Honey is incredibly useful in home remedies for cold and flu season. It’s soothing, nutritious, has healing properties, and, of course, is sweet.
In late fall you can find me preparing our winter supply of cough syrups, oxymels, fermented garlic, and other home remedies for cold and flu season. I use a lot of honey on that day but it’s completely worth it.
When making remedies it’s important to use raw honey. Raw honey is honey that is not heated or pasteurized. Heating honey destroys the enzymes and nutrients which leaves you with nothing more than just a sweetener. If you don’t keep your own bees, call your local county extension office to get the name of a local beekeeper so you can purchase raw honey.
*Do not give honey to children under one year old because their digestive system isn’t fully developed. There is a very rare risk of honey containing a strain of botulism that those older than one can fight off but babies cannot. Even though it’s rare, it’s not worth the risk.
Home Remedies for Cold and Flu Season
One of our favorite ways to soothe a sore throat and calm a cough is to take a spoonful of honey and slowly eat it. It’s quick, convenient, and it works. But sometimes, we need more than plain honey.
If you can make tea, you can make homemade cough syrup. There are a variety of herbs that can be used in cough syrup, I usually use sage or thyme. To make the cough syrup, simmer two cups of distilled water with half an ounce of dried thyme leaves or one ounce of fresh thyme leaves added to it. Simmer until it’s reduced by half. Slice an organic lemon and put it in a wide mouth pint mason jar – peel, seeds, and all. Once the liquid is reduced, strain out the thyme and pour the liquid into the jar with the lemon. Fill the remainder of the jar with honey. Put the lid on and give it shake. Label and date the jar.
The syrup can be used immediately but will have more flavor and healing properties after a few days once the lemons have macerated. This can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three months or the freezer for a year. Take a teaspoon of syrup as needed to calm a cough.
*Tap water can be used but the syrup will not last as long as when you use distilled water.
Oxymels aren’t super common today but they’ve been around since ancient times. Oxymels are made by combining honey, apple cider vinegar, and herbs. Oxymels usually only have one or two herbs in them, but the fire cider recipe has many herbs added.
The idea behind oxymels is that the honey and apple cider vinegar will mask the strong flavors of the herbs and make them more palatable. Herbs that do well in an oxymel are strong herbs that you wouldn’t really want to drink as tea; such as sage, thyme, horseradish, garlic, rosemary, basil, and mullein.
To make an oxymel, fill a quart size mason with one ounce of dried herbs, one cup of honey, and two cups of apple cider vinegar. Put the lid on and give it a shake. Plastic lids work best for this recipe as the acid in the vinegar can cause metal lids to rust. Label and date the jar. Let the oxymel sit for two weeks, occasionally shaking it.
After two weeks, strain the herbs out. Your oxymel is now ready to use. An oxymel is shelf stable as the honey and vinegar are both preservatives but it can also be stored in the refrigerator.
My favorite way to use oxymel is to add a tablespoon to my morning warm lemon water.
I also like to make a small jar of fermented garlic every year. When someone is really sick, I’ll crush up a clove of garlic and add the garlic plus some of the honey to a cup of hot lemon water to sip on. It also makes a really great spread for crackers or bread.
To make fermented garlic, peel two heads of garlic and put them in a small mason jar. Pour honey over them and put a loose lid on them. Set them on your counter for a few days. You should notice some bubbles and that the honey is thinner. Be sure to put a saucer under the jar since the honey might spill over a bit in the fermenting process.
After about four days, move the fermented garlic to the refrigerator to slow the fermentation process down. It will be good for about a year in the refrigerator. Don’t forget to label and date the jar.
Honey Health Benefits
There are many viewpoints in the is honey better than sugar debate. From an environmental viewpoint, I would emphatically say “Yes, honey is better than sugar.”
However, from a nutritional viewpoint, the research suggests that our bodies handle all forms of sugar the same way, and one of those ways is that sugar lowers our immune response.
There are those who would say to stay away from all forms of sugar when you’re sick since you don’t want anything lowering your immune response – this would include fruit. However, I disagree.
During a sickness, I need to weigh the risk of having our immune response lowered against the benefit of getting the herbs into our bodies. The reality is, without some form of sweetener, no one in my family is going to drink thyme tea, take lemon sage water, or eat straight garlic cloves. The only way they will take these things is if there is something to make them palatable.
And honey is what we chose to use unless it’s for a child under one year old and then we use maple syrup as the sweetener.
Raw honey also has many enzymes and nutrients that sugar just doesn’t have. Of course, you would have to eat an unhealthy amount of honey to get full the full benefits of those nutrients but when given a choice between using something that has nutrients and something completely void of them, I’ll choose the nutrients every time.
One of the interesting properties of honey is that it has antibacterial properties. Honey’s antibacterial properties are well documented and honey has been used topically for centuries. All raw, unpasteurized honey has antibacterial properties and is often used topically to treat wounds in people and in animals.
Of course, colds and the flu aren’t caused by bacteria but by viruses, however, there are many secondary bacterial infections that can happen from being congested and run down. I believe choosing honey over other sweeteners, gives our bodies just a bit of extra help on warding off those secondary infections.
This year, try using honey for cold and flu season in a new way. Maybe that means you need to find a local beekeeper to get raw honey. Maybe you’ll keep a jar in the back of the pantry to take by the spoonful to soothe a sore throat instead of using a store-bought cough syrup. And maybe, that means you’ll try one of the quick remedies our family keeps on hand.
What are your favorite remedies for using honey for cold and flu season?