Naturopathic Immune Boosting Foods & Herbs

November 10, 2021

Naturopathic Immune Boosting Foods & Herbs

By Dr. Nicole Sundene, NMD

Scottsdale Naturopathic Doctor

Naturopathic Medicine is superior to prescription medicine when it comes to treating viruses. Whether we are treating HIV, Herpes, Epstein Bar Virus, Shingles, West Nile Virus, Influenza, C-19 or Rhinovirus also known as the Common Cold there was really not much the MD's I used to work for in Urgent Care could do for our patients when they were sick with something viral except to tell them to "Drink fluids, rest, take vitamin C, and tell people to be nice to you."

Patients would often leave angry demanding an antibiotic, "I need an antibiotic NOW because I am SO SICK and I have to get back to work or do X,Y,Z..." the patient would plead in frustration while my doctors would just shake their heads and explain for the 9999th time of their career as a frustrated broken doctor soul that, "When you have something viral an antibiotic will do more harm than good. First of all an antibiotic is completely useless to take when you have a virus as its mechanism of action works only on a bacteria. Second and most important the antibiotic is actually helping the virus proliferate by killing the "Good Bacteria" or probiotics in your microbiome which is an essential piece of your immune system. Finally, giving unnecessary antibiotics is causing antibiotic resistance so when you actually truly need an antibiotic we may not have one that will work."

Still so many patients would be angry the doctor would write them a Z-pak or 10 day course of amoxicillin out of sheer frustration full well knowing it was the very worst thing they could be doing for them, along with a Medrol Dose pack of steroids that can also do more harm than good by spiking blood sugar, raising blood pressure and causing weight gain. After one especially frustrating influenza season I made them a handout to pass out explaining all of this because they were simply too exhausted to continue to tell patients why they did not want to harm them by giving them the wrong medicine.

The reason I love being a Naturopathic Doctor is that I have so many more tools in my toolbox to help my patients when they are fighting a virus. Many of the medicines already sit right in your spice rack because plants have to naturally protect themselves from viruses in order to survive in the wild and are constantly upgrading their antiviral mechanisms so as not to become susceptible to the virus. The aromatic part of the plants that you know as the essential oils in our herbs, trees and spices are therefore potent antivirals that are necessary to repel viruses in nature!

Keep in mind I don't expect you to take ALL of the herbs and supplements listed below but many of you already have quite a few herbs and vitamins tucked away in your medicine cabinets. You can purchase your supplements on Fullscript. I recommend getting them ahead of time although many times when I have been sick I paid the extra $5 to have my herbs over-nighted to me and it saved me money in the long run as the sooner you can start your natural regime the better your immune system can kick the virus out. Studies show that the early implementation of Naturopathic Medicines can decrease disease severity and longevity by 50% so if you are self employed like I am that is extremely important!

The basic prevention list is what I take every day and when I fall ill I continue that list but stop the astragalus and swap it out for more potent herbs that are antiviral and designed to treat active infections. Astragalus is our best #1 herb for viral prevention. Some autoimmune patients do not do well on astragalus and it is technically a contraindication for us to take it but I believe rules were made to be broken and it works the best for me. Simply be warey if you have Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, sjogren's, MCTD, etc that you may flare your condition with astragalus and certain immune boosting herbs.

Many foods and herbs we use for cooking are also potent Naturopathic immune boosting antivirals and can be added to chicken noodle soup, bone broth, butternut squash soup or bone broth like garlic, onions, thyme, rosemary, basil and oregano. Many times my friends will call me super sick and since they are too sick to go to the store I have them add a bunch of kitchen herbs to chicken soup and have them drink it every few hours. Their response is always "That was the nastiest thing I have ever drank, Doc, but I am feeling so much better!" So if you are a culinary artist that can help improve my herbal recipes I am always open to your feedback and help!

