Maintaining a healthy and well-balanced immune system is something we work on year round, but we usually step it up and put in extra immune-boosting efforts during winter months, flu season, and especially right now. From a larger perspective, a healthy immune system looks like eating unprocessed, mostly single ingredient foods with a low sugar content (think veggies, leafy greens, legumes, nuts and seeds, responsibly-sourced meats, etc.), getting lots of sleep, managing stress, and taking time to exercise weekly.
But for those moments when you feel a cold coming on or if you’re generally trying to take extra care of yourself, these elixirs, oils, and foods will give your immune system a major boost:
Elderberries come from elderflowers that grow on the sambucus tree. Cooked elderberries, which usually become Elderberry syrup, have been known to fight cold and flu symptoms because of their high vitamin C content. It’s also packed with antioxidants thanks to a high volume of phenolic acid and anthocyanins, which can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Elderberry syrup is lightly sweet and has a pleasant taste, so you can go straight for a spoonful or add it to tea.
Rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin E, and an incredible source of probiotics, we’ve made ACV a regular part of our routine even when we’re not prone to colds. Research has shown that ACV has antibacterial properties which can help fight against pathogens, and, because it’s fermented, it’s loaded with tons of good bacteria that keeps your gut in check and positively impacts immune health.
Like some of the other items on this list, ginger is antibacterial and antiviral, and fresh ginger has actually been known to stimulate respiratory cells to secrete an anti-viral protein that fights against colds and viruses. It’s also a great anti-inflammatory agent, so if your throat is feeling sore or swollen, adding ginger to the mix can help relieve your symptoms. If you’re fine with a little spice, you can snack on fresh ginger straight, but we like to blend and strain it into our juices and teas.
Oil of Oregano
Oil of Oregano is an essential oil taken from– you guessed it– the oregano plant. Carvacrol is the active compound in oil of oregano that kills bad bacteria and protects against candida overgrowth (which can really do a number on your immune system). It’s also anti-parasitic and anti-viral, so it covers most of your cold-fighting bases. You only need about three to four drops sublingually or added to a juice or smoothie in order to reap its benefits, and should you take the oregano route, be sure the oil that you buy is food grade.
You can find these stashed in our purses and in our cabinets pretty much always. They’re essentially packets of straight liquid vitamin C and are loaded with phospholipids, which provide barriers in our membranes to protect our cells, a.k.a. they can help keep nasty pathogens from getting in and causing sickness. Be aware that they have a subtle orange flavor that’s definitely tolerable but not the tastiest. Any time we feel the first signs of a cold, we pour one of these into our water bottles and chug!