Tips for Staying Healthy this Spring: Natural Medicine for Colds & Flus by a Team of Naturopathic Doctors

Photo of Dr. Tania Tabar, Dr. Julie Hwang and Dr. Vivian Kwan walking in the park. "Staying Healthy this Spring" an Aurum Live Event.

Join our team of Naturopathic Doctors at Aurum Medicine & Wellness Clinic in Toronto for key actions on how to keep healthy in this change of season.

Recorded on March 26, 2020 Dr. Tania Tabar, Dr. Vivian Kwan and Dr. Julie Hwang hosted a fee information session on what naturopathic doctors are recommending for healthy minds and bodies right now.

Naturopathic Doctors are committed and trained in teaching the principles of healthy living to their patients.

Naturopathic Doctors of Aurum Medicine & Wellness Clinic, talk about natural medicines to stay healthy this spring. Recorded on March 26, 2020.

Staying Healthy this Spring:
The Resource Guide

Written by Dr. Julie Hwang ND, Dr Vivian Kwan & Dr. Tania Tabar ND for Aurum Medicine & Wellness Clinic 2020.

Lifestyle

Manage Your Stress. We all know that stress has an impact on how resilient we feel and how easily we can fall sick. Here are some lifestyle tips to help reduce stress in your life. There are also additional herb and nutrition suggestions for stress management below.  

Figure 1: from Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials (2)

Mindfulness meditation has been studied on its impact on the immune system. In this systematic review of randomized controlled trials, mindfulness meditation has been shown to decrease CRP, an inflammatory marker and risk factor for cardiovascular disease (2). Mindfulness meditation also decreases nf-kb and increases CD4 which is a marker of cell-mediated immunity.  

It doesn’t have to be just mindfulness. This study suggests that science may eventually corroborate what traditional practices have known: that meditation, whether it be Yoga and Vipassana and other forms of meditation may also benefit immunity and health.

Build a Daily Routine Including Exercises 

Physical Exercise: 

5-6 times per week. Addressing the risk factors that may increase the incidence of illness can help us stay out of the emergency room in hospitals. Stress, elevated blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, respiratory disease and more can all be supported with regular exercise. Try the 7-minute workout designed by an exercise physiologist, repeated 3 times at home for an at-home bodyweight exercise option. 

Journaling: 

Journaling and taking action to support your Mental health, we recommend the two G’s: gratitude and goal setting. See how we talk about this for entrepreneurs in the blog post here

Build Skills to Support Mental and Emotional Health & Well-being

Set aside a time for regular check-ins with a therapist or counsellor for more individualized techniques and tools to understand your emotions. Many psychotherapists have free 15 minute consults to see if they’re a good fit. Check out the Aurum Psychotherapy team at this link here

Foods 

Eat Fruits and Vegetables.

Phytonutrients are the nutrients found in plants. They boost your immune system and provide protection from oxidative stressors. Every color offers its own unique benefit, so start adding the “rainbow” of vegetables into your diet

RED: anti-oxidant, immune supportive, cell protection, cardiovascular protective

ORANGE: anti-bacterial, immune supportive, skin health, source of vitamin A

YELLOW: cell protection, eye health, skin health, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, cognition

GREEN: hormone balance, anti-inflammatory, brain health, liver health, skin and cell protection

BLUE/PURPLE: anti-inflammatory, cell protection, cognitive health

WHITE: Digestive health, anti-microbial, hormones, liver, cell protection

Here are some other food recommendations for you to incorporate to boost your immune system: broths, mushrooms (shitake, maitake, oyster), seasonal fresh foods and WATER! Hydrate well by aiming for 2-4L of water per day.

Minimize foods you are sensitive to as much as possible. Here are some common inflammatory foods that you can reduce or limit: 

  • Processed sugars (including white sugar and high fructose corn syrup) (3)
  • Refined carbohydrates (4), deep fried (5) and processed foods (6) 
  • Alcohol

Nutrition

Find out if you really need a supplement. Although they are natural, they may not be right for you. See your licensed Naturopathic Doctor or trained integrative healthcare professional to see if you need supplements and herbs (especially if you have an existing health condition or if you’re on medication). 

Vitamin C is an essential micronutrient, meaning our body cannot produce it. It protects against oxidative stress and is a key nutrient in immune cell function8,9.

Vitamin D is an immune protective vitamin. Research suggests that low vitamin D levels may make one more susceptible to respiratory infections (10).

