There is No Alternative to WholeHealth!
Welcome to WholeHealth Resources

Natural Treatments for Colds and Flu © Deborah Barr

The best treatment for winter colds and influenza is prevention. But don't despair if you're already inflicted.  There are many herbs, supplements, foods, and lifestyle factors that are safe and effective for prevention and treatment.  This article will focus on some of them.

Colds primarily involve the upper respiratory organs, the throat, sinuses and nasal passages.  Cold symptoms can include nasal discharge, runny nose, sneezing, coughing and fever.   Irregular bowel movements and  diarrhea can sometimes accompany colds because of poor elimination of wastes from the body.   Often a cold is not really a cold but simply a way your body is attempting to eliminate excesses of fat, sugar and toxins that it cannot process.

Influenza is an extremely contagious respiratory illness with  a wide range of how sick you can become.  The flu includes many of the same symptoms as colds along with body aches, fever,  fatigue, flushing of the neck, face and chest, headache, chills, vomiting and diarrhea.  Flu symptoms tend to be much worse than colds. The flu also affects the same areas as colds, but usually produces more generalized symptoms throughout the body.  In some cases, influenza involves the digestive organs.

Immune System

Your immune system determines the state of  health or disease.  It protects you from infection and foreign invaders such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.  When the immune system recognizes these invaders, it triggers an innate immune response. When the immune system is weak, you're susceptible to colds, infections, and more serious illnesses.  Weakened immunity leaves the body vulnerable to attack from numerous microbes surrounding you and inside of you. 

What Weakens Immunity?

Many factors adversely  influence and suppress immune health.   Your immune system can be weakened by:

  • Chemotherapy drugs, radiation, and surgery

  • alcohol

  • poor diet,  junk food, and sugar

  • excessive exercise or lack of exercise

  • smoking

  • allergies

  • drugs (recreational or medicinal)

  • poor lifestyle choices; lack of a healthy rhythm to your life

  • inadequate sleep

  • stress and emotional turmoil and extremes

  • negative mental patterns

  • chemicals and pesticides

  • high fat diets

  • hormone/steroid residues in meat and dairy

  • frequent air travel

  • overwork

A healthy diet, positive attitude, healthy emotional expression, good sleep habits, appropriate herbs, moderate exercise, a community of supportive friends and family, and recreation and laughter can all boost the immune system.

Is Your Diet Helping or Hindering Your Immunity?

Some people experience continual colds and infections during the Fall and Winter, while others are rarely affected.  Yet both groups are often exposed to the same viruses in the environment.  The difference in resistance is, to a large extent, related to one's food and lifestyle choices.  Diet either strengthens or weakens natural resistance, and raises or lowers the threshold of infection.

Colds, flu, and other infections are much less frequent among those who eat a naturally balanced diet.  Colds represent your body discharging excesses from the diet. It is one way your body cleanses.  The accumulation of excess from a poor quality diet provides fertile ground for the many cold and flu viruses.

The key to preventing colds, flu, and other infections is found in avoiding extremes in diet that lead to recurring discharges and weakened immunity.  Attempting to isolate oneself from the many viruses and bacteria that are present in the environment is futile.  You don't have to move to a deserted island and avoid people for six months.

The most direct way to prevent infections and strengthen resistance is through an environmentally balanced diet, a nourishing lifestyle and effective tools to transform stress.  Try my Winter Immune Boosting Soup

Dietary Causes

When cold symptoms involve the upper respiratory system, throat, sinuses and nasal passages, the primary causes are excessive amounts of:

  • simple sugars

  • concentrated sweeteners, fruit and fruit juice

  • tomatoes, potatoes and other highly acidic vegetables

  • soft drinks

  • ice cream, milk, yogurt

  • alcohol

  • icy cold foods and beverages

When the symptoms affect the lungs and middle of the body, including stomach, the primary causes are excesses of all of the above plus:

  • excessive and poor quality fats and oils

  • all cow's milk products

  • excessive and drug-laden poultry and other animal foods

Symptoms that affect the small and large intestines are caused by over consumption of :

  • heavy animal fats

  • all of the above

Many people eat too much of all the above.  You may eat all of them.  The key is knowing which foods are appropriate for you and how to counter the effects of those excesses on an ongoing basis.  Many people believe that everything in moderation is okay.  That word, moderation, is too general.  If you have health problems, your idea of moderation may be contributing to your problems.  Believe it or not, the above are not the only foods that exist.

