HealthZette

Home Remedies That Could Save Your Life

Proof that our parents and grandparents knew how to fight the nastiest cold and fiercest flu

Influenza is spreading in all 50 states and a growing number of deaths — including that of an athletic 17-year-old last week in Baltimore — reminds us the flu is not an illness to take lightly. Schools have been closed and other events canceled in as communities try to control its spread. 

People at high risk for influenza complications — the young, the old, the immunocompromised — should see a health care professional promptly if they get flu symptoms, even if they have been vaccinated this season.

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The rest of us should fully recover. It just may take a while.

“Seven out of 10 people who go to urgent care this winter will get an unnecessary antibiotic,” said Dr. Gustavo Ferrer. He’s a pulmonologist in Weston, Florida, who founded the Chronic Cough Center at Cleveland Clinic Florida.

Americans spend $7.7 billion on respiratory medication from over the counter, Ferrer told NBC 6 News in Miami. But many of these medications may not work and have a multitude of side effects.

Related: Fighting the Flu or Something Else?

If you’re at home feeling miserable, think back to the herbs, spices, and foods that your parents and grandparents used to help get you back on your feet when you were a child. The following just might help you feel better and save you a trip to the doctor.

Garlic and Onions
Garlic — practically a natural medicine chest — has been found in every medical book of every culture for treatment of disease dating back thousands of years. It has powerful antiviral and antifungal characteristics — without the dangerous side effects of pharmaceutical drugs.

Garlic has powerful antiviral and antifungal characteristics without the dangerous side effects of pharmaceutical drugs.

Garlic might also help keep your blood pressure in check and aid in the prevention of heart disease, cancer, liver disorders, diabetes, and fevers. Press a fresh clove with a spoon prior to swallowing it, or put it through your juicer to add to your vegetable juice. Using it in soups also is helpful.

Onions, meanwhile, help the body release toxins, especially in the liver. They are considered a natural anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and antiviral food. Onions contain phytochemicals purported to help the body clear bronchitis and other infections. Onions also are beneficial for prevention of heart disease and cancer and have been shown to have significant blood sugar-lowering action comparable to some prescription drugs.

Onions also have been used to treat asthma due to their ability to inhibit the production of compounds that cause the bronchia muscle to spasm.

Warm Salt Water
Salt-water rinsing helps break nasal congestion while also removing virus particles and bacteria from the nose, as WebMD states.

Here’s a popular recipe from the site: Mix 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda in 8 ounces of warm water. Use a bulb syringe or nasal irrigation kit to squirt water into the nose. Hold one nostril closed by applying light finger pressure while squirting the salt mixture into the other nostril. Let it drain. Repeat two to three times, then treat the other nostril.

You could also just buy a neti pot. Gargling warm salt water may also provide relief for a sore throat or head cold.

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Salve Under the Nose 
You may not like the smell of Vicks, but dabbing a little menthol salve under your nose can help open breathing passages. Menthol, eucalyptus, and camphor all have mild numbing ingredients that may help relieve the pain of a nose rubbed raw, according to WebMD. 

Pure, therapeutic-grade essential oils in the scents mentioned above are also less toxic remedies that are safe and available through reputable distributors. These herbal remedies and essential oils have regenerating, protective and immune-strengthening properties.

Honey and Ginger
“You can either put [honey] on a teaspoon or put it in a glass of hot water. It helps to soothe your throat by coating it,” Dr. Angelina Rodriguez with Mercy Health told WFMJ, the NBC affiliate in Youngstown, Ohio.  “It is actually a natural cough suppressant.”

Related: Just Indigestion? Think Again

Honey is known to be enzyme- and antioxidant-rich, and to have antibacterial and antiviral properties as well. Ginger, for its part, helps boost immunity.

Rest
Take the day (or more time) off from work and just sleep. Painkillers and other medications might help treat your symptoms, but resting and making sure to drink plenty of fluids remain the best remedy for colds and the flu to prevent dehydration.