Eight Natural Remedies to Boost Immunity and Relieve Symptoms of Illness
Sheri Vettel, MPH RD LDN, IIN Content Writer
From keeping raw potatoes in your socks overnight to sipping homemade chicken noodle soup, you’ve likely heard about all kinds of natural remedies to recover from illness. You may be wondering which of these suggestions are in fact tried and true – especially now, in the midst of a global pandemic. COVID-19 has demonstrated that the topics of wellness and immunity are more important than ever. For this reason, as well as the usual seasonal shifts leading to illness (“flu season”), it’s crucial for us all to find natural and effective ways to take care of ourselves.
By boosting your immunity with a mix of vitamins, minerals, and herbs, you might look a little brighter (a bonus!), and you’ll feel better, too.
Eight Natural Remedies to Combat Illness
Because self-care is so important, we’ve put together a list of our favorite natural remedies to boost immunity and provide symptom relief (should illness occur). We invite you to investigate the suggestions below to see if they’re a safe option for you (after all, everyone has unique health needs!). These remedies shouldn’t replace getting the flu shot, taking medications recommended by a doctor, or avoiding public health guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as physical distancing, regular hand washing, and wearing a face mask. Instead, these remedies are meant to support your body, mind, and overall health, especially if you’re looking for extra ways to prevent illness and boost immunity! The best part? You probably have some of them in your pantry already!
1. Bone Broth
Move over chicken noodle soup, there’s a new broth taking the wellness industry by storm! Bone broth – made from the bones of cows, chickens, and even fish – is combined with a mix of herbs, spices, and vegetables to create an aromatic stock. Because bone broth is so nutritious (and flavorful, too!), it comes with a variety of body-boosting benefits. Rich in gelatin and collagen, bone broth can support gut health and reduce inflammation. It’s also packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals, including calcium, vitamin A, magnesium, iron, and phosphorus. These minerals work together to boost immunity and strengthen bones.
2. Elderberry Syrup
Although elderberry has been around for hundreds of years, it has recently gained attention for its antifungal and antibacterial properties – meaning it will help you fight any virus you feel coming on! This fruit from the Sambucus tree is packed with antioxidants and rich in fiber and vitamin C. Moreover, studies have shown that elderberry syrup and extracts can reduce the length and severity of cold and flu symptoms.
While garlic is known for its flavor-enhancing properties, it also helps fight off bacteria and infection. One clove contains about five milligrams of calcium, twelve milligrams of potassium, and more than one hundred sulfuric compounds – which makes it an immune-boosting superherb. One study found that individuals who took a garlic supplement were less likely to get sick in the first place! For the highest concentration of immune-boosting properties, we recommend consuming raw garlic. However, upping your intake by roasting or sautéing it, or taking a supplement, can also be beneficial.
4. Oil of Oregano
Oil of oregano is made from the oregano plant and contains a high concentration of antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. Two compounds found in oregano oil, thymol and carvacol, are antiviral, meaning they can help kill bad bacteria that enter the body with a common cold or flu. Because oregano oil has a pungent smell and taste, we recommend adding a few drops to your morning juice or smoothie.
5. Essential Oils
Essential oils, such as eucalyptus, tea tree, bergamot, and cinnamon leaf, have been shown to have medicinal and therapeutic benefits, along with reducing the flu virus’s ability to spread. Although you can apply these oils to your skin with a carrier oil, we encourage you to use a diffuser. Allowing the vapors to fill your home can improve air quality and enhance the air you’re breathing!
6. Herbal Tea
A hot cup of tea has been a traditional remedy for cold sufferers for thousands of years. The hot liquid can soothe your throat and break up congestion, while providing a warming relief. There are many varieties to look for in your local grocery store, but here are a few of our favorites:
Peppermint contains menthol, one of the most common ingredients in cough syrups and cough drops. Menthol helps relieve congestion while suppressing your cough, so peppermint tea is a beneficial way to calm your body, clear your nasal passages, and soothe your throat!
From the purple coneflower plant, echinacea contains compounds called phenols, which have antioxidant properties beneficial for our health. Echinacea can help reduce inflammation while shortening the duration of cold and flulike symptoms. One study showed that taking echinacea can also decrease your chances of catching the common cold by 58%.
Frequently used to soothe your stomach, ginger is also a great immunity booster during flu season! You can grab a shot of ginger at your local juice bar or brew it as a tea. Because it’s diaphoretic and promotes sweating, it’s the perfect way to keep your body warm and ward off those feverish chills.
The benefits of sage extend beyond its flavor in food, as this herb boasts anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It has astringent properties, too, meaning it’s helpful for drying up excess secretions, such as that pesky postnasal drip! Sage tea has traditionally been used to soothe sore throats, and in fact, one study found that an echinacea and sage blend throat spray was just as effective as a lidocaine spray for treating an acute sore throat!
Plus, don’t forget to add a lemon wedge or scoop of honey to any cup of tea for an extra boost of vitamin C!
7. Vitamin D
Vitamin D wards off pathogens by strengthening your body’s immune response. Consider having your vitamin D levels checked to determine if a supplement is needed, and in the meantime, be sure to get a healthy dose of vitamin D by regularly eating salmon, egg yolks, fortified dairy products, and mushrooms (that have been exposed to sunlight)! Because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, pair vitamin D supplements or fat-free dairy products and milk alternatives (fortified with vitamin D) with a meal or snack containing dietary fat (such as avocado or nuts) to aid absorption.
Leafy greens are also a great source of vitamin D as long as you pair them with a fat, such as cooking them in ghee or olive oil.
Zinc is a mineral known for its role in immune cell function and antiviral support. A meta-analysis of over seventeen clinical trials found that zinc supplementation decreased the duration of cold symptoms in adults. Get extra zinc through your diet by regularly adding cashews, egg yolks, oysters, pumpkins seeds, and sesame seeds into your meal and snack rotation.
As for chicken noodle soup relieving the common cold?
Science seems to support this remedy as compounds within the soup have anti-inflammatory activity. It may just be worth getting cozy with a cup of chicken noodle soup often, and maybe even adding an extra flavor and wellness boost with ginger!