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Natural Remedies for Colds, Flu, Sinusitis, and Infections

Updated on November 29, 2014
rmcrayne profile image

In health care since 1977, but keenly aware of Western medicine's shortcomings, Rose Mary began exploring natural health in the late 1990s.


These are some of my longstanding favorite remedies, as well as a few more recent discoveries.  Make sure to get your doctor’s blessings before partaking, because obviously I’m not a doctor.  Certainly I’m not your doctor! 


Natural Remedies in this article: 


Nose & Sinus Symptoms

          Saline wash

          Hot towel

          Facial steamer

          Herbal teas

Throat Symptoms

          Salt water gargle

          Clay pack

          Slippery elm

Ear Symptoms

          Garlic and olive oil



          Garlic-thyme syrup


          Ginger bath

          Castor pack

          Garlic foot bath

          Milk thistle

          Rosemary or thyme tea

General Treatment and Immune Support

Herbal infection protocol

          Garlic parsley soup

          Hemp smoothie



Nose and Sinus Symptoms



Saline Wash


Oprah and Dr. Oz have popularized the Neti Pot for irrigating the nasal passages.  I’ve included a demonstration video for the Neti Pot.  I found out the hard way the importance of leaning over and turning your head side to side (as shown in the video) to drain the excess water out after you irrigate.  I’m a bit more hard core than Neti pot, and use a bulb syringe. 

Use one pint of warm water and about a rounded teaspoon of salt.  You’re trying to match your body’s salinity.  Use unrefined natural sea salt.  If you can’t get sea salt, use non-iodized salt.  Add 1/8 tsp of baking soda, which helps remove the mucous. 

A saline wash should be soothing for your nasal passages if they are dry.  I do them first thing each day to wash out excess mucous.  When your nasal membranes are swollen, causing congestion, make the water a little more salty.  You get an osmosis effect to draw out excess fluid from your nasal tissues. 




Hot Towel


A hot towel is great for relieving sinus headache.  Take a small bath towel (hand towel is too small) and wet it with warm water.  Squeeze out the excess water.  Microwave the towel for 60 to 90 seconds.  Lie down and place towel over your entire face, including nose and mouth.  Try to breathe in and out through your nose, but use your mouth if you have to.  As the towel begins to cool, you can fold it inside out and have another minute or so of heat. 

When towel cools, return to microwave and repeat if needed.  I usually do one to three times, then repeat throughout the day as needed.  You can usually use one towel for 12 to 15 hours.  It will of course take longer to heat the towel when it is completely cold. 

This treatment never fails to give me at least a slight temporary relief of sinus pressure and pain.  Sometimes when that’s all you can get, you’ll take it, right? 



Facial Steamer

A personal facial steamer can be helpful to relieve nasal congestion causing stuffiness, or to decrease congestion which may cause sinus pressure headaches. Most facial steamers have a little pan or depression where you can pour a few drops of something like eucalyptus oil to some water. It’s somewhat like using Vicks Vapor Rub with a humidifier, although you can just use plain water.

Herbal Teas

I try to keep a Seasonal Herb Tea Sampler by Traditional Medicinals on hand at my house. It has four bags each of four varieties of tea: Gypsy Cold Care, Breathe Easy, Echinacea Plus, and Throat Coat. Just pour boiling water into your cup with teabag, cover with a saucer, and steep for 10 to 12 minutes.

Throat Symptoms

Salt Water Gargle

Who hasn’t tried salt water gargle for a sore or scratchy throat? It’s one of the easiest and cheapest remedies in the world. Just use ½ teaspoon of non-iodized salt, and ¼ teaspoon baking soda, with 8 oz of warm water and gargle for 10 to 30 seconds, repeating several times. Make a saltier solution with 1 teaspoon of salt to draw fluid out of swollen tissues.

Clay Pack

Hydrate swelling calcium bentonite clay with 2.2 parts water to 1 part clay. Hydrate swelling sodium bentonite clay with 3 or 4 parts water to 1 part clay. Hydrate the clay so that it barely holds together without falling apart. Apply to throat to draw out excess fluid and metabolic wastes.

Traditional Medicinals Organic Throat Coat Tea, 16 Tea Bags (Pack of 6)
Traditional Medicinals Organic Throat Coat Tea, 16 Tea Bags (Pack of 6)

I try to make sure I always have Throat Coat tea at my house, and take some with me for speaking engagements.


Slippery Elm

I only became aware of the benefits of slippery elm for sore throat or hoarseness a few years ago through a speech therapist I worked with.

