It’s great having your grandmother's cold remedy handy, but let’s face it—prevention is better! As an acupuncturist, I sometimes see upward of 20 patients a day. And in flu season, many of them are struggling with the viruses going around.
To keep my immune system strong so that I can continue to show up daily and help these folks, I have developed a laundry list of ways to boost both mine and their immune system, and combat any symptoms that feel like the beginnings of something icky.
Please note that these preventative options should not replace your doctor’s recommendations or care. As always, please consult your physician before implementing the measures below.
1. Daily Lemon Drink
The juice of one fresh-squeezed lemon, half a gram of cyan pepper, in 8 oz of water. This concoction can be used to prevent or treat a cold or flu. The vitamin C from the lemon boosts the immune system and acts like an electrolyte to keep an abundance of fluids moving through your body.
The astringent effect of the lemons helps the throat tissues while cleansing your body to detox you. The cyan pepper will help you sweat it out, traditionally called “Releasing the Exterior” in Chinese medicine.
2. Fitness and Exercise
Stay active throughout the colder months. Physically staying in shape will keep your immune system healthy. In fact, sweating daily–whether it’s a Hot yoga class, an intense spin set, or a sauna after lifting weights–will help to release any cold or flu virus for you. If you’re already sick though, forego the sweaty workout session and take it easy by letting your body rest!
3. Wash Those Hands
This sounds like a no brainer, but this is EXACTLY how most cold and flu viruses are spread, so wash up often! On top of this, try to abstain from touching your face with unwashed hands and avoid shaking someone’s hand where possible. Sure, this may come with some negative social connotations, but unless you can discreetly wash your hands right after that handshake, you are likely helping to spread the virus.
4. Herbal Supplements
Echinacea and elderberry are safe to use without an herbalist’s expertise, and they are a wonderful way to boost your immune system in general. Specifically, echinacea has shown antiviral activity as it suppresses the influenza virus and decreases influenza complications. Research on elderberry has shown that the herb is effective in reducing influenza symptoms and length of illness. To be effective, they should be taken daily, not simply when you’re feeling run down. However, you can increase the dose if if someone near you gets sick or if you’re already feeling run down.
5. Chew Garlic
Chewing on a raw garlic clove is an old traditional throat medicine, but it is also a great way to prevent viral infections of all kinds when someone near you is sick. In addition to helping prevent the occurence of the common cold and influenza, garlic can also help shorten the duration of the illnesses. Just be mindful that you will not absolutely smell like roses!
6. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate.
Your body relies on water to filter stuff out, among other things. In addition, the body often requires extra fluids when the system is depressed with the flu or the common cold. You can also supplement your intake with electrolytes to keep your immune system strong.
7. Mint Tea
Sip mint tea all day long through cold and flu season, or plop a half-inch cube of ginger in hot water and allow to cool. Sip throughout the day, topping up with warm or cool water as you go. Menthol, the active ingredient in peppermint, acts as a decongestant. For added benefit, inhale the steam from the warm tea to help clear your sinuses and soothe your respiratory passages.
8. Essential Oils
There are so many to choose from and every brand seems to have an immune tonic blend of some kind. Why? Because it works! Popular blends that help combat cold and flu usually include eucalyptus, rosemary, oregano, and peppermint. Slip an immune system-boosting blend or an air-purifying blend into a diffuser and let the aroma clean your air.
Used regularly, this type of body work is shown to increase immunity all around. It helps keep circulation efficient so toxins and viruses can be moved through more quickly, and it helps the body digest nutrients from foods more adequately. This fortifies your immune system–leaving you stronger and healthier with every visit.
10. Less Sugar
Less sweets during flu season is a must! And this doesn’t just mean candy, but all processed sugars that show up in processed foods. Read your labels. These sugars dampen your ability to fight off sickness.
These immune-boosting strategies will help you ward off germs and lurking viruses, so pick a few and stick to them daily. Then introduce another couple of techniques if someone around you gets sick or you feel the beginnings of a cold coming on.
Good luck and stay healthy!
Image credit: Dominik Martin