14 Tried And True Remedies For Cold And Flu Season

Heather Dessinger

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Natural Cold And Flu Remedies: If you're looking for ways to support recovery naturally, here are some easy recipes to use next time something's going around!

You know that feeling when you’re sick and you want your mom, but then you remember that you ARE THE MOM? Same here. Every year I brew up a batch of fire cider and elderberry syrup for immune support at the beginning of cold and flu season, and for the most part we dodge whatever’s going around.

Not always, though. Sometimes I slack when it comes to making sure we take the elderberry syrup and fire cider and someone comes down with a cold.

When that happens, I head to our kitchen apothecary and mix up one of these tried-and-true remedies. If you’re looking for ways to support recovery naturally, here are some easy recipes to use next time something’s going around!

14 Natural Remedies For Cold And Flu Season

The cold and flu remedies below are supported by research and incorporate common kitchen ingredients you probably already have on hand, including healing herbs, spices, and honey.

Healing Teas

Tea is incredibly soothing when you’re recovering from a cold or flu – the warmth promotes relaxation while the herbs and spices support immune function and ease discomfort. Here are some recipes using ingredients you probably already have on hand.

Lemon Ginger Tea Recipe

Ginger has been used for thousands of years to soothe tummy aches, nausea and indigestion. And according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, it has also history of use for soothing “flu-like symptoms, headaches, and painful menstrual periods.” (UMMC) Lemons are also helpful because they’re rich in vitamin C, which supports immune function.

I love this lemon ginger tea with a twist, but the simple recipe below is also amazing for easing nausea and other cold and flu discomforts while supporting immune function.

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2-3 slices fresh ginger
  • 1-2 lemon wedges
  • raw honey to taste

Pour boiling water over the ginger and allow to steep for ten minutes, then strain and add in a squeeze of lemon. I also add in the lemon peel if it is organic. Sweeten the tea with honey before sipping on it.

Rosemary Or Thyme Tea Recipe

“Rosemary is highly antiviral and antibacterial,” says Clinical Herbalist Steve Sietos. “Everything you smell in that signature aroma is medicine.” According to Clinical Herbalist Arielle Hayat, the same is true of thyme. (Kessler)

  • 1 teaspoon dried or 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary or thyme, de-stemmed
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • raw honey to taste

Pour boiling water over the rosemary/thyme and allow to steep for ten minutes, then strain and sweeten with honey before sipping on it.

Cold And Flu Remedies: Elderberry

Elderberry Tea

If you don’t already have this herb in your pantry, you may want to consider stocking up. In this study, researchers found that flu patients who received elderberry syrup recovered about four days sooner than those who received a placebo.

In another study that had similar results, it was concluded that there were two reasons for the more rapid recovery. First, patients taking elderberry had higher anti-haemagglutination titers, meaning their immune system was functioning optimally. Second, they found that elderberry supports the body’s natural ability to inhibit neuraminidase, an enzyme that the virus uses to infect cells. (Kelly)

What you’ll need:

  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • 2-3 teaspoons dried elderberry
  • Optional additions: 1 cinnamon stick or a few slices of fresh ginger

Here’s my full elderberry tea recipe

Golden Milk (Turmeric Tea)

The main ingredient in golden milk – turmeric – is rich in a compound called curcumin, which was found in one study to support flu recovery. (Da-Yuan Chen et. al.) I love this golden moon milk recipe.

Herbal Syrups And Honey

Kids love herbal honeys and syrups, making them one of the easiest remedies to get them to take. Here are a few of our favorites:

Cold And Flu Remedies: Homemade Cough Syrup

Homemade Cough Syrup

According to a study published in the medical journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, honey works better dextromethorphan, the active ingredient in store-bought cough syrup. The study also said children who took this “medicine” got more sleep than those who took OTC meds, and so did their parents. (Paul et. al.)

What you’ll need:

Here’s my full homemade cough syrup recipe, and this echinacea, elderberry, and acerola cherry-infused option from Genexa is what I recommend if you prefer a store-bought option. It’s available on Amazon and in many local grocery stores, health food stores, and pharmacies, so if you’re reading this list and you need something right away, you can check availability here. (I’m a partner with them, just FYI.)

Cinnamon And Raw Honey

Cinnamon has long been used in traditional medicine to support cold and flu recovery. According to Fundamentals of Microbiology, there is evidence to support its traditional use as an antimicrobial herb. Also, as mentioned above, honey has been shown to ease coughing, which can be very helpful if a cough is keeping you from getting much-needed sleep.

