Cold and flu season can be a miserable time… if you get sick. Luckily there are so many ways you can support your immune system to hopefully prevent the nasty bugs getting a foothold on your health. If you do get sick I encourage you not to turn off the symptoms: this will draw out the condition longer. So no cold and flu meds please! Instead, move through the motions of being sick – as horrible as it can be. Our bodies benefit from this. It’s kinda like putting it through its paces – exercising our immune system. Having said this, there are a lot of functional foods we can consume to hopefully prevent us getting sick in the first place or to help us recover quickly if we do get sick. Here I'm going to outline for you my top 7 immune-boosting functional foods you can consume to give you the best chance possible at fighting off the nasty germies.

1. Garlic

Garlic is an anti-bacterial that is effective against colds and flus as well as bronchitis and many other health conditions including cancer. It’s one of the most powerful and well-studied plant substances known. It’s also a powerful detoxifier and anti-oxidant. It stimulates the immune system by increasing the potency of our immune cells in particular by boosting our Natural Killer cells.

How to take: Take one or two crushed cloves of garlic daily to prevent colds and flu. You must make sure your garlic is raw and crushed. Crushing garlic releases the enzyme alliinase. Allinase is the catalyst for the production of alliin into allicin. Allicin is the active component of garlic that has all the amazing benefits. Leave it for 10 minutes and then down it with some water. * Note: don’t take if you are currently taking anti-coagulant (blood-thinning) drugs.

2. Manuka honey

Manuka honey has been studied for its anti-flu capabilities because of its anti-viral properties. It also boasts anti-bacterial components that have been used to treat wounds. In fact its anti-microbial benefits have been well studied and researchers are suggesting it might even be an effective treatment for antibiotic resistance. Manuka is a very medicinal functional food however, be sure you're buying the real deal. Real Manuka honey is produced by bees that pollinate the Manuka shrub, which is native to New Zealand. When purchasing be sure to look for certification that it has real Manuka pollen in it. The more potent it is, the higher the rating. The one I use is this one (no affiliation) and they use a rating called KFactor Method along with a Letter of Compliance from the MPI (Ministry for Primary Industries) in New Zealand. The stuff in the supermarket marketed as “Manuka” honey that costs you about ten bucks is absolutely not the real deal. The real deal cost a lot (sorry – it is what it is), but it’s worth it.

How to take: Take it on a spoon or add it to a warm drink that also contains powerful cold and flu-fighting lemon and ginger. Because it's expensive treat it like a medicine or preventative agent only.

3. Turmeric

Curcumin is the active component in turmeric that is a powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-cancer phytonutrient. This is truly powerful stuff and I encourage everyone to consume turmeric on a daily basis. You don't need a lot, 1/4 tsp per day or so but be sure to take it the correct way (see “how to take”).

How to take: You must take your turmeric with some black pepper. Black pepper is essential to increase the bioavailability of the curcumin in the turmeric, which is otherwise very poorly absorbed in the body. The black pepper can increase the bioavailability of the curcumin by up to 2,000%! Add turmeric to anything and everything: eggs, teas, smoothies, curries – you name it. Add it! Just be sure to include some black pepper, too. 

4. Chaga

Known as the “mushroom of immortality” chaga has one of the highest antioxidant values of any food ever found on Earth. It is an anti-microbial that works as an immune system modulator. What this means is that if you have an overactive immune system, (such as an autoimmune disease) it will help to calm it down whereas on the flip side if you have an under-functioning immune system, (for example you get a lot of colds and flus) it will help to boost it so it can function optimally. It's also being studied for its potential as an anti-cancer agent.

How to take: You can take it in a tincture or as a tea but one thing has to be considered and that is that the chaga has to be simmered for a period of time in order to extract all the beneficial components of the mushroom. I tell you how to brew your chaga here.

5. Holy Basil

I just LOVE holy basil (aka tulsi). It's my favourite tea of all time. Not only does it taste delicious it's also an adaptogen that can calm you down instantly if you're suffering from stress. However, we're talking cold and flu so how does holy basil help? Holy basil appears to induce proliferation of T cytokines and T lymphocytes according to this study, which basically means it stimulates your immune system. Bonus, it may also be beneficial for allergy sufferers, as seen by this animal study.

How to take: My favourite way by far is to take holy basil as a tea but you can also take it in capsules, in a tincture or even in a fermented form.  

6. Astragalus

Astragalus is a root herb that appears to activate T-cells to a degree higher than the reference drug in this study, which was Echinacea. So basically, astragalus might be better than echinacea at fighting colds and flus by being an immune stimulator.

How to take: You can take astragalus in a good quality tincture or you can take it in a smoothie or tea however, be sure to steep it in hot water as this will extract the health benefits (do not boil). *Note: don’t take if you have an autoimmune condition as astragalus is an immune booster and can make your condition worse. 

7. Ginger:

Fresh ginger possesses potent anti-viral properties by preventing the adhesion of viruses to the upper respiratory tract. It’s also a strong anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory agent. It can ease throat pain and kills cold viruses.

How to take: I suggest taking 1 tsp fresh ginger daily up to 3 times per day. Ginger can be taken in a multitude of ways. You can make fresh ginger tea by slicing pieces off and brewing them in some hot water or you can add fresh ginger to your smoothies in the morning. * Note: don’t take if you are currently taking any anti-coagulant (blood-thinning) drugs.

But heck mama, we’re so damned busy. Who has time to take all these things daily, let alone remember to take them? That’s where I come in. I’m here to make your life easier so I’ve devised a beverage that incorporates most of these functional foods into one drink. All you have to do is find the ingredients and make up a big batch and enjoy some each day to hopefully prevent any horrid colds or flus coming your way.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions I'd love to hear from you! Please leave your comment below and I will be sure to respond.

In happiness and health,

Tara xox

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