For some reason, I always seem to get sick at the worst times. Every year I’m sick at least once, if not more, and it usually seems to happen around the holidays and the busiest seasons at work. As I get older, illnesses make me feel worse and keep me down for longer, which inevitably causes trouble with my schedule. I’m one of those people who hates being sick. I have too many things to do! But life doesn’t always go according to plan, so that’s when I turn to my list of effective homeopathic remedies.
Fortunately, I’ve grown up in a family where home remedies are the status quo. I’ve learned a lot about taking care of my body and overall health by using natural methods. Vitamins and supplements, herbal and medicinal teas, and essential oil blends are all part of my arsenal against all sorts of ailments. I try to keep a regular routine of using natural remedies to keep myself healthy and prevent sickness, but it’s when I’m sick that I can really witness how effective they are.
As a general rule, sicknesses just have to run their course, and I don’t expect home remedies to cure me in a flash. But drinking herbal tea, taking supplements, and using essential oils all make me feel much better physically by reducing aches and discomfort, clearing mental fog, and allowing me to bounce back sooner than I would have without following a homeopathic regimen. I’m so happy to have found treatment options that really work for me, and I’m excited to share them with you! (Beware, not every quick fix listed below is suitable for everyone. Make sure to do your research on homeopathic medicines that you want to try, and talk to your doctor before trying any new medicine or natural remedy, especially if you have a preexisting condition. Natural remedies can be strong if taken in large quantities, which may have adverse effects on someone with a medical condition or allergy.)
Read on for the effective home remedies I use to get well fast!
Disclosure: I’m not a doctor or licensed healthcare practitioner, and these remedies are not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent, or cure any disease. I use these methods to help improve how I physically feel while sick- not to kill any infection or disease. Talk to your doctor about starting any new regimen, remedies, or supplements, especially if you have any preexisting conditions or other medical issues.
1. Elderberry herbal tea
Starting off the list with my favorite: elderberry. Elderberry has been used for centuries as a treatment for wounds (when applied to the skin) and respiratory infections. Evidence suggests that elderberry contains chemicals that reduce swelling of the mucous membranes, relieve nasal congestion, and fight inflammation and illness. It also contains vitamin C and bioflavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants that may help prevent damage to the body’s cells. Elderberry has strong antiviral properties, which is what makes it so great for treating illnesses like colds and other respiratory viruses- things that traditional antibiotics aren’t very effective against. I love elderberry as an alternative to antibiotics; it reduces the severity of my symptoms and shortens the amount of time I’m sick by a day or two, and everyone knows the difference a day can make when you have a busy schedule!
Elderberry comes in a few different forms, such as syrups and tinctures, but my favorite way to take it is to steep a half-tablespoon of dried elderberries in hot water to make tea. You can get dried elderberries from your local health food store, or you can order it in bulk sizes online. Vitacost is a good place to start. Drinking one cup (about eight ounces) a day is a good way to boost your immune system and prevent colds, the flu, and other respiratory illnesses. I try to drink it regularly during the winter months, and whenever I do get sick, I up my intake to three or four cups a day, or more- once when I was sick, I drank 8 cups in one day! Needless to say, I felt a lot better the next day.
The tea has an earthy, slightly tart berry flavor, and I’ll usually add a spoonful or two of local honey for added sweetness (and the sore-throat-soothing properties). If you’re not into the flavor or if you’re not a tea drinker, try an elderberry syrup like Sambucol, or take it in pill or chewable tablet form.
2. Essential oils
If you’re an internet user, chances are you’ve heard about essential oils. Many people think that they’re just a fad or a passing trend, but research shows that essential oils can be effective when used properly. There’s a wealth of information and resources on essential oils on the internet, and it can be seriously overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. In simple terms, essential oils are highly concentrated extracts of the natural oils found in plants. Use of essential oils dates back as far as the 13th century, and they have been used medicinally throughout history to treat a vast array of health problems. You can use essential oils by combining them with a carrier oil (think olive or coconut oil) to dilute them and then applying to the body, usually on the wrists, neck, and soles of the feet. Or you can inhale them; try adding some to a hot bath, pot of steaming water, or essential oil diffuser.
There are tons of different essential oils and blends to use for fighting illness, but I always find myself going back to the basics- lavender, eucalyptus, and peppermint are my top three for relieving most symptoms.
