The calendar says the cold and flu season is upon us. This brings the pressure to get a flu shot and to treat these conditions with prescription medications. Besides avoiding some of the serious side effects of these treatment options, many of us prefer to treat the flu and colds via natural remedies. While everyone responds uniquely to natural remedies, I’d like to pass along some of the more common natural prescriptions we use in our office for these ailments. You might find this article useful to keep around the kitchen for the next few months to help your loved ones have a speedy recovery when they are feeling ill.

The Flu

The flu is a serious illness that requires a full arsenal of natural remedies. Prevention is key. Rest and good nutrition are the best to ward off the flu. If you find yourself in a battle against the flu, try using these to boost your immune system:

Elderberry Syrup
This homemade elixir is fantastic for jumpstarting the immune system. You can often buy it in a health food store or simply make it yourself. Take 1 tablespoon every waking hour.

1 ½ cup dried elderberries (we purchase from Amazon)
4 ½ cups water
1 Tbs cloves
1 Tbs cinnamon
1 Tbs Ginger
1 Tbs Lemon Zest
1 Tbs Orange Zest
2 Tbs Apple Cider vinegar
1 cup local honey
Put all ingredients except honey in a pressure cooker such as the Instant Pot. Use the sauté setting and bring ingredients to a boil. Hit cancel, then select high-pressure for five minutes, with a natural pressure release. Strain the ingredients, cool, and then add the honey. Place the syrup in a mason jar and store in a refrigerator.

Don’t have an Instant Pot? Place all ingredients, except the honey, in a crock-pot on high for 6 hours. Strain, cool, add the honey and place in a mason jar.

Olive Leaf Extract
This is a powerful health tool used to destroy bacteria and boost immunity. Olive Leaf Extract has been shown to effectively work against more than 50 disease-causing organisms, including Candida albicans and E. coli. Unlike regular antibiotics that cause antibiotic resistance, Olive Leaf Extract is safe and effective for long-term use and multiple acute episodes. Try taking 3 capsules twice a day.

Better-Than-A-Flu-Shot Soup
Two onions, sliced and caramelized
Four globes of garlic, roasted (The “globe” is the entire head of garlic with all of its “cloves” or pieces.)
1/2 gallon of soup broth (bone or vegetable-based)
One bay leaf and one sprig of rosemary
Thinly-sliced raw garlic to taste
Salt to taste

Directions: Remove the garlic cloves from their peels. Begin to heat your broth. Slice onions and add them to a heated skillet that has been warmed with a bit of cooking oil (coconut works well.) Cook onions on medium-high heat until they become translucent and begin to caramelize. When they are browning slightly, remove them from heat. Add the peeled roasted garlic, caramelized onions, and broth to a food processor. Puree until smooth. Depending on the size of your soup batch and your food processor, you may need to do this in several batches. Take care not to burn yourself with your hot ingredients. Place pureed ingredients back to a sauce pan and add the rosemary and bay leaf. Stir them in, cover, and let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes. Remove the herbs. Your soup is ready.


When you have a cold, the worst symptom might be a nose that just won’t stop running. This often annoying symptom of a cold can be helped by a hot steamy shower, a neti pot, or by diffusing your favorite essential oil like Nature’s Shield or Lemon/Eucalyptus. Aside from these feel-good remedies, try making yourself a pot of tea.

Best Teas for a Cold
Try green or ginger tea. Both contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may help clear up a cold faster than just waiting it out.

Worst Foods
Spicy foods can cause an immediate runny nose (which then turns into congestion), as may alcohol.

Because NAC boosts the body’s levels of GSH (Glutathione, an antioxidant), it helps fight most viruses, including the influenza virus. GSH is vital for optimal T and B-lymphocyte function. NAC is mucolytic, which means it breaks up heavy and sticky mucus that can build up in conditions such as sinusitis, asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, and cystic fibrosis. NAC is therefore indispensable in any condition that involves excessive mucus. NAC combines well with elderberry syrup and/or Olive leaf extract to make an even stronger cold fighter.

Bone Broth
Bone broth, either homemade or from a powdered supplement, can be helpful to provide the nutrients needed to fuel your immune system. The immune system does not use glucose like most cells. Instead, it uses a mixture of amino acids for fuel. A steady supply of amino acids found in bone broth is more than adequate to keep your immune fighters working properly. Try at least one bowl of bone broth each day.

Chiropractic and Acupuncture
Try getting adjusted by your chiropractor or using acupuncture when you have a cold. Both have been shown to shorten the life-span of the common cold. Both can also improve the headache and general malaise associated with a cold. Many patients call us at the beginning of a cold and can testify to feeling better quickly thereafter.

Upper-Respiratory Congestion

Since congestion and ear aches occur most often with upper-respiratory infections, foods that clear up congestion can help. The best foods are clear fluids such as chicken soup. This type of bone broth can ease congestion by loosening up mucus in nasal passages. Omega-3s found in salmon and nuts can also decrease inflammation associated with congestion. Vitamin C found in dark leafy greens, berries, and citrus will boost the immune system when it is needed the most. Fresh pineapple contains bromelain which can thin mucus and allow for better breathing. The supplement NAC also will work here to thin mucus and improve breathing.

Golden Milk
Turmeric/curcumin is a powerful antioxidant spice. Besides taking this in supplement form, you can make a tea with it. Place 2 cups of coconut or almond milk in a saucepan with 1 tsp dried turmeric, 1 tsp dried ginger, a dash of black pepper and honey to taste. Bring to a simmer, allow to sit for 10 minutes, and serve warm.
Note: Absolutely do not ingest dairy as it can thicken phlegm and worsen congestion.

When you are sick, stay away from sugar.
Research studies have shown that when mice are fed a diet that is glucose-rich during illness, the viability of the mice drops drastically. In one study, all of the mice died after only 10 days of a glucose-heavy diet. This phenomenon did not occur when the mice were fed protein or fat-heavy diets. This study concluded that you should be careful with your carbohydrate intake when fighting a viral or bacterial infection. Intake of high-carb foods (pasta, potatoes, rice, etc.), sugar, or sugary soda and juice drinks should be avoided. Contrary to popular belief, even the commonly prescribed Gatorade and Pedialyte should not be taken in when you are ill. Drink water, green tea, warm water with lemon, or herbal teas to speed your recovery. If you need electrolytes, use a bone broth. Bone broth includes plenty of electrolytes with absolutely no immune-system-paralyzing sugar.

Stop in our Roanoke, Virginia chiropractic office any time to discuss even more tips for cold and flu season and to pick up supplements. Olive leaf extract, NAC, Bone Broth, and Nature’s Shield essential oil are all 10% off this week!

We hope to see you soon!



Daryl C. Rich, D.C., C.S.C.S.