Vitamin A is also an essential micronutrient that the body cannot produce. Vitamin A boosts immune function against infections and works with vitamins C and D as antioxidants during illness (11). 

Zinc is commonly referred to as the “gate-keeper” of immune function. The proper function of all immune cells is zinc-dependent. Take note of a caution here: excess zinc impairs the immune function just as much as too little zinc, so you don’t want to take too much either (12). 

Herbs

Like supplements, although they are natural, they may not be right for you. See your licensed Naturopathic Doctor or a trained integrative healthcare professional to see if you need supplements and herbs (especially if you have an existing health condition or if you’re on medication). 

These are common herbs and foods which support our resiliency and protect us from illness in the long-term.  Some may not be appropriate for acute infections. All herbs have multiple actions and properties and some also have antiviral  phytochemicals. 

Astragalus membranaceus. This Traditional Chinese Medicine herb has been known to increase healthy immune function. We often use the root for its active components, which you can add the dried root to broths and stews (13).

Medicinal Mushrooms: Both considered a food and an herb, one of the most popular is Reishi or Gandoderma lucidum. Reishi has been long used for potential antiviral and anti-histamine actions, and is also safe to use in acute viral infections (14). 

Glycyrrhiza glabra – anti-viral, immune-modulating, moistens tissues and mucosal membranes in the lungs and helps with phlegm or ‘expectoration’. Caution: do not use it if you have high blood pressure (14). 

Ginger is a well known immune boosting herb that in Chinese Medicine is known to “release the exterior”, which means it pushes out unwanted pathogens and helps you shore up your immune system or Lung Qi / Wei Qi (15). 

  • Can help with pain and reducing inflammation
  • This is a warming herb for those who feel cold and have a weak “Yang” as we say in Traditional Chinese Medicine. 
  • Anti-Nausea 
  • Stimulates digestion and can help with bloating
  • Supports reducing the pain and severity of menstrual cramping 


Adaptogens are herbs that help us cope with physical and mental stress, which can help increase our resilience to stressful conditions and reduce the susceptibility to illness. They should be taken for a short term and under the dosage guidance of a skilled practitioner. 

  • Ashwagandha or Withania somnifera helps with energy, is supportive for hypothyroidism, and is anti-inflammatory (16)
  • Siberian Ginseng or Eleutherococcus senticosus supports with stress, focus and mental clarity (17)

Nervines are a category of herbs that nourish our nervous system and may support people with anxiety. 

  • Oatstraw or Avena sativa is used in traditional herbalism for acute and chronic anxiety as a nerve tonic (18)
  • Lemon Balm or Melissa officinalis in general supports with sleep, lifting mood and has some antiviral properties (19). Caution: do not use if you have hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid conditions.

Remember to look out for interactions! Another common interaction that needs to be considered before taking herbs is St. John’s Wort or Hypericum perforatum, which is important to avoid if you are taking any medications such as SSRIs and oral contraceptive pills (18). Also, many herbs are not safe to be taken with pregnancy, so do consult with your licensed Naturopathic Doctor and trained integrative health professional before use. 

For a full assessment and individualized safe and supportive treatment plan for your health needs, talk to one of our licensed and regulated Naturopathic Doctors to see how they can help. 

Initial ND Consults including virtual appointments can be booked online at this link here

About the Facilitators

All of our Naturopathic Doctors offer a Free Discovery Consult to see if they’re a good fit to serve you and your health needs. Each of them have their own style, approach and clinical focus: 

Dr. Julie Hwang ND supports the nervous system, working with patients who experience symptoms including headaches, migraines, neuropathy and seizures and skin conditions including eczema, psoriasis, acne, autoimmune. She works specifically with entrepreneurs and business owners on their mental and physical health to support their unique lifestyle needs.

Dr. Vivian Kwan ND is a certified Functional Medicine Provider working with patients with chronic infections including lyme disease, bartonella infections, EBV/Mononucleosis, and chronic conditions including pain, cancer and environmental medicine. She is certified to provide Intravenous Vitamin therapy and Injections and is Board Certified in the Province of Ontario. 

Dr. Tania Tabar ND is a skilled herbal medicine professional with a clinical focus on hormonal health including thyroid conditions, mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, and digestive health conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrom (IBS), Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) and Irritable Bowel Disease (Crohn’s and Colitis). 

