It's already shaping up to be one of the worst cold and flu seasons in memory, and already,  the medicine aisle at the pharmacy is busier than usual. This week, I happen to be one of those runny-nosed, congested, tired, achy customers suffering from the nasty cold that is going around and I need something that will make me feel better. It's not COVID, I tested, but it is a persistent and virulent cold that seems to have settled in for a long, annoying stay.

This year, instead of relying on drugstore cures for my cold and flu remedies, I've decided to go the natural route and find cold and flu remedies that are based on plant-based ingredients rather than pharmaceuticals, which tend to knock me out. So I'm off to the local natural food market to stock up on antioxidant-rich foods and anti-inflammatory ingredients such as herbs and spices that I can make into homemade wellness shots.

Natural remedies to help reduce flu-like symptoms have been around for centuries and some of these ingredients are just as effective as medicine at knocking cold symptoms to the curb. So I found myself researching everything there is to know about how to treat a cold with natural ingredients, and rounded up the best at-home remedies for cold and flu, including some that involve behavior, as well as store-bought products. Here is my report back on how each one affected my cold symptoms, including the best elixirs I would recommend, and the easy recipes that have helped me endure the past five days and made me feel better.

Altogether, searching for the best natural cold and flu remedies has made me feel as productive as I could, while exhausted from the battle my immune system was fighting against the viral invaders. The project (and the remedies themselves) gave me the strength and energy to recover faster than if I had done nothing to treat my symptoms. These natural remedies all work in different ways and are in no particular order. But the first best remedy is always getting a good night's sleep.

8 Natural, At-Home Remedies to Fight a Cold

1. Sleep

Going to bed early and getting deep sleep has been the reason I feel alert and strong, and wake up with more energy throughout the day, even as my immune system is fighting this cold. Every night I've been going to bed by 8 pm and waking up around 6 am feeling motivated to start my day by getting to the gym. The key is going to bed early since studies show it helps your body produce more immune cells, which peak during early nocturnal sleep.

Because I've been getting almost ten hours of sleep a night, I wake up less congested and less sore in my eyes. I recommend putting the phone away before bed or better yet,  leaving it outside your bedroom to avoid any distractions that could keep you up or interrupt your sleep. Having no digital interaction or blue light really helps me get better, deeper sleep. Studies have shown that blue light from screens can interrupt your melatonin production, and slow metabolism, so turn off the TV and read a paperback to help yourself get sleepy instead.

2. Steam

After a workout and again before I go to sleep, I tried steaming away my cold by having a steamy shower. The humid vapor helps open my sinuses and I feel like I can breathe through my nose for the first time in days. I don't have a steam room, so I turn up the shower temperature to the highest degree (without going in) and let my tiny bathroom fill up with the misty air. I also make sure there is no fragrance like a candle or bath soap that could take away from the purity of the steamy vapor. This not only clears up my sinuses but also gets me ready for a restful sleep or a productive day after a morning workout.

3. A Light Run

Going out for a light, slow, gentle jog has helped my head cold feel lessened stuffed up and miserable. It may be counter-intuitive, but as my lungs start working and my muscles get warmed up, the rest of my system feels energized and adrenalized, which is a relief from the congestion. It's a bit chilly where I live so I bundle up in sweats and a sweatshirt to start my run warmed up instead of chilly as I usually do. The first few minutes are the hardest because my congestion is at its worst, but if I push through, it gives me the best outcome. About a mile into my run having worked up a decent sweat, my sinuses clear up and it's much easier to breathe. I can feel the adrenaline start to work as a tingling sensation at the top of my nose and then all of a sudden it's like opening a portal and letting fresh air in as I'm jogging.

My natural remedies to help reduce cold symptoms
loading...

