How to beat winter colds and flu with science and folklore remedies

winter woman


Could you pass Kerz a tissue? She’s got flu. The good news is she ended up sat in bed poring over scientific papers and folk remedies on how to cure it…

The easiest cold cure is avoidance

Yip, whether it’s the cold or a hangover, avoiding what leads to the situation is the best way to save yourself. And ways to avoid the cold? Depends on who is sneezing around you. I have uni buddies who sit at the back of classes to try and not be coughed and sneezed on. If your significant other is caught by the bug, send them to bed. Don’t join them. Who wants to end up sickly?

What causes colds and flu?

Colds and flu are often caused by virii and thus aren’t affected by antibiotics. Those aches and pains in your muscles and joints are the result of the body fighting the flu, not the flu itself. Flu-like symptoms aren’t caused by the flu… go figure.

When your nose is blocked, it’s the blood vessels in your nose that have swollen up, not the gunk in your nose. Actually this one is kinda well-known thanks to adverts, but I’ll tell you it anyways.

I’m ill. How can I cure my cold/flu?

Take a break.

Stop working your arse off and relax a little bit. It’s well-known that stress lowers your immune system and lets you get ill. Take a break from everything. Tell the boss you’re ill, call the school or university and get yourself to your bed, sickling.

If that isn’t possible, at least try and slow down a bit. We can’t always have a day off, but this way you can maybe make it to the end of the day without collapsing in a heap.

Drink lots of non-alcoholic liquids to flush your system.

Water, cranberry juice or pomegranate juice or blueberry juice (they’re great for the kidneys and full of antioxidants), tea, anything with lemons in it.

For an old wife’s tale from my own family, my mum swears by flat Irn Bru. Irn Bru contains caffeine and also quinine – quinine being a pain-reliever and the stuff you find in tonic water, and gin and tonic being the drink of choice in the days of the Raj because they believed it had helpful properties against malaria.

Fluids will flush your system and get rid of all the toxins. You’ll need more fluids than normal to make up for what your body is losing.

If you’re so inclined, take some paracetamol and some over the counter cold and flu remedies. Or if you fancy you can try some of the homemade folk remedies for colds and flu below.

Ol’ Scots cure – hot toddy

  • Boil up some water.
  • Once it’s as cool as you like your tea, add it to a mug with a shot of whiskey at the bottom.
  • Stir it up.
  • Toss in a spoonful of lemon juice.
  • If you have a sweet tooth, sweeten with honey to taste.

Some folk recommend adding spices like cinnamon. If you prefer rum, you can have it instead of whiskey.

Hey, it might not cure the cold – but it might make you feel better in the short-term. Do remember, though, that alcohol drops your core temperature and sometimes you want to keep that temperature up rather than down.

Chicken soup

Often cited as the best cure for a common cold, chicken soup is reasonably easy to make and there are endless recipes online or in books. Or you can purchase a tin for a quick no-fuss method. Hot soup has the added bonus of getting some food and some fluids in you without your having to waste energy on labouring over a lengthy meal.

Home-made oaty healy snack

Now, just you sit back and let Aunt V deal with your aches and pains. Make your own little microwaveable heat pad! Best to make this one before the cold and have it handy for when it kicks in.

How to make your own oat heat pack:

  • Get a rectangle of thick fabric. Around 60 cm long and 30cm width.
  • Now fold it in half and stitch up the sides.
  • Fill with a cup of porridge oats.
  • Stitch up the top and Wah-la! A heat pack.
  • Microwave for a minute or two when you feel rough and carefully apply it to the area.

Warning: Can be very hot! Every few months, microwave your healy bag with a bowl of water to keep the oats soft.

Optional extra: Add some essential oils to soothe your mind (lavender has a clean relaxing smell) or you could use an old odd sock for your material. But clean it first, little mooks.

Always remember: If your symptoms get any worse, visit your GP. And before they close for Christmas! Take note of their opening and closing times as well as any days they’re not open. In a worst case scenario, if your cold/flu turns completely nasty and you’re majorly worried about your health, contact either NHS 24 (UK only) or if you prefer (and are willing to wait with all the turkey and booze related accidents) go to your local hospital.

Right, so you’ve had your toddy, drank some soup and have a heat pack on achy joints – and you’re all set up in bed. What now? Here’s a list of a few things you could try to keep yourself busy.

Dealing with cold/flu doldrums

Watch trashy day time TV.

Think about all the chores you’ll have to do once you get out of bed.

Plot a method of determining who gave you the flu so you can wreak your vengeance. Refer to them as your mortal enemy, even if you love them, and picture battling them in interesting and exotic locations every week.

If you can face it, have a bath – one that’s hotter than your normal bath. Don’t have a shower. A hot bath will raise your core temperature, soothe aches and pains and help you to sweat some of those toxins out (remember to drink a glass of water or two after the bath).

How about sleeping off the worst of it?

There. Hope you’re all feeling better. I’m off to enjoy a night on the tow…ah. Choo.