What is the first thing you should reach for when you start to feel that notorious tickle in the back of your throat? Hint: Put down the fancy bottle of Echinacea capsules (the studies are still widely inconclusive). If it’s Vitamin C, your water bottle, and tons of rest you’re after, you are on track to a healthier you. But if you want to give your immune system an extra leg up without having to spend an arm and a leg, here are a few other affordable and natural solutions worth keeping in your toolkit.
A 2002 study found that chemicals in bilberries, blueberries, and cranberries had properties “comparing favorably with aspirin and other drugs.” Since our bodies can better absorb nutrients from natural sources, leave the cold meds on the shelf and replace them with blueberry-packed supplements instead.
The antioxidants in cranberries have significant health benefits against many types of infections, especially gastrointestinal (read: a healthier gut). A more recent study shows cranberry juice helps to flush bladder bacteria in women with recurrent urinary tract infections. Avoid sugar-laden cranberry cocktails and look for drinks made with 100 percent real juice.
If you suspect you’re coming down with a flu virus, WebMD reports that elderberry lozenges and juice have similar effects to the prescription drug Tamiflu if you can manage to take it within 48 hours of your first symptoms. But be patient—it will take two to four days before you’ll start to feel relief from its effects.
TRY: Thrive Elderberry Lozenges With Zinc, $5
You may have seen shelves lined with zinc products claiming to shorten colds, but do they actually work? The answer is: it depends which one you pick. One of the most recent studies shows patients who took zinc lozenges had a three-fold increase in the rate of recovery from the common cold compared with those who took a placebo. For best results, take zinc lozenges within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms.
TRY: TheraZinc Blood Orange Lozenges, $5
Green tea has been in the spotlight for its health benefits, but if you’re not a fan of the taste, I have good news. Recent data shows that properties in black tea activates the immune system. The caveats? You have to drink at least three cups a day to reap the effects. Also, if your body tends to have issues with inflammation, drinking black tea may actually dampen your immune system.
TRY: Gaia Herbs Sinus Comfort Tea, $5