Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

How to Treat the Flu

Font Size

Herbal Remedies continued...

You hear a lot about echinacea, but recent studies can’t say whether it helps with colds or the flu. One sticking point: No one is sure which is the best echinacea species, plant part, active ingredient, or how much you should take. If you want to try it, pick a brand that uses the stems, leaves, and flowers of the Echinacea purpurea plant rather than the root. Don't use it for more than 8 weeks -- it could mess up your immune system. Don’t take it if you’re allergic to ragweed.

Some research shows elderberry extract might help if you take it within the first 24 to 48 hours after you start to feel flu symptoms. There aren’t any known side effects if you use it for 5 days or less. Don’t eat the plant -- it can make you sick to your stomach.

Other herbal remedies that may help when you have flu include:

  • Lozenges with licorice and slippery elm: They ease sore throats and coughs from all that gunk running down the back of your throat. (Doctors call this postnasal drip.)
  • Ginger tea: It helps with nausea.

One word of warning: There’s no hard proof that these herbal treatments really work against the flu.

Also, strength varies widely from product to product. That makes it hard to know if an herb really works -- or if you’re getting enough of it to help. Stick with those that have been certified by a third party, like U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) or NSF International.

Check with your doctor before trying one, because they may change the way your other medications work. Always tell your doctor about everything you’re taking, whether it’s prescription or not.

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

There are lots of studies that prove vitamin C and zinc can ease cold symptoms and maybe shorten the illness -- but there isn’t a lot to show that they help treat the flu.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on May 10, 2015

Recommended For You

hot toddy
15 tips to help you feel better.
man sneezing into elbow
Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?
teen girl coughing
Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.
elder berry
Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.
Natural Cold Flu Remedies Slideshow
cold weather
Allergy And Sinus Symptom Evaluator
Boy holding ear
woman receiving vaccine shot
woman with fever
Waking up from sleep
woman with sore throat