Winter wellness: Natural remedies to combat colds and flu

Natural remedies to combat colds and flu

Real Foods is on hand to help you stock your larder with tried and tested ingredients so that you can create your own natural remedies to combat colds and flu at home.

You heard it here first: winter is coming! It’s the time of year when those around you start coughing and spluttering and you have the suspicious feeling of a scratchy throat.

The changing season brings with it several viruses, such as common colds and flu. It’s normal: children especially suffer up to five common colds every year, while adults are likely to have two to three infections.

Why are colds and flu so common in winter?

If you are exposed to cold weather you increase your risk of getting a common cold or a virus, such as influenza (the flu). This is because your immune system is often lowered in the colder temperatures, which makes it trickier for your body to fight off the germs.

natural remedies cold flu

With more people catching these viruses, the quicker they spread.

Natural remedies to combat colds and flu

Isn’t prevention much better than cure? We think so.

It is possible to avoid common colds and flu without being an absolute hermit – in fact research shows that if you’re healthy then being active in the fresh air and the great outdoors is good for you.

You might want to listen to your grandparent’s wisdom and wrap up warm with the change of season and – whatever you do – don’t go out of the house in the morning with wet hair. Granny might just be right with this particular folklore.

We also don’t want to sound like we are teaching your Granny to suck eggs, but good hygiene makes a difference, so help your entire community and wash your hands with soap – as this remains the single most effective way to prevent falling ill.

If possible, once you’ve turned your heating back on for the winter season, open your windows and air your home for ten minutes each day to prevent the build-up of condensation and damp, or invest in a de-humidifier.

Try to keep your home at a consistent temperature of 18°C (64°F), as recommended by the NHS.

Look out for the first signs of colds and flu

If you notice you have a scratchy throat, feel more fatigued than usual, or have aching muscles then now is the time to prepare.

natural remedies cold flu
  • Stock up on your vitamins and minerals, which you can do through considered healthy food choices or with supplements.
  • Avoid refined sugars and processed food, and opt for nutrient-rich meals.
  • Stock up your larder with traditional time-tested natural remedies to combat colds and flu in advance.
  • Stay hydrated: water truly is the elixir of life and will hugely aid your recovery.
  • Increase your friendly bacteria: consider consuming more probiotics, such as yoghurt, kombucha and kefir.

Prepare your winter wellness survival kit

Antibiotics don’t work on the common cold and flu and only increase antibiotic-resistant bacteria in our environment, so avoid asking your doctor and opt for our favourite natural remedies.

There are a whole host of simple, natural ingredients that you can easily get your hands on with a quick shop online or in store at Real Food. These can both prevent colds and flu and support your recovery.

When combined, our suggested ingredients are powerful virus-blasting remedies. We recommend you stock up on the following ingredients.

Natural remedies: The larder collection


Ginger is known for speeding up the recovery process of all your common winter ailments. It is especially good at stopping running noses in their tracks and expelling phlegm out.

natural remedies cold flu

Ginger will also settle your tummy, reducing any feelings of nausea or sickness. You can use fresh ginger, ginger supplements, or enjoy a cup of ready-to-drink ginger tea.


It wasn’t vampires that garlic was used for but actually common winter ailments.

As early as the 1500s people would apply garlic to their throats, and more recent scientific studies indicate there’s truth in this wisdom as it could cure a common cold (but more research is needed).

Garlic has an immune-stimulating, antibacterial compound called allicin which is released when crushed.

Did you know? Garlic is best in its raw form. Why not rub a clove or two on toast for some delicious homemade garlic bread?


You’ve probably been told to leave half a freshly sliced onion next to your bedside or place it on the soles of your feet with a pair of socks on. If you haven’t, you might be missing a trick!

While the smell is pungent and isn’t ideal if you have visitors, it is believed that half an onion can soak in all the toxins and bacteria from the air.

This folklore stems back from ancient Chinese medicine and reflexology. It was also promoted when the bubonic plague was rife across Britain in the 1500s.

Onion is from the allium family – the same as garlic – and is antibacterial. While studies remain limited, several of us in the Real Foods team swear by this natural remedy.


Lemons are a fabulous source of vitamin C. They also act as a decongestant and can clear the nasal passage and help reduce phlegm.

Make a hot toddy with lemon, honey – and a dash or brandy or whisky. You can use fresh lemons, or a good quality lemon cordial.

natural remedies cold flu


The sweet taste of honey in a warm drink or on a teaspoon left to melt in the mouth is probably the only good thing about having a common cold or flu.

