Avoid the Pharmacy: Fight the Flu with Remedies from the Kitchen

(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you'll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)

This year’s flu promises to be one of the  worst on record.  The CDC estimates that over 200,000 flu victims will be hospitalized.  The aggressive strain of H3N2v was not included in this year’s vaccine, so even if you got jabbed (and believe that the flu shot is effective) you’d still be at risk for this nasty virus. According to the CDC, H3N2v is mutation of the swine flu.

Many people are lining up in the germ-infested pharmacy to purchase over-the-counter and prescription flu remedies.  These medications may not be the best option –  in fact, many of them are downright harmful.

Tamiflu (oseltamivir phosphate)

The newest darling of the pharmaceutical industry is Tamiflu.  Tamiflu is advertised as something to shorten the term and severity of the illness.  “Tamiflu is an FDA-approved prescription flu medicine that attacks the flu at its source. Tamiflu doesn’t just treat the symptoms of flu that make you feel bad. Tamiflu fights the flu virus itself.”  According to their website:

The most common side effects of Tamiflu are mild to moderate nausea and vomiting.

People with the flu, particularly children and adolescents, may be at increased risk for seizures, confusion, or abnormal behavior when they first get sick. These events may occur when the flu is not treated or right after starting Tamiflu. These events are uncommon but may lead to accidental injury. Contact a healthcare professional right away if you notice any unusual behavior.

This links to a PDF of prescribing information for doctors, which tells a slightly more alarming story:

 Serious skin/hypersensitivity reactions such as Stevens-Johnson
Syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis and erythema multiforme:
Discontinue TAMIFLU and initiate appropriate treatment if allergic-like
reactions occur or are suspected. (5.1)
 Neuropsychiatric events: Patients with influenza, including those receiving
TAMIFLU, particularly pediatric patients, may be at an increased risk of
confusion or abnormal behavior early in their illness. Monitor for signs of
abnormal behavior. (5.2)

Leading natural health website Mercola.com claims that the research on Tamiflu is flawed.  According to an article by Dr. Mercola, the limited benefits do not outweigh the risks, particularly for children:

Back in 2008, the FDA started reviewing reports of abnormal behavior and disturbing brain effects in more than 1,800 children who had taken Tamiflu. The symptoms included convulsions, delirium and delusions. In Japan, five deaths were reported in children under 16 as a result of such neurological or psychiatric problems. Seven adult deaths have also been attributed to Tamiflu, due to its neuropsychiatric effect.

According to a 2009 study, more than half of children taking Tamiflu experience side effects such as nausea and nightmares. Other more rare and bizarre side effects have also been reported, such as the case of a 19-year old British girl who developed toxic epidermal necrolysis and blindness after taking Tamiflu last year.

 So, for an estimated 1.3 days less of sick-time, you run the risk of neuropsychiatric side effects, delusions, convulsions, nausea, vomiting and life-threatening skin allergies.  Plus, it costs $115-$200 for a course of the drug.

OTC Cold Medicine

Since the symptoms of the flu are similar to those of a cold (runny nose, congestion, fever) many people are turning to over-the-counter cold remedies to treat those symptoms.  Sometimes the side effects can be worse than the symptoms you’re trying to treat.

Antihistamines are supposed to stop the watering eyes, runny noses and scratchy throats but result in severe drowsiness for most people.  Other common side effects are dizziness, headaches, dry mouth, dry eyes, and fatigue.

Decongestants (like pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine) allege to reduce sinus congestion, but can also dangerously increase heart rates and blood pressure in some people.  Other side effects are Restlessness, insomnia, tremors, and anxiety.

Phenylpropanolamine (PPA), another common ingredient in cold and flu medicines, can increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke, especially in women ages 19-45.

For people who take  monoamine oxidase inhibitors or SSRI antidepressants, the above medication types can cause lethal interactions.

OTC Cough Medicine

Dextromethorphan, the most common active ingredient in over-the-counter cough medicine, can be deadly if the recommended dosage is exceeded.  As well, it is one of the most abused OTCs for those seeking a quick “high”.  Common side effects of dextramethorphan are drowsiness, nausea, confusion, and dizziness.  Expectorants and suppressants can cause either constipation or diarhea.

Medicated Nasal Sprays

Over the counter medicated nasal sprays work quickly to open the nasal passages, but if they are used for more than 3-5 days in a row, they can result in more congestion than you had in the first place due to the “rebound effect” or rhinitis medicamentosa.  When this occurs, the swelling of the nasal passages can become permanent, requiring surgical intervention.