You can get slippery elm tea from Traditional Medicinals as Herba Tussin, or Throat Coat.

You can also get slippery elm lozenges by Thayers.

Garlic Cloves
Garlic Cloves | Source

Ear Symptoms



Garlic & Olive Oil


I recently developed tremendous ear pressure hours before the forecasted all night thunderstorm that never happened.  Do you ever think this is worse?  Your sinuses and joints are already convinced there’ll be a storm, aren’t they?!

Anyway, my ear pressure turned to pain that night, with some same-side throat pain.  I remembered reading an article on garlic by fastfreta.  All that was required was a few drops of warm olive oil into the ear, a clove of garlic large enough not to lodge in the ear canal, and a cotton pad to hold the garlic clove in place.  Before I went to bed, I could already tell my ear pain was starting to subside. 

My naturopath recommended Mullein Garlic ear drops by Herb Pharm.  They contain Calendula flower, St. John’s Wort flower top, Mullein flower, garlic bulb, and organic olive oil.  I bought some and have used it, but I think freta’s remedy may have worked better. 



I first heard of ear candling in 2003, and had it done in a spa clinic. After that my siblings and I did it on each other at home from time to time. You can buy the “candles”, actually waxy paper tubes, from places like Sprouts and Whole Foods. In Texas, the larger HEB grocery stores and HEB Central Market carry them.

I have reflux, so my ear canals are yeasty, and often wet. Candling is a gentle way to remove wax and yeast. Candling can also relieve ear and sinus pressure. Recently I was home for an extended visit and got sick with sinus and allergy symptoms. When this happens, I get fluid behind my ear drums, and sometimes my ears stay “stopped up” for one or even two months! My dad’s wife is a massage therapist, and did the candling for me while I was home. She did two candles each ear. It really pulled the fluid and yeast out. The next two mornings, I awoke with my outer ear canals all crusty. It seems the candling did something to help my ears continue to drain! It was the first time in years that I was “sinus sick”, but didn’t have the lingering stopped up ears. You can bet I’ll do the double candles from now on.




Garlic-thyme syrup is a natural antibiotic, immune system builder, and lung cleanser and tonifier.  Prepare 1 ½ oz of crushed fresh garlic and ½ oz fresh chopped thyme in 1 qt of water.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer until the liquid is reduced to 1 pint.  Take 1 tablespoon of garlic-thyme syrup every 3 hours. 


Ginger | Source




When you’re fighting an infection, not a bad idea to do something to help your body detoxify.  Most strategies that assist the liver in detoxifying will do. 



Ginger Bath


Grate one large ginger root and boil everything:  skin, pulp and juice in a large pan of water for 20 minutes.  Pour through a strainer to remove ginger pulp and skin.  Keep the water for bath, reserving one ounce to drink. 

Place a layer of towels and a blanket on your bed.  Run a hot bath.  Add all of the ginger water except 1 ounce.  Soak for 10 minutes in the bath.  Towel dry immediately.  Drink the one ounce of reserved ginger water.  Wrap in the towels and blanket on your bed, for 30 minutes.  Sleep immediately after. 

Ginger cleans the liver and blood. Grating the ginger it breaks it down.  Boiling it concentrates the potency.  Soaking in the bath allows the ginger to penetrate through the skin into the tissues.  Drinking one ounce of ginger water jump starts the liver.  Wrapping in the towels and blanket induces a sweat, allowing toxins to leave the body. 

I felt that my sinus and throat symptoms were at least slightly better after my ginger baths recently.  I think this is a bonus, and wouldn’t really expect noticeable or immediate relief of symptoms.  Hopefully the bath flushes out toxins and speeds recovery overall.  




Castor Pack


Assisting the liver in detoxifying will help fight an infection.  Use Palma Christi castor oil, available through Edgar Cayce website, or other 100% pure castor oil to make a castor pack.  I use pure castor oil by NOW.  Pour castor oil onto a thin cloth.  The cloth should be saturated but not dripping.  Place cloth over the right side of the upper abdomen for the liver.  Place a plastic bag over the castor pack, such as a plastic grocery bag.  If you prefer, pads with protective barrier are available from Edgar Cayce.  Place heating pad over castor pack.  Heat on high for 60 minutes. 

After your detox, clean skin with witch hazel.  As an alternative, you can mix 2 teaspoons of baking soda in 1 qt of warm water for cleaning your skin. 

