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June 07, 2022

Author: Joseph McGuinness, BHSc Naturopathy

Have you fallen ill already this winter? or perhaps feeling like your immune system is a bit run down? Maybe you’re experiencing some post-viral symptoms where as you feel you are just not back at the top of your game yet!

By being prepared for the winter and having a few things on hand to support your immune system you can make a huge difference to just how many tissues you might need to use (if any) and just how fast and completely you recover.

Dealing with the symptoms of the seasonal flu is one of the most frequent complaints clients have, or that they just haven’t felt the same since their last illness, usually suffering the same symptoms of lethargy and mild ongoing sinus or chest infections. So here are some tips that might help you shake that cough, get you back in your game, or prevent you falling sick this winter.


There are three things to think about when it comes to the flu season; ‘Preventative’ – things that can reduce your chances of becoming sick; ‘Palliative’ – things that can be used to treat the symptoms and aid recovery, and finally; ‘Post-infection’things to aid recovery and reduce any secondary infection. I like to have a few remedies on hand for each. Some herbs and nutrients that can be used in all three situations include Elderberry, Astragalus, Reishi, Vitamin C & Zinc. Others such as Elderflowers, Thyme or Ivy, Marshmallow or Mullein, Feverfew, Echinacea and the various types of Ginseng having more specific uses for alleviating symptoms.

Below I’ve listed 4 herbs that you can have on hand that can provide Preventative, Palliative and Post-infection care, that will provide a nice addition to the home dispensary and help support you and your family this winter.

4 Herbs for Every Household

  • Sambucus Nigra (Black Elder berry/flower)– This is one of my favourite herbs to have on hand through the flu season. They contain a diverse blend of Phytonutrients such as flavonoids, triterpenes, polyphenols, anthocyanins, ascorbic acid and quercetin making it useful for treating and preventing infections of the respiratory tract. While the berry is directly antiviral and immune enhancing, they also provide significant antioxidant activity making it useful for reducing symptoms and aiding recovery. The flowers are diaphoretic that is they are used during the acute stage to bring on perspiration and encouraging sweating, reducing fever and eliminating toxins via the skin. (1)(4).
  • Althea Officinalis (Marshmallow root) or Verbascum Thapsus (Mullein leaf) – these herbs are rich in mucilage which is used to for upper respiratory tract infections, providing a soothing demulcent action thereby reducing the pain and inflammation associated with conditions such as pharyngitis and the damage caused from excessive coughing or to soothe a dry sore throat.
  • Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme) – This small herb rich in powerful therapeutic compounds, including the phenolics thymol and carvacrol making it particularly useful as an antimicrobial and antiviral, and is also mildly analgesic when applied topically for throat infections. As well it works as an expectorant and spasmolytic which means it aids in removing any thick mucus either in the lungs or sinus and can reduce the severity of a cough (2)(5).
  • Astragalus Membranaceus root (Astragalus/Huang Qi) – This herb has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine for stimulating a weakened system. In Western herbalism it’s considered for its immune enhancing and adaptogen actions. That post-viral infection that just won’t go away or post-viral fatigue. This having been attributed to the polysaccharides, flavonoids and the astragalosides. Giving this plant the unique capability of fighting disease and reducing stress (3).

There are many other herbs and nutrients that can support our immune system throughout the flu season. Our body is whole system and the function of each organ effects the other. Other things that play a big role in our immune health is our gut health and our nervous system, having ways to manage your stress and your gut health is an integral part of managing your immune system.



  1. Chen, C., Zuckerman, D. M., Brantley, S., Sharpe, M., Childress, K., Hoiczyk, E., & Pendleton, A. R. (2014). Sambucus nigra extracts inhibit infectious bronchitis virus at an early point during replication. BMC veterinary research, 10, 24.
  2. Kowalczyk,, Przychodna, M., Sopata, S., Bodalska, A., & Fecka, I. (2020). Thymol and Thyme Essential Oil-New Insights into Selected Therapeutic Applications. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 25(18), 4125.
  3. Li, X., Qu, L., Dong, Y., Han, L., Liu, E., Fang, S., Zhang, Y., & Wang, T. (2014). A review of recent research progress on the astragalus genus. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 19(11), 18850–18880.
  4. Mahboubi M. (2021). Sambucus nigra (black elder) as alternative treatment for cold and flu. Advances in Traditional Medicine, 21(3), 405–414.
  5. Schönknecht K, Krauss H, Jambor J, Fal AM. [Treatment of cough in respiratory tract infections - the effect of combining the natural active compounds with thymol]. Wiad Lek. 2016;69(6):791-798. Polish. PMID: 28214817.