Natural ways to prevent the cold and flu

Natural ways to prevent the cold and flu

Dr. Kristin Woodward tells us some natural ways to prevent the cold and flu.

It has been a rough cold and flu season.  We know the best way to prevent the flu is with the flu shot.  However, there are some complimentary and alternative therapies that people use to decrease the risk of catching a cold.   It’s important to talk to your doctor before using a complimentary therapy as they can have side effects, may interact with medications, and can cause allergic reactions.
Complimentary and Alternative therapies for cold and flu prevention and treatment.
Zinc may reduce the duration of the common cold if started within the first 24 hours of symptoms.  Several studies have been done that support the short term use of zinc.  Recommended doses are 80mg/day for less than two weeks.  Zinc can cause nausea and other gastrointestinal symptoms.  It may also interact with medications.   Do not use for more than 1-2 weeks.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C may reduce the length of a cold but routine use does not prevent colds for most people.  For most people, vitamin C does not prevent colds and only reduces their length and severity.  It may be useful useful for people exposed to extreme physical stress, for example marathon runners.  Vitamin C is generally considered safe.  However in high doses can cause diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramps.


Honey is an effective anti-cough treatment in kids.  It reduces the frequency of the cough.  Kids have been shown to sleep better after taking one teaspoon of honey before going to bed.  Honey should not be used in children younger than 1 year of age because of the risk of botulism.

Geranium extract may be helpful in relieving symptoms of bronchitis and the common cold in adults but evidence is low and more research needs to be done.  Geranium can be given in liquid drops three times a day.  Research suggests geranium is generally well tolerated in most people.


Research generally supports the use of Echinacea by adults to prevent or treat a cold.  However, additional trials are needed.  In the lab, echinacea inhibits the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines induced by the flu virus and shows direct antiviral activity.  There is substantial variability in echinacea products sold in the United States.


European black elderberry is widely used to treat colds and flu.  In vitro, elderberry binds to and prevents infection with influenza H1N1 virus.  Studies suggest that black elderberry extract (1-4 tablespoons daily for 3-5 days for adults) can inhibit the growth of influenza viruses in vitro and shorten the duration of flu symptoms.  However, additional studies are needed to confirm these effects.  No studies have demonstrated effectiveness of elderberry extracts in preventing or treating a cold. Elderberry is generally tolerated however allergic reactions are possible.


Studies suggest ginseng taken daily for 4 months can reduce the number and duration of colds in adults.  In addition, 100 mg of ginseng a day 4 Weeks before and 8 Weeks after the flu shot may improve the effectiveness of the vaccine but more research is again needed before an overall recommendation can be made.  Ginseng may cause hypertension and agitation.

itamin D
If you are deficient in Vitamin D it is important to take a supplement.  We know Vitamin D deficiency can lead to an increased risk of infections.  This is determined by a simple blood test.
Oil of Oregano
Oregano has been shown to have antibacterial, antiviral, and anti inflammatory properties when studied in the lab.
Olive Leaf
Olive leaf has been shown to have antiviral properties when studied in the lab.


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