  • 1 teaspoon raw honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Serve on a spoon or stirred into warm water.

Cold And Flu Remedies: Ginger Syrup

Ginger Syrup

As mentioned above, ginger has a history of use for “flu-like symptoms, headaches, and painful menstrual periods.” (UMMC)

I like to keep this ginger syrup on hand during the cold winter months along with other syrups, tinctures and teas that support the immune system. Suggestions for delicious ways to use it are in the post!

Elderberry Syrup

Elderberries are revered for their ability to support the immune system during cold and flu season, but they have other benefits, too! They contain flavonoids and anthocyanins, which:

* Help the body absorb vitamin C, which assists with collagen synthesis, immune response, etc.
* Support a balanced inflammatory response
* Encourage healthy respiratory function

Also, according to a study in Norway, patients given elderberry syrup felt better four days sooner than those who received a placebo.

Here’s my elderberry syrup recipe.

Other Kitchen Remedies

The ingredients below make excellent additions to the recipes above.

Raw Garlic

According to Fundamentals of Microbiology:

Many research studies have identified a sulfur compound called allicin as one key to garlic’s antiseptic properties. When a raw garlic clove is crushed or chewed, allicin gives garlic its characteristic taste and smell. Laboratory studies using garlic suggest that this compound is responsible for combating the microbes causing the common cold, flu, sore throat, sinusitis, and bronchitis. The findings indicate that the compound blocks key enzymes that bacteria and viruses need to invade and damage host cells.” (emphasis mine)

To Use: Dice it and let it sit for 15 minutes as the therapeutic compound – allicin – activates. Swallow it on it’s own or mixed with raw honey or cough syrup.

Cayenne pepper cold and flu treatment

Cayenne Pepper

This spice is rich in a compound called capsaicin which helps with flu/cold aches and pains by depleting the neurotransmitter “substance P,” which relays pain signals to the brain. (Tirado-Lee) It also dial up the body’s production of two anti-inflammatory agents  – collagenase and prostaglandin – and has been found to reduce coughing, (Matucci-Cerinic et. al., Ternesten-Hasseus et. al.)

Add a dash to hot tea to ease discomfort, or mix it with honey (to help with coughing) and Vitamin C rich lemon juice to taste.

Other Remedies That May Help

  • Bone broth and homemade chicken soup
  • Nasopure bottle – It’s basically a neti pot that’s easier for kids to use. During cold and flu season it assists the body with moving out mucus that has captured bacteria, dust, etc.
  • Saline Spray – This is a great option for littles (and adults) who resist using neti pots. It has better ingredients than other brands, and it’s safe for babies, too. 
  • Fire Cider – I love my fire cider recipe, but if you’re already feeling bad you probably don’t want to wait 2-4 weeks for it to be ready. Fortunately, you can buy pre-made Fire Tonic on Amazon and get it with in 1 or 2 days if you have Amazon Prime or choose expedited shipping.
  • Salt Sock For Earaches

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.

Do you have a favorite tried-and-true cold and flu remedy? Please share it below!

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Heather is a holistic health educator, herbalist, DIYer, Lyme and mold warrior. Since founding Mommypotamus.com in 2009, Heather has been taking complicated health research and making it easy to understand. She shares tested natural recipes and herbal remedies with millions of naturally minded mamas around the world. 

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78 thoughts on “14 Tried And True Remedies For Cold And Flu Season”

  1. When I was a little girl I used to boil rose petals and anything I could find in our yard to create all kinds of “potions.” I have always been charmed by the kitchen pharmacy, so to speak, and this post just tickled me with delight. I love when remedies are so easy and fun! Onions on ears, steam tents, herbal kool-aid??

    • My daughter has strep. Would the thyme help? The pediatrician gave me a prescription for Amoxicillin. I want her to be better but I’m trying not to pump her full of meds especially since she takes seizure medication Keppra 2x a day everyday. And since she’s not eating much but drinking milk for the past few days I don’t want her to mainly have medicine in her little tummy. My daughter will be 2 in November. Im so glad I found your blog I’m learning so much.

    • Fill a spraybottle with water, and add to it 10-20 drops of essential oil of rosemary, and 10-20 drops of essential oil of lavender.
      What size spraybottle? I love the smell of the two together and LOVE that it is so effective it is used in a hospital.

