As winter approaches, so does the dreaded cold and flu season. Believe it or not, there are quite a few things you can do to prevent coming down with either of those dreaded illnesses. Let’s look at some ways you can boost your immune system and ward off those viruses.

Before we look at foods and herbs to help, let’s examine some easy lifestyle adjustments that are extremely effective at prevention. Research has shown that regular exercise can reduce the chance of cold or flu by 30 to 60 percent. Incorporating that daily walk or some interval training three times a week is an easy way to begin your prevention regime. Some things to add to your daily regime are drinking plenty of water, eating a rainbow of food colors that are loaded with antioxidants, and eating more fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut. Some things to reduce daily are sugar and processed food consumption and the use of hand sanitizers, which kill off both bad and beneficial bacteria. Finally, spend some time outdoors to increase your vitamin D levels. These simple changes really do help boost your immune system.

Now for the amazing herbs and spices that really do help build a strong immune system. You can choose the ones that speak to you or that you enjoy eating and begin consuming them on a regular basis to keep the colds and flu away. Our first and very powerful herb is astragalus. This root can be purchased sliced and has a very mild flavor. It is super easy to include a few sticks of this herb in your next soup, bone broth or grain. You won’t even notice it is there. This herb not only wards off infection, it also protects the heart and liver. At the end of the article, there will be a recipe for those chai lovers that includes astragalus and our next herb, reishi. The reishi mushroom does a wonderful job of supporting your immune system. A tea decoction from this mushroom is a great tonic to drink on its own. If you have ever tried any cordyceps mushroom beverages, they are also an immune booster and especially protects the upper respiratory system. Four Sigmatic makes some coffee blends with these herbs that make a tasty beverage to enjoy. A couple other herbs you might enjoy are ashwagandha and ginseng. Both support your immune system and have some other added benefits such as helping with sleep and blood sugar regulation. We will round out our discussion with tulsi or holy basil tea. This delicious tea is easy to find and a wonderful adaptogen to balance our bodies in so many ways. Simply drinking a cup of tea a day would benefit your body and immune system. This herb is really gentle and you almost can’t over do it.

No prevention advice would be complete without the star of the show – elderberry. This little jewel not only can prevent an upper respiratory virus, it can help to stop it. The reason elderberry is the star is because of its incredibly high content of flavonoids, which prevent pathogens from replicating. There are a couple of ways to use elderberry. You can either enjoy an elderberry syrup or honey. A tablespoon dose for adults per day is a great prevention. Babies should never consume honey and a teaspoon a day dose would be adequate for children. It can also be used once a virus has struck on a more frequent dosage. You can also purchase a tincture of elderberry.

Finally, let’s look at your cupboard. Use those spices in your cooking. They do boost your immune system and much more. They improve digestion and this important because eighty percent of your immune system is in the small intestine. Cooking with spices doesn’t have to mean hot. Simply using lots of spices helps because they are also antimicrobial and can help ward off a pathogenic infection. One in particular is garlic. It is antimicrobial while it increases circulation and strengthens your digestion. Include it in everything. Here is a chai recipe to enjoy this cold and flu season. It incorporates some spices and the herbs astragalus and reishi. The next article will focus on what to do if you happen to catch a cold or the flu this season. Hopefully, your prevention regime will eliminate the need for any remedies.

Immune Boosting Chai – from LearningHerbs

2 T dried ginger root

2 T dried orange peel

1 T cinnamon chips

1 tsp. peppercorns

½ tsp. cardamom

¼ tsp. cloves

10-20 grams astragalus root

6-9 grams sliced reishi

1 ½ quarts of water

Bring all the ingredients to a boil and simmer for one hour. Strain and enjoy.