4. Healthy Plant-Based Eating and Antioxidant-Rich Soup

My diet is usually very clean but there are some times I let myself indulge and overeat. This week while I try to reduce my cold symptoms, I'm sticking to eating healthy, clean, plant-based foods that are full of antioxidants and nutrients that help reduce inflammation. I'm eating more berries, citrus, and kale, all loaded with antioxidants to help my immune system power up. I bought a bunch of frozen fruits like raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, peaches, and oranges, and a bag of kale to make smoothies for a healthy snack around 3 pm. In addition, I made a large batch of The Beet's Chickpea Tuscan Soup (I added noodles and extra kale and I have been eating a bowl of this healing soup every day for lunch.

attachment-FC
loading...

5. Fire Cider

I'm always on the lookout for superfood ingredients that help strengthen the immune system. There are so many that I was surprised to find a good amount of them all in one store-bought elixir called Fire Cider which is a popular wellness tonic. So I called my local health-food stores, and thankfully, one of them had Fire Cider in stock. The woman who helped me raved about the taste and said, "this stuff is so good, I use Fire Cider in my salad dressings."

You can't beat the combination of powerful ingredients in this bottle: Apple Cider Vinegar, Oranges, Lemons, Onions, Ginger, Horseradish, Garlic, Tumeric, Habanero Pepper, and Black Pepper. The taste is so strong and bitter that it made my eyes water after the first sip. But once you get used to the taste, it's one of those products that feels healthy and you crave more. I have two shots of this natural cold remedy a day as recommended and will continue this for the next week so I can report back on how it works over time,

6. Store-Bought Wellness Shots

I'm not a huge fan of store-bought wellness shots because there tends to always be a hidden ingredient that shows up near the top of the nutrition label which means it's among the most prominent ingredient in the bottle, like apple juice or orange juice, often used to add sweetness and flavor. Or, sometimes there will be sneaky cane sugar hiding on the label, like in the Rescue Ginger Shots. In my opinion, the whole point of a wellness shot is to boost my immunity, so I don't need a great-tasting product loaded with sugar. I'd rather have the active ingredients extracted and concentrated. If I wanted juice, I would have bought a bottle of juice.

One of my favorites is The Twisted Shot available on Amazon. The ingredients are filtered water, organic apple cider vinegar, organic honey, organic turmeric extract, organic ginger extract, organic cinnamon extract, and organic cayenne pepper. I started out drinking one of these every day and even the smell of this product opens up my sinuses.

How to make a wellness shot at home
loading...

7. Homemade Wellness Shots

So after having spent a lot of money for single-portion store-bought shots, later in the week I decided to make my own at home using my Vitamix and lots of filtered, alkaline water. The thing I love amount making shots in the Vitamix is that it keeps all the skin and pulp of the fruit and vegetables, where most of the fiber lives. (And skins contain most of the vitamins, which shield the fruit from the harsh rays of the sun.)  By contrast, juicers discard the best part!

How to make homemade wellness shots
loading...

For this one, I used an entire ginger root and turmeric root and found it easiest to peel them with a spoon, as well as two whole oranges, one apple, cayenne pepper, and filtered alkaline water. I save the tiny plastic store-bought shot bottles and fill them up with my homemade, blended ingredients and pack them away in the fridge. There are some days when I'll fill up a cup of this mixture and sip on it. The best part of making them at home is that you can make a large batch and save tons of money. This entire batch of wellness shots (which I'll have for the whole week) costs me less than $5 to make -- about the same price as each store-bought single wellness shot!

8. Hot Toddy 

Lastly, I tried sipping a hot toddy. Don't laugh. Sure this is more from the Mad Men era, but one of my friends came over (masked up and socially distant) and made me a warm hot toddy of whiskey, honey, cinnamon, and lemon juice. I don't love the taste of whiskey so this one wasn't as easy to drink compared to my wellness shots, but the warmth and strong, potent taste of the alcohol slowly opened up my sinuses. I appreciated this drink but only had it once.

If you're fighting a cold or have flu-like symptoms, I recommend trying any one or all of these remedies (or sleep plus a few others) since they each helped me recover naturally.

Do you have another at-home secret you'd like to share? Send me an email at hailey@thebeet.com or go to our Facebook page and share it there –– I'd love to try yours!

For more health hacks, visit The Beet's Health & Nutrition articles