Winter Immune Tonics

I could hardly believe my excitement last week as I glanced out my treatment room window and saw the first snowflakes falling.  It was a funny kind of excitement, because it came with feeling of profound peace.  I always feel this way at the beginning of winter. The deep quiet and opportunity for rest that winter provides are things that I treasure about living in New England.

Many people ask me how to stay healthy during this time of year, which brings with it colds and flus that for some people can last for weeks or months.  Here are some simple ways to avoid getting sick, and to take care of yourself when you do.

To avoid getting sick, it is important to take care of your body’s immune system.  The bulk of vitamins and minerals needed to support our immune system come from vegetables and whole grains.  Eating a diet high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins is a great way to strengthen you immune system. Regular exercise also boosts your immunity.

Immune tonics can also be useful this time of year.  Two of my favorites are astragalus and shitake mushrooms.  Both have been shown in scientific studies to boost the immune system, and are tonics in traditional Chinese medicine.  And they are easy to use in cooking!  Whenever I am making a soup, I put a couple sticks of astragalus root and a few dried shiitakes in the boiling water.  Astragalus and shiitakes are best used as preventative medicines.  If you do get sick, it is best to avoid them until you are feeling better agin.

Another tasty way to boost your immunity in the winter is elderberry syrup.  Elderberries have been shown multiple clinical trials to reduce the duration and severity of colds and flues.  I recommend taking 1 teaspoon of elderberry syrup daily during cold and flu season, and increasing this to 1 tablespoon when you are sick.  Elderberry syrup is a tasty addition to seltzer water or juice, or can be taking strait from the bottle.  Be sure to get a good brand that contains 100% Elderberries (we carry this in our herbal pharmacy, so feel free to ask about it if you stop in for a visit).

If you are suffering from frequent colds and flues, or sicknesses that last for longer than 1-2 weeks, you may need a customized herbal formula and/or dietary program to bring you back to having a robust immune system.  This is best done through a licensed alternative healthcare provider (naturopathic physician, acupuncturist, registered herbalist).  Please click the “schedule” link on the side bar if you would like to schedule an office visit or a free 15 minute phone consultation.