 The Solutions Are As Close as Your Kitchen

So, what’s a sniffling, coughing, congested flu-sufferer to do?  Forget heading to the petri dish that is your local pharmacy – go to the kitchen – there are lots of things you already have that help reduce the misery to a tolerable level without the risk of nasty side effects!

Note: I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV.  These home remedies are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for medical advice from a professional. Some natural remedies can interact with prescription medications and can exacerbate certain pre-existing conditions. “Natural” does not mean bereft of side effects and interactions. Always consult with a trusted practitioner before using home remedies.


Specifically, you want to stock up on raw honey, rather than pasteurized.  When honey is heated during the pasteurization  process many of its health benefits are either lost or diminished.  If you don’t have raw honey, use what you have, but when shopping, look specifically for unheated honey.

According to some studies, honey is antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral, which makes it applicable before the source of the illness is known.

Instead of reaching for the cough syrup, some people try a teaspoon of honey sprinkled with cinnamon before bedtime to soothe a cough or sore, inflamed throats.

Hot Peppers

Not everyone can tolerate spicy food, particularly when they are sick. However if you can, there is no betteer way to clear your sinuses.  Why?

Capsaicin is the natural compound that is found in hot peppers – it’s what gives them their heat.  The capsaicin can help thin mucus, causing your nose to run, and thus clearing your nasal passages.  You can get a similar effect from freshly cut onions.

A spicy bowl of chili or a fiery Asian stir-fry could be just what the doctor ordered for sinus relief.



Green Tea

Green Tea is the perfect beverage for someone suffering from the flu. A cup of green tea that has been steeped for 3-5 minutes is loaded with immunity-boosting antioxidants.  This helps your cells to fight off the germs which are making you sick.

Any hot beverage will help warm up someone suffering from chills and you can sweeten it with honey (mentioned above) to make the drink even more powerful. As well, it’s important to keep hydrated when you have the flu and tea (of any type) will provide you with needed fluids.

Garlic and Onions

Both garlic and onions contain the compound allicin, a powerful flu fighter.  Allicin has strong anti-microbial characteristics.  It is most likely the high content of garlic and onions in homemade chicken soup that gives it the reputation of a “bowl of penicillin”.  In the 18th century in France, peasants drank wine with crushed garlic in it to ward off the Black Plague.

Similarly to the hot peppers, mentioned above, a fragrant soup loaded with these two ingredients can help to clear nasal passages making it easier to breathe.


Ginger tea may help relieve flu symptoms such as headache, sore throat, congestions and chills.  Make the tea by steeping 2 tbsp of fresh ginger in a cup of hot water.  It’s not recommended to exceed 4 grams of ginger per day – components in the herb can cause heartburn, diarrhea, and irritation of the mouth if taken in excess.


A gargle made from salt water can relieve a sore throat.  As well, a study confirms that it can stop a budding infection in its tracks.  Mix I tablespoon of salt with a cup of water and gargle.

Elderberry Syrup

Finally, I want to make one recommendation that isn’t a standard addition to most kitchens.  If you purchase one thing to fight off the flu, make it elderberry syrup or extract. Medicinal use of the elderberry goes all the way back to Hippocrates.  Around the globe, folk medicine is full of recipes containing elderberries.

Recent research has seen some very significant results with the use of elderberry extract when treating the flu.  For anyone concerned about the possibility of a serious pandemic in the future, elderberry is a vital addition to your home pharmacy.

Elderberry may also help reduce the symptoms of cold and flu and shorten the duration of the flu by as much as three days, according to UMMC. The product used in one study was Sambucol, a combination of elderberries and vitamin C, so it wasn’t clear if it was the elderberry alone, or the combination, that had the effect. In a study released by Retroscreen Virology in 2006, a British medical institute associated with Queen Mary College at the University of London, researchers determined that Sambucol was at least 99 percent effective against the avian flu virus H5N1 and significantly neutralized the ability of the virus to infect cells in culture.


Elderberry syrup or extract can be mixed with hot water to make a tea.  It can also be added to sparkling water and served cold for a refreshing drink that will sooth a scratchy throat.

Recipe: Homemade Cough Syrup

I always keep a jar of this homemade cough syrup in my refrigerator.  It tastes so good that I don’t have to ask my kids twice to take it.  You can also stir a few tablespoons of the syrup into hot water for a homemade “Neo-Citran”-style hot drink without all the nasty chemicals.


