Seven Natural Strategies for a Flu-free Winter

Winter will come eventually this year and so will the chilly winds and new strains of nasty viruses. Going the natural and traditional route of home remedies means having more control what goes into your family’s bodies but also requires some preparation and planning. Here is our family’s to-do list for the next couple of weeks to make sure we are prepared for the season.

1. Become more disciplined about taking cod liver oil – transition from summer “once in a while” to winter “every day.”

I feel an energy boost after I’ve had a spoonful of cod liver oil, and we definitely catch fewer bugs when we are taking it every day. A lot of people say it makes them gag and they share their experiences of the best way to take it: with honey, juice or with a peg on the nose, so I was filled with trepidation when I put my first spoon of cod liver oil near my mouth. I was disappointed that I found it quite palatable (but then, I love liver and fish eggs) – no need to invent weird and wonderful combinations of fish oil and honey or juice or syrup for me. My daughter takes it neat from a spoon as well. So I’d say: give it a try – everyone is different! Cod liver oil is rich in fat-soluble vitamins A and D, which many of us on a Western-style diet may be deficient in.

2. Make a new batch of cough remedy – for your feet!

Melt together:

  • 5 Tbs. extra virgin coconut oil
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. beeswax

Add and mix in:

  • 10 drops tea tree essential oil
  • 20 drops rosemary essential oil

I discovered this recipe about two years ago and it changed our lives. My daughter had recurring bronchitis in her early years; it was so bad that we would have to drive to a surgery to get steroids in the middle of the night on several occasions. This cough balm rubbed on to her feet works for her without fail. I even made an experiment: didn’t put it on – she coughed; rubbed it on the next night – she didn’t. I have repeated this “experiment” by accident a number of times, so my sample size is good – take it from a statistician.

3. Make a new batch of chest rub.

Both my daughter and I love the ritual of rubbing a nice-smelling rub on her tummy in bed. I make a simple mixture of coconut oil and the Peace & Calming essential oil blend for everyday use and add eucalyptus oil for when she is feeling under the weather.

Why do I not use a store-bought chest rub? Firstly, I do like to know exactly what is in the product that I put on my child’s body. Secondly, I simply enjoy concocting things!


4. Up our sauerkraut intake and make a new batch (the one we are using now is one year old and it’s delicious).

Sauerkraut is our favourite easy dish that requires no preparation apart from sinking a big spoon into a jar of it. Luckily we love it, but I think even if you don’t like the traditional recipe, you can make your own mix that will speak to your taste buds. More carrot? Onions? Fish paste and chillies? (This would be going in the direction of kimchi.) As long as cabbage is the main ingredient, the fermentation will happen without any problems.

Sauerkraut is lacto-fermented white cabbage. The health benefits are a higher vitamin C content than raw cabbage, a super food for potential cancer prevention and, as with any other fermented food, it helps your digestion, keeps your gut healthy and thus supports your immune system.

In Switzerland you can get raw sauerkraut in the supermarkets (but look for unpasteurized) and also at some farmers’ markets. Or try my super simple Ukrainian sauerkraut recipe!

5. Stock up on apple cider vinegar and honey.

I remember my mother bringing home a book about apple cider vinegar – “the cure-all” – when I was about ten. I can’t remember if it cured all back then, as it was not the only thing we experimented with (I had hot honey and aloe vera juice as nose drops for example – still remember the excruciating pain! But thanks to my mother I am very used to natural remedies now). I found this vinegar again, luckily, about 10 years ago. It is indeed one of those home remedies that are supposed to be good for a multitude of ailments. It makes a palatable drink; it takes away my sore throat after a couple of gargles; it makes you forget about a mosquito bite itch, is believed to regulate blood sugar, and much more. I believe that the key is to buy the unpasteurized kind! It should be opaque and have sediment (that’s the “mother,” the best part of it).

According to The Guardian, “honey has been used for centuries to relieve a tickly throat and scientists now believe it may be effective because it has constituents that kill microbes and acts as an antioxidant.” Studies have indeed shown that honey can be more successful against sore throats and coughs than the most common ingredient in cough medicine. I prefer raw honey as it also “provides antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, carbohydrates, and phytonutrients.” The abstract of the original study comparing the effect of honey (which need not be raw to be beneficial) to OTC cough syrup on nocturnal cough in children can be found in PubMed.

Editor’s note: Honey, and raw honey in particular, is not recommended for infants under one year of age, those with compromised immune systems, and those with bee-related allergies, due to risks of botulism, food poisoning and other medical conditions. Please consult your medical professional before consuming raw honey.


6. Make the Master Tonic.

Last year was my first time making this magic concoction of garlic, onion, horseradish, chillies and vinegar – it is supposed to brew for weeks, so start now! The year before last, I had put it off until we all got colds, so I thought there was no point in making this preventative medicine. Last year I almost made the same mistake: I made it, and at the same time my daughter brought a lovely new strain of some vicious virus from school (I’d much prefer she brings only paintings and crafty things, but alas, viruses stick to those, too). So I tried taking it in its immature state days after mixing it and woke up the next morning symptom-free and ready for our holiday in Italy! The remains of that year-old master tonic are still potent, and it’s also time to make more!

7. Build up the essential oil “medicine” cabinet.

I have been using essential oils for years and totally believe in their potency as natural remedies against many ills. The experience with cough rub for feet was probably the most convincing thing that ever happened to me. We will stock up on our favourite blends that support the respiratory system, have antibacterial properties, and help us sleep. We use Young Living oils, as their seed-to-seal guarantee makes us feel safe and confident.

Join me in following these seven steps, and let’s beat those bugs!

Final Mandatory Editor’s Note: This article is for informative purposes but is not to be considered medical advice. If these natural remedies pique your interest, please use them at your own discretion, and consult with a doctor or pharmacist where recommended or if you have further questions.

Text, photos and cartoon by Masha Ellis

Dr. Masha Ellis works as a project manager in the finance industry and dedicates her spare time to art, cooking and her scientifically traditional nutrition blog. She is Australian with Ukrainian roots and now lives near Lake Zurich with her little girl. To find out more, follow her on Facebook or visit her blog, Next Breakfast.

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