Evidence-based traditional kitchen remedies for Colds and Flu viruses.

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Evidence-based traditional kitchen remedies for Colds and Flu viruses. 

Colds and Influenza are viral illneses and as such cannot be helped with antibiotics, but generally just need to play out until the body can overcome them. The only time antibiotics can be useful is if there is a secondary bacterial infection. If your snot and phlegm turns yellowish green, that is a sign that there may be some sort of secondary infection. Even then, herbs may be enough, but even if you end up on antibiotics, don’t ignore the combined effect of antibiotics along with herbal and kitchen medicine. 

Let’s start with some remedies to prepare now, which may take a little bit of time to be ready. 


Honey Garlic. 

By fermenting whole garlic cloves in a jar of raw honey, we end up with both garlic flavoured honey and honey flavoured garlic, two for one! Both are incredibly useful to boost immunity. Let it ferment for 1 - 2 weeks, or even a month. Then, when it is done to your satisfaction, put it in the fridge and eat the garlic regularly and when- it is delicious. The honey can make part of a wonderful marinade, or eat straight from the jar. 

Onion can be used instead of garlic in this recipe for a milder version. 

Garlic and Onions are natural expectorants- they help loosen and release the phlegm in the chest


Raw Honey is by itself a wonderful medicine for colds and flu, especially for coughs. This study shows that parents found honey more beneficial for their children’s night time cough than cough medicine. A pharmacist recently told me the same- honey works better than any cough medicines. Although I normally eat a low sugar diet, I add honey liberally to herbal teas when I am sick with the flu, as it is very soothing and has antibacterial and antiviral properties If you happen to get a nasty cold sore, honey has been shown to be as effective as acyclovir, the pharmacy topical medication in reducing symptoms. 



Garlic has been used for centuries to combat infectious disease. There is also plenty of modern evidence for its effect on influencing our immunity. Garlic selectively kills pathogens while leaving healthy microbes alone, which makes it very useful when we want to preserve healthy gut microbes . The thing is to get enough of it when we need it. That’s why fermenting or steeping it in honey is so useful, but there are plenty of other ways to eat more garlic. You can add it to pretty much everything you cook, and you can even slice it thinly and put it between slices of apple. If the taste of garlic is not your thing, then aged garlic extracts such as Kyolic can be very useful.

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Fire Cider is a popular home-made winter tonic that can be prepared ahead of time and taken as a preventative or during illness. I have the recipe here on my website and highly recommend making a batch for every winter. It contains garlic, onion, horseradish, ginger, turmeric, and other aromatic herbs and spices, or whichever ones you have on hand. They are covered with apple cider vinegar, and honey if you like as well. 



Honey Thyme Cough Syrup

Another recipe to make ahead of time, although it can also be made at the time needed, is a honey-thyme cough syrup.


A handful of thyme sprigs from the garden. 

1 lemon, chopped.

1/2 cup honey

a jar


Place the lemon and the honey, in a jar. 

Meanwhile make a strong thyme tea by steeping the thyme in a cup of just-boiled water for 15 minutes, leaving the lid on to stop the wonderful aromatics from escaping. Add this to the honey and lemon mix. 

Take this by the tablespoon as needed. 

Store in the refrigerator. 


It is also possible to use essential oils in honey, or in the above recipe, for a powerful effect. I do not routinely recommend taking essential oils internally, but 1or 2 drops of eucalyptus, oregano, or thyme essential oil in the above recipe, or mixed in 1/2 cup honey, can be effective as a short term medicine. 

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Essential oils however are very beneficial externally in steams, so don’t forget the traditional eucalyptus steam to help with any respiratory infections. 

Boristos have a wonderful simple steam inhaler available at many pharmacies and I highly recommend having one in the house- it is only about $12. It has instructions with it. 

Otherwise, use 1  drop of essentail oil- I recommend any of the eucalypts- in a bowl of very hot water. Be safe, and do not use this with small children who may tip it on themselves. Put a towel over your head and inhale the eucalyptus and steam- being careful not to burn. Let yourself cough up that phlegm if you can. Vapourising essential oils in the air can be useful at this time too, but please be careful if there are small children or babies in the house, as they are super sensitive. 

Herbal Teas

I recently found herbal teas to be THE most effective thing at helping break up the mucous, and moisten my awful dry hacking cough. 

Don’t underestimate the effect of a hot herbal tea with honey, even in the middle of the night. 

Use any of the following for herbal teas when sick with cold and flu: 

Cinnamon, ginger, turmeric,  (anti-inflammatory), clove (good for sore throat as it is anaesthetic), lemon (vit C, also it’s uplifting, breaks up phlegm, and supports detoxifying), cayenne (increases circulation, warming), and honey of course. 

Other herbs that can be very helpful as teas are peppermint , elderflower and thyme.


Other recommendations:

  • REST! I cannot emphasise this enough. When you are sick, stay home as long as possible, and rest. Rug yourself up, put your bunny slippers on, and catch up on reading, Netflix, quiet time and sleep. 
  • Warm baths can be very nurturing. 
  • Take Vitamin C. Along with the above, Vitamin C is something most of us have in the house, and has evidence behind it. Linus Pauling, a Nobel Prize winner, was controversial in his promotion of Vitamin C but he lived to 93 and took 12,000mg a day. It works best as a preventative, so start taking it today. 
  • Drink plenty of fluids, water, lemon water, herbal teas. 
  • Take care of your gut with some fermented foods.