  • 2 lemons, scrubbed and thinly sliced
  • 6 tbsp of grated ginger root
  • Honey as needed
  1. In a glass jar, layer the lemon slices and grated ginger until the jar is full.
  2. Pour honey into the jar, using the blade of a kitchen knife to move the lemon and ginger around and make room for it.
  3. Store it in the fridge for at least 2 weeks before using it.  Then, take 1-2 tsp 3 times per day, as needed, for coughs or sore throats.


Today, I avoid the pharmaceutical solutions because I choose not to use them.  One day, we could be in a situation where relief is no longer available a few minutes away at our local pharmacies or department store.  It’s important to learn now how to relieve unpleasant symptoms using simple home methods.  This will help you to select the most useful items for your stockpile while allowing you to become more comfortable with using natural solutions.

Do you have some home cold and flu remedies from the kitchen that you have used successfully?  Please share them in the comments!

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Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • You may also want to try a cut up raw onion left out in the bedroom at night to stop coughing (I know it sounds weird, but it works). Also, cut up onion with honey makes a cough syrup that also works well.

  • Dr. Edward Shook recommends in his book, Elementary Treatise in Herbology, this recipe:
    At the first symptoms of a cold mix equal parts of elderflowers and peppermint into a tea.
    Drink this as strong and as hot as your body allows. Wrap up, go to bed, and sweat. Stay out of breezes to avoid the chills. He says that if every person treated their symptoms at first notice with this, that they will not ever get the flu. And if one can avoid that, then countless lives can be saved. It has worked for me for years. If one can grow the Black Elderberry bush in ones yard, one should. I use the flowers for tea and the berries for wine and jam and syrups. It is also said that every part of the Elder Bush can be used for every ill of man. We stripped bark one winter when our flowers ran low and helped a woman through pneumonia. It will break a fever. Hans Christian Anderson wrote a little tale about The Elder Bush Mother.

    • Halfkin ~

      Great to see you here! Thank you for stopping by. That peppermint/elderberry remedy sounds great – I have everything on hand for that. One question – was the bark used for the tea when the neighbor had pneumonia?


      • Yes we used the bark, we just simmered it a bit. We snipped off a little branch and stripped it.
        Glad to be here Daisy by the way, as you may remember I can not access the other site I used to comment on, but seeing how that is going these days, it may be a good thing. I also tried to comment on your Terroism versus Patriot article at home from the sheeple web site – still no go.
        Only here at work when I sneek a moment. I tink that it might be good for me to not have access to spew certain things from home after I have had a glass or more of wine! LOL
        By the way, how did that damper stove thing turn out?
        And one more thing, I REALLY appreciate your organic preparedness! I have not purchased ANY pre packaged freeze dried meals as I keep telling people – Just say No to GMO!
        Even the brands that say they have no GMO or MSG, are not correct. MSG by any other name is still MSG as you know.And those meals? Is that what you call a meal? 3/4 to 1 cup of low calarie high density salt? No thanks.
        Keep up the good work, I will be back.

  • Those who alkalinized with baking soda rarely contracted the flu in 1918 and those that alkalinized early had milder flu symptoms. Read more about it at mercola.com. For short term, I take half teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 8 oz. water. Works wonders for stomach upset also. Did you know that Alka-Seltzer is bicarbonate of Soda, aspirin and citric acid?

    • Mary, interesting re Alka Seltzer. I’ve never used it … but I bet baking soda alone is better. Google “aspirin and 1918 flu epidemic” … it seems that those who used the “new invention” of aspirin died, those that used traditional recipes didn’t. At the time, they didn’t know the right dose, and doctors were having patients use at least double the current dose of aspirin, and side effects of aspirin overdose are significant, and can lead to death, especially if you also have the flu.

    • For upset stomach, my mom made us home-made alkazelter with 1 cup of water, 2 teaspoons baking soda and the juice of half lemon. You must drink it quickly before it finishes bublling. You will immediately feel the stomach acid reduced and the burping starts.

  • Don’t forget Colliodal Silver, at first indications of cough, cold or flu I gargle a little CS and swallow down… Not had cold or flu in 20+ years!

  • As for flu symptoms, let’s not forget vitamin C. The Vitamin C Foundation sells products not made in China; considering China’s sometime lax product inspection, I chose non-China C. Also, H2O2 for gargling is helpful.

    • Be careful about C made in US though ..because as I learned just this year, MOST vitamin C products are made with CORN. And so, in a way, as scary as China-sourced products are (and I agree) it is worse if they are US made, since that means GMO vitamin C. I even resorted to calling manufacturers directly … those that wouldn’t tell me if it was or wasn’t corn Vitamin C, “goodbye.”

