The important things to remember with colds, respiratory flu (see note below) and other acute infections is that there are things we can do to build up our immune system so we can better fight these nasty bugs. It takes both a susceptibility to the virus or bacteria as well as the exposure in order to get sick. Both of these parameters can be influenced by the choices we make. (See The Cold and Flu – What’s the Difference? to recognize the difference between colds, the flu and a stomach flu.)

The main way that cold and influenza viruses are spread is through contaminated secretions from coughing, sneezing and the hands of someone sick. We can lessen our exposure by washing our hands with soap and water and using surface disinfectants in contaminated areas (i.e., where other people with colds may be).  We can avoid spreading it to others by the obvious things your mother taught you – cover your month when coughing and sneezing with a tissue or handkerchief and wash your hands regularly. Another really good way to prevent others from getting sick is to stay home when sick. It will also speed your recovery!

To improve your resistance to the bugs cut down on simple sugars such as desserts, sweet snacks and fruit juice (they depress the immune system), eat a whole foods healthy diet, take a good multiple vitamin/mineral supplement, get enough sleep, and lessen the stresses in your life. Anything that is physically or emotionally stressful can depress the immune system. In many people dairy tends to produce more and thicker nasal mucus and can encourage secondary bacterial infections to develop that lead to sinus and ear infections. So for these people avoiding dairy during the illness is highly recommended. 

Once you sense you may be coming down with something (e.g., a scratchy throat) – don’t wait! This is the time to jump on it. Immediately start high dose vitamin C and an Echinacea/Goldenseal combination herbal formula. We really like Herb Pharm’s Echinacea/Goldenseal but others are good too. Sometimes this will kick the virus out before it ever gets going. If that is not doing enough you can add other herbs like Astragalus and Black Elderberry. There are also herbal cough elixirs that are very helpful for symptomatic relief of coughs and Zinc Lozenges are helpful with sore throats. And finally don’t forget to do the Cold Sock Treatment (for nasal congestion) and Fever Therapy (for when the body has not produced its own fever).

Garlic in any form is an excellent addition to the  infection fighting arsenal. The very best is raw organic garlic. This is pretty intense and not for the faint of mouth, or stomach, but eating it raw will give you the most benefit. It helps to slice it up and take it with a little bread or other food. An ideal dose would be 2 to 4 cloves per day. Of course, you will stink but the microbes won’t like it either. All the other ways of getting it in are also useful (cooked, capsules, etc.). We can’t know what a correct dose will be for any particular encapsulated garlic product you may be using, but here is a suggestion: try to at least double the dose suggested on the bottle when you are sick. Caution: don’t leave raw sliced or chopped garlic in contact with your skin or mucous membranes (e.g., mouth) for longer than it takes to chew it up and swallow.

Recommended adult doses during an acute infection:
Echinacea/goldenseal – ½ dropper 6 times a day (tincture), or 2 capsules 6 times a day
Vitamin C – 1000 mg 6 times a day
Vitamin D3 – 5000 to 8000 I.U. per day 
Astragalus – ½ dropper 4 times a day, or 2 capsules 4 times a day
Black Elderberry – ½ dropper 4 times a day
Children doses: For children cut down the doses proportionately by weight.

Caution: Do not use goldenseal with pregnancy, although echinacea can still be used.

Please note: The true influenza is a difficult acute disease to self-treat. It would be better to visit your primary care giver, a naturopathic doctor, or homeopath for an acute homeopathic remedy specifically tailored to your case. Acute homeopathy is a very powerful and effective way a treating acute infections, even the worse flu. No other treatment, natural or pharmaceutical, works as well for influenza.   

Warning:  This website is intended to provide information about the services offered at the Heartland Naturopathic Clinic in Omaha, Nebraska and to educate people about homeopathic and naturopathic medicine. It also contains educational information about diet, nutrition, and various “home treatments.” This information is not intended as medical advice and is not meant to replace the necessary care of your qualified health care provider. Before using any of these “home treatments” your licensed primary care provider should first evaluate your condition and approve their use. Any consequences that arise from the unsupervised use of the information found on this website is not the responsibility of the owners of the website.