Fall and winter brings more than back to school shopping and prepping for the holidays. It’s also the season for germs.

While visiting a doctor to check symptoms or get prescription medicine is important, when it’s just a simple case of the sniffles or a common cold, there are a few very effective remedies to keeping the family comfortable and fight the germs. Stock pile your house with the following for cold and flu season.

  • Honey. Honey is a unique food item with the ability to soothe coughs, bring moisture into dry throats and kill bacteria. It has antioxidant properties due to its flavonoids.It also contains an anti-microbial agent that may help prevent the growth of bacteria. A teaspoon of honey, to children over the age of 1, can lessen coughs without using medicines with dangerous side effects.
  • Tea. Strained vocal cords and sore throats respond well to a hot tea. Both green and black teas contain antioxidants that strengthen the immune system. Adding a teaspoon of honey, instead of sugar, adds in more of a health boost.
  • Salt. A staple in most houses, use salt in warm water to make a gargle. Anytime you feel a scratchy or sore throat coming on, do three salt water gargles a day to help thin mucous and kill germs. Kids can easily do this too.
  • Elderberry. This popular herb has been used for hundreds of years. It is said to strengthen the immune system, decrease inflammation and shorten the duration of colds and flu. While some studies conclude that it is ineffective, others have shown small reductions in severity of cold symptoms. Yet still so many in the “natural living communities” turns to elderberry each winter season and swear by it.
  • Garlic. Whether eaten raw, sauteed lightly, taken in capsule form or added to chicken soup, garlic is a powerhouse of germ-killing, immune boosting power! Add it to as many foods as possible. For the most germ fighting and immunity boosting power, crush the garlic and let it sit for 15 minutes, then eat raw or lightly sauté. Do not overcook.
  • Acidophilus. There are many ways to get the good bacteria of acidophilus – in pill form, chewable wafers or yogurt or Kefir.  Taking acidophilus helps promote good bacteria in our guts, where many germs are fought off. Anytime we take antibiotics, we need to replace the bacteria they kill, so taking acidophilus when on antibiotics is a must.
  • Neti pot or saline nasal sprays. In our house, we have 5 nasal sprays, one for each person and a spare. When colds clog the nose or your nose is itchy, rinsing out the germs can help. For younger kids, it helps thin the mucous so they can blow their noses easier too.
  • Chicken Soups. The classic age old remedy that some people swear by! What makes us all turn to chicken soup? And what makes it such a powerful feel good germ fighter?It could be the steam, the broth, the chicken bones releasing healthy additives as they cook or the vegetables: no one really knows. Perhaps it’s just the warm feeling we get when eating a broth based chicken soup but it’s been known to help clear nasal passages and soothe sore throats. If you add in some garlic, a handful of spinach and extra vegetables, you add extra antioxidants and vitamins to pack a power punch to that head cold!
  • Echinacea. An herb widely used at the onset of illness, Echinacea was first used as a traditional herbal medicine by the Native Americans. Research has shown that it probably has a modest effect in reducing cold symptoms. Echinacea can cause allergic symptoms and though is generally safe in children ages 2 and up, please read all labels and instructions before giving to children.
  • Hot peppers. What? Yes, hot chili peppers, which contain capsaicin, can act as a decongestant and relieve a stuffed up nose. Plus when your taste buds aren’t fully working, the spiciness just plain tastes good.
  • Zinc. Zinc lozenges have mixed studies about effectiveness and are only recommended in children ages 12 or older. However many adults say they work well for when taken at the first symptom of a cold and continued several times a day for 48 hours. Zinc is only supposed to shorten the duration of the cold, or lessen the intensity. Once you have the germs, you have the germs. It’s just a matter of time before you can get rid of the cold and anything to shorten it is always a relief.
  • Vitamin C. Since the 1970’s many people reach for their Vitamin C as soon as they get a cold or flu. Though the evidence is not substantial that Vitamin C offers any relief from a cold, one small study showed that taking Vitamin C regularly could cut risk of catching a cold. The placebo effect cannot be ruled out, though, as many people believe it will help them recover faster.