Science has identified dozens of natural supplements and herbal remedies that shut down the flu virus. If you avoid the flu vaccine for whatever reason, or you want to increase your chances of preventing the flu naturally, the following substances can assist you in staying free from infection. Many of them are available (at a minimal cost) from your local grocery or health food store, and you might even have a few of them in your cupboards right now.
The Power of Vitamin D Against the Flu
If there is one single most effective natural supplement for preventing the flu, it’s Vitamin D – hands down. There is literally too much science supporting it’s efficacy against the flu virus to list it all here.
♦ A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Infection (1) states that 3 independent research groups have recently shown that Vitamin D dramatically stimulates the function of human immune cells called “antimicrobial peptides” (AMP).
♦ The article goes on to say that these immune cells (AMP) have been shown to deactivate the influenza virus.
You don’t produce these AMP immune cells without Vitamin D.
Another study, published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, revealed some other very interesting data (2).
1. Without Vitamin D, the ability of our cells to respond to viral threats is impaired.
2. Cells called macrophages (another line of immune cells) use Vitamin D to help produce compounds necessary to destroy bacterial and viral invaders.
3. Vitamin D dramatically increases the production of antimicrobial proteins (AMPs) in our immune cells (as stated previously).
Similar statements were made in another article published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Infection (3). Basically, without enough Vitamin D, the immune system is severely impaired against fighting the flu.
Vitamin D vs. the Flu Vaccine
We are consistently told by pharmaceutical companies and the media that the flu vaccine is our best defense against contracting the flu virus, but the evidence simply does not entirely support that statement.
In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (4)…
♦ A randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study reported that children taking 1,200 IUs of Vitamin D per day in winter were 4x less likely to get the flu than those who were vaccinated.
♦ After 2 years of this study, they increased the dosage of Vitamin D in subjects to 2,000 IUs per day, and the incidents of colds and flu were reduced by almost 100%. Only 1 of the 104 subjects developed a cold or flu after that.
Whether or not a person develops full-blown flu symptoms ultimately depends on the effectiveness of their immune system, and Vitamin D has been shown time and time again to be imperative to proper immune function.
More Science on Vitamin D and Immune Health
The following is a small representation of research confirming the dependence of the immune system on Vitamin D…
♦ In the Journal of Epidemiology and Infection – Vitamin D deficiency predisposes children to respiratory infections and intervention with Vitamin D from cod liver oil reduces the incidents of respiratory infections in kids (5).
♦ T cells (which fight virusus) won’t even mobilize without adequate amounts of Vitamin D (6).
♦ Vitamin D deficiency resulted in more sick days from work due to respiratory infection (7).
♦ There is a strong connection between newborns with low Vitamin D levels and the rate of respiratory infection. The study suggested that expectant mothers supplement with Vitamin D during pregnancy (8).
♦ Infants with low Vitamin D levels have higher risk of upper respiratory tract infections (9).
The good thing is that a Vitamin D supplement costs pennies per day and does not have to be administered by a health professional. It is probably the most effective and least expensive way to defend against infection and supply the body with an essential nutrient which most of us are severely lacking.
More Natural Supplements Shown to Combat the Flu
You hear about “studies” all the time on TV and in the news. The important thing to know about them is that not all science is the same, and it’s not all reliable. There are a few free online sources that compile trustworthy scientific information, such as websites like PubMed and MEDLINE, and these studies were gathered from those sites.
- Green Tea – Several compounds in green tea, such as catechins and polyphenols, have been proven to have antiviral effects and act specifically against the influenza virus (10)(11)(12)(13)(14).
- Probiotics – Lactobacillus probiotics showed an ability to reduce the incidents of flu infection in school children not inoculated with the flu vaccine (15). Bifidobacterium probiotics had a similar outcome among college students (16).
- Elderberry – Research on elderberry and elderberry extract concluded that, “Elderberry extract seems to offer an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment for influenza.” (18)(19)(20)
- Cranberry Juice – Cranberry juice is known for its ability to inhibit bacteria from infecting human cells. In this study, the same results were seen with influenza (21).
- Pomegranate – Pomegranate juice inactivates genetically diverse strains of influenza. further confirming it’s broad spectrum nature (22)(23).
- Ginseng – This placebo-controlled trial revealed that American Ginseng was a safe and effective agent for preventing respiratory symptoms caused by influenza in older adults (26).
- Echinacea – Echinacea is known for its immune boosting capabilities. These studies support the efficacy of Echinacea against flu infection and the resultant symptoms (27)(28)(29).
- Manuka Honey – Raw honey is a powerful healing agent, but Manuka Honey has been shown to have a medicinal effect against a great many strains of bacteria and viruses, including the flu virus (30).
- Zinc – These scientists reported an inhibitory effect on influenza with zinc which resulted in the viral cells destroying themselves (31).
It’s one thing to show scientifically that certain natural supplements, herbs, and other substances can increase immune function. It’s entirely something else to prove those compounds have an effect on the flu virus itself. Aside from that, the vitamins, antioxidants, and other nutrients in the supplements and foods listed here have a more far-reaching effect on human health than just preventing the flu.
- 1. *Cannell, J. et al. Epidemiol Infect 134 (6) 1129-40
- 2. *Heaney, R. Clin J Am Soc Neph. Vol 3 (5) 1535-41
- 3. *Aloia, JF. Li-Ng M. (2007) Epidemiol Infect. 135 (7) : 1095-6; Author Reply 1097-8
- 4. *Urashima, et al (2010). Am J Clin Nutr. Vol 91 (5) 1255-60