The castor oil acts as a cleanser and a nutrient to the organs.  Heat drives the castor oil through the skin to the tissues.  It is gentle with no contraindications. 

You can store castor pack in a plastic Ziplock bag in the refrigerator for re-use.  Reuse castor pack cloth up to 10 times, then discard.  You can find more on this in my Natural Home Remedies hub




Garlic Foot Soak


My naturopath’s office provided instructions for one quart of water, which seemed counter intuitive to soaking two feet.  I modified the instructions for ample water. 

Crush 20 cloves of garlic and let stand about 10 minutes to help the enzymes surface.  Pour 3 quarts of water in a pan.  Add crushed garlic as water begins to boil.  Bring to full boil, then turn off heat.  Allow to cool to tolerance.  Pour garlic water into large container and submerge feet.  Soak for 30 minutes. 

I found it necessary to add two cups of hot water twice, to keep my soak pleasantly warm. 




Other Liver Cleansers


Take Milk Thistle Extract, often sold as Silymarin.  Milk thistle softens and soothes tissues, and enables healing of inflammation.  It has been helpful in the treatment of cirrhosis of the liver, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and hepatitis.  I usually take Silymarin after my endoscopies to help flush out the anesthesia drugs. 

Try fresh rosemary or thyme tea.  Chop leaves and stems finely.  Use 2 tablespoons per cup.  Steep in hot water for 10 minutes.  Drink 1 cup before and after meals.  The tea stimulates bile production, detoxifying and aiding gall bladder and liver harmony. 


General Infection Treatment and Immune Support



Herbal Infection Protocol


The “Infection Protocol” is ideal for anytime you feel like you’re coming down with a cold, flu, or related sickness.  At the slightest signs of sickness, such as a tickle in your throat, stuffy ears, pressure in your ears, chest heaviness, or whatever signs you recognize from your body, take 1 each of the following, every 2 hours, usually for one to two day (assuming you started early): 

500 mg Echinacea, a lymph builder and cleanser.  The lymph system is a cleansing system of the body, and a huge component of the immune system health. 

500 mg Goldenseal, a natural antibiotic

500 mg cayenne, a blood cleanser

500 mg Vitamin C, which acts as an immune system booster, a connective tissue builder, and an antioxidant. 


Garlic Parsley Soup
Garlic Parsley Soup | Source



Garlic Parsley Soup


Peel, separate, and chop one head of garlic, or about 20 cloves.  Gently sauté garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat for about 2 minutes.  Add one quart or liter of chicken or vegetable broth, and one bunch of washed parsley, coarsely chopped.  Lower heat to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.  Strain and drink one cup every hour during acute sickness. 


Hemp Smoothie

Hemp has emerged in popularity as one of the most nutritious and beneficial foods available. Make an immune boosting smoothie.

My naturopath’s recipes are often sketchy (and by sketchy, I mean completely absent on some ingredients) on amounts. Here’s my current best guess on the smoothie: 2 cups of unsweetened vanilla hemp milk, 3 tablespoons hemp hearts, 1 tablespoon golden flaxseed meal, 1 tablespoon Navita goji, 1 teaspoon slippery elm powder, 1 ripe banana, stevia to taste. Combine in blender, then sip throughout the day.

Talk to Your Health Care Provider


This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.  You take full legal responsibility for whatever decisions you make regarding you own health care. 


Submit a Comment

  • rmcrayne profile image

    rmcrayne 6 years ago from San Antonio Texas

    Thanks for the great comment dali.

    Thanks for reading and commenting Farmers Wife.

  • The Farmers Wife profile image

    The Farmers Wife 6 years ago from Turkey

    I love mother nature! Great hub, thank you :-)

  • rmcrayne profile image

    rmcrayne 6 years ago from San Antonio Texas

    Thanks for visiting and commenting LL and fucsia. Come back and let me know if you ever have experience trying any of these.

  • rmcrayne profile image

    rmcrayne 6 years ago from San Antonio Texas

    Thanks for visiting RTalloni. Nope, no hub on hemp yet. I've been using hemp oil for a while, but only recently became aware of hemp hearts.

  • fucsia profile image

    fucsia 6 years ago

    I did not know these remedies, at least not all. They are really interesting!

  • L.L. Woodard profile image

    L.L. Woodard 6 years ago from Oklahoma City

    I thought I was familiar with a fair number of natural remedies, but I've learned much here. Thanks for the information and the videos.

  • RTalloni profile image

    RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

    Thanks much! You've inspired me to read more about the benefits of food product made with hemp now. Do you have a hub on it?