Cold & Flu Remedies

By Naomi Skoglund L.Ac.

For parents of young children, “cold season” can last from September to May (and sometimes through the summer) but the winter months are particularly hard. If you feel like you or your kids have been in a constant cycle of getting sick, below are a few recommendations that I share with parents in my practice for improving immunity and fighting colds in the winter months.

Simplify Your Diet
Eating foods that are nourishing, cooked and warm helps your body have more energy for fighting off the bugs that you come in contact with. This is the perfect time for teas, soups and to make sure you are eating vegetables daily. It is not a great time for lots of dairy or cold, raw foods like salad. If you feel like you might be fighting something off, eating less meat is a good idea too.

From October through December sugar is a constant temptation. Now that the holidays have passed, it’s a great time to limit refined sugar. Processed sugar greatly reduces your body’s immune response and increases inflammation, making it less likely that you’ll be able to fight off those viruses. When you or your kids are getting sugar cravings, drink a glass of water then go for some fruit and nuts.
    Eat your Vitamins
    Pumpkin seeds, cashews, chickpeas, sesame seeds (hello hummus!), garlic and oysters are a great source of zinc which is an important mineral for immune system strength. Leafy greens, citrus fruits and berries are a great source of Vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant that we all think of for immune system support. Shiitake mushrooms have been found in studies to have antiviral and immune regulating effects. Cooking with onion, garlic, turmeric, ginger and black pepper will add antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects to your dinner while?boosting the flavor!!?
    Simplify Your Life
    Studies have found that psychological stress can lower your immune system function, resulting in more colds. Giving your body and mind some space to rest can lower levels of stress-induced hormones like cortisol, which suppress your immune system. Relaxing time with family, meditation, yoga or acupuncture can all help to boost your immune function.

    This is the time when it’s more important than ever to make sure you are getting enough sleep. Many studies have shown that the time when you are sleeping is just as important as how long you sleep, and that people working late nights tend to get sick more often. Chinese Medicine’s wisdom tells us to be asleep by 11 pm for optimal health.

    Top 6 Supplements for Cold Season
    Immune Support

    All of these supplements are easy to find. Some are good to take daily, while others are good to have on hand so you can take them at the first sign of fatigue or feeling “rundown,” or when you see that your coworkers or your child’s classmates are starting to get sick.

    Vitamin D3 plays an important role in the body’s innate immune response. Since Vitamin D3 is actually a hormone, it’s best to get a blood test to determine your baseline Vitamin D level. Many adults can take between 2000-5000 IU/day in the winter. Children’s dosage depends on their age and weight and can range from 400-2000 IU/day. Talk with your health care provider about the best amount for you and your children.

    Echinacea is essential in helping to ward off colds and flu. Numerous studies have shown that ongoing use of Echinacea significantly lowers the occurrence of respiratory infections and ear infections. You can also take Echinacea during a cold to shorten its length and severity.

    Elderberry Syrup increases immune system function, helps to resolve mucus and phlegm and acts as a powerful antioxidant. Here in Maine we can often get locally made elderberry syrup or I also like Gaia Herbs’ Black Elderberry Syrup.

    Fire Cider is a popular herbal remedy that can help ward off colds and flu. A shot a day can help you stay healthy through the season. It’s a pretty strong taste for kids, but some may go for it! Swallowtail Farm in Portland makes their own Fire Cider and there are other brands available at Rosemont and Whole Foods, but you can easily make your own.

    Medicinal Mushrooms like Shiitake, Maitake, Chaga, Cordyceps and Reishi all have immune enhancing effects. For people who get sick on a regular basis, I often suggest a product from Host Defense called Stamets 7. This product combines 7 different mushrooms and includes Reishi, Cordyceps, Maitake and Chaga to support your natural immune system function.            

    Probiotics and Fermented Foods can also help to support the immune system, especially for people who have taken a lot of antibiotics, as the digestive system is very important for immune system balance. Choose a probiotic that has multiple strains, including both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

    *As with any recommendations, and especially if you are pregnant or have an autoimmune condition, please consult with your healthcare provider before taking any supplements. Six Branches Family Acupuncture and Naomi Skoglund L.Ac. have no connection and receive no financial benefit from the companies named above.
    Naomi Skoglund L.Ac. is a nationally certified acupuncturist and herbalist, and the owner of Six Branches Family Acupuncture, located at the new Rosemont Wellness Center in Portland ME. She treats people throughout the lifespan and has used all of these strategies with her own 3.5 year old daughter. Learn more about her practice at