What is a Balanced Diet?

Everyone needs their own individualized version of diet based on age, all health conditions, constitutional strengths and weaknesses, lifestyle factors, activity level, and other factors.  There are foundational foods, however, that will improve everyone's overall health.  They include:

  1. whole, unprocessed grains daily such as brown rice, barley, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, Hato Mugi, and others;

  2. a variety of vegetables daily - at least 4 cups daily;

  3. To improve immunity, use chlorophyll-rich foods including all dark leafy green vegetables such as kale, bok choy, collard greens, watercress, mustard greens and dandelion greens;

  4. more cooked than raw vegetables especially in cold weather;

  5. hormone, antibiotic and steroid free meats in small quantities eaten with plenty of vegetables;

  6. animal foods are more balanced and easier on your system when eaten in soups, stews, stir-fries with plenty of vegetables;

  7. healthier protein from beans, legumes, tofu, tempeh, miso, nuts and seeds (animal protein is not necessary);

  8. fruits and fruit juices are optional depending on one's condition. They create a lot of mucus.  Cold, weak, deficient, frail people should minimize or eliminate;

  9. use of small amounts of unrefined sea salt in cooking  provides important minerals and contributes to good digestion,  physical vitality and mental focus.

  10. cow's milk products are best avoided except small amounts for those who are deficient, underweight, weak, and frail, and only if digestion is strong. 

Create a Personalized Plan

To determine the best foods and supplements for your unique health, why not invest in a consultation to create a personalized plan for restoring your health .  You can eliminate a lot of guesswork, doctor's visits, money spent on medications, and time lost being sick.  Holistic Health and Nutrition Counseling is not one-size-fits-all.

Herbal and Other Treatments

NOTE: All herbs and supplements should be taken 2 hours apart from prescription medications.  They are not intended for use if you are pregnant or lactating.  It's always best to consult with a professional herbalist. 

Your Winter Medicine Cabinet specials or click on the individual links below. It's best to be prepared by keeping formulas on hand.

For Prevention

Astragalus, a tonic herb, strengthens resistance to colds, flus, weakness and disease; builds energy and improves digestion.  It treats chronically weak lungs and shortness of breath.  Astragalus can be taken for 2-3 months at the onset of the cold and flu season.  Its usefulness is as a preventive.  If you take Astragalus once you have a cold or flu, your symptoms will worsen.

Astragalus is more effective when combined with other herbs in a formula.  Astra C is a great choice for preventing infections and allergies.  It combines Astragalus with Vitamin C, Zinc Citrate, Rose Hips, Acerola, Siler and White Atractylodes. Take for two to three months at the onset of cold/flu season.  Order here


Astra 8 take for immune system enhancement and as an energy tonic.  May be used for fatigue, systemic weakness, night sweats, adrenal deficiency, chills, muscle aches, and inability to concentrate; has adptogenic properties; helps body adapt to stress; strengthens weak lungs and immunity.  This is a warming formula and not appropriate for those with heat signs.  Use Cordyseng instead.  Order Here

Quercetin is a potent antioxidant and flavonoid.  Food sources include apples, berries, grapefruit, onions and cabbage family vegetables. Quercetin is also available as a supplement. One of my favorite formulas is Quercenol Order here.   Coenzyme Q10 is another  antioxidant with immune-boosting properties, but not as effective as Quercenol.


High chlorophyll-rich products improve immunity.  Supplement with algae (not for cold or weak people), chlorella, spirulina, Vitamineral Greens, or cereal grasses. These contain immune-enhancing, anti-inflammatory properties, and are abundant in omega-3 and GLA fatty acids.  Chlorella is the mildest and blue green algae is the strongest.  Order here


Ganoderma Mushrooms (Reishi is Japanese name) are a supreme immune tonic and fine for anyone to take.  Inhibits bacteria and viruses, protects body against stress, alleviates allergies, bronchitis, chronic pneumonia; regenerates the liver.  It is anti-oxidant against free radicals.  Revitalizes the body, increasing inner stamina and strength. Cordyseng contains Ganoderma, Astragalus, American Ginseng, Ginger, and licorice, and is a superior immune tonicOrder here


Treatment of Colds and Flu

Echinacea is antibiotic, antiviral, antibacterial and antiseptic. It is effective for treating colds, fevers, flu, all infections and inflammations and is immune enhancing. It is intended for use to treat infections and NOT as a preventive. After 10 days it will lose its effectiveness and should be discontinued.

