Winter is coming, and it’s bringing cold and flu season with it. There’s still no cure for the common cold, and in my experience flu vaccines are hit-or-miss. But if you dread this time of year, I have some good news: there’s plenty you can do to keep yourself healthy.
These four natural remedies bolster your immune system so you can thrive this cold and flu season.
1) Vitamins C and D
You often hear about taking vitamin C when you’re sick, and for good reason; it’s great for helping you get rid of a cold faster. People who took high doses of vitamin C (5 grams or more) recovered several days sooner than people who didn’t take any vitamin C .
And while it doesn’t get as much attention, vitamin D is also amazing at supporting your immune system. One of vitamin D’s main jobs is to regulate immunity; it activates enzymes in your immune cells that help them respond to invaders more quickly .
Your skin uses UV rays from sunlight to make virtually all of your vitamin D. That’s great during the summer, but when winter rolls around, it can be challenging to get enough sunlight. A good vitamin D supplement will keep your levels where you want them to be and help you stay healthy through cold and flu season.
Vitamin C dose: 5000 mg, 1-3 times daily
Vitamin D dose: 1000 iu per 25 lbs. body weight, taken in the morning
Astragalus is an herb that’s been used for centuries in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine as a remedy for stress and illness. Recent research shows that astragalus is good for immunity, too.
People who took astragalus extract saw a significant increase in immune cell activation within 24 hours .
Astragalus also clears blocked sinuses in people with seasonal allergies . No word on whether it does the same for blocked sinuses from a cold, but it can’t hurt.
3) Turmeric and black pepper
Turmeric contains curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory compound that also turns on immunity. To quote one researcher, curcumin “resurrects the immune system” by activating T cells, some of your body’s most important defensive cells .
Turmeric is one of the most treasured spices in Ayurveda, where it’s traditionally paired with black pepper. That’s interesting, because it turns out black pepper contains a compound, piperine, that increases curcumin’s bioavailability by 2,000% . If you’re taking curcumin in supplement form, check the label; the best brands will include black pepper extract.
You can take turmeric or curcumin as a supplement, or you can make one of my favorite immune-boosting hot drinks: golden milk. This delicious drink combines creamy coconut milk with turmeric and warm spices like ginger and clove. Add a grind of fresh black pepper to boost its immune-enhancing benefits. Here’s my favorite golden milk recipe.
Ginger’s warm, spicy flavor is thanks to sesquiterpenes, aromatic compounds found in fresh ginger root. The sesquiterpenes in ginger are antirhinoviral — in other words, they kill rhinovirus, the virus that causes the common cold .
The turmeric golden milk I mentioned in the last section is a great source of ginger. I also like making apple-ginger tea to ease cold and flu symptoms. You can add a few slices of ginger to your favorite soup, or, if you want to follow Ayurvedic tradition, you can chew on a bit of fresh ginger root. However you get your ginger, you can rest assured that it will help during cold and flu season.
Use as many of these remedies as you want whenever you feel a cold or the flu coming on. They’ll help you stay healthy and breathe easy through the entire season.
Thanks for reading!
- Hemilä, H., & Chalker, E. (2013). Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane database of systematic reviews, (1). https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4/abstract
- Baeke, F., Takiishi, T., Korf, H., Gysemans, C., & Mathieu, C. (2010). Vitamin D: modulator of the immune system. Current opinion in pharmacology, 10(4), 482-496. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1471489210000378
- Brush, J., Mendenhall, E., Guggenheim, A., Chan, T., Connelly, E., Soumyanath, A., … & Zwickey, H. (2006). The effect of Echinacea purpurea, Astragalus membranaceus and Glycyrrhiza glabra on CD69 expression and immune cell activation in humans. Phytotherapy Research: An International Journal Devoted to Pharmacological and Toxicological Evaluation of Natural Product Derivatives, 20(8), 687-695. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ptr.1938
- Matkovic, Z., Zivkovic, V., Korica, M., Plavec, D., Pecanic, S., & Tudoric, N. (2010). Efficacy and safety of Astragalus membranaceus in the treatment of patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis. Phytotherapy Research: An International Journal Devoted to Pharmacological and Toxicological Evaluation of Natural Product Derivatives, 24(2), 175-181. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ptr.2877
- Bose, S., Panda, A. K., Mukherjee, S., & Sa, G. (2015). Curcumin and tumor immune-editing: resurrecting the immune system. Cell division, 10(1), 6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4603973/
- Gupta, S. C., Patchva, S., & Aggarwal, B. B. (2013). Therapeutic roles of curcumin: lessons learned from clinical trials. The AAPS journal, 15(1), 195-218. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3535097/
- Denyer, C. V., Jackson, P., Loakes, D. M., Ellis, M. R., & Young, D. A. (1994). Isolation of antirhinoviral sesquiterpenes from ginger (Zingiber officinale). Journal of Natural Products, 57(5), 658-662. https://cdn-pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/np50107a017