Natural remedies for the flu

18th December, 2019 • 5 min read

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You don’t need medication, like painkillers or decongestants, to get over the flu.

Did you know that everyday ingredients in your kitchen may also help relieve flu symptoms?

Here are 8 natural flu remedies you can try.

Home remedies for flu


Your body uses zinc to produce white blood cells that protect your body from infection. Research suggests that zinc may reduce cold and flu symptoms.

It can be bought from most pharmacies in the form of tablets, lozenges, syrup or nasal spray. Taking too much zinc can cause unpleasant side effects like nausea or tummy pain, so always follow the recommended dose.

Foods that are high in zinc include lentils, nuts and seeds, chickpeas, eggs, red meat and shellfish. To increase your intake when you have the flu, add some lentils or chickpeas to a soup or stew.

Chicken soup

Studies show that chicken soup can reduce inflammation and relieve some flu symptoms. It may also help to thin mucus and clear your nose and airways. Flu can affect your digestion, and soup is easier on your stomach than many solid foods. And as soup is high in fluids, it can also help to keep you hydrated. Vegetarian and vegan alternatives can be beneficial as well.

A salt water rinse

Gargling with warm salt water can clear mucus and soothe a sore throat. Here’s how to do a salt water rinse at home:

  1. Heat approximately 230ml of water until warm.
  2. Stir in half a teaspoon of salt.
  3. Hold the salt water at the back of your throat (try not to swallow any).
  4. Gargle for 10 to 30 seconds.
  5. Spit the water out.
  6. Repeat these steps 2 to 4 times.

Avoid giving salt water rinses to children until they’re able to safely gargle plain water.

A spoonful of honey

Honey has antiviral and antibacterial properties that may help you fight off a cold or flu. Sipping a warm cup of water with lemon and honey has a similar effect to cough medicines and can soothe a sore throat or cough.

Try this recipe:

  1. Squeeze half a lemon into a cup of warm (not hot) water.
  2. Stir in 1 to 2 teaspoons of honey.
  3. Drink when warm.

If you prefer, you can add honey to a cup of herbal tea.

Note: Don’t give honey to children younger than 1 year.

Green-leafy vegetables

Vegetables like kale, spinach and broccoli can help your digestion as they are high in fibre. They also contain nutrients like vitamin C, iron and folic acid, which help to support your immune system.

Make vegetables a permanent part of your diet to get the best results. Have them in a stew or soup, or as a side dish.

Bland carbohydrates

You may not feel like eating when you have the flu, but it’s important to do so as you need food to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

Carbohydrates like brown rice or bread are easy to digest and don’t tend to trigger nausea. Eat them alongside soup or cooked vegetables to keep your stomach full. If you struggle to eat as much as usual, stick to smaller portions until you feel better.

Products with ginger

Ginger can help to relieve nausea. Add a little sliced or grated fresh ginger to a cup of hot water. Take care to sip it slowly, as drinking too fast can make nausea worse.

Crystalised ginger may also provide some relief. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it can improve morning sickness in some pregnant women and it may do the same for nausea caused by the flu. However, crystallised ginger is high in sugar, so it’s best eaten in moderation.

Steam inhalation

Inhaling warm steam can relieve chest tightness and soothe symptoms affecting your nose, sinuses and throat. It may also help to ease swelling in your lungs. You can try steam inhalation at home by heating water over the stove, in the microwave (using a microwave-safe dish) or in a vaporiser.

Don’t let the water boil, and always test the steam’s temperature before inhaling it.

Flu remedy myths

Many ‘remedies’ for flu can be found online, but few are scientifically proven to work, and some can do more harm than good. Here are some well-known flu remedies that may not be as effective as they are said to be.

  1. Eating garlic - according to a recent review, there is no strong evidence that garlic is an effective way to treat the flu.

  2. Feed a cold, starve a fever - it was once thought that eating would make a fever worse, but eating less at the start of an infection can be dangerous. Your body needs food to provide the energy it needs to recover.

  3. Taking vitamin C - there’s no evidence that taking vitamin C can prevent colds or reduce symptoms. However, make sure you get enough vitamin C from your diet as your immune system needs it to function properly.

  4. Taking echinacea - there’s not enough evidence to suggest that echinacea is an effective treatment for cold or flu.

If you'd like more tips on how to manage the flu, this article on

how to treat the flu at home
will give you the guidance you need.

[AD] Got questions about flu? Talk to a doctor online to help you get answers. Use code HEALTHILY5 to get £5 off your first appointment.

Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.