Well, it’s that time of year again: cold and flu season. Sigh. Everywhere you go there are people all around you hacking and sneezing out pathogenic microbes for your body to take in. Yuck!

If you have a healthy immune system, you do not need to worry too much as it should be able handle most infections thrown its way. The problem comes if you’re run down, stressed out, sleep deprived, and/or are immune compromised for whatever reason, then you’ll need the support of natural supplements and herbs to bolster up your flagging immune system so you can glide through the cold and flu season without being knocked off your feet.

The best strategy to survive the cold and flu season is prevention through fortifying your immune system now. Essential nutritional supplements to increase or add to your regular supplement regime are antioxidants (especially vitamin C and bioflavonoids), essential fatty acids, zinc, vitamin D and probiotics.

Herbs have so much to offer us during the cold and flu season. An herbal immune stimulating formulation can be used not only to resolve an illness more quickly, but also as a pseudo immune tonic for prevention. The difference between the two uses is in the dosing – both in the frequency of dose and the amount of herb taken per dose.

To use an immune stimulating formulation as a preventative pseudo immune tonic you take the formulation following chronic protocols (lower doses taken 3 to 4 times a day) and pulse them (take the herbs regularly for 1 to 2 week periods, followed by a break off the herbs of 1 to 3 weeks, depending on your degree of immune weakness and the environment you’re in). The reason why the herbs are pulsed in this way is that the immune system will often adapt to immune stimulating herbs over a period of a few weeks (even if you change the herbs in the formulation) and the immune-stimulating response tends to drop off. However, when the herbs are pulsed, the immune response will remain at a higher level of resistance to infection even when you are not on the herbs.

The properties that are included in a general immune stimulating herbal formulation used as a preventative are:

1. Immune stimulants: These support the immune system by triggering an immediate, short-term increase in the immune response.
2. Lymphatics: These support the lymphatic system which works together with the immune system.
3. A circulatory stimulant (catalyst): These raise the core body temperature (important when fighting an infection) and also helps get the herbal constituents where they need to go.

You want to include several different immune stimulating herbs in your formulation (a more effective formulation is created when herbs that contain immune stimulating constituents from different chemical families are combined). Some examples of common herbs and their properties that would be excellent in an immune stimulating formulation are:

  • Cinnamon Bark (Cinnamomum verum): antiviral, circulatory stimulant, immune stimulant.
  • Black Elder Flower (Sambucus nigra): antiviral, immune stimulant, lymphatic.
  • Ginger Rhizome (Zingiber officinale): antiviral, circulatory stimulant, immune stimulant.
  • Marigold Flowers (Calendula officinalis): antiviral, immune stimulant, lymphatic.
  • Plantain Herb (Plantago major): antiviral, immune stimulant, lymphatic.
  • Purple Coneflower root (Echinacea ): antiviral, immune stimulant, lymphatic.
  • Stinging Nettle Herb (Urtica dioica): antiviral, immune stimulant, lymphatic.

There are so many powerful herbal allies readily available that will support your immune system during the cold and flu season, so there is no need to feel vulnerable to every infection making the rounds.

If you are pregnant or have serious health concerns of any kind, please seek out the guidance of a qualified Registered Herbalist or other natural healthcare practitioner before beginning any herbal regime.

About the Author

Monika Ghent is a Registered Herbalist with the Ontario Herbalists Association and has a private practice in both Toronto and Vaughan, Ontario, Canada. Her website is She also has a herbal school with her husband Michael Vertolli called Living Earth School of Herbalism ( which offers general interest workshops and online classes, and certificate and diploma programs in Western herbalism and related fields of study.