Goldenseal is antibiotic, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory. It treats infections, flus, liver congestion, inflammations. It is not intended for long-term use.

The most effective formula I've used to treat cold and flu is Isatis Gold. It contains Isatis, Echinacea, Platycodon, Goldenseal and Ligusticum. I always keep this formula in my medicine cabinet. Order here.


Cold Away treats colds and flu, fever, sinus and chest congestion, coughing, headache, sore throat, cold sores, and pharyngitis.  It is meant to be taken in the early stages of cold and flu.  This is one of the most effective formulas I've ever taken and I wouldn't be without it.  Order here 


Nasal Tabs 2 treats acute and chronic sinus congestion with thick, yellow mucus; sinusitis, rhinitis, hay fever, colds and flu; addresses snoring due to facial congestion; treats earache due to sinus blockage; treats sinus headache.  Order Here


Clear Air ventilates the lungs; dispels phlegm; stops coughing and wheezing; treats acute and chronic bronchitis, asthma and bronchial asthma; treats chronic cough with phlegm, wheezing and chest pain associated with smoking and air pollution; cleanses the lungs of accumulated contaminants from bacteria, virus, smoking and air pollution; has anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory effects.  Order Here


Ginseng and Gecko treats wheezing and cough associated with chronic asthmatic conditions. May be useful for bronchial asthma, asthmatic bronchitis, emphysema, and pulmonary tuberculosis. Excellent for use during chronic phases of asthma; treats lung qi deficiency with wheezing, cough, dampness, and heat. Tonifies kidneys. Appropriate for use between acute asthmatic attacks . Best to take this formula throughout winter to spring. Use Clear Air for acute asthma attacks with yellow/green phlegm.  Order Here


Serramend has anti-inflammatory effect; dissolves necrotic tissue (blood clots), arterial plaques, thins lung secretions; may reduce fibrinolytic activity; treats chronic lung, ear, nose and throat disorders and sinusitis; sprains, strains, edema, postoperative inflammation, carpal tunnel syndrome, breast engorgement, fibrocystic breast disease, venous inflammatory disease, asthma, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory pain conditions, leg ulcers, chronic headaches.  Through proteolytic activity digests scar tissue and speeds healing response.  Not recommended during pregnancy; caution should be applied if using anti-coagulant drugs such as Coumadin, or if you have gastrointestinal ulcers.  Order Here


Elderberry Extract  is anti-viral and anti-inflammatory.  It can improve symptoms of colds and influenza, keep it from spreading, and speed up recovery. Available at Health Food Stores.


Oscillococcinum, manufactured by Boiron, is a homeopathic remedy that decreases the duration and intensity of flu symptoms.  It helps prevent flu if taken at the first sign of illness. Available at Health Food Stores.


Full listing of products for copius phlegm, coughing, gastro intestinal flu


Garlic is anti-viral; however, it is not for everybody.  If you have a lot of heat signs, fever, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, migraines, prone to anger, thick yellow or green mucus, eat a lot of animal food (including cheese and eggs), have a normally warm body temperature, and tendency toward constipation, garlic will make your condition worse.  Garlic is effective for cold, weak, deficient types with watery mucus, chills, and tendency toward loose stools. 

If you do have heat signs, drink 3-4 cups peppermint tea a day.  Eat a liquid-based diet with vegetable soups, lightly steamed and raw vegetables, some fruit (especially grapefruit and lemons) and fruit juice or vegetable juice.

If you have more cold signs, eat a simple diet with grain and vegetable soups, homemade chicken soup (canned versions are not  effective) with vegetables; fish soup with vegetables; steamed or roasted parsnips; horseradish, scallions, and other warming foods and beverages.