MORE RESOURCES

Breathing Exercise

Spend 5 minutes daily taking conscious breaths, breathing from between pelvic bone and navel 

  1. Lie on your back or sit in a supportive chair. If lying on your back, place a pillow underneath your knees to help them bend.
  2. Place one of both of your hands over your abdomen.
  3. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. Your abdomen should rise but your upper chest should remain still and relaxed. 
  4. Breathe out slowly through your mouth. As you breathe out, slowly and gently allow your abdomen to move towards your spine. 
  5. Repeat 10 times.

Recipes

Bone Broth 

Good for healing the digestive lining and reducing inflammation

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds (or more) of bones (beef, lamb or poultry – chicken, turkey) 
  • 2 yellow onion (optional)
  • 4 large carrots (optional)
  • 2 parsnips if available (optional)
  • 4 stalks of celery (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar – apple cider, red or white wine, rice or balsamic 
  • 1 bunch of parsley or coriander 
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped (optional)
  • Sea salt to taste (will usually take about 1 tablespoon or so)

Directions:

  • If using beef bones, place the bones in a roasting pan, and roast the bones in the oven for 30 minutes on 350 to improve the flavor of the stock.
  • After this, or going straight to this step with poultry, soak the bones in water in a stock pot for 30 minutes, along with the vinegar.
  • Begin to bring the water to a boil, add your chopped vegetables, and when the water comes to a boil, turn it down and simmer slowly for 4 hours for poultry bones, and 8 hours for beef hours. About once every 30 minutes for the first 2 hours, skim the surface of with a slotted spoon and discard the material that rises to the surface.
  • Strain your broth using a cheesecloth if you prefer it to be clearer 

Change of Season Soup

Ingredients:

Equal parts of the following (approximately 4 sticks-6 sticks of each) Can be purchased at Chinese herbal store:

  • Astragalus membranaceus / Huang Qi
  • Codonopsis pilosula / Dang Shen
  • Dioscorea sinensis
  • Lycium barbarum
  • Goji berries
  • 1 small organic chicken

Directions:

  • Combine all ingredients in a large soup pot. 
  • Fill with water to cover chicken.
  • Bring to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 1-1.5 hours, chicken should fall off the bone. Season with salt to taste.

Hydrotherapy

Steam Inhalation

Beneficial for dryness of the nasal passageway, throat and lungs, as well as sinus infections or congestion. 

Equipment

  • 1 large bowl (with a diameter slightly larger than your face, if possible)
  • 1 medium-sized towel 
  • A kettle
  • Water 
  • Optional – Essential oils: eucalyptus (antimicrobial), tea tree oil (antimicrobial), lavender (for sleep)

Procedure

Step 1: Boil water in the kettle.

Step 2: Put boiling water into the bowl on a tabletop, leaving at least an inch of space at the top. Optional: Add 2-5 drops of essential oil.

Step 3: Sit at the table with your face positioned over the bowl. Hover your face about 15cm from the surface of the water (to heat tolerance). 

Step 4: Place the towel over the back of your head and drape over the sides of the bowl, to keep the steam in. 

Step 5: Breathe in your nose and/or mouth slowly and controlled for 5-7 minutes at a time. Rinse your face with cool or temperature water and dry.  

Repeat up to 2 times in one sitting. 

*Consult your ND if you have any questions. 

Wet Warming Socks

This treatment is most indicated for sinus & nasal congestion, sore throat, colds & flus and improving circulation & immune system health. 

Equipment

  • 1 pair of thin cotton socks
  • 1 pair of thick wool socks
  • Sink or bucket filled with very cold (or iced) water
  • Tub or bucket of warm water
  • A warm bed 🙂 
  • Towel

Procedure

Step 1: Get ready for bed.

Step 2: Put cotton socks in a sink of very cold, or iced, water.  Soak to saturate the socks then wring them out so that they do not drip (damp but not sopping).

Step 3: Place your bare feet into a tub or bucket of very warm water.

Soak your feet as long as you want, but make sure the water and your feet stay warm..

Step 4: Dry your feet well with a towel and put the wet cotton socks on your feet.

Step 5: Immediately pull the dry wool socks over the wet socks.  You want the wool socks to completely cover the cotton socks.

Step 6: Go to bed right away.  Make sure your feet stay covered under the blankets

In the morning your feet will be warm and dry.  

Repeat the warming socks treatment for three nights in a row.  

*Consult your ND if you have any questions.