      • I really wish she would be more precise with recipes or at least be more descriptive. Actual measurements of water to the number of drops would make figuring portion/ratio better when making different size portions. BUT JUST saying wether it’s a SMALL or LARGE spray bottle used would make me much more confident to add 60 drops of essential oils to water. The slightest need to be accurate is keeping me from making this recipe 🙁

    • Thanks for the “ear” info.
      Q. How many ounces of WATER for the “Air Purifying Spritzer”?
      I used 4 oz. water, and 10 drops of each essential oil, Rosemary & Lavender.

    • Hi Lauren! I talked to Katja an she does have some ideas but she’s not near her computer right now. Check back tonight for some suggestions, okay?

    • Hi, Lauren!

      Ginger is a favorite morning sickness remedy – even just plain crystalized ginger from the grocery store. Or ginger tea, if you prefer.

      However, if your morning sickness is really bad, you might re-consider your prenatal vitamin – they are often the actual cause under the morning sickness. just skip it for a few days and see if you feel better. If so, then you might think, oh dear, now what? Well, the truth is, if you eat well, you don’t actually need a vitamin. But if you feel more comfortable with one, I’d recommend http://www.drrons.com/docs-best-multi-vitamin-mineral-antioxidant.htm. They’re not cheap, but you won’t be pregnant for very long 🙂

      Feel free to email me directly if you have any more questions!

      • Hi Katja – I’d never heard of the brand you recommended so of course I had to pop over. Very interesting info about stearates. I’ll be looking into that more!

    • Not a remedy as such but what worked for me 40 years ago was to drink warm hot chocolate made with milk and a piece of toast before arising from bed. I got up on my elbow and drank it when my husband brought it to me. So if you have someone to help you, this might be a non-drug remedy for you.

  2. This is the second time I have heard of using onions for ear infections…I am convinced. I love your blog. Thanks for being so natural minded. Did I tell you that since I have mentioned mommypotamus topics to my husband that he has become a facebook follower (and even went and read the GMO article). I also started the “water talk” on Sunday….baby steps, baby steps!!!
    Yay, for naturalness!

    • You are so funny . . . and smart, too! I know a mom who started learning about natural living from some of her friends. Every time she went home she would tell her husband something new they needed to change. And change they did . . . he got rid of her friends! I am an all or nothing person but Daniel is very much a process person. He started making a lot more changes in his life when I started respecting that. 🙂

    • Megan – A lot of essential oils have antimicrobial . . . tea tree comes to mind. Some people don’t like the fragrance but I think it’s clean and refreshing.

    • Hi, Meagan –

      I agree with Heather – try tea tree instead. Or just use the Rosemary alone: it might be only 98% effective, but that’s still pretty great 🙂

    • We do something similar with a Thieves Oil blend. It is made of equal amounts of eucalyptus, rosemary, cinnamon, clove and lemon essential oils, all of which have antimicrobial properties. I have used it in steam tents, disinfecting spray, and cleaning solutions as well as adding it to our humidifiers for a fantastic cold remedy.

      Thyme oil is another one that is highly effective in killing microbes.

      • I am thinking of getting into a company that has essential oils, there are so many companies…… which was has the best quality products? Thanks!

        • I expect you’ll get mixed answers to the question of which brand. It’s something like which car should I buy but with the complication that it’s easy to adulterate oils, so known brands are safer. That said, Whole-New-Mom did an in-depth study of major suppliers and wound up recommending Rocky Mountain Oils. I suggest reading her recommendation and the very long list of reader comments. I”ve used several different brands for many years and have been very satisfied with all that I’ve used. You will find a wide range of prices for the same oils. Since essential oil vendors are not regulated, I generally look for USDA-certified organic oils. For whatever it’s worth, I mostly buy from Bulk Apothecary because of their lower pricing.

  3. Fabulous article! I’ve bookmarked it in case I need it for later. Hopefully I won’t but there’s a nasty bug going around here and a little boy upstairs had pneumonia last week. I want some tricks up my sleeve.

  4. I’m happy to report that the onion on the ears trick works!!! I used it this weekend after reading this blog post. My son woke up on Friday night at 3:30AM with an earache. I sauted the onion and let him lay on it in a cloth. Within about 15 minutes, he was starting to feel better. We continued doing it every 3-4 hours for the weekend and by Monday he had no more ear pain. So thankful that God gave us these remedies to use. Yay for natural healing!!!

