Cold & Flu Prevention, Beyond Hand Washing

Fall and winter is the time of year when colds, the flu and other illnesses are rampant, making it a great time to focus on prevention, to maintain health throughout the cold seasons. Naturopathic medicine and herbal medicine provide useful preventative treatments that I recommend for everyone. Creating a strong foundation of health is critical, which includes quality sleep, whole-foods plant-heavy diet, hydration, and stress management. With these lifestyle foundations in place, here are a few additional tricks to keep those bugs at bay.            

Soups, Stocks, & Chinese Herbs

Vegetable and bone broths are a great weekly staple during the cold months. These soups & stocks can range from highly simple, to more complex, providing nourishment in either case. A basic chicken stock can be made from the carcass of a rotisserie chicken, with some added vegetables of onion, celery & carrot, along with a bundle of garden herbs such as thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, & sage, simmered for a number of hours, strained, and enjoyed, or frozen for later use. Another fantastic additive for this winter-wellness stock, is the addition of immune-supportive herbs from the Chinese medicine tradition. I like to combine astragalus root (Astragalus membranaceous), codonopsis root (Codonopsis pilosula), and reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) or shiitake mushroom (Lentinufa edodes). I purchase these inexpensive dried herbs at a local herb store, put them in a muslin bag, simmer with the soup, and simply remove at the finish and discard, similar to a bay leaf. This lovely Chinese herbal blend acts to build and strengthen the immune system on the deepest level, helping to provide a shield against unwanted infections. 

Vitamins & Nutrients

During the cold season I often recommend people up their daily dose of immune-supportive nutrients as a preventative measure. Why wait until sick? Vitamin C 2,000 mg/day is tolerable for most people. Adding in zinc picolinate around 10 mg/day on a full stomach is shown to improve immune function. Vitamin D at doses of 2,000 IU/day is a good maintenance dose to keep the immune system strong. Brightly colored vegetables & fruits, especially dark berries, dark leafy greens, and orange colored vegetables all contain antioxidants of Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and others, to nourish the immune system health. Adding in copious amounts of garlic & onions, if tolerable is excellent as an all-around antibiotic in the body. While you're at it, double up on pungent and aromatic spices to cooking, these also contain inherently antimicrobial action, and can help prevent illness.


Hydrotherapy is a lesser-known modality for wellness, but one of my all time favorites. I love it because it is easy to do, free, low risk of harm, gentle, yet profoundly powerful and effective. Throughout the year, but especially in the cold season I recommend people end their hot showers with a cold rinse over the entire body, followed by a vigorous towel rub to dry off. This will result in an overall warmer body temperature throughout the cold months, helping to build resilience in the system, enabling the body to fight off colds and the flu with ease. It also helps to calm stress & anxiety, and improve digestion. 

Elderberry Syrup

So many herbs are fantastic at treating illness, in so many different ways. For prevention, my all time favorite is elder (Sambucus nigra). Elder can be utilized in many ways, however the easiest and tastiest method is elderberry syrup. Elderberry syrup is safe to take every day as a preventative for adults and children, but always be cautious with any herb during pregnancy. Elderberry syrup can be purchased at any herb store or natural grocery, or even at some standard drug stores. There are a variety of brands and preparations, that tend to all be relatively decent. My favorite brands for syrup are Wise Woman Herbals and Nature's Way. Elderberry syrup can also be easily made at home, check out the recipe from Mountain Rose Herbs