon a time now, we’ve met up with several families for a week of vacation. With 20+ kids in one house for a week, what could possibly go wrong?

Turns out, lots of things, but one in particular:

All the kids getting sick. In a row. All week long.

It was super fun… or not so much.

Easy Natural Cold and Flu Remedies

The incident not-so-lovingly-known as “the great minor cold pandemic of family vacation” was not serious and passed pretty quickly, but we had a rough couple of days.

Thankfully, many of the moms were well-versed in natural remedies and collectively pulled out the herbs, spices, raw honey, garlic, essential oils, and supplements to get the kids through it pretty quickly.


Of course, it’s important to see a medical professional for any major or serious illness. Back then I didn’t have a doctor I could text, and in most cases would end up taking the kids in and paying a co-pay just to have a doctor tell me to give my kids water and soup!

Over time I learned and started turning to natural remedies. (And we do go to the doctor for anything major or serious or that lasts longer than a few days.)

For viral illnesses that conventional medicine can’t do much for anyway, I turn to these natural remedies. They won’t knock out all symptoms or provide the same pain relief of over-the-counter drugs, but they help ease the crappish feeling of a cold (super scientific term, eh?).

Kitchen Remedies to Ease Discomfort

Even if I don’t have access to my whole natural medicine cabinet, some simple grocery store remedies can make a big difference! These are my go-to kitchen remedies:

Lots of Water

I find that we all feel better when we stay well hydrated, but especially during illness. Doctors often recommend rest and hydration for minor illness and the advice is sound. At first sign of illness, we make sure to sip water all day to support the body’s natural healing process. This remedy is mostly free but super important.

Raw Garlic

One of nature’s most potent remedies is also one of the easiest to find in any grocery store. It has been extensively researched in over 5,000 studies for its natural ability to help the body recover. Raw garlic is available in many stores and relatively inexpensive. To take it, I mince it and drink with a small amount of water. For my kids, I’ll also mix with honey or maple syrup or add to food to tone down the taste.

Face Steam

I love this incredibly soothing remedy that is easily made with kitchen herbs. What I do:

  • Boil 1-2 cups of water in a large pot and remove from the heat.
  • Add 2 teaspoons each of thyme, rosemary, and oregano.
  • Cover the pan for 5 minutes with a lid, and then remove lid and let the sick person lean over the pot (careful not to touch it). The person covers his or her head with a towel to hold in the steam and breathes the steam to help ease discomfort.

We try to breathe in the steam as long as we can, or for about 15 minutes. This seems to help loosen congestion and soothe the throat and sinuses.

See the full recipe and method here.

Herbal Teas

chamomile flowers

Herbal teas can also be very soothing during illness. I keep my ten favorite herbal teas on hand all the time, but we drink them often during illness. Many herbal teas are now available in regular grocery stores. I personally like chamomile and peppermint for easing discomfort during colds and flu.

Bone Broth and Soup

Chicken soup is the age-old remedy for illness, and we also turn to broth and soups when we don’t feel well. These can be made with ingredients from a regular grocery store. Homemade bone broth and homemade chicken soup are soothing remedies during illness and a source of protein and minerals.

When I don’t have homemade, I buy this brand that is long simmered from grass-fed bones for the gelatin many other store-bought brands don’t have. I order online for the best price, but it is now easily found in most grocery stores.

Lemon Juice or Ginger

I find fresh lemon juice and fresh ginger in water especially soothing for illnesses involving respiratory issues or sore throat. During illness, I’ll squeeze an entire lemon and slice a piece of ginger into hot or cold water for a soothing drink. Lemon juice is beneficial in other ways too and many people drink it each morning. Again, this is something you can pick up quickly when needed.

Electrolyte Drink

When my kids really don’t feel well and don’t feel like drinking, I sneak some remedies in by making a natural electrolyte drink. They like the flavor and I’m able to get some vitamin C and minerals in. We also take our favorite electrolytes whenever we travel in case we don’t have the ingredients for homemade.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Certainly not a favorite remedy for many due to the strong taste, but apple cider vinegar can really soothe a sore throat and has many benefits. I’ll drink a teaspoon (or up to a tablespoon) in water during illness. Adding honey makes the taste more palatable.