Honey is a demulcent – meaning that it coats your throat with a sticky film. In turn this soothes your throat and makes it easier to swallow.

You probably don’t want to go overboard on the honey-sipping as it is high in sugar and calories, and we don’t advise giving it to young children.

Top tip: For a real whack of flu-busting goodness make a popular natural remedy from India: turmeric paste!

Thoroughly mix a couple of teaspoons of ground turmeric powder into your honey until you’ve made a paste and store it in a small jar so that it’s ready to be used for winter flu days. Pop a teaspoon of  this paste into your mouth every four hours, get sore throat relief, and make everyone smile at the sight of your bright yellow tongue.


Turmeric has been the go-to natural remedy in India for centuries. The compound curcumin is turmeric spice’s main active ingredient and is a well-known anti-inflammatory, and an incredible antioxidant.

You can include a few teaspoons of turmeric in all sorts of dishes, from curries to stews and soups. Unlike other spices, turmeric doesn’t alter the taste too much. Help turmeric get absorbed in your body by mixing it with black pepper.


With its anti-fungal and antioxidant properties, the ancient spice of cinnamon can also help boost your health. If your virus is making you feel nauseous, cinnamon might just be the natural remedy for you as it will relieve any uneasiness in your stomach. Like turmeric, cinnamon is spice that can be added to virtually anything: hot drinks, soups, stews and curries.


If you’re feeling blocked up then enjoy a touch of spice in a warm homemade soup. Chilli is another natural decongestant and will soon get your airways clear in no time.

Natural remedies: The herbal collection


The herb and root of the echinacea shrub has been a favourite natural remedy for colds and flu for the Native Americans for more than 400 years.

While research on how echinacea prevents infections remains limited, echinacea is filled with flavonoids, which are great for boosting your immune system and reducing inflammation.

natural remedies cold flu

It’s best to take echinacea when you first notice your symptoms, and the easiest way is by enjoying it in a readymade echinacea tea, or you can use echinacea lozenges.


Elderberries come from the elder bush that produce delicate white elderflowers in the summer. Elderberries are recommended for both preventing and healing common colds and flu as they are high in antioxidants, vitamin A, B and C, and stimulate our immune systems.

The best way to use elderberry as a preventative remedy is with daily doses of elderberry syrup. When bugs hit, elderberry is a great antiviral that tackles the upper respiratory system as it also eases inflammation.


A favourite natural remedy for common winter ailments in ancient Greece, Oregano oil is great for its antimicrobial and antioxidant properties that naturally support a healthy immune system. Today some naturopathy doctors recommend it for respiratory problems, including sinus conditions.

If you are stuffed up with the cold or flu then you can add a few drops of oregano oil under your tongue to alleviate your symptoms. A word of warning – oregano oil has a disgusting taste and has been dubbed ‘Satan’s urine’!

Natural remedies: The vitamin collection

Vitamins are essential for a healthy lifestyle.

There’s no better way than maximising the gift of nature through food and fresh air to help you get your vitamins.

If you’re still feeling fatigued, you might wish to look at taking quality daily vitamin and mineral supplements.


Zinc has had plenty of studies highlighting how it can help you combat your colds and flu. It helps to regulate immunity and is a great mineral to take when initial symptoms appear.

There are plenty of foods that are naturally rich in zinc, including pumpkin seeds, spinach, wheat germ and cocoa.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin for our metabolic system, as it helps regulate our immune system. The best way to get vitamin D is to spend 15 minutes per day outdoors in indirect sunlight.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is essential in fighting infection in the body. You can find it in fresh berries, citrus fruits such as grapefruit and lemons, papayas, broccoli, carrots and red peppers. Why not make a delicious soup?

Natural remedies to combat colds and flus: Our top tips

To help you breathe: Keep your air purified with an oil burner containing a few drops of minty and fresh essential oils such as eucalyptus, peppermint, and camphor (the primary ingredient in commercial menthol products).

You can also add these to hot water and a couple teaspoons of salt and hot water when doing a steam inhalation.

Did you know? The best way to blow your nose without causing damage to your nasal passage is to close one nostril at a time and blow gently.

To relax your muscles: have a soothing hot bath with Epsom salts, which will ease your aches and pains. The steam will also help clear your airways.

May our natural remedies to combat colds and flu keep you well this winter.

Real Foods are here to support you with a wide range of healthy, natural and vegetarian food that will help promote winter wellness. Buy online or in one of our Edinburgh shops!

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