  • My kids already got the flu once this year and I got a cold at the same time. I made a honey cough syrup that I found on ehow.com and I feel that it really worked well. You put 1 cup of honey (I used local honey, but I am not sure if it was raw.) in a glass container and mix in 3 Tbsp of lemon juice (I used fresh squeezed). Stir to mix, then slowly add 1/4 warm water while still stirring, stir until mixed. I took 2 teaspoons for a cough, a few times a day. My kids liked it and I loved it. It lasted us almost a week.

  • Great remedies, thanks for listing. I do have general question about article though. I just happened to be talking to someone yesterday that got the flu shot, then got the flu later on and went to see his doctor who told him that the the shot given this year does include the virus that is circulating now. So when I read your article which states that the vaccine does not include the virus H3N2v which is circulating now, my first thought was that his doctor probably either lied, or didn’t fully explain. But then I searched the CDC and WHO sites and from what I could tell, they do actually state that the vaccine this year covers all flu viruses that are in circulation. Also, the CDC site shows data to data from lab results which show that there are two types of Inflenza A viruses and 1 Influenza B virus that are circulating right now, not just the H3N2.
    So, could someone explain the comment in this article, or point me to where I can find the facts? Thanks

    • Hi, Corey.

      It’s my understanding that the “bad” virus circulating this year is H3N2v.


      During a CDC press conference the following was stated:

      “Predominant A(H3N2) Virus Associated With More Severe Flu Seasons

      Of the influenza viruses in circulation as of January 5, the most common is A(H3N2), which accounts for 42.2% of all influenza-positive respiratory specimens. Influenza seasons tend to be more severe when this virus predominates, according to the CDC. Another 36.7% of specimens test out as influenza A of unknown subtype, unknown because subtyping was not performed. The next most prevalent culprit is some subtype of the influenza B virus at 20.2%.”

      According to Flu.gov

      “The 2012-2013 flu vaccine will not protect against the H3N2v flu.”

      So I think the confusion is whether the flu is the H3N2 or the H3N2v – the one to be especially worried about is H3N2v and a flu shot will not protect you from it. (I have to say that I don’t believe a flu shot offers much, if any, protection against the flu. I absolutely do not endorse vaccinations of an sort.)

      I don’t know if this provides you with any more information or simply confuses the issue. 🙂 Hopefully it helps.


      • Thanks Daisy, yes, that was helpful. There is definately some confusion around this topic, but this certainly helps. I don’t believe the shot offers any protection either. It is good to have some info to pass on to those that still do. Thanks again!

  • Update on Baking Soda treatment. My husband came down with the flu wed. evening. Very sick, aches, chills, high fever, etc. Immediately started the baking soda protocol. By sat. morning his fever broke and he was well on his way to recovery. He still has a lingering cough, but I haven’t seen anyone recover this quickly.

  • Hi Daisy!

    I read a lot at the SHTF site, have posted a couple of times.

    Even though I live in CT now, I grew up on a farm in KY.

    When my dad used to feel a cold coming on…he would slice an onion into a bowl and leave it sitting overnight. The next morning, he would take the juice from the onion, mix a little lemon juice and a little honey with it, and he would take 2t three times a day. He always said it was the best cough syrup he ever had. We never had over the counter stuff in our house.

  • Other good spicy foods for the flu are curry of any kind with extra Turmeric, Pineapple for joint and bone pain, an easy tip is to roast some mince garlic in butter (add curry powder if desired) and then pour in some Campbell’s Chicken Noodle, enjoy.

    • I enjoy your receipe Marianne Manley
      I have a receipe for a home made Antibiotic using
      tumeric garlic ginger and cayenne pepper. POW!! good stuff

  • A friend gave me a Garlic Tonic recipie: 2-3 Lemons washed and chopped up, skins,seeds and all, a whole hand full of Garlic cloves, peeled, a chunk of ginger (at least 1″ x1″) or more sliced, enough hot water to blend at first, until smooth, 1/2 -1 cup raw honey. Fill blender to top with hot water. Blend. Store in glass jar in refridgerator. Use as needed or desired about a tablespoon at a time. Keeps indefinitely. I also use Vit D3 about 5000 IU a day, normally, 4-6x that if I feel a bug coming.

  • Grapefruit Seed Extract. daily use will prevent viral colds and flu, and if you do come down with a virus it can wipe it out overnight if you can stand the degree of dosage needed. it is a miracle product that i have been using since jan 2002.

