Fall is my favorite time of year.  The heatwaves break, leaves begin to change color, and the promise of holidays is in the air.  But, there’s another thing that arrives in the autumn: flu season.   This week as I sit down to write this post, I’m feeling a bit “under the weather,” so I’m going to focus on virtual-water friendly cold remedies.

First, let’s talk about what not to do.  It can be very difficult to calculate the virtual water impact of commercial medicines, in part because there are so many kinds of medicine with so many different recipes.  One general rule, however, is that these medicines are often processed, and contain preservatives or dyes that carry a hefty virtual water footprint but do nothing to make you feel better.  So let’s look at some common, natural foods and herbs that you probably have in your house already and will make you feel better.  The virtual water footprints cited in this article are given in liters per kilogram unless otherwise indicated.

The most common one I use is a solution of salt and water.  Depending on where you’re feeling unwell, you can gargle it (to treat sore throats or flemmy coughs), snort it (to clear out your sinuses) and even wash away excess ear wax with it.  Best of all, salt water has virtually no virtual water footprint beyond the actual water in it.

You’ve probably heard of drinking orange juice to pump up vitamin C.  Well, that can be true of any food that’s high in Vitamin C, including bell peppers (270), broccoli (195), and strawberries (56) – each of which has far more Vitamin C than oranges.

If you’re already feeling sick, it might seem too late to think about vitamin content.  To actually relieve your symptoms, garlic will relieve congestion,  ginger is anti-inflammatory and settles stomachs, onions fight infections, and spicy peppers (270) clear your sinuses.  Basically, if you’re feeling under the weather, curry and pho are your friends.

Best of all, since all these items are natural and don’t require processing, they’re low on virtual water content, meaning that while you nurse yourself back to health, you can keep the planet healthy, too.

Of course, this post can’t replace a doctor’s advice.  While we recommend these home remedies for a mild cold or short-term bug, don’t shy away from real medicine for serious maladies.