When you or a family member is sick in bed with a cold or flu, it can wreak havoc on the entire household. School days are missed, sports activities have to be cancelled and arrangements have to be made for someone to stay home and look after the sick. This can mean that you have to take time off work too, despite being well. Overall, it’s tough on everyone. Fortunately, you’re not alone in your battle to keep the family healthy. Following is a list of ingredients that’ll help support healthy immune systems in all family members.
Herbs and vitamins to help manage the symptoms of a cold
- Olive leaf - The olive tree is indigenous to the Mediterranean region and although olives and olive oil are used as food, its leaves are used medicinally or as a tea. It’s been popular for centuries in the Middle East as a tea to relieve sore throats, coughs, fevers and to improve general health.1 Olive leaf has antimicrobial effects and in traditional western herbal medicine olive leaves are used to relieve fever. It is also a potent antioxidant and helps to reduce the damage caused by free radicals. If you don’t like the taste of olive leaf tea, it’s also available in tablets, capsules or as a liquid.
- Echinacea - Echinacea originates from eastern North America and has traditionally been used for immune system support. Today, echinacea supplements remain popular for immune health and for the treatment of common colds and upper respiratory tract infections.2 Its antioxidant and immune supporting properties also help to reduce the risk of recurrent cold infection in children. Echinacea is a great supplement to take at the onset of a cold, as it helps reduce the severity of cold symptoms such as a runny nose, headache, sore throat and tiredness.
- Horseradish - Most of us will have come across horseradish sauce at some stage, but it also has a history in traditional Western and Native American medicine for its effects on digestion and circulation. It’s a useful supplement to take when you have a cold, as it relieves mucous congestion and coughing and has antimicrobial properties. For those of us who don’t like its spicy taste, horseradish is available as a supplement in tablet or capsule form.
- Perilla - Perilla, also known as Chinese basil, is a plant native to East Asia that’s used in Japanese, Korean and Indian cooking.3 It’s also used in traditional Chinese medicine to relieve cold symptoms like coughing, nasal congestion, watery eyes and an itchy nose.
- Marshmallow - No, we’re not talking about the fluffy kind that you toast over an open fire (although those are good too!) Marshmallow is a herb with a long history of use in traditional Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine. The root is a great supplement to take during a cold or flu, as it works to soothe irritated and inflamed mucous membranes, such as those lining the airways. It also has an anti-inflammatory action, provides temporary relief of coughs and mucous congestion and helps to maintain a healthy immune system.
Foods and nutrients to help support your immune system all year round
- Vitamin A - Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin found in eggs, dairy products, liver and kidneys. It’s also found in dark or yellow vegetables and carrots in the form of beta‐carotene4 and helps maintain a healthy immune system. Skin cells and cells that line the airways, digestive and urinary tracts, act as a barrier and provide a defence against invading viruses and bacteria. Vitamin A is needed for the proper functioning of these cells, making it an important vitamin for immunity and general wellbeing for the whole family.
- Zinc - Zinc is a mineral that’s essential for many processes in the body. Over 90 percent of zinc is found in our bones and muscle tissue and it’s extremely important for healthy growth and development. Not surprisingly, zinc also provides nutritional support for a healthy immune system. You can find it in shellfish, beef and other red meats, as well as in nuts and legumes.5 A number of zinc supplements are also available in the form of tablets, capsules, liquids and throat lozenges.
- Vitamin C - Vitamin C is a well known vitamin that’s found in foods such as fruits and vegetables, especially citrus.6 It’s a highly effective antioxidant and may also be able to regenerate other antioxidants such as vitamin E. Vitamin C has been shown to stimulate both the production and function of white blood cells that are important to immune health. These cells attack foreign bacteria and viruses when they enter the body. So this vitamin is a good one to help keep the immune system working well all year round. If you do come down with a cold or upper respiratory tract infection, vitamin C may help to reduce the duration and severity when taken regularly. And if you suffer with allergies, vitamin C may help here too; it helps to lower histamine levels and this is helpful in relieving the symptoms of hayfever and allergies.
- Cod liver oil - Many of us will remember being given a dose of cod liver oil as children and this traditional supplement remains popular today. It’s a natural source of both vitamin A and D, two vitamins that are essential for maintaining a healthy immune system. It’s an easy and usually inexpensive way to support the immune health of all family members.
- Co‐enzyme Q10 - Co‐enzyme Q10 is found in most cells of the body, with the heart, kidneys, liver and pancreas containing the highest concentrations.7 It plays a vital role in energy production and assists in improving general wellbeing, as well as stimulating the immune system. Take it as a supplement in tablet or capsules for a perfect post‐cold or flu pick‐me‐up.
- Garlic - Last but not least is garlic. A favourite in many kitchens around the world due to its unique flavour, but it also has many health benefits. Not only does garlic maintain and support a healthy immune system, it has anti fungal and antibacterial properties as well. Garlic is also a great supplement to take if you do get a cold, because it helps to relieve mucous congestion and coughs.