6 natural remedies for cold and flu season

Woman enjoying a winter walk

By Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD

I dislike taking prescription medicines almost as much as I dread getting a cold or the flu. That’s why every winter I help protect myself with the following natural remedies.

1. Echinacea (E. angustifolia, E. purpurea, E. pallida). Echinacea is probably the most popular herbal remedy used during cold and flu season. Several types of echinacea show immuno-supportive properties. In one study, E. purpurea helped reduce the amount of days people suffered from a cold. I like to use a liquid echinacea extract and use 1 or even 2 teaspoons a day when I feel a cold or flu coming on.

2. Astragalus (A. membranaceous). Astralagus supports your body’s natural ability to adapt to stress, which helps to bolster the immune system and keep you feeling well.

3. Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra). Black elderberry has been shown to provide significant improvement in flu symptoms during a shorter period of time. What’s more, elderberry seems to work well with a combination of vitamin C and zinc to shorten a cold or lessen its severity.

Cup of elderberry tea

4. Vitamin D. If you have trouble fighting the flu every winter, check your vitamin D levels. Remember the optimum blood level is 50-70 ng/ml. Vitamin D stimulates the immune function. In one study, women who took even as little as 800 IU of vitamin D each day were 3 times less likely to report cold and flu symptoms. As a bone specialist, I’m going to make a big push for vitamin D any time of the year!

5. Vitamin C. Taking even 200 mg of vitamin C on a daily basis helps reduce the length and the severity of colds, according to research. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant. I recommend taking at least 1,000 to 2,000 mgs of vitamin C in flu and cold season

6. Zinc. I keep zinc on hand wherever I go in the winter. When taken at high doses within 24 hours of exposure to a cold, zinc has been shown to help to shorten the length of the infection. Zinc supplements or lozenges with a dose of 75 mg provide benefits.

I find all these natural remedies work best when taken as preventatives – or as soon as you notice symptoms creeping up on you.

Here’s to a healthy, happy winter!

References
  • Roxas, M., & Jurenka, J. 2007. Colds and influenza: A review of diagnosis and conventional, botanical, and nutritional considerations. Altern. Med. Rev., 12 (1), 25–48. URL (PDF): http://www.thorne.com/altmedrev/.fulltext/12/1/25.pdf (accessed 09.25.2009).

 

If you’re interested in more natural ways to fight the cold and flu, check out our article Foods and herbs for boosting immunity and respiratory help.