When your body has been subsumed by what feels like the cold of the century, you may think the only option is to let it run its course.
While that’s mostly true, some natural home remedies will not only help you to feel better during a rough ride but may also nudge you toward a speedier recovery. Just one hour spent in the kitchen on prep will set you up to have something restorative, nourishing, and medicinal for the months ahead.
Why not just pick something up at the pharmacy? While there is unquestionably a time and a place for conventional medicine, pharmaceuticals, and doctors visits, conventional medicine can’t do much for the common cold, or even a mild case of the flu.
Dr. Emily Bennett ND, believes “medicines that you buy in a pharmacy don’t help slow the natural evolution of a cold. But if you start taking herbal remedies at the first inkling of sickness, you have a much better chance of decreasing the length and severity of your cold.” What’s more, you likely have most of the ingredients on-hand. And if not, you can easily pick them up at your local grocery or health food store.
These particular home remedies are full of ingredients that have long been used in botanical medicine as immune-boosters, antimicrobials, antivirals, antibacterials, anti-inflammatories, decongestants, circulation improvers, and diaphoretics (meaning they help to induce sweating and manage fevers).
That’s a lot of disease-fighting! They are also cost-effective and safe to use, which is particularly important when you’re caring for children and people on other medications.
So what culinary fodder can you turn into seasonal cold and flu remedies?
Approximately 80 percent of your body’s immune cells reside in your gut. And the roughly 100 trillion (with a T) microbes that make up your microbiome play a significant role in the resilience of your immune system. A flourishing and diversified gut make it challenging for predatorial bacteria and viruses to garner a majority government. A fragile and gingerly colonized gut, on the other hand, is a haven for a bacterial or viral stronghold.
Mounting evidence suggests that probiotic consumption can decrease the incidence of, and even modify, respiratory tract infections in otherwise healthy kids and adults. That’s a reason to slurp some sauerkraut!
Probiotic bacteria can also be found in other fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, kombucha, miso, tempeh, kimchi and other fermented vegetables. Alternatively, a good probiotic supplement does wonders. But for more bang for your buck, talk to your naturopath for recommended doses, varieties, and brands.
To get started right away, see the recipe below for Spicy Saurkraut ↓
You’ve likely seen it make its way around the internet for the past couple of years, and for good reason. Fire cider is a well-known herbal folk remedy popularized by herbalist Rosemary Gladstar. Bright and spicy, this potent concoction works to boost circulation, break up mucus, and give you a general feeling of warmth on a cold day.
Many of the ingredients are also antibacterial and antimicrobial, but the real zinger–and why you’ll be hooked–is that it’s highly effective at “clearing your sinuses right away in the early stages of a head cold.”
While you can keep fire cider for months in the fridge, Dr. Bennett believes that it’s most potent during the time that it’s infusing and in the first two 2 weeks of use. The hit of horseradish is quite strong and beelines straight to your sinuses.
Make your own Fire Cider below ↓
Elderberries are one of the most commonly used medicinal plants in the world. A hardy immune stimulant, elderberries can be cooked into a sweet syrup or oxymel to take daily, proactively for immune support, in times of stress or increased risk of illness (e.g. holiday travel), or at the first sign of a cold or flu. Research shows a significant reduction in cold duration and severity of symptoms. They’ve also been beneficial in combating flu symptoms.
When sourcing elderberries, ensure that all twigs are removed and that the berries are cooked sufficiently to eliminate the toxins found in the seeds. Finding “fresh” elderberries is a little harder as, depending on where you live, they’re harvested between May and September. Because they are quick to ripen and ferment, most farms freeze them immediately upon picking and destemming, making them accessible year round.
Search “elderberry farms near me” in Google and see what’s around you. Dried elderberries can be purchased online from places like Mountain Rose Herbs, Frontier Coop, Amazon, and Well.ca, or often through your naturopath. You can also easily find elderberry syrup at any health food store or online, but it tends to be more expensive.
To make your own, see the recipe below for our Elderberry Oxymel ↓
Time for the Recipes!
