The flu ravages your body, leaving you a shell of a human, stuffed with mucus, plagued with aches and pains. You'd try anything for relief, even snorting cayenne. (Oh, you would? Great, see below.) So drag your oozy body to your kitchen cabinets and get on with the healing. Here's a rundown of flu treatments that don't require a trip to the drugstore. Some have legit science going for them, all have a strong folk-medicine track record. (And those things aside, there's a lot to be said for placebo.)
Plunder your spice rack. The heat you feel from cayenne pepper and chili powder come from capsaicin, a compound that has been shown to clear up your nasal passages, thin mucus, and give you some much-needed nasal relief. Studies also show that capsaicin-based nasal sprays can alleviate sinus pressure, which is why some natural-remedy sites recommend snorting a pinch of cayenne, mixed in water, up your nose. Dubious, but worth a try.
Grab the honey. A study published in Pediatrics used honey to treat 300 children with upper respiratory infections. The kids received 10 grams of the golden syrup half an hour before they went to sleep, and according to reports from parents, they slept better and coughed less than the children taking placebos. Credit goes to the antioxidant and antimicrobial compounds in honey, which can help soothe itchy throats. Follow the study's lead by putting a big spoonful of in your tea. Or do one better by making a honey cough syrup:
Spike your sugar with spice. Blending honey with herbs and spices creates a makeshift cough syrup that you can use in your effort to kick flu's ass. The aforementioned cayenne works, but for a smoother flavor, add ginger, pepper, and thyme. The first two loosen up mucus in the chest, while thyme in particular has antimicrobial properties, says Leslie Solomonian, an associate professor at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. Blend 1.5 teaspoons of each seasoning into 8 tablespoons of honey and half as much warm water.
Make an onion elixir. You don't own a spice rack? Well, that sucks. Do you have an onion? Because if so, you can still whip up a DIY cough syrup: Slice it up, cover it with honey, and then let it sit in a jar overnight. The honey will extract allium and sulfur from the onion, which will soothe your throat and clear stuffed-up nasal passages, says Solomonian. Thin it out with water and and take a spoonf
Hit the garlic. Like onion, garlic is loaded with pungent compounds like allicin that can help ease flu symptoms, thanks to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. One small study found that people taking a garlic supplement for 12 weeks were less likely to get a cold than those taking a placebo. And if they did catch a cold, they recovered faster. So if you can stomach the taste, pop a few raw garlic cloves in your mouth. Or just mince them up and steep them in hot water for an infection-fighting garlic tea. And add some ginger too, while you're at it. It'll help soothe your upset stomach.