By Dr. Danielle E. Greenman, Integrative Medicine
Learn More about Integrative Medicine Services
We're here to help. If you have questions or need assistance, call 203.276.4777.
Every year the average person gets sick 2-4 times. That’s almost a month of fevers, chills, stuffy nose, muscle aches, coughs, and sinus pressure. Most upper respiratory infections are caused by viruses: over 200 of them! The symptoms you feel are a combination of the virus itself and your body’s immune system trying to fight the virus. Bad news about those viruses: antibiotics, while appropriate for certain instances, aren’t always the answer. So what’s a person to do? Turn to natural remedies, of course. The healthier you live, the less likely you are to get sick. How you move, what you eat, how you sleep, and your stress levels all help keep your immune system strong.
However, if you’re past the point of prevention and on your third box of Kleenex this week, here is a list of my top 5 natural remedies to help your immune system treat upper respiratory infections like cold and flu, ear infections and sinus infections.
The ingredients in Andrographis leaves contain immunostimulatory properties. What does that mean? Well, when you get sick, your first line of defense is a type of immune cell called a macrophage. In Greek, macrophage means “big eater.” These big eaters chomp up viruses and help stimulate the rest of your body’s immune system.. The active ingredient in this plant’s leaves helps increase the motility of these big eaters. Andrographis also help your spleen stimulate lymphocyte production. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cells that serve as our bodies’ soldiers on the front line to fight infection. “Stimulating production” translates to revving your body’s response up faster! Andrographis also reduces fevers, decreases inflammation, and prevents viruses from reproducing. We recommend treatment within 48 hours of symptom onset and you should see improvement within 2 days of treatment of the cold and flu.
Elderberry is one of my favorite fruits full of bioflavoniods (vitamin C enhancer), tannins and essential oils that are active against influenza. In fact, I make my own syrup and keep it in my fridge to have on hand throughout flu season. Visit my Instagram @DrDanWell to see my favorite recipe. While there is mixed evidence for prevention, elderberry can be used to treat the Flu because it stops a protein called hemagglutinin that the virus needs to replicate. Like Andrographis, Elderberry should be started within 48 hours of your initial symptoms and is safe for children and adults.
Eleuthero, also known as Siberian ginseng, is effective for influenza treatment. The root has antioxidant and immune system stimulating activity. This botanical is best taken with Andrographis as they work together to help boost your immune system and stop the virus from replicating in your body.
Not only does it smell delicious, but eucalyptus, also known as fever tree leaf or gum tree leaf, can be used to treat the common cold, ear infections and sinus infections. I like having eucalyptus in a diffuser in my office and treatment rooms at the Center for Integrative Medicine and Wellness.
Pelargonium, a South African species of geranium, has a long history of use for treatment of sinusitis, bronchitis and pharyngitis. This plant has activity against not just viruses but bacteria like E. coli, Klebsiella, Strep, and Staph, all bugs known to cause problems for the ears, nose, and throat. Fun fact: before the advent of antibiotics, Pelargonium was used to treat tuberculosis infections. Pelargonium works by stimulating the release of antibacterial cytokins, or proteins that signal to cells. So think of an air traffic controller releasing signals to our cells that say “Over here, the infection is over here, land here and send in bug-killing cells!. Pelargonium also helps aid in a process called phagocytosis, think Mrs. Pac man eating up the Ghost Monsters or, in this case, bacteria.
While having the cold and flu or a sinus infection can feel helpless, try these evidence-based natural remedies for cold and flu treatment. The above information is for educational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult your physician.
Please note: the above information is for educational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult your physician.
Featured Expert/ Author