Notes: Saurkraut can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks to ferment to your liking. Taste as you go, ensuring you once again pack down and submerge the kraut under its liquid and then the cabbage leaves. There’s no right or wrong amount of time. Keep in mind, the warmer the climate, the quicker it will ferment. To slow the fermentation process, place it in the fridge.
- ½ large head (about 2 lb.) green cabbage, shredded, plus a couple of whole reserved cabbage leaves
- 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 tbsp. kosher or sea salt
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- 1.5 tsp crushed red chile flakes
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and massage with your hands until the cabbage begins to release liquid, about 10-15 minutes.
- Cover the pot and leave on the counter for a few hours or overnight. Transfer mixture to a clean 1-qt. large-mouthed jar and press the mixture down so that all of the vegetable bits are below the liquid. If there isn’t enough liquid, dissolve 1 tablespoon of salt into 1 cup of boiled and cooled water and top up as need be.
- Cover with rolled up cabbage leaves and weigh them down with a clean weight (e.g. another jar, a bag of rocks, a bag of water, etc.), keeping the cabbage mixture submerged in the liquid. Cover with a loose lid or large kitchen towel and set aside to sit at room temperature for several days.
- Check on it daily to ensure that the cabbage is still submerged. You can begin tasting after 2 days, but depending on the temperature in your house, the kraut could take up to a week or two to ferment to your liking. There is no right or wrong amount of time, it’s purely personal preference.
- When it’s done to your liking, cover with a lid and transfer to the refrigerator; the sauerkraut will keep for several months there. Eat daily for best results.
- ¼ cup minced/crushed garlic
- 1 jalapeño pepper, shredded
- ½ cup shredded ginger root
- ½ cup shredded horseradish root
- ½ cup shredded turmeric
- ½ cup chopped white onion
- Zest and juice from 2 lemons
- Zest and juice from 1 orange or 2-3 clementines or mandarins
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- Raw apple cider vinegar, to cover
- Raw honey, optional, to taste
- Add garlic, jalapeño, ginger, horseradish, turmeric, lemon zest and juice, orange zest and juice, and cayenne powder into a quart-sized glass jar.
- Pour apple cider vinegar into the jar until all ingredients are fully covered. This is important for preventing spoilage.
- Cover with a plastic lid or place a piece of parchment paper under the metal lid to prevent it from corroding. Shake to combine. Set aside in a cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks, shaking the jar every other day.
- Strain out the solids with a fine mesh strainer. Pour the infused vinegar into a clean jar and press out as much of the liquid as you can. Discard solids.
- Store in a sealed container in the fridge for several months.
- Add honey to individual servings, to taste. Or drink it like a shot, straight-up.
Notes: If using fresh or frozen elderberries, measure the amount of juice you extract and add equal parts apple cider vinegar and raw honey (or to taste).
- 1 lb fresh or frozen elderberries or ½ lb dried
- 1 cup (250 ml) apple cider vinegar (see notes)
- 1 cup (250 ml) raw honey, or to taste (see notes)
Method – if you have fresh elderberries:
- In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring fresh or frozen elderberries to a boil. Turn down to medium and cook until the berries are soft and have released their juices, approximately 10-15 minutes.
- Strain juice through a fine mesh sieve and discard the solids. Cool slightly. You should have about a cup of juice.
- Measure juice and add equal parts apple cider vinegar and raw honey. Stir well until honey dissolves.
- Pour into a jar and cover with a plastic lid, or place a piece of parchment under the metal lid to prevent corrosion. Store in the refrigerator for 6 months to a year.
Method – if you have dried elderberries:
- Warm apple cider vinegar in small saucepan until it just begins to simmer. Remove from heat and pour into a heat-proof glass jar.
- Add dried elderberries and raw honey. Stir to combine, then cover with a plastic lid or place a piece of parchment under the metal lid to prevent corrosion. It’s okay if your honey doesn’t fully dissolve right away, it will over time as you continue to shake it.
- Place the mixture in a cool, dark area (like a cupboard) for 3 – 4 weeks. Shake every other day to infuse the mixture and help the honey to dissolve.
- Store in a sealed container in the fridge for 6 months to a year.