Natural Ways to Battle Sickness in the Winter

I apparently believe in fairy tales.

I knew Iowa had really cold winters. Surely all those days with freezing temps must mean Iowans deal with less sickness in the winter, right? Germs can’t survive the extreme cold. Or at least that’s the fairy tale I believed when we moved here.

It makes sense, in a non-scientific, totally made up kinda way. But alas…it’s not true. Not even close.

We have wrestled with more sickness in the house these past three winters than I can remember. Hand, Foot & Mouth disease (thank you local school system). Flu. Strep Throat. The Uncommon Cold (which is when the common cold meets a radioactive super-wave and morphs into something ungodly…think Godzilla with Kleenex). You name it and we’ve either dealt with it in the house or have witnessed it going around.

I’ve asked fellow Iowans why they think sickness abounds in this great state, but I get mostly shrugs. Maybe I’m the only one who thinks about it. Am I the only one who thinks about it?

So what do you do when you have kids who don’t wash their hands as much as they should and touch everything? 

Here are some of the natural ways we boost our family’s immune system over winter.


Have you heard about elderberry? It’s kind of a big deal. At least it is in our house.

Elderberry is a flowering bush that produces small, purplish berries in clusters. These berries are very high in antioxidants and are wonderful for building the immune system. Some even believe the elderberry has antiviral capabilities. You shouldn’t eat elderberries raw, as they may make you sick. But there are plenty of ways to use this potent super berry.

Elderberry Supplements – We use these one daily from Puritan’s Pride:

Elderberry Gummies – These are great for kids

Fire Cider

Fire cider has become one of our favorite things, not just for battling oncoming colds but also for gut health. It’s an apple cider vinegar tonic, and if you’ve read anything about apple cider vinegar you know that homesteaders have been using it for years for a variety of reasons. But this drink packs a punch with peppers, horseradish, ginger and other spices. Sound weird? I thought so at first. But now I take this everyday and I actually enjoy the “spicy pickle” taste.

You can get Fire Cider from Amazon:

Or you can make your own. Here’s a recipe we’re experimenting with:

Lots of rest

Maybe it goes without saying. But I have to remind myself that it’s okay to rest. Necessary, actually, if I want to find restoration and healing in this body. We don’t seek rest nearly enough. It’s counter-culture. But this goes especially for those of us who farm or homestead. Every day we face a long list of chores and responsibilities and things to just get done. We are so busy taking care of other lives that we forget to take care of our own.

Finding the balance between work and rest is one of the most beneficial things we can do to be healthy.

Using Garlic

In the old myths, garlic was always used to keep vampires away. But maybe those old storytellers were on to something. Garlic has proven for many to be a natural way to lower blood pressure and boost the immune system. Some studies suggest that using garlic regularly in your diet lowers the risk for certain cancers. I’m not a doctor, and I’m certainly not advocating that you replace any prescribed medication with garlic. But there seems to be evidence that increasing garlic consumption can have a positive effect on your immune system.

We add garlic to most dishes, whether its eggs in the morning or soup at night. I love fresh garlic but be careful of garlic salts.

Here are some other ways to use garlic:

Fermented Garlic & Honey:

Puritan’s Pride Garlic Supplement:

Essential Oils

I’m just learning about the benefits of essential oils, so I’m by far not an expert. We don’t sell them, nor are we affiliated with one of the major brands. We use them for different purposes in our household, however, and I have been told that certain oils have been used by many to boost the immune system. Some of our favorites are eucalyptus, lemon, frankincense and peppermint.

Essential oils are used in a diffuser like this one or they can be applied topically. We have started to make our own household cleaning supplies with essential oils, and I think that eliminating the toxic use of synthetic chemicals in and of itself will certainly go a long way toward increasing our health.

A Healthy Diet

We strive to plan our diet around food that is grown or raised on the farm, or at least produced from whole products, and to restrict anything that comes from a box. Processed food, I believe, is not really food at all. I would even go as far to say that what we call food today, with its dyes and preservatives, has contributed significantly to our bodies breaking down for a lack of nutrition. Studies suggest that there is a sharp rise in disease and cancer that correlates to the change in the American diet since the fifties. All I know is that I feel much better and have more energy when I am intentional about eating whole foods and limiting refined sugar.

So there ya go. That’s what we’re doing to battle the winter bug.

What are you doing to get through cold season?

Be well.

    1. I’m right there with ya. We planted elderberry last year and we’ll be putting in more this spring. Can’t wait to make our own syrup, jelly and other good things!

  1. All great advice!
    After a few years of the birds getting our elderberries before the ripened I learned that elder flowers are as good or better than the berries. I now harvest the flowers every year and make tincture – mixed with honey it becomes syrup.
    I have been making/using fire cider (I call it hot pepper juice) for several years now and I fermented garlic this week will be blogging about it soon.

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