We are typically a pretty healthy family, but recently a nasty illness made its way through our house. And when illness comes knocking on our door, we try to use everything in our natural arsenal to kick it to the curb before it gets too severe.
There are so many ways to gently and effectively treat illness, and the ones I’m sharing today are just the ones we have found to be convenient and useful for us. We always encourage you to do your own research and learning in order to find what works best for your body!
NOTE: We are NOT doctors and the following information is not intended to be medical advice. It is for educational purposes only. This information comes from our personal research and experience using different natural home remedies to treat illness. Please consult with your own health practitioner to determine if these remedies are right for you.
What We Do at the First Signs of Illness
When I get that first tickle in the back of my throat, or the sudden sneezing attack, or a drippy nose, I immediately take action with as many of the following natural remedies as possible:
Basic Cold & Flu Tea – We formulated this herbal tea to drink at the first signs, and throughout the duration, of any illness. Our Basic Cold & Flu Tea contains herbs that have been known to boost the immune system, reduce inflammation and pain, and improve nasal congestion.
Vitamin C – Many studies have shown that supplementing with Vitamin C can shorten the duration of and reduce the severity of a cold. While sourcing your Vitamin C from foods is your best defense, a Vitamin C supplement is nice to have on hand when illness hits. However, Vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid is synthetic and can actually cause problems for the body. Matt and I found (and love) this natural Vitamin C made with camu camu and acerola cherry. We add it to our Basic Cold & Flu tea and sip on it all day.
Elderberry Syrup – Elder is a natural detoxifier, promotes sleep and relaxation, and provides relief to the respiratory system. We take this DIY Elderberry Cough Syrup to fight infection and treat coughs.
Bone Broth – Studies coming out of the University of Nebraska Medical Center have shown that broth actually has curative properties that make it perfect for relieving cold symptoms. We have used several recipes in this book to make perfect bone broth – we usually sip on warm mugs of it for several days until illness has passed.
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) – We haven’t been able to find research yet on exactly how or why this works to treat illness. It may have something to do with the pH changes it creates in the body, or even the acetic acid it contains, since acetic acid can help increase absorption of vitamins and minerals you consume. We make a drink our niece refers to as our “Sweaty Sock Drink,” which contains about 8oz. of warm water, 1 Tbsp ACV, ¼ tsp Vitamin C powder, and 1 Tbsp raw honey. We alternate drinking this ACV drink with our Basic Cold & Flu Tea and bone broth throughout the day.
Oregano Oil – The antimicrobial and antioxidant properties of oregano oil may help treat a variety of illnesses. We put a few drops in orange juice and swallow quickly, as the oil is very strong and will burn if taken alone. You can also add a few drops to a pot of steaming water and inhale the steam to alleviate colds and sinus troubles. Note: This remedy should not be used during pregnancy.
Coconut Oil – Coconut oil has lately been receiving lots of attention for its many uses. We try to add this healthful oil to anything possible when sick. It’s great dissolved in hot drinks!
Yarrow – Yarrow has been used for centuries as a pain reliever and cold & flu remedy. It can help the body sweat out toxins, reduce fever, clear sinuses, and settle stomach troubles. We recently tested out an organic herbal extract with yarrow to help our son when he’s dealing with fevers and tummy troubles. He seemed to like the flavor and it helped keep his fever in check while he fought off the illness. (You can find the Yummy Yarrow liquid herbal formula here.)
More Natural Home Remedies and Tips
Rest – This is probably the most important thing you can do while your body is working hard to fight something off. We’ve found the more we can rest at the first sign of symptoms, the shorter the duration of the illness. If we wait until day 3 to rest, an illness can drag on for weeks.
Natural Throat Lozenges – Sometimes a sore throat is your first clue you have caught something. These Homemade Herbal Throat Lozenges are simple to make and coat the throat to soothe the pain. It’s best to make them so your natural medicine cabinet is stocked before you get sick.
Essential Oils – Essential oils should always be used carefully, but can be very useful during sickness. Sometimes sleeping is difficult when I’m not feeling well so I’ll diffuse lavender oil to promote better sleep, or I’ll mix a few drops with coconut oil and rub on my temples and the bottoms of my feet. Peppermint essential oil is one I like to diffuse if congested, or put a few drops in the bottom of my steamy shower so I can get the benefits while showering. (We like the purity and prices of these essential oils.)
Avoid Sugar – Sugar can suppress the immune system and cause inflammation. Give your system a fighting chance by staying away from anything that contains sugar until you’re sure illness has passed.
Preventing illness is always the first step. By doing a few things regularly, your body has a better chance of fighting off illness when exposed:
Vitamin D³ – Instead of getting flu shots, we take this supplement all year long. (Living in the midwest, we can never hope to get enough sunlight to achieve adequate levels of this “sunshine vitamin” in our bodies.) Check out this study in which supplementation with D³ was found to help reduce the incidence of the flu in children. But Vitamin D can be tricky, and the best way to know how much you need is to have your doctor check your blood levels for this important vitamin before you start supplementing. (We currently use this D³ supplement.)
Sleep More – Even one night of bad sleep can make you more susceptible to illness. Historically, I could absolutely count on catching a cold anytime I was losing sleep and feeling run down. Check out our tips on Natural Ways to Get Better Sleep.
Eat Nourishing Food – The more nutritional your diet is, the better it will support your body. A nourishing diet will allow immune systems to function properly. Keeping a daily food journal has allowed me to see which foods I need more or less of each day, because sometimes days get hectic and I would otherwise have an unbalanced diet. (I like to reach for fruits, but vegetables can be forgotten if I’m not careful.)
Move More – Recent studies are finding that a sedentary lifestyle shortens the lifespan more than obesity. When we get adequate exercise it stimulates our body in a similar way that a nourishing diet can. The good news is that moderate exercise is sufficient for good health. Heavy exercise (such as intense gym training or marathon running) can actually decrease white blood cells and increase stress-related hormones in the body, leaving you more vulnerable to germs. My favorite type of exercise these days is a brisk 30 minute walk.
Want More Help Fighting Illness Naturally?
How to Protect Your Family From Colds & Flu Using Essential Oils (eCourse) – This comprehensive study from Aromahead Institute is a crash course in keeping your family healthy using essential oils.
TriLight Health supplements – We have used (and love) many of their products for everything from mastitis to stomachaches! (This is where we got our yarrow extract for children’s fevers.) Check out their products here.
Treating Fevers Naturally (eBook) – Our son has had some nasty fevers and we’ve learned so much from this book about the function and natural treatment of fevers in children. This is a great resource to have, especially if you have kids.
Herbal Beginnings: How to Make Herbal Tea, Decoctions, Syrup and Tinctures (eBook) – This easy-to-follow book will have you on your way to making all your own herbal medicines. (I found a recipe for a Sore Throat Gargle in this book that helped me get through my last cold!)
Glass Drinking Straws from Strawesome – Well who doesn’t want to feel fancy when they’re feeling under the weather? These glass straws are perfect for sipping on all your immune-boosting beverages!