References

  1. 5 Natural Ways to Boost Your Immunity and Beat Cold and Flu Season. Aurum Medicine & Wellness Clinic Blog. 2019 Mar 24. https://aurummedicine.ca/blog/2019/03/06/5-natural-ways-to-boost-your-immunity-and-beat-cold-and-flu-season/
  2. Black, DS and Slavich GM. Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2016 Jun; 1373(1): 13–24. Published online 2016 Jan 21. doi: 10.1111/nyas.12998. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4940234/
  3. Choi, Mary. The Not-So-Sweet Side of Fructose. J Am Soc Nephrology, 20 (3), 457-9 Mar 2009. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19244571/
  4. Spreadbury, I. Comparison With Ancestral Diets Suggests Dense Acellular Carbohydrates Promote an Inflammatory Microbiota, and May Be the Primary Dietary Cause of Leptin Resistance and Obesity. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes, 5, 175-89 2012.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22826636/
  5. Nestel, Paul. Trans Fatty Acids: Are Its Cardiovascular Risks Fully Appreciated? Clin Ther, 36 (3), 315-21 2014 Mar 1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24636816/
  6.  Uribari, James, Woodruff, S., Goodman, S., Cai, W., Chen, X., Pyzik, R., Yong, A., Striker, G.E., and  Helen Vlassara. Advanced Glycation End Products in Foods and a Practical Guide to Their Reduction in the Diet. J Am Diet Assoc, 110 (6), 911-16.e12 Jun 2010. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20497781/
  7. Oliveira, A., Rodríguez-Artalejo, F., and C. Lopes. Alcohol Intake and Systemic Markers of Inflammation–Shape of the Association According to Sex and Body Mass Index. Alcohol Alcohol, 45 (2), 119-25 Mar-Apr 2010; DOI: 10.1093/alcalc/agp092. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20083478/
  8. Carr. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients 2017, 9(11), 1211; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9111211, https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/9/11/1211/htm
  9. Player, G., Saul, AW., Downing, D. and G. Schuitemaker. Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, Mar 22, 2020. https://orthomolecular.activehosted.com/index.php?action=social&chash=a5e00132373a7031000fd987a3c9f87b.150&ref=facebook&sh=882a884dd7f416689cfe29c1e4b3320a&fbclid=IwAR3UXMvOBDrZd5cvGbLqDPjg9OBo1k6WNaUH03kSaE9BBgHQAbZiJwkBsYc
  10. Aranow, Cynthia. Vitamin D and the Immune System. J Investig Med. 2011 Aug; 59(6): 881–886. doi: 10.231/JIM.0b013e31821b8755, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3166406/
  11. Huang, Z et al. Role of Vitamin A in the Immune System. J Clin Med. 2018 Sep; 7(9): 258. Published online 2018 Sep 6. doi: 10.3390/jcm7090258, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6162863/
  12. Wessels,I., Mayward, M. and Rink, L. Zinc as a Gatekeeper of Immune Function.Nutrients. 2017 Dec; 9(12): 1286. Published online 2017 Nov 25. doi: 10.3390/nu9121286, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5748737/
  13. Liu, P., Zhao, H., and Y. Luo. Anti-Aging Implications of Astragalus Membranaceus (Huangqi): A Well-Known Chinese Tonic. Aging Dis. 2017 Dec; 8(6): 868–886.Published online 2017 Dec 1. doi: 10.14336/AD.2017.0816, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5758356/
  14. Eric Yarnell and Kathy Abascal J.D. “Immunomodulators and HIV infection”. Alternative and Complementary Therapies. December 2000. 
  15. Eric Yarnell and Kathy Abascal J.D. “Clinical Uses of Ginger.” Alternative and Complementary Therapies. December 2009. Vol 15. No 5. 
  16. Pratte, MA., Nanavati, KB., Young V., and CP Morley. An Alternative Treatment for Anxiety: A Systematic Review of Human Trial Results Reported for the Ayurvedic Herb Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Dec 1; 20(12): 901–908.doi: 10.1089/acm.2014.0177. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4270108/
  17. Romm, Aviva. The Stress Response, Women’s Health & the Role of Adaptogens. Webinar for Genova Diagnostics. 2016 July 17. https://www.gdx.net/files/clinicians/medical-education/previous-webinars/July-2016-the-stress-response-womens-health-and-the-role-of-adaptogens.pdf
  18. Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. 2015.
  19. Scholey, A., Gibbs, A., Neale, C., Perry, N., Ossoukhova, A., Bilog, V., Kras, M., Scholz, C., Sass, M and S. Buchwald-Werner. Anti-Stress Effects of Lemon Balm-Containing Foods. Nutrients. 2014 Nov; 6(11): 4805–4821. Published online 2014 Oct 30. doi: 10.3390/nu6114805https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4245564/