20 20 Photos

20 All-Natural Ways to Ward Off the Cold & Flu

garlic
Lew Robertson/Corbis

No matter what, that time of year rolls around time and again. When the temperatures drop and autumn, and then winter, roll on in, families may be preoccupied with heading back to school, decorating for Halloween, picking pumpkins, sipping gingerbread lattes, planning parties and baking cookies -- anything and everything that has to do with the holiday season. But unfortunately, the latter half of the year isn't all about one fun holiday after the next. It's also the time when colds, flu, and all other manner of annoying and debilitating bugs can strike at a moment's notice. One minute, Mom's feeling awesome and handling the daily routine like a complete Superwoman. The next, she's laid up in bed sniffling and coughing up a storm.

The chances are pretty high that, at some point during the fall or winter, a common cold or flu virus will affect even the most health-conscious person. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that the common cold is the main reason children miss school and adults miss work. And every year in the US, there are millions of cases of the common cold. Adults end up having two to three colds per year, and of course, kids come down with even more.

Here's the thing: Although it may be tempting to just wave the white flag and admit that fighting off cold and flu viruses is inevitable year after year, there are smart, effective precautionary measures one can take to boost immunity and ward off illness. Considering the wealth of immune-supportive supplements, foods, and other products on the market can definitely be overwhelming, but here are 20 natural options that actually have been studied and showed real, scientific promise. 

Dieterlen/photocuisine/Corbis

1Cayenne Pepper

Next time you feel a bug coming on, you might wanna add some spice with that chicken soup -- cayenne pepper specifically. It's considered a powerful immune system enhancer for numerous reasons, including its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, plus it contains immune system-supporting nutrients such as beta carotene and vitamin C.

Third Eye Images/Corbis

2Vitamin C

Vitamin C increases the production of infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies and increases levels of interferon, the antibody that coats cell surfaces, preventing the entry of viruses. According to Ask Dr. Sears, all you need is 200 mg a day -- the equivalent of six servings of fruits and vegetables a day -- to ward off colds.

Atlantide Phototravel/Corbis

3Olive Leaf Extract

Olive leaf extract has been used all over the globe for centuries as a health tonic and all-purpose antioxidant with anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties that can help promote general health and stave off colds, flu, infection, etc.

Heide Benser/Corbis

4Echinacea

Studies suggest echinacea's phenolic compounds stimulate cells in the body whose primary function is to fight invading particles and organisms. White blood cells and spleen cells increase in number when echinacea is taken. Core body temperature rises. Components of the root, leaves and flowers all contain the immune-stimulating compounds, too, according to Active.com. No wonder it's often prescribed by docs in Germany to battle colds and flu -- and has become so popular here, too.

Lew Robertson/Corbis

5Garlic

Garlic's shockingly powerful cold and flu-fighting properties stem from its sulfur-containing compounds such as allicin and sulfides, which stimulate the multiplication of infection-fighting white cells, boosts natural killer cell activity, and increases the efficiency of antibody production. Garlic also works as an antioxidant to knock out free radicals in the blood.

Ingeborg Knol/imagebroker/Corbis

6Elderberry

Elderberry has been used to produce jams, syrups, and wine for years, but it only recently started taking off as the active ingredient in immunity-boosting products such as Sambucol®. In vitro studies show that elderberries possess antiviral, antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties that can help quash colds and flu.

Marc Wuchner/Corbis

7Honey

Honey may not necessarily work as a catch-all immunity-booster, but it sure is soothing and it has been research-proven to be more effective than dextromethorphan-- the active ingredient in most cough medicines -- by researchers at Penn State University. But one big disclaimer: Don’t give honey to a baby younger than 1 year old. Honey may contain spores of a bacteria that causes botulism, which an infant’s immature immune system can’t handle.

9

Green Goddess Immune-Boosting Soup 

This recipe from The View from Great Island incorporates several popular immune-boosting and cold/flu-fighting ingredients: spinach and other dark leafy greens that are high in vitamin C and antioxidants to fight infections, anti-viral garlic, and anti-inflammatory ginger, cayenne, and turmeric. 

iStock.com/danleap

10

Zinc

Although some may say the jury is out on zinc as a cold fix, others believe it comes down to timing. An analysis of clinical trials found that oral zinc helps to reduce the length of colds when taken within 24 hours after symptoms start. 

iStock.com/daoleduc

11

Probiotics 

Gut health is very much linked to the immune system, so it's no surprise that healthy gut bacteria called probiotics -- found in foods such as yogurt, fermented foods, and supplements -- have been studied for their ability to boost immunity and fight cold and flu viruses. Research shows some strains of probiotic bacteria may improve adult immune response and reduce inflammation, potentially helping to ward off sickness. 

12

DIY Nasal Rinse

If you're suffering from sinus symptoms, irrigating your nasal passages with a salt water rinse can address congestion while flushing out bacteria and virus particles from the nose. 

iStock.com/Madeleine_Steinbach

13

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is celebrated for its high concentration of vitamin C, fiber, and acids that some believe may boost immunity. Others say it simply thins out mucus. Either way, it wouldn't hurt to add it to a gargle solution (with warm water) or drink with warm water and honey. 

iStock.com/apomares

14

Vitamin D

Most people are deficient in vitamin D, and researchers at Queen Mary University of London assert in an analysis that the vitamin can help reduce the risk of respiratory infections, including colds and flu. 

iStock.com/Lisovskaya

15

Coconut Oil 

Coconut oil can be useful in baking, cooking, even as a beauty product, but it also packs an antiviral punch, thanks to its medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), and their derivatives (e.g., monoglycerides). That said, adding it to one's regimen could keep colds and flu at bay.

iStock.com/alexander ruiz

16

Licorice

Research published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine notes that powdered licorice can work like an expectorant to treat a cough, and the roots of the plant have been used for throat and upper respiratory tract-related infections. What's more, animal studies have revealed its antiviral efficacy.

iStock.com/PredragImages

17

Green Tea

A cup of green tea packs a ton of immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory polyphenolic compounds and anti-viral catechins.

iStock.com/beemore

18

Ginseng

In Eastern Europe, ginseng is widely used to boost immunity and ward off illness, especially the common cold. Some research has shown that it could offer some immunity to flu viruses as well. 

iStock.com/AD077

19

Turmeric

Turmeric is a yellow-colored warm, inflammation-fighting spice often used in Indian cooking. Research published in BioMed Research International notes that a compound found in turmeric called curcumin offers an antiviral effect. 

healthy habits general health illness immunity alternative medicine natural health

More Slideshows