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Natural Remedies for Flu Season

immune health natural remedies Dec 01, 2022
Functional Medicine Immune Support Natural Remedies Christine Patterson

16 Natural Remedies for COVID, Cold, + Flu

It's that time of year. Stress is high, deadlines are looming, families are gathering, and joy and germs are spreading.

A body under stress naturally uses up more resources and the stress response has key interactions with the immune system that can leave you more vulnerable to illness.  

As a clinician with training in traditional and Functional Medicine, I support my clients with natural approaches and traditional medicines when necessary.  To support you in your own agency, this blog focuses on natural approaches that are generally safe and easy to do for most people.  However, there are reasons not to pursue any of these options and it is always advisable to discuss any options with a healthcare provider that knows you personally to see if it's a good fit for you, your health goals, and your body's condition.  

Sinus Rinse

Your sinuses are your body's first defense against upper respiratory viruses like COVID and the flu. Rinsing out your sinuses daily helps to clear viruses before they can take a hold and cause illness.  It has been shown to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill, reduce symptom severity (so you can breathe easy), and reduce duration of illness.

You want to be sure to follow directions on packaging for the water used and mixture of the solution to ensure the water is free of microbes and the solution is isotonic (so that it does not cause damage to your sensitive sinus tissues). Never use tap water as the use of contaminated water (and all tap water is contaminated) has been linked to rare but serious brain infection.

Fresh Air

It's easy to pull on PJ's and curl up under a blanket all day when you're not feeling good.  However, staying indoors all day and breathing the stale are can keep you exposed to your germs.  If possible, try opening a window for a bit for circulation or taking a short walk outside if your body can tolerate it.  Breathing fresh air helps strengthens your immune system, decreases stress hormones, and gives you energy to help you recover faster. 


While you are sleeping, the body's immune system becomes more active.  Getting consistent, high quality sleep helps prevent infection and promotes recovery and can help prevent getting sick in the first place.


Staying hydrated helps keep blood moving through the body which helps to flush out germs and send vital nutrients throughout the body to support healing. 


Good nutrition will help your body recover faster and reduces chances of getting sick in the first place by keeping you healthier.  While there is no "healthy" diet for everyone, there are a few good rules of thumb you can follow.  Especially while you're sick, focus on getting a wide variety of colorful fresh fruits and vegetables.  Aiming for 1-2 servings of every color every day will help ensure you get the array of micronutrients and phytonutrients you need to support your wellbeing. 


Supplementation with zinc may help reduce the duration and severity of cold and COVID by supporting the immune system's innate and adaptive responses (IFM, 2022). 


Elderberry has natural anti-viral properties and is suggested to reduce symptom severity and duration of illness (IFM, 2022).

Vitamin D

Optimal vitamin D hormone levels have a direct influence on the immune system. It helps to increase macrophages that eat viruses and bacteria, activates anti-microbial peptides, and reduces cytokine activation which is suspected to cause much of the negative consequences of COVID (IFM, 2022).  

Vitamin C

Some studies indicate that regular vitamin C supplementation reduces the severity and length of colds (Mousa, 2017). When taking vitamin C, the maximum dose that is bioavailable to the body at a time is 500mg orally.  Higher doses will not create higher blood levels and will likely only irritate the GI tract, causing side effects such as diarrhea.  Higher blood levels may be achieved with intravenous administration of Vitamin C. 


Probiotics have been show to enhance immune system activity and prevent upper respiratory tract infections and reduce antibiotic use (Mousa, 2017). One strain in particular, Bifidobacterium show anti-flu virus potential and in experimental mice trial, reduced death, inflammation, and viral titers of influenza (Mousa, 2017).

Vitamin A

This micronutrient is most well known for supporting vision, skin, and the integrity of mucus membranes such as the gut and sinuses.  It also plays an essential role in down-regulating inflammation with the immune system (IFM, 2022). It is suggested to decrease symptom severity, reduce likelihood of getting sick, and reduce risk of death from viral illnesses (IFM, 2022). This should be used with caution during pregnancy as it may cause harm to the developing fetus (IFM, 2022). 

N-Acetylcysteine (NAC)

NAC promotes production of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant produced by the body (IFM, 2022; Pizzorno, 2014). It is suggested to decrease symptom severity and duration of illness while also reducing the likelihood of progressing from colonization to illness (IFM, 2022).


This molecule has shown antiviral properties to both many times of viruses with RNA or DNA (IFM, 2022). It is suggested to decrease viral replication and reduce cellular damage by stabilizing mast cells (IFM, 2022).

Green Tea (known as Epigallocatachin gallate (EGCG))

Green tea potentially targets COVID 19 directly while also modulating inflammasomes (IFM, 2022). The suggested dosing is 4 cups daily or 225mg by mouth daily (IFM, 2022).


Similar to green tea, curcumin is suggested to modulate inflammasomes and potentially directly target COVID 19 (IFM, 2022). 

Immune Tonic Shots

You can make a homemade immune tonic with relative ease and a few ingredients.  Boil down filtered water and lemons with honey, turmeric, ginger, and cayenne pepper (optional) for a natural shot high in vitamin C, polyphenols, and antioxidants. You check out a recipe here.

If you would like to go deeper on ways to support your body naturally, check out my Immune Support Toolkit. It has tips for nutrition, lifestyle, supplements, and testing to help you get your immune system on track.

If you are someone who knows that something isn't quite right in your body, but you are being told "everything is normal", reach out for a complimentary 15 minute clarity call to help you get started in the right direction towards getting the answers you need to start feeling your best.  Apply for your free clarity call here.

May you have everything you need to heal,




Institute of Functional Medicine (2022). COVID-19: Functional medicine resources. Retrieved from on November 30, 2022.

Mousa HA. Prevention and Treatment of Influenza, Influenza-Like Illness, and Common Cold by Herbal, Complementary, and Natural Therapies. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2017 Jan;22(1):166-174. doi: 10.1177/2156587216641831. Epub 2016 Apr 6. PMID: 27055821; PMCID: PMC5871211.

Pizzorno J. Glutathione! Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014 Feb;13(1):8-12. PMID: 26770075; PMCID: PMC4684116.

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