9 Science-Backed Natural Remedies To Ease Your Next Bout Of The Flu

Skip the pharmacy! These all-natural flu remedies will help you feel better fast.

December 7, 2016
mug of tea
David Mao/unsplash

Up to one in five Americans will catch the flu this season (lower your chances of getting it in the first place with these 10 foods). If you end up with chills, fever, and congestion from the flu or another virus, these natural comforts are just what the doctor ordered. 

(See how easy it is to grow your own remedies for joint pain, heartburn, cold symptoms, and 30+ other ailments with Rodale's Grow It Heal It!)

chicken soup
Joshua Resnick/shutterstock
1. Chicken Soup

Yes, your grandma’s cure-all is legit. Chicken soup inhibits the movement of neutrophils, the most common type of white blood cell that defends against infection, according to a study from the University of Nebraska. Researchers suspect the reduction in movement of neutrophils may help ease upper-respiratory symptoms associated with the flu. They’re not sure what ingredients in the soup help the most, but they theorize it’s a combo of chicken and vegetables. Don’t worry if Grandma can’t whip you up a batch: “Many store-bought, prepared, and even canned soups we tested had the same effect,” says lead researcher Stephen Rennard, MD. (If you hate doing dishes, this one-pot chicken soup is for you.)

elizabeth lies/unsplash
2. Rest

Grandma nailed this one too; researchers at Washington State University proved it. In a study published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, scientists showed that a protein found in the brain, called AcPb, promotes recovery through sleep (follow these 12 natural tips for better sleep). When they infected mice that lacked the protein with H1N1—a common type of flu virus—their symptoms were more severe and they died at higher rates. Mice that had the brain protein slept more, and recovered more quickly from the flu. Their message: don’t fight sleep when you’re under the weather!

lemon ginger water
Dominik Martin/unsplash
3. Fluids

When you have a fever, your body needs more fluids. Your higher body temp speeds up your metabolism, increasing your need for water. You’re also losing extra water through sweating, a runny nose, and faster breathing. If you end up dehydrated, you’ll feel even more hot and sluggish than you already do. Here's how to tell if you're dangerously dehydrated.

Eugenia Lucasenco/shutterstock
4. Honey

Even after you start to feel somewhat human again, do you have a cough that flares up at night? Reach for the jar of honey about a half hour or so before you hit the sack. In a study from Pennsylvania State University, researchers found that honey reduced the duration and severity of nighttime coughing in people ages 2-18, and even did a better job than honey-flavored cough medicine. The teens in the study received two teaspoons, a good amount for most adults, too. Make sure you're getting the biggest health benefits out of your honey with this buying guide.

Yury Stroykin/shutterstock
5. A Humidifier

A cool-mist humidifier can cut down on inflammatory in the airways, helping relieve your congestion. But there may be an even biggest benefit: It might prevent the virus from spreading to the rest of your family, researchers at Oregon State University found (unlike these 5 totally useless things we all do to protect ourselves from germs). The flu virus is more far likely to survive in drier conditions—80 percent of the virus was still alive after an hour in the low humidity compared to 20 percent in high humidity. 

Valerie Bodnar/shutterstock
6. Ginseng

After showing potential against fighting colds, researchers at the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at George State University Atlanta wanted to find out whether ginseng would stand up to the flu too. And it did: They found that red ginseng extract reduced inflammation in the bronchial and improved the survival of lung cells infected with the flu. Here's how much ginseng to take. 

Jack Frog/shutterstock
7. Meditation

Can you actually will yourself to be well? Sort of. A study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that adults who meditated daily during cold and flu season were less likely to get sick. And even when they did, their illnesses lasted for five days, on average, compared to eight days for participants who didn’t meditate. Try these 5 morning meditations to set yourself up for a fantastic day no matter how you're feeling.

8. Elderberry Extract

Researchers in Norway found 60 people who started experiencing flu-like symptoms within the past 48 hours. Some of the group received 15 milliliters of elderberry extract four times daily while the rest didn’t receive a placebo. The results: The elderberry group got better four days earlier on average. In fact, most felt back to the old selves within three days of taking the extract. Although researchers aren’t sure how elderberry fights the flu, they theorize that its flavonoids may boost the immune system. Here's how to take elderberry extract.

mint tea
natalia bulatova/shutterstock
9. Peppermint Tea

Think of it as a natural decongestant. Menthol thins mucous, loosening phlegm and breaking up coughs, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Steep a teaspoon of dried peppermint leaves in a cup of boiling water for about 10 minutes; stain and cool.