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8 Go-To Herbs for Immunity Boost

Here are my 8 go-to herbs for immune boosting, infection prevention and treatment of common cold, flu, and respiratory infections. I recommend following the dosage instructions on the products you purchase, unless I specify otherwise below.

  1. Andographis is an effective antimicrobial herb for the prevention and treatment of colds, bronchitis, viral sore throat, and sinus infections. A combination of Andrographis and Siberian ginseng has been shown to be especially helpful in the treatment of colds, especially when started within 72 hours of the onset of symptoms. Andographis is not recommended during pregnancy, but can be used while breastfeeding. It is safe for children.

  2. Echinacea doesn’t necessarily treat the symptoms of a cold, though it may help some, however, Echinacea is effective for cold prevention and stopping recurrence, so can be taken throughout cold and flu season, or when you have a cold to help prevent it from returning.

  3. Elderberry has been studied and found to be effective in the treatment of flu in adults and children. It is most effective when started within 2 days of the onset of symptoms. It can be taken in pills or capsules, though I prefer the delicious tasting extracts and elderberry syrups, and feature elderberry syrup in the elderberry-echinacea recipe below. A typical dose of the syrup for flu treatment is 1 TBS. three times daily for adults, and 1 TSP. three times daily for children. It is a lovely tasting remedy! Elderberry-Echinacea Syrup: Combine equal parts of elderberry syrup and Echinacea glycerite (available at Whole Foods or online from companies including Herb Pharm, Gaia Herbs, and Planetary Formulas). Give ½ tsp three times daily for babies 6 months to 1 year old, 1 tsp three times daily for children up to 7 years old, 1-2 tsp three times daily for kids over 7 years old, and 1-2 TBS three times daily for adults. Safe during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

  4. Garlic boosts immunity and can fight viral and bacterial infections. The best way to use garlic for prevention is to include it abundantly in your diet, either cooked into vegetables and other foods, or preferably raw in homemade salad dressings if you tolerate the taste. A garlic clove can also be pressed and mixed with a teaspoon of honey and taken right off the spoon. This is repeated 1-2 times each day during a cold. Or make Garlic-Lemonade that even kids love! Garlic Lemonade: Finely mince 2 cloves of fresh garlic and place them in a 1-quart mason jar. Fill the jar with boiling water and cover for 30 minutes. Strain out the garlic, and to the liquid add the juice of 1 whole lemon. Sweeten to taste with honey. Give warm, and offer as much as the child can drink. For babies under 1, use maple syrup instead of honey. Do not give to babies under 6 months old. Safe during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

  5. Ginger fights viral infections and also helps with aches, pains, and digestive symptoms that come along with fever, colds, and flu. It also helps break up congestion that comes with a cold and cough. I love it as a tea made with lemon and honey (which is also beneficial for coughs), but you can also use capsules and liquid extracts. Miso broth with plenty of grated ginger is also therapeutic. Ginger Tea: Make strong ginger tea by steeping 1 tablespoon of fresh grated ginger in 1 cup of boiling water for ten minutes. Cover while steeping, then add lemon and honey to taste. Drink hot, up to 4 cups daily. Safe during pregnancy up to 2 cups daily, and while breastfeeding.

  6. Green Tea, taken as a tea, 1-2 cups daily, has been shown to prevent sinus infections, a common reason people take too many antibiotics.

  7. Umckaloabo (“Umcka” or Pelargonium) has been shown to be effective in shortening the duration of colds with cough, bronchitis, and sinus infections. For sinus infections, it may have to be taken daily for up to 3 weeks to really clear the infection.

  8. Maitake mushrooms support the immune system and have been shown to prevent upper respiratory infections (cold with cough, ear infections, and sinus infections). They can be taken daily in pills, capsules, or an extract form for boosting overall immunity and preventing colds and flu, as well as general well-being.