Other Natural Remedies

A few of my other favorite natural remedies are not readily available in all stores, but I always keep them on hand:


Elderberry is a great natural remedy with a long history of use. I keep dried elderberries on hand at all times to make several different remedies.

Homemade elderberry syrup is my go-to during any illness. The homemade version is very similar to Sambucol, which is available nationwide in many places.

Vitamin C

Many studies show that vitamin C can really help battle cold and flu. We always have it on hand and take it every few hours during illness.

Detox Baths

A detox bath may not really speed recovery during an illness, but it certainly seems to help ease discomfort. I often turn to these detox baths during minor illnesses to help ease symptoms.

Herbs to Help Remedy Cold and Flu

There are many herbs that support the body when healing from an illness. I always keep these around just in case:

  1. Nettle Leaf: It contains large amounts of vitamins and trace minerals and helps the body stay hydrated and remove toxins. In a tea with red raspberry leaf, alfalfa, and peppermint, nettle makes a powerful immune supporting and illness preventing remedy.
  2. Elderberry: Well-known for supporting the immune system. You can find conventionally made elderberry syrups at many stores now, or to save money, make your own. Here is the recipe.
  3. Ginger: Fresh ginger root can be steeped in boiling water to make a tea that is very effective against sinus symptoms and congestion. Ginger baths are a soothing way to stop some of the discomfort of body aches.
  4. Yarrow: This is a common herb for children. Many children’s remedies include yarrow for its soothing properties. It is naturally bitter, so it is often good to include peppermint and stevia leaf (or raw honey) when making a tea. It is great for the liver and kidneys and supports the endocrine system.
  5. Chamomile: An absolute staple for our kids. Chamomile is calming and seems to help children sleep. It tastes great and is easy to get kids to take. We use it in tea and tincture form. My kids always ask for chamomile tea with raw honey when sick.
  6. Peppermint: Great for all digestive disturbances and for calming a fever. It can be used as a tea or tincture or rubbed on the skin to bring a high fever down. It is antimicrobial and antiviral and kids usually love the taste. Take as a hot tea or cold tea during illness in any amounts.

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Scott Soerries, MD, Family Physician and Medical Director of SteadyMD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

How do you keep from getting sick or remedy it naturally when you do? Share your tips below!

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


188 responses to “Natural Ways to Not Feel Like Crap During Colds and Flu”

  1. Marie Avatar

    Regarding garlic as a flu remedy – i know it’s not ideal, but does pre-minced, jarred garlic have any efficacy? Perhaps lower than raw, but still some? It’s all I have on hand.
    Also – are most of these remedies effective only at early onset of symptoms, or are some of them still effective after 24hrs?

    1. Jamie Larrison Avatar

      Jarred garlic should still help some. And it depends on the remedy, but most will still help even after someone has been sick for more than a day.

  2. Carol Avatar

    I’m so delighted to see your mention of all the herbs! Truly nature’s medicines!

  3. Laura Baker Avatar
    Laura Baker

    Nana’s Chicken Soup (from generations before) 2-4 chicken breasts/thighs with skin&bones, 1 quart water, 1 large onion cubed, 1/4 C. fresh parsley, 2 stalks organic celery cubed, 2 organic carrots cubed, S&P – – – cover in large saucepan or dutch oven – – bring to slow boil for at least an hour – – – remove chicken from bones and return to broth – – – throw in 1/3C. of rice, cover and simmer for another 1/2 hour. HEALING (ALSO: hot showers help kids’ drainage; Vicks on soles of feet help them to breathe at night)

  4. Sylvia Brantley Avatar
    Sylvia Brantley

    Usually, I’ll need nothing more than bed rest and plenty of fluids to treat the flu.

  5. Redoan Avatar

    I really appreciate your blog post. It is really informative and helpful to me. Thanks for sharing this article.

  6. Julie Avatar

    Dont have to publish this but wanted to share the typo!
    “Even we I don’t have access to my whole natural medicine cabinet, some simple grocery store remedies can make a big difference!”

