Powerful Plants to Boost Immunity During Cold & Flu Season

berries, flowers, and glass of teas


For thousands of years, herbs have been used to treat illness as well as prevent it. A crucial factor to avoid getting sick this winter is prevention: supporting your body’s natural immune function so that it can keep you healthy. Echinacea and elder are two herbs that can help strengthen immune function.

Why Echinacea and Elder work

Echinacea stimulates the immune system. It is antimicrobial and regulates inflammation. It is best when used daily during cold and flu season for the prevention of illness. 

Elder comes from elderberries and contains proanthocyanadins, which are anti-microbial and also boost the function of the immune system. It also contains antioxidant flavonoids that protect cells and fight off invaders. Elder has been used for hundreds of years as a flu treatment.  Research has shown improvement of flu symptoms with elder due to its anti-viral effects. Elder works best when taken within 24 hours of symptom onset.

Why not antibiotics?

The flu, as well as the common cold, is caused by viruses. Antibiotics are able to kill bacteria, but not viruses. Antibiotics would only be necessary if your flu progressed to a bacterial infection.

How to use them

Elderberry or Echinacea Tea: perfect for those crisp winter nights.

  • Available prepackaged at your local health food store.
  • Make your own tea by steeping 1 tablespoon of dried herb in 1 cup of water. Try mixing in ginger, cinnamon, clove or other herbs for added flavor.

Elderberry Syrup: so delicious you’ll want to take it year-round! This syrup can be refrigerated in a sealed jar for up to three months.

  • Add 1 cup elderberries to 2 cups of boiling water. Simmer for 30 minutes.  Consider adding cinnamon, clove, or minced fresh ginger for added health benefit and taste.
  • Strain out berries and return liquid to pan.
  • Mix in ½ cup honey.
  • Enjoy 1 tablespoon daily for immune support. 

Echinacea and elder are also available as supplements and tinctures online and at health food stores.

Talk to your naturopathic doctor to see if echinacea or elder would be right for you. Schedule an appointment at Bastyr University Clinic or Bastyr Center for Natural Health for more information on these herbs and other options for immune support.