  5. For ear infections “make sure to consider eliminating dairy products, or gluten, or both – they are often the root of the problem.”….

    My son is nursing only and have ear infection problems….. obviously can’t be one of these. Although I will try the onion trick next time! Hope it works….

    • Could be, if he is reacting to particles in your breastmilk. My firstborn had terrible colic when she was a newborn. She would scream from 10pm until 3am every.single.night. Everyone told me that it was just colic and there was nothing I could do. 2 days after I stopped eating dairy products, the screaming went away completely. I know many moms who have similar stories, though babies have all reacted differently – gas, crying, rashes, etc. It’s worth a try to see if it helps! Good luck figuring it out.

  6. Also …. We found that if you rub oregano oil on your neck when you have a soar throat (some people then wrap it with a scarf) I do it before bed… in the morning my soar throat is gone or barely there….

  7. Thank you for this! My son is picky about drink flavors (but will eat almost ANYTHING, go figure!), and I just decided I was going to put together his own “tea” blend…perfect timing! 🙂 <3 your posts!

  8. Thanks for the tips! With the “Lysol”, you say to fill a spray bottle with water and add the eos. But it would make a difference what size spray bottle you use. What size are you using for the amount of eos you’ve given here? Thanks!

  9. So, I have tea tree and lemon essential oils on hand…will those two work the same as the lavendar and rosemary for a cleaning spray? I’m certain it’ll smell something fierce 🙂 , but I’m not too concerned about that…just trying to use what I have before getting the lavendar and rosemary.

  10. Hi. looking for the right essential oils… are the ones that say ‘for aroma therapy” ok?
    (vitacost or aura casia?
    Thanks, I love your ideas!

  11. Can you use any thyme? I’m a natural remedies newbie. It makes sense to me that fresh would work better but the article mentioned dried thyme… Thanks!

  12. This is an awesome article but I have a few questions.
    I noticed one other person asked this but there was no answer… the air sanitizer made with lavender and rosemary e.o. – how big of a spray bottle is the 10 to 20 drops for????
    I mean, I have a 30 oz bottle and a 3 oz bottle… big difference.
    I’m especially concerned about not making it too strong because I would like to use it as a hand sanitizer for my 4 year old and want it to be a safe concentration for him.
    Is this recipe safe for children as a hand sanitizer??

    Thanks for this awesome information… it’s priceless!

  13. I am 20 weeks pregnant- I have a cold and cough… Can I do the “Thyme Tent trick” too?? Thanks! Any other safe cold remedies while expecting are appreciated!!!

    • You’ve probably gotten over that cold by now (hopefully!). It sounds like thyme is NOT recommended during pregnancy because it is a uterine stimulant.

  14. Ok. That’s it. I simply HAD to stop and leave a comment here. Little Miss Mommypotamus…I LOVE YOUR BLOG!!!! I am so blessed to have found it a few days ago! No more of this hopping around to 70 different sites for recipes from anything to hand sanitizer to homemade marshmallows. You my dear, are an absolute delight to read.
    Thanks for the cool essential oil recipes too. I myself had been using tea tree with eucalyptus to disinfect everything (the potty and kitchen sink after raw eggs smoothies and such-believe me, our family is NOT a frequent de-germifying crew either). But my poor Mum LOATHES the scent. No matter how much sweet orange or lemon I added to it, she could STILL smell it.
    Anyhoo, I have a tendency to rattle on. So, with that I will let you go. Thanks again for sharing with the world (or at least the nifty one represented through the interwebz) your beautiful family, ideas, link, philosophies and so forth. Have a spectacular remainder of your Thursday, Woman.

  15. I started placing sliced onion around our home during flu/cold season a few years ago because I heard and “old wives tale” about doing so and we are rarely sick. I always wondered if and why it works so, I’m glad to see this post about the onion poultice. Everyone thinks I’m crazy but now I can explain to them the science behind what our great grandmothers did. We do other natural preventative steps but I think I will continue with the onions too!

    • Apparently, onion will soak up all airborne odors. Which is why you want to immediately wrap any unused portions so it doesn’t become contaminated with germs in your home, and why it may work to help rid your home of airborne germs. Interesting, no??

  16. I am wanting to make the “kool aid”. I think this is a great idea. I have no experience with using rose hips or hibiscus. When looking at my local health food store and I looking for a powder or the actual rose hip or hibiscus and when using the peels are these cut into small pieces? Sorry for so many questions but this is all so new to me! Thanks for your help.

