There’s no worse feeling than that of a cold coming on — you can literally feel the germs invading your body, right? The symptoms are clear: You start to drag, and various parts of your body start hurting. To fend off those nasty germs, we consulted with a variety of experts (doctors, nurses, nutritionists and an acupuncturist) to find out their go-to, immune-boosting home remedies.
1. Immune-Boosting Smoothie
Dr. Josh Axe, D.C., DNM, CNS, and author of "The Real Food Diet Cookbook" and"The Secret Detox and Healing Leaky Gut," says smoothies are a great way to boost your immune system — as long as you include the right ingredients. “This immune-boosting smoothie is super effective: Strawberries are loaded with vitamin C (two cups’ worth has 300 percent of the recommended daily value), while mint has its own antioxidant power, improving the function of the digestive system,” he says. “Finally, ginger is a true superfood with multiple health benefits and has long been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine to boost immunity and break down toxins within the body.”
6 to 8 mint leaves
1 red grapefruit, peeled
2 cups of strawberries (unfrozen)
1 small piece of fresh ginger
1/2 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1 cup of ice cubes
Just place ingredients in a high-speed blender, blend and serve. Makes a single serving.
2. Detox Drink
Detox drinks, like this recipe from Dr. Axe, can help boost a sluggish immune system. “Most of us are overwhelmed with toxins and suffering from compromised immune systems. This Secret Detox Drink combines powerful ingredients in a drink that is super easy to make, and the best part is that you don’t have to give up any food groups or commit to a liquid fast,” he says. According to Axe, the apple cider vinegar helps balance the body’s pH while also stimulating the cardiovascular, bowel and lymphatic system. Meanwhile, cinnamon has antimicrobial characteristics that can eliminate bacteria and candida in the gut, and lemon acts as a mild diuretic and stimulates the production of bile, keeping the food moving through the body and gastrointestinal tract.
1 glass of water (12 to 16 ounces)
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
Stevia to taste
Mix ingredients together and serve. Makes a single serving.
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3. Immunity Shiitake Soup
Julie Daniluk, RHN, NNCP, and best-selling author of "Meals That Heal Inflammation" and "Slimming Meals That Heal Inflammation," says when she feels under the weather, this shiitake mushroom soup is her go-to get-well solution. “Shiitake mushrooms boost immunity because they contain lentinan, an active compound that can boost your immune system,” she explains.
8 cups of vegetable broth
6 cups of cauliflower, chopped
6 cups of shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1/2 teaspoon of pink rock salt or grey sea salt
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
2 cups of onions, chopped
Place all ingredients into a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce and cook for 20 minutes. When finished, puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Serve warm. Makes 12 servings.
4. Garlicky Caesar Salad
While most people reach for chicken noodle soup instead of a salad, romaine lettuce is one of the most nutrient-dense greens out there, and the interesting addition of pineapple is a great source of vitamin C. Plus, this dressing gives her Caesar salad recipe some serious cold-busting powers. Daniluk says allicin, the active ingredient in freshly crushed garlic, works like a natural antibiotic and immune-system enhancer. “It has to be raw, though: If baked or boiled, you cook out the allicin,” she explains. In fact, experts also say to leave the crushed garlic for five to 15 minutes to allow an enzymatic reaction to occur that changes the alliin to allicin.
1 head of organic romaine lettuce, chopped
1 head of purple endive, leaves separated
2 cups of fresh pineapple, chopped into small pieces
10 gluten-free flax crackers, broken into pieces (try Mary’s Gone Crackers)
1 tablespoon of capers
1/2 cup of organic olive oil
2 to 3 cloves of garlic
1 organic celery stalk, chopped fine
1/4 cup of water
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of wheat-free tamari
3 anchovy fillets
1 date (1 teaspoon of honey works if dates are unavailable)
1/2 teaspoon of nutritional yeast (optional)
Wash and dry romaine hearts and endive leaves. Chop pineapple and layer on top of the greens. Top with a light dusting of capers and crackers. Using a blender, whip all the dressing ingredients together. Top the salad with the dressing. Makes enough dressing for two to three salads, so store leftovers in the fridge and consume quickly.
5. Cold Wet Sock Remedy
Acupuncturist Christina Morris, LAc, founder and co-owner of Element Natural Healing Arts in Brooklyn, New York, says her cold wet sock remedy helps your immune system by flushing out harmful pathogens that can cause cold or flu symptoms. She says, “The alternation of heat and cold creates a pumping action that stimulates the circulation of blood and lymphatic flow in the body, optimizing both organ function and lymphatic drainage.”
Heat your feet in hot water for five minutes. Soak a pair of cotton socks in ice-cold water. Wring the socks out well (so they are not dripping), then put them on your warm feet. Cover the cold, wet cotton socks with a pair of thick wool socks. Go directly to bed, allowing the socks to dry while you sleep.
6. Eucalyptus and Peppermint Respiratory Steam
Morris says most natural vapor rubs contain peppermint and eucalyptus oils. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, eucalyptus works as an expectorant, helping to clear mucus from the lungs, and peppermint can act as an effective decongestant. “Both are considered to have antibacterial and antiviral properties, and also both act as a cooling agent when applied topically,” she says. “When applied to the feet, the nerve endings are stimulated, creating a circulatory response as well as an immune response of the lymphatic system.
Gather a combination of dried eucalyptus and peppermint leaves. Place the herbs into a pot of boiling water. Lower the temperature to simmer. Breathe in vapors.
7. Oregano Oil Remedy
When she feels a cold coming on, nutritionist Jennifer Salos, M.S., CNC, at the Chesapeake Holistic Natural Health Center in Annapolis, Maryland, adds two drops of oregano oil to a glass of water and guzzles it down. “Oil of oregano contains two compounds called carvacrol and thymol that have powerful anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral properties,” she explains. But eating a pizza or adding the herb to pasta won’t quite achieve the same effect. “Medicinal grade oregano is distilled to extract the essential oil and to preserve it’s healing compounds — it takes over 1,000 pounds of wild oregano to produce just one pound of oil. You might smell like a pizza, but it will be worth it!”
8. Raw Garlic, Coconut Oil and Healing Tea Combo
Salos also swears by the one-two punch of garlic and coconut oil in fending off colds and infections. “Both garlic and coconut oil have properties that help fight the bacteria and viruses,” she explains. Then there’s her special cold and flu concoction. “If I’m feeling sniffly or stuffed up, I eat two to three raw garlic cloves followed by tea with fresh ginger, honey, lemon and cayenne,” she says. “In addition, I use coconut oil as a spread for toast, and I use the oil instead of butter for sauteed veggies, meats and fish.”
As for her tea, she says cayenne pepper is a “force multiplier” that boosts the immune-strengthening effects of the garlic and coconut oil. She credits honey for its antimicrobial properties and its ability to soothe a sore throat to minimize coughing. Finally, she says ginger is a calming influence on the GI tract and can clear mucus that builds up during a cold.