Ginger Tea eases headaches, muscle aches, indigestion, gas, and will help stave off the chills of a cold or flu.  When experiencing cold and flu symptoms, drink 3 cups of ginger tea daily.  Chop or grate one teaspoon ginger and simmer in a covered pot with 1 1/2 cup of water for 6-8 minutes.  The ginger teabags sold in stores will not be effective. Use fresh ginger.

Nasal irrigation with salt water is highly recommended for people with sinus issues. Neti pots and similar products should never be shared. They should be washed with hot soapy water after each use. I recommend pouring boiling water through your neti pot before using. Distilled or filtered water is recommended for the nasal cavity.  Use 1/3 teaspoon sea salt to one cup of warm water.  Add 1/3 teaspoon baking powder for a more soothing effect.  You can also put this solution in a spray bottle or eye dropper and use throughout the day to irrigate sinus passages. Make fresh daily. Or use XLEAR Nasal Spray


Mind and Emotions

Unexpressed and unresolved emotions contribute to head congestion and weaken your resistance.  Your body is not separate from your mind and emotions.  Each aspect affects the others.  Get in touch with your feelings; find positive pathways through them; learn to effectively communicate your feelings with others.  Learn to forgive and let go


Often negative emotions precede sickness.  When they are ignored they will persist.  Emotions are a guidance system, letting you know how close to balance you are.  If you do not listen to the messages behind the feelings and make appropriate changes, eventually something has to break down in your physical health.


Creative energies that are stifled or blocked can cause the same health issues.


Learn to relax mentally and to express your emotions in healthy ways.  Take care of things you've been avoiding or putting off.  These are vital to good health.


Overwork and lack of relaxation, fun, and joy affects everyone's health.  You need a balance between work and rest, giving and receiving, being active and being passive.  Sickness has a way of putting you flat on your back as a means to give you the rest and balance that you may not be willing to give yourself.  There are many positive insights for you in every problem.


Start today to make small consistent changes in your choices.  In no time you'll experience positive results.


Deborah Barr, 2000-17.  All rights reserved.


There are many popular food plans and no lack of internet advice from thousands of people who lack an understanding of food therapeutics and have little or no professional training.  Good marketing sells fads to people who are desperately trying to recover good health and lose weight.  Current scientific findings often contradict previous findings by the same experts.  A perfect diet that will bring everyone good health does not exist and accepting this fact is a good starting point for achieving balanced health.  

Consider some professional guidance for the right nutrition and customized holistic health plan for reversing your health and weight issues, and removing the degenerations that cause them. You can greatly improve every aspect of your physical, mental and emotional health with a customized holistic approach.   Schedule an Introductory Holistic Health and Nutrition session with Deborah Barr , 31-year Holistic Health and Nutrition Counselor. You'll be on your way to better health. Sessions can be done by phone, skype, or at Pittsburgh office.

Read client success stories


Related Articles


Feel free to use this article in your print or electronic publication at no charge. We do ask, however, that you send an email to and tell us in what publication you will use it and when it will be published. We require that you use bio (see below) and copyright information at end of each article (and photo if you wish) and mail us a copy of the publication or link to online publication, once published.

All articles and information on this website are protected under copyright laws and are owned by Deborah Barr, Whole Health Resources.

If you are in need of additional articles, expert contacts or are looking for fresh article ideas, or send an email to or call 412.361.8600 I'd be delighted to discuss some relevant article topics with you.


Deborah Barr, 31-year Holistic Health and Nutrition Counselor/Coach, speaker, and author, has helped thousands of clients reverse health and weight issues; achieve emotional harmony, radiant health, passion, peaceful living, work-life balance, and a life they love.  In 1985 she founded Whole Health Resources, the premier Holistic Health Center in Pittsburgh.  WHR’s mission is to promote the healing and development of body, mind and spirit, and to teach an understanding of the relationship between diet, attitudes, lifestyle and wellness. She offers free help through her 2 e-newsletters, Holistic Weight Loss, and Whole Health Matters, and free articles.   Subscribe to newsletters


Home | About WholeHealth | About Deborah | Services | Natural Weight Loss | Health Conditions | Class Schedule | Presentations & Workshops | Yoga With Adrienne | Articles | Newsletters | Recipes | Products

Natural Weight Loss Newsletter

Whole Health Matters Newsletter

Natural Weight Loss
Presentations & Workshops
Yoga with Adrienne