So with a bit of cynicism, my husband brought me back a vial of colloidal silver and I swallowed away. As crazy as it sounds, the stuff actually worked, and I woke up the next morning feeling right as rain. I've suffered from strep throat enough to know the symptoms, and am eternally grateful each time a dose of antibiotics cures me. But if I could do a bit of self-care, and avoid costly co-pays from doctor's visits - a trip to urgent care costs $150 out of pocket - and save myself a lot of time in the process - the last trip to the doc's and pharmacy clocked in at 2+ hours, then why the heck not? While many "natural" remedies are not backed by the USDA and FDA, nor have they gone through rigorous peer-reviewed scientific studies, the thing they do have on their side are countless testimonials from people who saw relief with the treatment of them. Plus, when doing research on this post I couldn't help but be struck by the fact that those who sought out natural, homeopathic care during the 1918 influenza outbreak had a significantly lower death rate than those using traditional medicine. With cold and flu season coming up, I gathered 5 sworn by natural remedies that are at least worth looking into, and may save you a trip to the doctor and get you back on your feet without a trip to the pharmacy.
1. Colloidal Silver
Good For: Strep Throat Symptoms
The last time I had strep in early October, a handful of readers swore by the anti-bacterial properties of colloidal silver. I chose to go the traditional route and take a dose of penicillin, which did in fact cure me, for a short time that is. I've been on a vicious cycle with strep for a few years now, where I come down with it, I take antibiotics, then a short time later I get it again, and a second dose of antibiotics then does the trick and rids me of it for good. This has happened to me time and time again, leading me to reconsider how effective the continual use of antibiotics is in the treatment of strep, for me at least. So I figured this stuff was at least worth a shot, and my gosh it most definitely worked! Turns out colloidal silver is a natural antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antivirus that was widely used in ancient times, all the way up to the 1920's and 1930's, until conventional antibiotics with scientifically proven results became widely available. Still, proponents of the stuff claim that it still has its place in the treatment of bacterial infections and even cuts, scrapes, and burns. While you won't find an endorsement by the FDA on this stuff, and the claims of the stuff being a miracle cure-all may be a bit overstated, I can attest to its effectiveness in treating my ailment and would turn to it again. While reported side effects including turning your skin a bluish gray are rare, as always do your own due diligence in researching if colloidal silver is right for you.
2. Antibacterial Oils like Thieves
Good for: Cold and flu symptoms & boosting your immunity
So another name that kept popping up when I was last sick, was Thieves Oil, a mix of herbal oils to make a supposedly antibacterial essential oil you could ingest, apply topically, or even diffuse. While the actual name of Thieves has been trademarked and is only made by one company, the recipe is an ancient one and is often sold by different names, or DIY recipes are widely available online. This one is from Whole New Mom, who takes the business of essential oils very seriously. Again, you won't find a lot of concrete scientific evidence that this stuff is actually effective, but you will find thousands of testimonials online, claiming its effectiveness in the treatment of cold and flu symptoms. They also claim it helps to boost your immunity. While a vial of the actual Thieves essential oil will run you the same price as an actual flu shot - which by the way, isn't highly effective either - it's just as easy to make your own with quality ingredients at home.
3. Oregano Oil
Good for: Bacterial infections, or whatever you would normally treat with an antibiotic
Oregano oil is claimed to be another broad-spectrum antibiotic that will not create more mutant strains of bacteria, and is for the most part considered safe to use with no side effects. While the claims of being a cure-all to treat a wide array of illnesses from diabetes to asthma seem lofty and unlikely, it could possibly help with the treatment of your average bacterial infection, often resulting from the common cold. A friend who recently had a sore throat swore she could feel it burning away the germies. Again, I'm usually a skeptic and it does seem a bit out there, even for me, but after my positive encounter with colloidal silver, I'm finding myself becoming more and more curious about these natural remedies.
Good for: Boosting the immune system, cold symptoms
For years we have read about the reported benefits of ginseng and its effectiveness in boosting the immune system, and even aiding in the treatment of symptoms caused by the common cold and flu. But does it really work? Again, it's hard to say, but in all my research it seems that there is some evidence, specifically a study by P. Coates, that suggests the use of a specific blend of North American ginseng sold as Cold fX, when taken for several months during flu season, could lower the risk of contracting either cold or flu. Another study looked at Cold fx as a treatment, and found that it reduced the duration and severity of symptoms. While the results are not concrete, "the evidence is promising" says Coates.
Good for: Boosting immunity
I heard about elderberry syrup years ago, when a good friend of mine, a well-documented naturalist and earth momma, started making homemade batches of the elixir as a supplement. She gave it to her whole family during cold and flu season to help boost immunity and at the first signs of illness. She swore by it so much that she started making batches of it for close friends, and while we never got sick the winter we all took the stuff, I chalked it up to good genes, with a bit of good luck mixed in. But perhaps it was the elderberry, as there is some promising evidence that it may help boost production of immune cells and block a virus' ability to spread. While the most noted study reported elderberry shortening flu symptoms by up to 56%, it was a small study. Either way, it couldn't hurt to try it out for a season and see if it helps keep you in the clear, or gives you some relief.
Of course let common sense prevail, and consult a medical practitioner before using any alternative medical practices, supplements, and anything else you might change to improve your health. While most herbal supplements are deemed completely safe, there's always possible side effects and/or risks.
Sources: Discovery Health, Huffington Post, Web MD, Web MD
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