Sometimes it feels like an uneven match... but there is actually a lot you can do to help your body's immune system ward off those unwanted colds and flus during the winter months. My arsenal includes certain vitamins and minerals present in every day foods, anti-microbial and immune boosting herbs, and at-home hydrotherapy treatments.
Lemon Ginger Throat-Soothing Tea
By making this tea from scratch, rather than reaching for the usual brands, you can get a lot more immune benefits. Read ahead to find out why!
- 1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
- 1/4 lemon
- 1 tsp honey
Decoct the ginger by boiling in 2 cups of water for 10 minutes with the lid covered. Allow to cool to drinking temperature. Squeeze in the lemon and add honey (if from a good source, honey can also have anti-microbial effects!)
Vitamins, Minerals, & where to find them
The following vitamins and minerals are found in various foods, and when advised by a naturopath, can also be administered through oral supplements or intravenously.
Vitamin C: this powerful antioxidant acts by stimulating the activity of immune cells in order to help prevent and treat respiratory infections such as the common cold. It has the ability to decrease the severity and duration of a cold (1). Think 'C' for Citrus and Colourful. Vitamin C is found in oranges, grapefruit, lemon, strawberries, pineapples, peppers, and many others!
Vitamin D: similar to vitamin C, vitamin D assists immune cells by increasing their anti-bacterial activity and a deficiency is associated with an increased susceptibility to infection (2). During the winter months when we hardly see a ray of sunshine, a deficiency can be very real.
Zinc: this mineral is another key antioxidant in the body. A deficiency in zinc is associated with impaired immune response and increased susceptibility to infections. Together with vitamin C, zinc has the ability to decrease symptoms of the common cold (3). Pumpkin seeds, or pepita seeds, as well as oysters are a good source of zinc.
Selenium: yet again another antioxidant mineral, selenium increases immune cells and their anti-microbial function. Additionally, it may play a role in protecting against the influenza virus (4). Brazil nuts are a high source of selenium as well as other nuts and seeds such as sunflower and chia seeds.
Immune Boosting Herbs
Herbs can be taken in many forms including tinctures, teas, supplements, and in cooking!
Zingiber officinalis (Ginger): freshly grated ginger provides anti-viral activity against respiratory infections (5). It's easy to cook with and makes for a nice soothing tea during a cold or flu (see above for recipe!)
Allium sativum (Garlic): the active component of garlic, allicin, maintains anti-microbial properties and is activated by crushing the garlic clove and allowing it to sit at room temperature before using. A Cochrane Review on garlic for the common cold suggests that garlic may prevent occurrences of the common cold, but more studies are needed to validate this (6).
Andrographis paniculata: this herb is a power house when it comes to anti-microbial and immune-stimulating effects. A randomized double blind placebo control trial (commonly considered the gold standard of trials) showed that Andrographis extract was effective in significantly decreasing symptom severity of the common cold (7).
Echinacea purpurea: most people have heard of this one by now. And if you can handle the taste, using Echinacea in a throat spray or gargle allows the anti-microbial and immune-stimulating properties to get in right where the action is. A Cochrane Review of this herb disclosed that it may be effective for the early treatment of colds in adults (8).
Warming Sock Treatment: this bed time routine might sound a little crazy and you probably won't like it until you wake up in the morning congestion-free. The Warming Sock Treatment works by stimulating blood circulation down to the feet and away from the head to reduce congestion.
- What you'll need: one pair of thin cotton socks, and one pair of thick wool socks.
- How To: rinse the cotton socks under cold water and wring out so they are damp but not dripping. Put on feet (*gasp*). Pull wool socks over top of cotton ones. Go straight to bed.
The cold water is key since it brings circulation down to your feet to help warm them. Your socks should be dry within 1-2 hours (hopefully you're already asleep!)
Come see me at Juniper Family Health (778-265-8340) to get your immune system set up for winter!
1. Carr, A., Maggini, S. (2017). Vitamin C and immune function. Nutrients, 9, 1211.
2. Aranow C. (2011). Vitamin D and the immune system. Journal of Investigative Medicine, 59(6), 881-6.
3. Maggini, S., Beveridge, S., Suter, M. (2012). A combination of high-dose vitamin C plus zinc for the common cold. Journal of International Medical Research, 40, 28-42.
4. Puertollano, M., Puertollano, E., de Cienfuegos, G., de Pablo, M. (2011). Dietary antioxidants: immunity and host defense. Current Topics in Medicinal Chemistry, 11, 1752-1766.
5. Chang, J., Wang, K., Yeh, C., Shieh, D., Chiang, L. (2013). Fresh ginger (zingiber officinale) has anti-viral activity against human respiratory syncytial virus in human respiratory tract cell lines. Journay of Ethnopharmacology, 145(1), 146-151.
6. Lissiman, E., Bhasale, A., Cohen, M. (2012). Garlic for the common cold (review). The Cochrane Library, 3.
7. Saxena, R., Singh, R., Kumar, P., Yadav, S., Negi, M., Saxena, V... Amit, A. (2010). A randomized double blind placebo controlled clinical evaluation of extract of Andrographis paniculata (KalmCold) in patients with uncomplicated upper respiratory tract infection. Phytomedicine, 17(3), 178-185.
8. Linde, K., Barrett, B., Wölkart, K., Bauer, R., Melchart, D. (2006). Echinacea for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev.