Looking for natural flu remedies? Seasonal flu may be taking a backseat to the H1N1 virus with health officials these days, but it's still a concern for you and your family. The flu causes symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, fever, chills, body aches and pains, loss of appetite, and pneumonia.

As always, prevention is better than cure. In July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a vaccine to prevent flu during the 2009-2010 season. The CDC advises that people six months and older get the vaccine. But, the flu vaccine isn't the only way to reduce your risk or recover quicker. Add some of these best natural flu remedies to your health and wellness routine this season:


  • Turn on a humidifier. Research shows that flu viruses flourish in the cold, dry air of winter, and spread more easily from person to person under these conditions. Use an energy-efficient humidifier at home or work to prevent these pesky micro-organisms from spreading.

  • Eat immune-boosting foods. These natural flu remedies come straight from your kitchen. Deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals such as B6 and B12 vitamins, folic acid and iron can weaken your immune system. Add more fruits, vegetables and legumes, seeds, and nuts to your diet. Also, hot tea contains powerful antioxidants such as theanine, which can significantly boost your immune system.

  • Exercise more. According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, exercise can decrease the number of days you suffer from a flu or cold by 50 percent. Exercising helps white blood-cells that fight diseases move from organs into the bloodstream.

  • Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for 15 to 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitizing gel. Keep unwashed hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth.

  • Keep your distance. Coughs and sneezes are the primary ways flu viruses spread from person to person. Stay away from people who exhibit flu symptoms.

  • Take sick leave. Staying home when you're ill doesn't just protect your coworkers, it also protects you. Bed rest and less stress strengthen your immune system.

  • Model good hygiene for your child. Viruses and bacteria thrive in daycares and schools increasing the odds that your child will bring the flu home to you. Teach your children the good hygiene tips mentioned above. If there's an outbreak of flu in your children's school, keep them home.


  • Take astragalus: This herb helps prevent and treat respiratory infections, and is used along with other herbs in traditional Chinese medicine to strengthen the immune system. Adults and children (who do not have fever) can take astragalus. It is generally safe, but could possibly interact with other herbs and medications such as immune system-suppressing drugs or corticosteroids.

  • Take goldenseal: This herb is often combined with echinacea and astragalus in natural flu remedies. Studies show that both astragalus and goldenseal can regulate certain immune system responses. Goldenseal is considered safe for the average adult - but infants, young children, pregnant, and breastfeeding women should not use it. Vomiting and nausea are rare side effects.

  • Try elderberry: This anti-oxidant powerhouse may stimulate the immune system, fight viruses, and has anti-inflammatory powers. It's been used to treat sinus infections, colds, and the flu. In one study, participants who took elderberry extract recovered from flu symptoms four days earlier than those who didn't take it. Take this herb when you start to feel sick. Rare side effects include mild indigestion and allergic reactions.

Before using herbs as natural flu remedies, seek information from a health professional such as a naturopath. Some herbs can interact with other herbs or medications, or make a pre-existing condition worse.

Sources: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the University of Maryland Medical Center, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services