The changing of seasons, especially from autumn to winter, is a key time to support immune health. I’ve written before about how to keep your immune system in tip top shape, so make sure you read up on how to stay healthy during cold and flu season. But if you’re exposed to the cold or flu virus and you feel yourself succumbing, you can nip sickness in the bud before it turns into a full blown illness using the below protocol. You don’t have to fall victim when those around you are sick!
Recently I was at a reunion where several family members had colds. I didn’t think much of it at the time, until two more folks from the party developed the same cold a few days later. They were all sick for days. When I started to feel that warning tickle at the back of my throat, I put my anti-illness protocol into effect. And guess what? I fought it off and won. Now I’m going to share my tried and true protocol with you. This immune boosting program is effective against bacteria and viruses, so use it as soon as you feel run down, tired, sore throat, flu, cough, or any cold or flu symptoms.
Special note on cold & flu: I am focusing on the cold virus here, but this protocol can fight flu with some added modifications (see the bonus flu section below). If you have been exposed to the flu virus, do not wait until you start to feel bad; start the protocol right away and add this product to your program.
How to Fight a Cold and Win
Follow these step-by-step directions as soon as you feel a cold or illness coming on OR if your spouse or someone with whom you are in close contact is currently sick. I recommend stocking your herbal medicine cabinets with these items ahead of time so you’ll be ready.
- Grab your bone broth (preferably chicken for its stellar immune boosting properties) and drink one to two mugs daily as soon as you start to feel run down. Or, make a batch of my immune boosting soup. That stuff really works. If you don’t have bone broth on hand and don’t want to make it, you can order it here. It’s great to have at the ready in the freezer for these emergency situations!
- Begin taking oil of oregano, 2 capsules 2-3 times daily. I prefer the capsules because the straight oil can burn. But be careful about which brand you use.
- Beef up on zinc, which shortens the duration of a cold. These zinc lozenges also contain anti-viral elderberry.
- If you have Thieves oil, diffuse it in your house or bedroom.
- Bump up your vitamin D. Take 15k – 20k IUs in divided doses, which means 2-3 times daily. I take this one daily and increase the dose during this protocol.
- I also have this immune boosting tincture on hand. Take it three times daily. I prefer it because it combines both herbs and medicinal mushrooms which are potent immune stimulators, and it soothes cough and sore throat. Great for kids, too. You can also just buy any general wellness or immune boosting tincture that contains herbs and nutrients like astragalus, echinacea, elderberry, and/or medicinal mushrooms like shiitake, reishi, cordyceps. I use BioCidin throat spray for sore throat or when I travel (and people are coughing all over you on public transportation, for example) bc it’s very portable.
- Colloidal silver, up to 500ppm, is excellent to have around too. Take a teaspoon every hour on the hour all day for 2-3 days. Kids can take it too. It’s a very potent anti-bacterial & anti-viral, and it works.
- Take 1500 mg of vitamin C in divided doses (500 mg at a time). Don’t chug orange juice–it’s mostly sugar! Many of the teas and elixirs below are rich in vitamin C and the necessary bioflavonoids.
- Drink soothing teas during the day to stay warm and hydrated. There is a vast selection below depending on your symptoms. I tend to choose this antioxidant wellness tea that includes my favorite soothing and immune boosting ingredients. The fire ciders listed below are excellent for fighting colds and flu.
BONUS: I use this lauricidin supplement for my autoimmune clients and to help kick bacterial overgrowth. It contains monolaurin, the compound in coconut oil and breast milk that is so immune boosting. You can take it therapeutically all winter long, any time you need an immune boost, or especially for a lingering illness that keeps hanging around.
How to Relieve Your Cold Symptoms
Depending on your symptoms, you can make certain teas, elixirs, syrups, or gummy “candies” to both boost immune function and soothe symptoms. For a cold along with cough and sore throat, my basic go-to is hot water with lemon and honey. Honey is a natural cough suppressant. Ginger tea with honey and lemon is great if you have the chills, as ginger is naturally warming. Throat coat is a great tea that soothes sore throat with licorice and other demulcent herbs. I keep that one in my tea collection.
Here is a roundup of homemade tonics to both relieve symptoms and help speed you back to health.
To Soothe Cough & Sore Throat
No need to buy cough drops that contain added sugar and artificial colors and flavors. You can make your own, and they’ll likely be more effective; plus, you can add additional soothing and immune boosting ingredients. Did you know that honey has been proven more effective than cough drops?
- Homemade Cough drops with coconut oil and honey from the Coconut Mama
- Honey, lemon, and coconut oil cough syrup from the Coconut Mama
- Homemade cough & cold syrup with honey, lemon, coconut oil and cinnamon from Primally Inspired
- This cough syrup from Kula Mama is specifically for kids
- Herbal remedies & a recipe for a wet cough from Holistic Health Herbalist
- Herbal remedies for a dry cough
- Honey lemon cough drops with ginger from Thank Your Body
- Homemade cough remedies (steam, salve, syrup) from Small Footprint Family
Teas & Liquid Tonics
Drink plenty of teas when you’re fighting off illness or when you’re already under the weather. You’ll stay hydrated with the added benefit of cold and flu fighting ingredients. Choose ginger-based tonics and fire cider if you have the chills.
- Elderberry syrup with ginger and cinnamon from Savory Lotus
- Easy ginger tea is very warming if you have the chills
- Fire cider cold and flu tonic is a powerful illness fighter similar to the master tonic. Here is another fire cider recipe that is a bit more fiery!
- Cold bustin elderberry tea is high in vitamin C to fight colds
- This honey lemon ginger tea from Loula Natural also has hibiscus for an added vitamin C boost
- Thieves tea combines immune boosting essential oils with soothing honey
- Cold & flu zapper with turmeric, a powerful illness-fighting antioxidant
- BONUS: these elderberry popsicles are great for kids and include a recipe to ward off illness and one to use if your kid is currently sick.
Immune Boosting & Illness Fighting Gummy Treats (great for kids and easy to grab and pop as needed)
- Immune boosting elderberry gummies from The Coconut Mama
- Vitamin C gummies from Raising Generation Nourished
- Honey lemon gummies from Hollywood Homestead
Bonus: Flu Fighters
- Natural flu remedies (especially for children) from Kula Mama
- Flu fighting tea from Thank Your Body
- Herbal tea for the flu from the Homestead Garden
- Flu fighter chicken stock includes extra herbs to fight illness
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.