I use lavender oil all the time, it’s one of my favorites. I use it when I’m sick to help relax and relieve tension, which helps ease body aches from a fever. Dilute in a carrier oil and massage into sore areas, or you can inhale it straight from the bottle for a near-instant calming effect. It’s also a great sleep aid, if your symptoms are keeping you up late at night.
Eucalyptus oil is like the holy grail for respiratory issues. Sinus pressure? Eucalyptus. Stuffy nose? Eucalyptus. Post-nasal drip, phlegm-y cough, sneezing? Eucalyptus. The oil has a strong, sharp scent that cuts through mucus like nothing else. Fair warning: it can make your nose start to run, which is a good thing if you’re trying to clear it all from your head, but make sure you have tissues ready. My favorite way to use eucalyptus oil for respiratory issues is to put two drops in the very corner of the shower (where I won’t slip on it) and inhale it that way. Two drops is usually enough, since it’s a very strong oil, but if I really need relief fast I’ll use three or four drops. Or you can try diluting it in a carrier oil, applying to the bottom of your feet, and putting socks on. The oil absorbs quickly through the soles of your feet, and the socks help lock it in and keep you from slipping and sliding across the floor like you’re Tom Cruise in Risky Business.
Peppermint oil is my go-to for nausea and upset stomach. Inhaling it is the best method to fight queasiness, whether straight from the bottle or through a diffuser, but you can also massage it onto your abdomen or lower back. The shower diffusing method I mentioned also works; use a drop of peppermint oil and a drop of lavender oil to relax and help reduce nausea and other stomach discomfort.
Remember, essential oils are highly concentrated, so always dilute in a carrier oil and always do a test swatch of a new oil on the inside of your elbow or ankle to make sure you don’t have any adverse reactions. (I found that out in the hardest way possible in a cinnamon-oil-related incident, and now I’m a huge advocate of the test swatch.) Some essential oils are too strong to use topically even when diluted, so make sure to do your research if you’re not sure about a certain oil.
Most of us use garlic in our cooking, but it’s also one of nature’s most powerful antibiotics. Fresh, raw garlic has been used since ancient times as an effective killer of bacteria and infections, while recent studies have proven garlic to have antibacterial and antiviral properties. Consuming garlic daily can help reduce your risk of getting sick, or if you’re already sick, it helps fight the infection and puts you on the fast track to recovery. I take a garlic supplement (this one is great and available at most big-name retailers) every day as a preventative measure, and when I’m sick, I’ll take two doses a day instead of just one. Garlic in high concentration can act as a blood thinner, so use caution and always talk to your doctor before starting any new supplements.
For the truly brave of heart, you can make a garlic tea: essentially just a very strong garlic broth brewed from fresh garlic cloves (though minced garlic works too if you have it on hand). If you don’t love the taste of garlic, I wouldn’t recommend it, just because of how strong the flavor is. But it’s extremely effective, and a great option for those needing quick relief from symptoms. Drinking the tea allows your body to absorb it faster than if you took a garlic supplement in pill form, so you get the antibacterial effects right away. My mom is a huge fan of garlic tea; one winter she drank one cup of it while sick with the flu and felt so much better the next day, she forgot she was sick at all!
If you’re skeptical about the tea or supplements but still want the bacteria-fighting effects of garlic, try adding a heaping spoonful of minced garlic to your soup or broth, or spread roasted garlic cloves on crackers. Eating garlic regularly is a great way to prevent infections, and it’s easy to integrate it into your favorite meals, if you don’t already!
4. Epsom salt
This one is more of a targeted remedy as opposed to a general method of fighting sickness. For severe body aches caused by viruses (and the fevers that come with them), epsom salt is the answer. Take a hot bath and add at least two heaping cups of epsom salt to the water. You can use regular unscented epsom salt, or you can buy essential oil infused epsom salt; lavender is the best for relieving tension and easing body aches, but you can also try more invigorating scents if you like.
Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, is another time-tested method for relief of aches and pains. Joint pain, aching feet, and sore muscles can all be helped by epsom salt. (It’s a great option for athletes!) Soaking in an epsom salt bath is the best way to reap the benefits, but you can also use an epsom salt body scrub in the shower by massaging it into sore muscles.