As the temperatures drop and the days get shorter, everyone starts thinking about the flu. The virus can spread from person to person, even from 6 feet away! This can mean trouble when you’re just trying to survive work, school, and the upcoming holidays. And while the flu virus is in the air all year round, its activity increases from December to February, a time known as the flu season.
But should you get the flu shot? The vaccine, which changes each year, helps the body make antibodies against the influenza virus. However, you might be wondering if there’s a more natural way. With the medicinal power of food, there most certainly is. Some can destroy viruses while others enhance the immune system. In many cases, a food has the ability to do both. Here’s what you should eat to naturally – and efficiently – avoid the flu.1 2
Elderberry is high up on the list of ancient anti-viral remedies. In its juice form, studies have found that it can kill human influenza viruses. Better yet, elderberry stimulates the immune system, giving you an extra dose of protection. You can also find elderberry as tea, syrup, supplements, or lozenges. If you have a sweet tooth, add dried elderberries to oatmeal or trail mix.3
Like elderberry, Echinacea is a traditional immune booster. It keeps the body on guard by increasing immune cells like macrophages and neutrophils! In turn, the influenza virus will have a hard time taking over. And if you already have the flu? Echinacea suppresses the virus and eases symptoms, making recovery a breeze. Take it as a tea, supplement, or extract.4
In ancient Chinese medicine, astragalus root is a respected anti-viral herb. It’s all thanks to the rich cocktail of flavonoids, minerals, and amino acids. In the body, these nutrients bring on the activation and spreading of immune cells. Specifically, phagocytes get an excellent boost. These cells “eat” harmful particles so you can stay in tip-top shape. And like most herbs, astragalus is available as tea, supplements, or extracts.5
Turmeric, also known as “Indian gold,” has major flu-busting compounds. Curcumin enhances the immune system while germacrone suppresses viruses. As a result, influenza can’t replicate and spread, putting an end to the infection before it even starts. To enjoy turmeric, add the dried spice to soup or smoothies for a zesty kick. You can also take it as tea, supplements, or extracts.6 7
Ginger is another traditional medicine. Its active compounds like zingerone, gingerol, and shogaol have immune-stimulating properties that can’t be matched! Plus, with its anti-bacterial properties, you’ll have extra protection against other germs. Fresh ginger tastes amazing in cooked meals, smoothies, or juices. For more convenient options, take supplements or extracts.8
Flu season is prime time to use cordyceps. This medicinal mushroom improves cellular function by stimulating natural killer cells, a must during the flu season. In fact, according to a 2014 animal study, the effect is so strong that it can suppress the influenza virus. Are you new to medicinal mushrooms? Check out your local health store for tasty mushroom coffee, extracts, and drinks.9 10
Everyone reaches for vitamin C during the flu season. But if you want the upper hand, top it off with zinc. This mineral is actually added to vitamin C supplements, proving just how important it truly is. Zinc keeps cytokines on track. These proteins regulate cell signaling, making sure immune cells are doing their job. Without enough, the immune response will slow down. Aside from supplements, eat zinc-rich foods like oysters, crab, fortified cereal, and cashews. The body doesn’t store this nutrient, so be sure to get 8 grams a day if you’re a woman and 11 grams a day if you’re a man.11 12
These natural flu shots will not make the flu vanish overnight, but making them a part of your regular diet is a good preventive measure. Come flu season, you’ll be glad you did.
|↑1||Key Facts About Seasonal Vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑2||The Flu Season.
|↑3||Kinoshita, Emiko, Kyoko Hayashi, Hiroshi Katayama, Toshimitsu Hayashi, and Akio Obata. “Anti-influenza virus effects of elderberry juice and its fractions.” Bioscience, biotechnology, and biochemistry 76, no. 9 (2012): 1633-1638.|
|↑4, ↑5||Roxas, Mario, and Julie Jurenka. “Colds and influenza: a review of diagnosis and conventional, botanical, and nutritional considerations.” Alternative Medicine Review 12, no. 1 (2007): 25-49.|
|↑6||Liao, Qingjiao, Zhengxu Qian, Rui Liu, Liwei An, and Xulin Chen. “Germacrone inhibits early stages of influenza virus infection.” Antiviral research 100, no. 3 (2013): 578-588.|
|↑7||Han, Shuguang, Jing Xu, Xiangjun Guo, and Mao Huang. “Curcumin ameliorates severe influenza pneumonia via attenuating lung injury and regulating macrophage cytokines production.” Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology (2017).|
|↑8||Ahmad, Bilal, Muneeb U. Rehman, Insha Amin, Ahmad Arif, Saiema Rasool, Showkat Ahmad Bhat, Insha Afzal, Ishraq Hussain, and Sheikh Bilal. “A review on pharmacological properties of zingerone (4-(4-Hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-2-butanone).” The Scientific World Journal 2015 (2015).|
|↑9||Zhou, Xuanwei, Zhenghua Gong, Ying Su, Juan Lin, and Kexuan Tang. “Cordyceps fungi: natural products, pharmacological functions and developmental products.” Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology 61, no. 3 (2009): 279-291.|
|↑10||Lee, Hwan Hee, Heejin Park, Gi-Ho Sung, Kanghyo Lee, Taeho Lee, Ilseob Lee, Man-seong Park et al. “Anti-influenza effect of Cordyceps militaris through immunomodulation in a DBA/2 mouse model.” Journal of Microbiology 52, no. 8 (2014): 696-701.|
|↑11||Beck, F. W., A. S. Prasad, J. Kaplan, J. T. Fitzgerald, and G. J. Brewer. “Changes in cytokine production and T cell subpopulations in experimentally induced zinc-deficient humans.” American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology And Metabolism 272, no. 6 (1997): E1002-E1007.|