    • You’re looking for the actual flowers/petals. One thing to keep in mind is that although this is bright like Kool Aid, it doesn’t taste like any flavors I remember 🙂

  17. “This mixture was found, in the French state hospital system, to be as effective as standard hospital sanitizer, but in fact longer lasting”

    What source did you get this information from? Could you give me a link?

  18. Hello! I so love this site. : )

    I plan on making the Air Purifying Spritzer mentioned here.

    I wanted to know if it’s fine to leave the Spritzer mist on counters, sinks and the metal and plastic pieces of my dish rack? I’m concerned about the EOs eventually “eating” (corroding) them.

    Thanks very much.

    Dawn Marie

  19. With the air disinfectant/hand sanitizer I would like to use as both, but I noticed rosemary is not on the list of essential oils safe for kiddos 2 and under.

    What can I use to replace the rosemary, but still have the same effectiveness?

    Thank you for all your info & your blog btw!!

  20. Hi,
    For the homemade hand sanitizer, what is the size of bottle you would use per amount of drops of each lavender and rosemary? What brand of essential oil do you prefer?

  21. For the Lysol recipe, to use it as a hand sanitizer, could I use witch hazel in place of water, or a combination? Also, would adding glycerin be a good or bad idea?
    How could any of these changes affect the final outcome and quality of the product?

  22. I really like a lot of these!! I haven’t tried the fire syrup or elderberries but I’ve tried similar things as you’ve suggested (anything with garlic, ginger, or lemon). I also really like to Apple Cider Vinegar Shots.

    What I really like to do as well is to make a lime tea with limes. Squeeze the lime juice into a tea cup. Boil the actual like for s couple minutes. Put the tea in the cup and then add some raw honey. I do it 2-3x a day for days and it goes away!!!

    Have you heard of this?

  23. I’m pregnant and my immune system is definitely low. I had a cold for a week and then when I thought I was getting better it turned into a sinus infection. I’ve been sick for three weeks now and it’s getting old. Yesterday and today my husband mixed up a drink for me that we found on YouTube: grated ginger, grated garlic, juice of one lemon, raw honey, cayenne pepper and then you put hot water to make it like a tea. It is horrible, but hopefully I’ll be feeling better soon!


    • Im not sure whats going around….but I had a sore throat,body aches,and ear pain for almost two weeks!! Im all about natural,was doing elderberry every two hormurs,sipping vict c,always take vit d3,zinc,etc. Added oregano caps to no avail. I did start gargling really well with a sqeeze of lemon,and a drop of thyme oil. It signifigantly helped ev inthe end,I took antibiotics. 24 hours later,sore throat was gone. Must have beenbacterial!

  24. Hi Heather,

    Thanks for sharing a wonderful blog. These home remedies is really helpful for the people who suffering from Flu. You should try these at your home and if it doesn’t work then you should urgently contact to your doctor.

  25. Hi there I love all these tips for older kids but was wondering what about an infant who cannot have honey. She’s had a cold for about a month now and her nose is so congested and I can hear it in her lungs. No fever and still seems as happy as can be but eating and sleeping have been difficult because she can’t breathe through her nose. I’ve tried bringing her in the bathroom while I shower to get the steam and essential oils in her room at night. Any other suggestions I am at a loss!

  26. My go-to cold flu remedy is a mixture of raw garlic, honey, and lemon. Haven’t tried adding raw garlic to cough syrup though. Will it speed up healing?

  27. The most often used tip I give everytime someone has that deep painful sounding chest cough…..is Pineapple Juice!!
    Try it first thing in the morning when you wake up with that sticky stuff that is so hard to cough out…it amazingly thins out the secretions & it comes out almost frothy instead of sticky yucky blobs!
    Works way better than an expectorant cough medicine!! And tastes a lot better too!

  28. I try to get plenty of sleep, drink lots of fluids including green tea with honey and lemon, use echinacea, and take extra Vitamin C with zinc.

  29. My poor 4 year old is on day 7 of flighting influenza. We have to prevent high fevers because she just had a febrile seizure, a trip to the ER by ambulance, and a follow up appointment yesterday. I have been loading all of us up on vitamins since day 1 but she still woke up with a fever and feels miserable again today. :,-( I am looking forward to adding some of these remedies and hopefully give her body the extra support it needs to kick this thing!