    • I know that you specifically sat Grapefruit Seed Extract, but I cannot have grapefruit in any form because of certain meds that I take( and yes, I know that meds are a bad word on this site). So one should make sure that there are no interactions between grapefruit and any meds that one takes
      Curtis Taylor

      • Meds aren’t a bad word. 🙂 Sometimes people require medication and there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes there are other (and better) options and those should always be looked at.

        Thanks for the reminder about the grapefruit seed!

  • What is the baking soda protocol? Based on the comment above I took baking soda with water one time when I was sick with the flu and got immediate relief. I would like to know more about it and how often can you take it.

  • What does it mean to have white spots on finger nails. Does it mean I am lacking some kind of vitamin. I would like very much to know.

  • Type A flu virus is constantly changing and is generally responsible for the large flu epidemics. The influenza A2 virus (and other variants of influenza) is spread by people who are already infected. The most common flu hot spots are those surfaces that an infected person has touched and rooms where he has been recently, especially areas where he has been sneezing.”^:.

    Remember to look into this useful web portal

  • There are 13 clinical trials (January, 2012) assessing potential effects of grape seed extracts on human diseases, such as breast cancer, blood estrogen levels in postmenopausal women, and coronary artery disease.:;….

    Our blog site

  • Olive leaf is very very good for everything you can buy it on the web in capsules or extract.. but for something that tastes good I found this recipe on herb mentor website works great and tastes very good.
    3 cups cold water
    ¾ cup organic elderberries
    ¼ cup organic schisandra berries
    ¼ cup organic eleuthero root
    ¼ cup organic echinacea root
    1 organic cinnamon stick
    ¾ to 1 cup raw local honey
    1.5 ounces brandy (optional)
    1 tsp fresh grated ginger root (optional)
    Combine herbs with cold water in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow herbs to simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat and mash the berries in the liquid mixture. Strain the herbs through cheesecloth and squeeze out the juice. Measure the liquid and add an equal amount of honey. Gently heat the honey and juice for a few minutes until well combined. Do not boil! Stir in brandy and bottle in sterilized glass. Label and keep refrigerated for up to 6 months.
    – See more at: http://mountainroseblog.com/berry-rooty-syrup/#sthash.Zqv02hWv.dpuf

  • Oregano oil capsules taken three times a day at the first sign of cold, flu etc, will get you back to normal asap. Take the P73 gel caps for best results.Always works. I have no spleen and stopped getting the flu shot years ago, and with the oregano, I have not had the flu. I also have sarcoidosis, and my doctor wants me to take the shot every year, but so far, I have not, and I have been just fine. Cut out sugars and eat healthily and wash those hands constantly. Avoid touching your nose and mouth, and stay warm and well nourished.

  • Should this cough syrup be strained after 2 week period? It still has a week to go, but seems like it’ll be too chunky when “done”.

  • Drinking homemade milk kefir every day will also improve your microbiome and your immune system, minimizing your chances of getting the flu. I imagine it may decrease its duration as well.

    Also said to be good is chlorine dioxide drops, though I have not tried this out myself.

  • Dear Daisy,

    for the Flu, I use black earl grey tea, honey and a hint of Sambuca, a spirit made with the Elder tree here in Northern Italy.

    Earl grey Tea is a black leaves tea that protects the heart, and is made with bergamot oil, which is antiseptic.

    Honey is a natural antibiotic, as you know.

    And Elder liquor of spirit, with his 40 degrees, is an antibacterical.

    Here in Northern Italy, the Elder is sacred to Germanic Goddess Holla and to the Longobards, from which the modern Lombards come, and it is used in a thousands of recipes from the Middle Age.

    Curiously, my autie, now 65, in March was ill. Since she passed through radiotherapy and chemotherapy two years ago, now she tries to avoid any chemical compost, and she uses a lot of natural recipes. She phoned me she felt ill, and I gave her my little remedy above.

    We were already in the lockdown here in Lombardy, due to Coronavirus, and she wasn’t willing to call the hospital. She tried the remedy I have written above for 10 days.

    Then, she was fine. After a week, she went to make blood analysis for the follow up due to her past tumoral treatments.

    They found the Covid-19 antibodies in her blood.

    She is 65, she had to undergo to breast surgery for tumor, make a chemo and a radio, and she healed by herself from Coronavirus (which she thought to be a simple seasonal Flu ), using the simple method I have written above.

    This is not meant to say this can work on everyone, but on her, it worked. Just to say.

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