• Dr. Kaitlyn Zorn ND

Naturopathic Approaches to Cold & Flu

Updated: 2 days ago

Grab your scarves, mitts and a hot cup of tea - the cold & flu viruses are out and about.

Throw some garlic in there too.

As a naturopathic doctor, I see cold & flu concerns and immunity issues quite frequently. I also commonly do promote patients to eat more garlic! It's a great natural anti-bacterial and anti-microbial food. Incorporating herbs such as rosemary, sage and thyme can also up the virus-fighting abilities.

Aside fromfood, there are various supplements and herbs that have been researched to be helpful for cold and flu PREVENTION and SYMPTOM REDUCTION.

Basically, certain supplements should be taken prophylactically to prevent how frequently you get sick, for instance, getting sick once a season versus three times. Other supplements are better to take when you actually are sick, as they are better at boosting your immune system during the infection or have anti-bacterial/viral properties.

Here are the Cole's Notes on what the research has to say about this...


Vitamin C

  • A five year trial found that 500mg of Vitamin C taken preventatively reduced the frequency of the common cold (1)

  • Eat more red bell peppers, broccoli and fruits like kiwi and orange for Vitamin C. Avoid juices for this source as they are high in sugar.

Vitamin D

  • Supplementing Vitamin D-deficient patients with adequate Vitamin D resulted in a reduced frequency of cold-related work absences (2) . Many individuals are Vitamin D deficient

  • The ideal level of Vitamin D in serum should be at least 75 nmol/L of 25-hydroxyvitamin D for therapeutic immune effects (3)

  • Tip: Vitamin D levels are important for immune health, mood regulation and disease prevention – check in with a Naturopath to see where your levels are at


  • Probiotics were shown to be superior to placebo in reducing the episodes of acute upper respiratory tract infections and decreased antibiotic use and school absences (4)

  • Probiotics are a very important adjunct to your health regime, and can help reduce dependence on antibiotics and sick days for you and your family!

  • Nourish your gut with these probiotic foods: Yogurt, Kefir, Kimchi, Sauerkraut and Komboucha


  • This herb has been used for many years and is a strong immune-boosting herb added to many custom herbal blends. Echinacea has shown to reduce the incidence of common colds and therefore is great to use as prevention (5)


Vitamin C

  • This vitamin does double duty when it comes to preventing and treating colds. A large trial found that 1g/day taken prophylactically during cold and flu season prevent the drop in leukocytes (white blood cells) that occurs and decreased the severity of common cold symptoms (6)


  • Zinc supplementation was shown to decrease the symptom duration and severity score of the common cold (7)

  • Up your dietary zinc intake by eating more red meat, seafood, pumpkin seeds, beans and lentils

  • Tip: Come into the clinic for an in-office Zinc tally test to see if you would benefit from zinc supplements or if dietary zinc is enough for you!

Herbal Medicine

  • There are many botanical herbs that are effective in both preventing and treating a cold or flu. Some common herbs used are: Echinacea, Astragalus, Reishi, Licorice and Andrographis.

  • Tip: A naturopath can create an individualized tincture for you that matches your unique immune needs or your cold symptoms (eg. viral bronchitis versus a bacterial infection like strep throat)

Using Essential Oils at Home for Cold and Flu

  1. Immune-boosting shower – If you don’t have enough time to do a full steam inhalation try adding a few drops of antimicrobial essential oils to your shower for an invigorating experience. Eucalyptus and rosemary are great oils to use. The heat in the shower will diffuse the scent.

  2. Steam Inhalation – Add a few drops of Eucalyptus or Lavendar essential oil to a large bowl of boiled water (I use a large metal bowl). Put your face over top of the bowl to inhale the aromas. Caution: This will be hot and the vapours may be initially strong. While doing this, drape a towel over top of your head to create a steam chamber. With eyes closed, inhale the vapours for 5-10 minutes. Added benefit: This feels like a skin facial as well!

Would you like to make a customized cold and flu prevention and treatment plan this season? Book in with Dr. Kaitlyn by clicking below or send an email to drkaitlynzornnd@gmail.com for a Free 15 Minute Discovery call.

Yours in health & wellbeing,


  1. Sasazuki et al (2006). Effect of vitamin C on common cold: randomized controlled trial. Eur J Clin Nutr.

  2. Schmidt & Zirkler (2011). Dietary efficacy of a micronutrient combination in patients with recurrent upper respiratory tract infections. Results of a placebo-controlled double-blind study. MMW Fortschr Med

  3. Sirbe et al (2022). An Update on the Effects of Vitamin D on the Immune System and Autoimmune Diseases. Review. Int J Mol Sci.

  4. Quick (2015). Cochrane Commentary: Probiotics for Prevention of Acute Upper Respiratory Infection. Explore (NY).

  5. Karsch-Volk et al (2015). Echinacea for preventing and treating common cold. JAMA

  6. Anderson et al (1972). Vitamin C and the common cold: a double blind trial. Can Med Assoc J.

  7. Al-Nakib et al (1987). Prophylaxis and treatment of rhinovirus colds with zinc gluconate lozenges. J Antimicrob Chemother.

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