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12 tips to treat colds and flu the 'natural' way

Here are 12 tips for 'natural' flu and cold remedies that may help relieve your symptoms.

1. Know when not to treat symptoms

Believe it or not, those annoying symptoms you're experiencing are part of the natural healing process - evidence that the immune system is battling illness. For instance, a fever is your body's way of trying to kill viruses in a hotter-than-normal environment. Also, a fever’s hot environment makes germ-killing proteins in your blood circulate more quickly and effectively. Thus, if you endure a moderate fever for a day or two, you may actually get well faster. Coughing is another productive symptom; it clears your breathing passages of thick mucus that can carry germs to your lungs and the rest of your body. Even a stuffy nose is best treated mildly or not at all. A decongestant restricts blood flow in the blood vessels in your nose and throat. But often you want the increased blood flow because it warms the infected area and helps secretions carry germs out of your body.

2. Blow your nose often (and the right way)

It's important to blow your nose regularly when you have a cold rather than sniffling mucus back into your head. But when you blow hard, pressure can move germ-carrying phlegm back into your ear passages, causing earache. The best way to blow your nose is to press a finger over one nostril while you blow gently into a tissue to clear the other.

3. Treat a stuffy nose with warm salt water

Salt-water rinsing helps break nasal congestion, while also removing virus particles and bacteria from your nose. Here's a popular recipe:

Mix a pinch of salt and a pinch of bicarbonate of soda in about half a pint of warm water. Use a bulb syringe to squirt water into the nose. Hold one nostril closed by applying light finger pressure while squirting the salt mixture into the other nostril. Let it drain. Repeat two to three times, then treat the other nostril.

4. Stay warm and rested

Staying warm and resting when you first come down with a cold or the flu helps your body direct its energy toward the immune battle. This battle taxes the body. So give it a little help by staying off your feet.

5. Gargle

Gargling can moisten a sore throat and bring temporary relief. Try a teaspoon of salt dissolved in warm water, four times daily. To reduce the tickle in your throat, try an astringent gargle, such as tea,which contains tannins, to tighten the membranes. Or use a thick, viscous gargle made with honey, sage and cayenne pepper all of which are slightly antiseptic. Steep fresh sage leaves with the cayenne in 100 ml of just boiled water for 10 minutes. Add about 50 ml of honey; you can also add a pinch of salt and some cider vinegar to help loosen phlegm. Let the mixture cool to room temperature before gargling.

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