herbal medicine supplements for cold and flu

Herbal medicine to combat the cold and flu blues

 Supplements and herbs to support immune response-

Photo by Annedore Liebs-Schuchardt/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Annedore Liebs-Schuchardt/iStock / Getty Images

Vitamin C and Zinc – A 2006 systematic review reported that Vitamin C and zinc supplementation ameliorates symptoms and shortens the duration of upper respiratory infections including the common cold.  Vitamin C improves components of the immune system including lymphocytes (those T and B cells) and zinc increases the activity of phagocytic cells (think PACMAN!)[5]

Vitamin D – Vitamin D receptors are expressed on T and B cells and these cells help create the usable form of Vitamin D for the body.  Vitamin D deficiency has been directly linked to an increased susceptibility to autoimmune disease and an increased risk of infection[6]

Echinacea – Increases macrophage function and has an antioxidant effect and anti-inflammatory action[7].  Quality COUNTS.  Only buy a high-grade Echinacea product (such as Mediherb) as a number of researchers have reached the same conclusion – the root has an positive action on the immune response more so than the whole herb, and that there can be a huge variation in efficacy due to quality.  Best used daily to PREVENT infection rather than used at onset of symptoms.

Andrographis – Has an antibacterial action against E. coli, Salmonella typhi, Staphylococcus sp. and Pseudomonas sp.[8].  Used traditionally in the initial stages of infection for common cold and upper respiratory tract infections.  Also supports liver function due to bitter taste. 

Astragalis – A 2011 research article showed that astragalis was effective in increasing the stimulation of white blood cell activity when exposed the viral infection swine flu in vivo[9].  Traditionally astragalis has been used after the initial stages of infection to help improve energy and vitality.  Commonly used after viral infections such as glandular fever.

Olive leaf – Antioxidant, antibacterial and antifungal action.  Traditionally used to lower blood pressure acts as an antibiotic[10].

To support gut function

Probiotics – ‘Good’ bacteria crowd out the bad, provide a protective layer that is a first line of defence at a skin and gut level, support the lymphatic immune response and reduce the inflammatory response = good quality water in the cup!

Glutamine – Has been shown to enhance gut function, prevent loss of gut integrity, and improve patient outcomes[11].  This helps improve gut integrity, improve localised immune response and reduce inflammation = a cup with no holes in it!

To reduce inflammation 

Turmeric – Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant action.  Shown to be particularly effective at inhibiting the biochemical pathways that are initiated in chronic inflammation.  Shown to inhibit inflammageing – improve outcomes with osteoarthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia[12]. Traditionally also used to improve digestive function and liver disorders.

Fish oil – Compared to NSAIDs (ibuprofen – Neurofen) omega-3 EFA fish oil demonstrate an equivalent effect in reducing pain (when taking 2400mg EPA daily)[13]. 

To reduce stress response 

KSM 66 (Withania extract) – Reduces cortisol production and promotes feelings of calm 


[5]    Wintergerst, E. s., Maggini, S., Hornig, D.H. 2006.  Immune-enhancing role of vitamin C and zinc and effect on clinical conditions. Ann Nutr Metab.  2006;50(2):85-94.

[6]    Aranow, C.  2011.  Vitamin d and the immune system.  J of Investig Med.  59(6): 881-886. doi: 10.231/JIM.0b013e31821b8755

[7]     Rininger, J. A. et al. 2000.  Immunopharmacological activity of Echinacea preparations following simulated digestion on murine macrophages and human peripheral blood mononuclear cells.  Journal of Lymphocyte Biology. 68(4) 503-510.

[8]    Shalini, V.B, & Narayanan, J. S. 2015. Antibacterial activity of Andrographis paniculata Nees against selective human pathogens.  African Journal of Microbiology Research.  9(16) 1122-1127. doi: 10.5897/AJMR2015.7515.

[9]    Zeng-Yu, Z. et al. 2011.  Effects of Astragalis polysaccharide on immune response s of porcine PBMC stimulated with PRRSV or CSFV. PLoS ONE. 7(1): e29320. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029320

[10]  Aliabadi, M. A., et al. 2012.  Antimicrobial activity of olive leaf aqueous extract.  Annals of Biological Research. 3(8):4189-4191. 

[11]  Stchmiller, J. K.,  Treloar, D. &, Allen N.  1997.  Am J Crit Care. 6(3) 204-209. 

[12]  Sikora, E., et al. 2010.  Curcumin, inflammation, ageing and age-related diseases. Immunity and Ageing.  7(1). doi: 10.1186/1742-4933-7-1

[13]  Maroon, J. C. et al. 2006. Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) as an anti-inflammatory: an alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for discogenic pain.  Surg Neurol. 65(4):326-31.