This year’s flu is a doozy. It hits hard and lingers, making you not only feel awful, but burying you in a backlog of to-do’s that, thanks to persistent exhaustion and a pesky cough, you just don’t have the energy for. There are, however, several simple things you can do to mitigate your symptoms.
Below are six natural, science-supported flu remedies that can soothe discomfort and help get you back on your feet.
1. To Beat a Virus: Try Zinc and Selenium
When it comes to conquering viruses, two nutrients stand above the crowd: zinc, which plays a role in immune function, and selenium, which may reduce lung cell damage during flu infection. Research in BMC Infectious Diseases suggests that zinc and selenium supplements may even ease COVID symptoms in some patients, though further research is needed.
2. To End Restless Sleep: Try a Heated Eye Mask
Getting a sound night’s sleep can help you heal from the flu. The catch? It’s hard to snooze when you’re stuffy and achy. To the rescue: a hot cloth or pack draped across your eyes. A 2017 study of 38 female participants prone to sleep issues found that wearing a heated eye mask for 10 minutes before bedtime improved feelings of restfulness and being refreshed in the morning.
Also Try: Cutting Down Screen Time
Harvard sleep researchers have noted that light exposure at night suppresses the secretion of melatonin, making it harder for us to sleep. The blue light emitted by phone and computer screens can be particularly disruptive, so try putting your devices away before bed if you’re hoping to sleep more peacefully.
3. To Erase Fatigue: Take a Big Breath
If you’re feeling foggy and tired while under the weather, try this: Give yourself a mini posture tweak by pulling back your shoulders and sitting or standing tall. Then breathe slowly and deeply for one minute, inhaling for a count of six, and exhaling for six. Scientists at New York’s Feinstein Institute for Medical Research found that paced breathing may affect the brain more powerfully than previously thought. Among its key impacts: increased focus.
Also Try: Sniffing Basil
Inhaling the aroma of basil (fresh or dried) may help fight brain fog, suggests a study on mice published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine. Though more research needs to be done on humans, the compounds in basil may prod the nervous system to release focus-sharpening hormones.
4. To Quell Nagging Coughs: Try a Sweet Treat
A virus-triggered cough can drag on for weeks after an illness ends, but you can get speedy relief by savoring a tablespoon of raw honey twice daily. A study in BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine found that honey was “superior to usual care for the improvement of symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections.”
Also Try: Walking to the Mailbox
When you have a cough, you shouldn’t push yourself too hard physically, but doctors say a short walk may help improve symptoms. “If your sinuses are plugged up, walking will stimulate you to take deep breaths and can help open up those passages,” said Dr. Richard Besser, author of Tell Me the Truth, Doctor: Easy-to-Understand Answers to Your Most Confusing and Critical Health Questions, in a CNN interview. Be sure to listen to your body. While a quick walk may help you feel better, if it ends up making you feel worse, stop walking and focus on rest.
5. To Curb Muscle Aches: Try a Cup of Coffee
As your immune system works to overcome a cold or virus, it releases inflammatory peptides that can trigger body-wide aches. You may think tea is the best thing to drink when you’re overcoming the flu, but coffee may also have potential benefits. A review published in the journal Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine found that, while more research is needed, “Caffeine has a potential role for pain modulation,” so you might not want to skip your morning cup of joe.
Also Try: Kicking Back
Relaxing, mindful activities like meditation and yoga may ease chronic pain, posits a study in the Journal of Osteopathic Medicine. According to one of the doctors who ran the study, “mindful yoga and meditation can help improve the structure and function of the body, which supports the process of healing.”
6. To Soothe Sinus Pain: Take a Hot Shower
When you’re sick, your immune system releases virus-fighting cytokines. But these proteins irritate sinuses, which can cause additional discomfort. The Mayo Clinic suggests taking a hot shower and breathing in the warm, moist air. Not only is this relaxing, it also may help moisten your sinus cavities, easing pain and helping with the draining of mucus.
Also Try: An Essential Oil Bath
Adding essential oils to your bath won’t just make it smell good, it also may help to ease lingering sinus pain. Tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory properties that may help sinus pains, while eucalyptus oil has been found to be effective in lessening symptoms of sinusitis in some sufferers. You can also try peppermint oil — menthol is found in some over-the-counter cold remedies, and the cooling sensation it produces may ease the feeling of congested nasal passages.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.