Tips for Treating Cold and Flu: Five Treatments That Really Work

by Dr. Shannon Reive-Schmidt January 20, 2015

Let’s say you followed our 15 natural tips on how to avoid colds and flus from a couple years ago, but you got sick anyway. What do you do now? Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or aspirin? Eat chicken soup? Feed a cold and starve a fever?

We’ve got some natural suggestions that sound a little crazy but they really work (really!)

1. "If you feed a cold, you’ll have to starve a fever." That’s right: the aphorism you’ve heard before is incorrect, mistranslated somewhere along the line. The original point was that eating is the wrong thing to do when you’re sick. So, if you eat when you’re sick, you may end up making yourself sicker. When you’re sick, your body wants a rest from the work of digesting and metabolizing food.

What to do instead? Fast. That’s right, don’t eat. Just drink water, herbal tea, or maybe some broth. At most, cook some brown rice or oatmeal in four parts water (instead of two). Whatever you do, don’t eat sweets or heavy foods that combine protein and fat (so things like ice cream, cheese, meat, and peanut butter are the worst). It takes a little getting used to, but most infections will clear far more rapidly if you don’t eat.

2. Don’t try to lower your fever. Your fever is nature’s way of supercharging your immune system. It may not feel very good, but that is nature’s way of making you rest and sleep. Aspirin or other fever-reducing drugs interfere with this age-old adaptive natural self-treatment. An adult can easily tolerate a fever of up to 102 degrees, while children can tolerate one of up to 104. There’s no harm for an adult in a fever up to 103.5 degrees, actually. Fevers that last more than a few days, or are accompanied by odd symptoms like bruising may indicate something more serious. However, often fevers don’t last as long when you don’t suppress them, and when you have liquids only while you’re sick.

3. Put wet socks on your feet. This one, you have to try to believe, and it does sound odd, but it works. Wring out a pair of cotton socks in cold water till you can only squeeze out a few drops. Put them on your feet then cover them with woolen or acrylic socks (something that is insulating and doesn’t get wet itself, so a dry pair of cotton socks doesn’t work). Then go to bed, and go to sleep if you can. You’ll either wake up with completely dry cotton socks, or you’ll wake up feeling like your feet are on fire and kick off the socks. This is another way to supercharge your immune system. All your blood and lymph travel down to your feet to warm them up, then back up to your head and chest where the infection is, then back down to your cold feet, and so on. It’s like installing a pump in your body, one that activates all your infection fighting white blood cells.

4. Eat garlic. This tried and true natural spice and herbal remedy is unparalleled for fighting infection. Of course, it comes at a cost: it does smell quite strong, especially if you eat enough to make a difference. We’re talking more than one clove here. The more you can take the better, but start with one or two. Some people like to do it the hard way and eat it raw, but you can also bake it until soft. You’ll need to warn your loved ones, because it won’t smell pretty, and if you eat enough it’s going to pour out your pores. But, it’s also a potent antimicrobial, and all natural.

5. Sweat it out. In addition to encouraging a fever, it is beneficial to work up a sweat while you’re sick. Soaking in a hot bath with a cup or two of Epsom salts and a few drops of eucalyptus or ginger essential oil can promote sweating. Sweating is a way to release toxins from the body and encourage healing. While soaking, sip on a cup of diaphoretic (sweat-inducing) herbal tea. Elderflower and ginger are nice herbal tea options to encourage sweating. Follow your bath with a quick cool rinse. Afterwards, bundle up, lie down, and rest. To increase the healing benefit, follow up with a pair of wet socks, as mentioned above.

We all need to do our part to use less antibiotics, since overuse of them is threatening their effectiveness. And, if you have a viral infection, antibiotics are useless anyway. All of these steps can work for mild to moderate viral and bacterial infections. And if you can get yourself healthy without resorting to drugs, you will have strengthened your immunity for the next time, too.

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Dr. Daniel Heller is the primary author of this blog, the developer of our PMS Natural Relief Programs, and the founder of He is a holistic naturopathic doctor in Northern California with over 16 years experience helping thousands of women recover from PMS, PMDD, as well as helping women, children, and families find natural answers to all manner of health challenges.


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