  7. Jason Avatar

    That’s ridiculous with all due respect. I don’t get the flu shot. I got the flu I’m coping. Escapes are not realistic. That’s what hypochondriacs do, even with the slightest pain.

    Sometimes dealing with the normal life challenges and building immunity is significantly great. Rather than escaping.

    Also, it is a no Brainer & sorta called yourself out on this, that how you treat your health both diet and supplements is critical in resisting sickness.

    I’m glad to value my health.

    Again nothing personal and no offense intended.

  8. Bob Wheeler Avatar
    Bob Wheeler

    It may not be in everyone’s budget, but for about $150 you can go to an IV spa like Rapid Recovery in Shreveport, LA or Reviv in Las Vegas and get a liter of fluids, Zofran for nausea, Toradol for muscle pains and headaches, and vitamins, all in about an hour. You generally get to sit in a recliner and watch TV and it’s quicker and cheaper than an ER. Of course, it means spending some money but it makes you feel better instantly.

  9. Michelle W Avatar
    Michelle W

    Is there an added benefit of mixing garlic honey AND apple cider vinegar in water for an extra boost?

  10. Cheryl Avatar

    To help prevent illness: Lavender oil on our feet every night before bed, On Guard by Do Terra on feet each day too! I use Tumeric and Zinc!
    If I start getting anything i use 2-3 drops of Oregano oil in the morning and at night as well as take zinc!

  11. Elizabeth Koch Avatar
    Elizabeth Koch

    In the night I felt my throat hurting. When I woke up it was sore, scratchy and my ears were starting to hurt. So I misted some Smart a Silver in each eye and gargled with some before swallowing it. 20 minutes later, throat and ears feel fine. I also took some vitamin C a little while later to give my body some fighting power to keep it gone.

  12. Caroline Avatar

    This is a great post, I am a natural remedy enthusiast and I have been following up on your posts, I always learn something new, thank you. However, in my research I am looking for more uses of the blessed black seed oil before I make my purchase order. How comes you rarely include it in the posts? Is it something you can recommend?

  13. Kerra Avatar

    Felt the flu coming up..did research and combined..cup warm water, 2tbls lemon juice, 1tbls honey, 1/2 tbls tumeric, 1/2 tbls cinnamon, dash of cayenne. Keep on drinking as much as you can in bed. Feeling much better.

  14. Marty Avatar

    I stopped getting the flu shots 36 years ago, I no longer get the flu, and I don’t catch colds either, I do take a lot of vitamin c and several other supplements, but stopping the flu shots was the best way to no longer getting the flu.

  15. Jamie manning Avatar
    Jamie manning

    My son had h1n1 for the last week and he went to the doctors they gave him tamiflu and in a few days his symptoms went away and about that same time i started getting sick. later that night i had high fever, cough, headaches, chills, and fatigue. I toughed it out that night when i woke up i started looking online for home remedies and found one that said to drink hot water mixed with some honey. Ive did that for about 36 hours and now i don’t have a fever my energy is back I’m eating like i was never sick. i feel like I’m almost 100% better just from drinking a cup of hot water mixed with a tablespoon of honey from the local store, a few times a day.

  16. Denise Avatar

    Yes, unfortunately, I also had a Flu jab (we call it here in the UK) and currently very unwell with the flu. 30 years of age and never ever had anything other than a common cold, till now. I would NOT recommend the flu jab/shot to anyone and wish I hadnt taken it but had to at the time because of my job. I will be trying the apple cider vinegar and vitamin C with some garlic for sure. This post has been more helpful advice received from the hospital, no kidding, it’s been appalling. Thank you, thank you thank you, and I hope all not very well at the minute has a speedy recovery x

  17. Lily White Avatar
    Lily White

    Yes those are some great remedies for cold and flu. Another AMAZING one id like to suggest is:
    MAGNESIUM. SOOO important for keeping out immune system in full gear! Not just any magnesium supplement….
    Im talking liquid form 100% absorbed at a cellular level so we don’t get the laxative effect!

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