Natural Remedies for Cold and Flu

by Laura Gleason

Cold season is here, and the Bloomingfoods wellness aisles are bustling.

Interest in cold and flu remedies has picked up since the weather got cold, according to Mark Jennings, wellness manager at Bloomingfoods East. “Customers are looking for natural alternative remedies to over-the-counter drugs,” he said.

ImageElderberry products like Sambucol Black Elderberry Immune System Support have been greatly in demand so far. Julie Harries, wellness manager at the Near West Side takes New Chapter Immunity Take Care elderberry lozenges throughout flu season as a preventive measure. Jennings often makes himself an elderberry tea at home.

Homeopathic flu remedies like Oscillococcinum also have their following. "I’ve worked in natural food stores for 12 years. This product is definitely one of the top sellers during cold and flu season,” Jennings said. Products like Oscillococcinum are meant to be taken at the first signs of illness.

Harries believes natural remedies address the source of a cold, in comparison with certain generic cold and flu drugs designed to provide temporary relief from symptoms. Jennings agreed, adding that most natural remedies don’t have the unpleasant side effects associated with pharmaceutical drugs.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with wanting some instant relief. When Renee Philips, a junior at IU, got a cold, she stocked up on Ricola Herb Throat Drops at Bloomingfoods Kirkwood, where she’s a cashier. “When I got sick I bought all my cough drops here because they taste so good,” said Philips, who favors the Cherry Honey flavor. Customers have also been stocking up on products like Emergen-C vitamin drink packets and vitamin D supplements. Co-op member Laura Ruchti, for instance, fortifies herself with honey, Vitamin C, echinacea and Rainbow Light Women’s One Multivitamin.

Merrie Sloan, Near West Side front end floor manager, also likes echinacea. “We try to do echinacea in tea form. There’s not a lot of medicines I can get my kids to take,” she said.

Sloan also puts eucalyptus essential oil in a steam vaporizer in her children's rooms. “The eucalyptus is a really good decongestant, and in the winter when the air is so dry, it’s very hydrating,” she said.

And don't forget the original hydrator, drinking water. “I am a firm believer in massive amounts of water in the wintertime; it flushes out your system,” Harries said.

Jason Hill, store manager at the Near West Side, vouches for the power of saline water to relieve seasonal allergies. Hill uses a Neti pot, a nasal irrigation device, to clear up his congestion from the dust and mold of the great indoors. “It helps me at night a lot, when I start to get stuffy,” he said. Harries said that Neti pots have been so popular this winter that she’s started keeping a back stock for the first time ever.

 Wondering about the merits of a certain product? There’s a wealth of information available through Aisle7, a database accessible through Jennings at Bloomingfoods East. Aisle7, formerly known as Healthnotes, provides information about herbs, supplements, and health conditions. When Jennings or one of his customers has a question, he logs on and gets the opinions of the doctors and nutritionists who staff the database.

And finally, if you’re sick, take it easy. Take a tip from Kelly Hayford, nutritionist and author of If It’s Not Food, Don’t Eat It. “Cancel all appointments, turn off your phone and sleep and rest as much as possible,” writes Hayford, whose book is available at the Near West Side. 

 Laura Gleason works at the NWS location.