Immune Boosters for Flu Season
In Chinese medicine the best time to treat an illness is before it happens. And as we head into cold and flu season, the best offense is a good defense. A strong immune system is all you need to navigate the cold, wet, windy days of winter (and all of your sneezy coughy friends, coworkers, and kids!). Here are my favorite immune boosters:
1. Acupuncture can regulate immune function and treat the underlying cause of the disease by reducing symptoms, speeding up the healing of infection and normalizing the body's immune response. It builds “Wei Qi” which is like an invisible field of energy in the body, which protects it from EPF’s (external pernicious factors). Regular acupuncture has been shown to be effective in treating asthma, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, colds and infections.
2. Kitchen and garden herbs are a super easy way to support immune function. Common kitchen herbs like garlic, oregano, basil, thyme, clove and ginger have antibacterial and antiviral properties. Garden herbs like echinacea, and goldenseal boost immunity. And honey is both a food and a medicine and can be used for combating infections, and even treating allergies.
3. Bone broth is the new chicken soup. It is incredibly fortifying, and builds Jing or “essence” which is the ultimate resource. It also fights infections like colds and flu, heals leaky gut, reduces joint pain and inflammation, helps with bone formation and repair, and as a super side effect, it is amazing for you skin, hair, and nails!
4. One of the best things you can do for your overall health is get more sleep. Many disease-fighting substances are released or created while we sleep. Our bodies need these hormones, proteins, and chemicals in order to fight off disease and infection. Sleep deprivation decreases the availability of these substances leaving us more susceptible to the viruses and bacteria we encounter. This can also prolong recovery time, as our bodies lack the resources to properly fight whatever it is that is making us sick. (read more here:)
5. Essential oils have a long and documented history of improving immune function. There are stories as early as the 15th century of thieves using essential oils to protect themselves from bubonic plague as they robbed the sick (thus the popular ‘thieves” blends…) Oregano oil is a powerful antibacterial, and basil is an antiviral. Thyme and eucalyptus support respiratory issues, and ginger and clove are warming. You can use them in a diffuser, a bath, a steam or rub them on your chest. It is easy to make a blend yourself, or check out my “Immunity” blend here:
6. Vitamin C is an immune system superhero. It encourages the production of white blood cells which help protect the body against all infections. It is an essential part of the skin’s defense system, and has been shown to shorten wound healing time. In addition, Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant, offering protection from free radicals. When free radicals accumulate, they can promote a state known as oxidative stress, which has been linked to many chronic diseases. Take your vitamin C!
7. Moderate exercise has been proven to increase white blood cell numbers and activity. But there is such a thing as too much or too little. The sweet spot seems to be 30-60 minutes. Much more that and your stress hormones go up, which impedes your immune system. Also moderate intensity is best -- like brisk walking, easy jogging or cycling. And consistency is very important. Aim for 30 mins every day to effectively support immunity.
8. When extra support is needed I turn to Chinese Patent herbal formulas. I like Jade Windscreen or Immune Plus by Evergreen. They both contain Astragalus, which has been proven to be effective at boosting immunity and warding off airborne pathogens. In fact, Astragalus root (or Astragali Radix), is considered “the best immune tonic herb in stabilizing and strengthening the protective ‘Qi’ in your body” in original Chinese medicine texts. I always have some in my medicine cabinet, and I start taking it the minute I feel rundown.
9. Elderberry is one of the most commonly used medicinal plants in the world. Traditionally, Native Americans used it to treat infections, while the ancient Egyptians used it to improve their complexions and heal burns. Today, elderberry is most often taken as a supplement to treat cold and flu symptoms. It has been shown to shorten the duration of the flu, and lessen the severity of symptoms. It also reduces cold duration, reduces inflammation, supports skin health, acts as a natural diuretic and even manages diabetes. It is super easy to make into a syrup and use daily as an immune tonic. Recipe below:
Simple Spiced Elderberry Syrup
Prep time: 5 Minutes
Cook time: 60 Minutes
Total time: 1 Hour 5 Minutes
Yield: 2 cups
A simple home remedy to boost immune health and treat the common cold or flu
1 cup fresh or ¾ cup dried elderberries
3 cups water
2 Tbsp fresh sliced ginger
1 tsp cinnamon or ½ cinnamon stick
1 tsp cloves
1 cup raw honey
Make It Like So
Place elderberries, water, ginger, cinnamon and cloves in a pot. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 45 minutes to one hour.
Remove from heat and using a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth, strain out mixture. Transfer liquid to a jar and stir in 1 cup of honey.
Keep in the fridge sealed for 2-3 weeks.