It’s that time of year when we dread the sneezes and coughs from entering our personal air-space. Since you cannot control the hygienic behaviours of people around you, work on your self. In this article, I’ll describe the use of six natural ways to fortify your immune system to be prepared for this cold and flu season.

1. Take your V’s

What I mean is take your vitamins and vegetables. A common problem for your immune system is vitamin deficiencies reduce its ability to fight viruses and microbes in general. Vitamins A and C are very important for overall immune functions including antibody production and immune cell replication. Foods that contain vitamin A (particularly the pre-vitamin A carotenoid compounds) include carrots, dark leafy greens, sweet potato and squash. Excellent vegetable sources of vitamin C include bell peppers, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

2. Elderberry

This is an excellent immune system supporter. Elderberry has many immune-related traditional uses and current science supports it as helping reduce the symptoms and duration of influenza. I often recommend elderberry syrup taken at the first sign of colds and flu (eg: cough, congestion, fatigue).

3. Zinc

Although this mineral is considered a ‘trace mineral,’ meaning it is required in small amounts, it is an essential mineral for total body health. It’s important for the proper functioning of your immune system, but also for wound healing, proper vision, thyroid function, brain function and much more. Signs of deficiency include hair loss, rough dry skin, slow wound healing and poor sense of taste and smell. With respect to the immune system, it has proven to reduce the duration of colds. A recent study published in the prestigious medical journal, Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that zinc significantly reduces the duration of the common cold. Researchers also concluded that zinc can help prevent colds in children. This can have a great impact on reduced sick days from school and is good news for parents and teachers.

4. Astragalus

Astragalus is one of the most common traditionally used herbs for strengthening the immune system. It has thousands of years of use in Chinese medicine where it is commonly recommended for those who are prone to catching colds, those who suffer from fatigue and who have a low appetite. Human research has shown that astragalus can help activate your body’s immune cells so they can do their job more effectively.

5. Garlic and Honey

This treatment comes from your cupboard. Garlic is effective at preventing viral problems and can also help reduce the duration and severity of cold symptoms. Simply mince a head of garlic and immerse in a good quality honey and keep in the refrigerator. Taking a teaspoon daily and more when you are ill can really help. A variation is the use of minced ginger especially for those who are cold and have poor digestion. Honey alone can also really help reduce a nagging persistent cough.

6. Salt

Salt is a natural disinfectant, has cleansing benefits and can break up mucus. It can be used to prevent microorganisms from taking hold in the nasal, oral and respiratory system. The simplest way to prevent viral overload is to gargle with salt water everyday which can reduce your chance of getting a sore throat and other upper respiratory problems. Other ways to use salt are in the form of salt inhalers and nasal saline rinses.


About the Author

Rahim Habib is a registered naturopathic doctor with over 15 years of experience in general family practice. He has a special interest in helping patients comprehensively detoxifying their bodies for preventative and therapeutic benefit. He also has a special interest in children’s health, assisting kids in their learning and behavioural health with conditions such as ADHD, Autism spectrum, asthma, allergies and childhood obesity. He also helps adults with chronic conditions, such as thyroid disorders, infertility, inflammation, obesity, autoimmunity, dementia and cancer care. He is the director of the Four Seasons Naturopathic Clinic for Detoxification and Healing and can be reached at 905-597-7201 or