Now that fall is in full swing, and winter is just around the corner, we all know that it’s that time of year: cold and flu season! Whether these influenzas are a result of being cooped up indoors, a lack of the sun’s source of Vitamin D or the cold climate, boosting your immune system is essential to prevention and treatment. These herbal supplements are researched natural remedies for protecting yourself from falling ill this season. Incorporating these foods and supplements at the onset of any cold or flu like symptoms may be a great way to amp up your body’s immune defense response. This is especially important considering the overwhelming onset of antibiotics resistant “superbugs.” These herbal and botanical remedies are great for stopping infections and influenzas in there tracks, and reducing the likelihood of more serious infections and illness.
Garlic is one of the most powerful naturally occurring antibiotics, particularly pertaining to fungal, bacterial and viral infections. Allicin, the active sulfur compound found in raw garlic, has amazing healing potential, especially in relation to cold, sinus and flu ailments. Garlic is also a natural antibiotic, and unlike pharmaceuticals, it does not disrupt the normal gut flora, nor does it cause or contribute to antibiotic resistance. To reap the full benefits, garlic is best ingested raw, either cut into small pieces and swallowed as a pill, or incorporated into food. A recommended dose is about one to two cloves per day, typically starting with one and adding more since it may cause gas for some. If the garlic is cooked or dried, it not longer holds the same medicinal properties. Also, a tip for hiding the strong garlic odor after eating is to follow it with a bit of parsley, which is also great for detoxification and aids digestion, a double health bonus!
Cat’s Claw is a powerful herb adaptogen derived from a vine bark that is indigenous to the Amazon Rainforest. It has been long used for its immune system stimulating and anti-inflammatory properties. A 1995 issue of Newsweek explained that Cat’s Claw “has been long used to treat asthma, ulcers, and cancer.” Along with many other uses, Cat’s Claw has shown to be a virus inhibitor, especially rhinoviruses (those that cause the common cold). Furthermore, according to in vitro studies, oxyindole alkaloids found in Cat’s Claw stimulate immune function, while alkaloids and glycosides have also shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Spirulina is one of the oldest known food sources on the planet! This blue-green algae superfood contains almost every micro and macro-nutrient necessary for human sustenance. In relation to cold and flu prevention, spirulina has shown to improve human immune response by amplifying the production of natural killer cells, a type of white blood cell responsible for killing off viral infections and tumors. Also, the potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound found in spirulina, phycocyanobilin, has shown to clear out toxins from viruses like the flu, and thus help to treat it. A 2010 study published in the journal of Cellular and Molecular Immunology found that spirulina effectively provided antioxidant protection among an elderly clinical trail to prevent and treat anemia, as well as immunological dysfunction.
Curcumin, the active compound found in turmeric, is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory agents found in nature! Along with being an anti-inflammatory, curcumin is also renowned for its’ antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. A 2003 study published in the Italian Journal of Biochemistry concluded that curcumin activates the hemeoxygenase-1 gene in the brain, which encodes for the production of the antioxidant bilirubin. This antioxidant is responsible for protecting against damage caused by influenza viruses, fighting free radicals, as well as protecting against dementias such as Alzheimer’s Disease. In addition to fighting free radicals and toxins, curcumin has powerful antiviral properties. In 2009, a study published in Emerging Infectious Diseases revealed that curcumin can decrease viral replication by more than 90 percent in laboratory cells infected with influenza viruses. Curcumin can be easily incorporated into cooking, with a recommended one teaspoon daily, or taken in capsules, typically ranging from 400 to 600 milligrams. If you decide to incorporate turmeric into your cooking, also make sure to add piperine (black pepper), as it increases absorption and bioavailability up to 2,000 percent, and if in supplement form, look for those that include piperine in the ingredients.
This botanical adaptogen has been used in North America as a natural immune booster and infection treatment for over 400 years. Echinacea is especially used in the treatment of cold and flu infections. A review of 14 clinical trials found that the herb reduced the likelihood of catching a cold by 58 percent, as well as shortening the duration by one to four days! Moreover, in Germany, where herbal supplements are regulated by the government, echinacea is approved for the treatment of the common cold, upper respiratory infections, slow healing wounds and even urinary tract infections. This is due to its’ antiviral, anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties. Echinacea can easily be taken in supplement form or as in extract added to food, smoothies or tea.
Oregano oil is a must in fending off cold and flu season infections, especially considering its powerful antimicrobial, antibacterial and antiviral properties. A recent study conducted by British and Indian researchers found that oregano oil’s, particularly the Himalayan oregano variety, was such a powerful antibacterial that it effectively killed the bacterial superbug MRSA. Oregano oil is particularly high in phenols, a group of phytochemicals with antioxidant effects. Two of the prominent include Thymol, an anti-fungal and antiseptic known for protecting the body from toxins and promoting healing, and Carvacrol, a powerful anti-bacterial. In addition to helping ward off bacteria and viruses that can make you sick, oregano oil is also full of key nutrients like Vitamin C and E, zinc and magnesium, all of which are critical to supporting your immune system. To use, for sinus relief, put a few drops in a steaming pot of water and inhale. For viral or bacterial infections, dilute the oil in coconut oil, hold on your tongue for a few minutes, and then rinse it out. Or for an easier mechanism, softgel supplements are a great way to incorporate this herbal remedy into your routine.
Ginger is a great herbal remedy for treating or relieving the onset of cold or other respiratory pathogen symptoms. Ginger has high levels of Vitamin C and magnesium, which are key nutrients for fighting cold and flu viruses. The spicy heat of ginger is also great for breaking up sinus congestion by thinning mucus. Also, its’ anti-inflammatory compounds gingerols and shaogals, as well as the active sesquiterpenes compounds help to kill rhinoviruses and relieve inflamed symptoms such as a sore throats. Ginger tea is one of the best ways to incorporate this root into your routine since the steam also acts as a natural decongestant. To make your own ginger tea, chop four to six tablespoons of fresh, organic ginger, boil the ginger in the water for about 10 minutes and then strain. For added health benefits add some raw, organic honey and organic lime.
Some of my favorite supplements for incorporating these powerful herbal and botanical remedies into my busy routine are from NOW Foods. Every morning I make sure to take Curcumin and Spirulina supplements, both of which are Non-GMO. Also, in the case that I feel the onset of any cold or flu symptoms, I make sure to have Echinacea extract and oregano oil handy, and also start to incorporate more raw, organic garlic and ginger into my diet. Another great health trick I love for aiding in immune support are the organic super herb tonics from REBBL. My favorite of which are the Hibiscus Mint, which contains Cat’s Claw, and the Ginger Citrus.