Cinnamon, ginger, cloves, star anise, turmeric, curry blends and aromatic spices can be added to warm apple juice or almond milk. Or saute up some garlic, onions, broccoli with coconut milk and add a ton of curry blend as the herbs in curry are all potent antivirals. Check out my Carrot Coconut Cough Syrup Recipe to get an idea of what you can do with the healing foods and herbs you already have on hand. You can check out my video on Facebook: "Elderberry Syrup Recipe" to learn how to make your own Elderberry syrup which is much more potent than any store bought syrup. Don't forget to like my page for my latest Naturopathic recipes!

If you don't have Elderberries on hand you can substitute with blackberries or blueberries. Raspberries are weak on proanthocyanidins and strawberries are basically useless. If you are too sick to leave your house you can doctor yourself with my antiviral kitchen herbs by using 1/2 tsp to a 1 full tsp of most cooking herbs like oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil and such every 2-3 hours. Personally I use a tablespoon because I am not messing around and can drink just about any nasty Naturopathic concoction, definitely decrease the dose if you are getting diarrhea. For children you will divide the weight of the child by 150 pounds and give them 1/2 , 1/3 or 1/4 of the adult dose. So if your child weighs 50 pounds they would get 1/3 of the adult dose but I hope you take them to a Naturopathic pediatrician or schedule a telemed visit for them with me so we are not harming them by not dosing them right.

Regardless of which antiviral herbs you use to work with none of them will work unless you are giving them to yourself three times a day at minimum or every 2-3 hours. "Consistency is Queen" when it comes to supporting our immune systems. If you are sick with C-19 I recommend treating your immune system for a full month past symptom resolution even if you have a mild case to prevent any chronic symptoms such as ongoing chronic fatigue, body pain, fevers, brain fog, hair loss, memory loss, chronic cough and shortness of breath.

Adult Doses For Daily Immune Boosting & Viral Prevention: 

Lysine 2000mg 2-3 times daily

Vitamin C 500mg-1000mg 2-3 times daily: Decrease if diarrhea

Quercetin 500mg twice daily

Vitamin D 2000-5000 daily

Zinc 30mg for women daily with food, Men 50mg with food (You will puke if you take this on an empty stomach!)

Probiotic 1 cap daily with food (take with fruit as your "prebiotic" which is the food that helps the probiotic proliferate)

Fish oil 3000mg daily to prevent blood clots, decrease inflammation, and make your mucous membranes moist and more slippery so pathogens are less able to adhere. Or eat Walnuts, Chia Seeds and Flaxseeds for Omega-3's. Fish oil is the most potent blood thinner though so if you are worried about blood clots don't bother with the vegetarian sources of Omega 3's and go straight to fish oil as some people lack the enzymes that convert vegetarian sources of Omega-3's to the active forms found in fish especially if you are Scandinavian like I am and your ancestors relied on a high fish diet. I am not a normal Norwegian and hate fish so I will just pop a fish oil capsule. Otherwise salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring are the best high omega-3 low mercury fish to provide your omega-3's.

Astragalus Tea 2-3 cups daily or 2 caps twice daily is the “Shield” that prevents viruses from getting into the body. Once you are sick you will use the antiviral herbs listed below to kill the virus. 

General Viral Treatment Plan When Sick:

If you have C-19 just have your doctor give you a Medrol Dose Pack (C-19 is an inflammatory condition and keeping inflammation down means preventing blood clots and a worse outcome. I believe a low dose steroid has the best evidence at this point when considering medications for C-19. You may not need to even take it if you have mild symptoms but I would get it and keep it on hand in the event you quickly deteriorate as some patients that are highly susceptible can go down hill quickly while the majority of my health patients have mild to moderate symptoms.)

Vitamin C 1000mg three times daily or every 2 hours unless causing diarrhea then decrease the dose to bowel tolerance.

Elderberry Syrup 2 oz every 2 hours (My Homemade "Elderberry Syrup Recipe" is way more potent than pre-made from my own experience and my patients have said they instantly feel better with this homemade recipe (Otherwise I personally buy the Gaia Brand in Fullscript account, as it is the best tasting brand in my opinion, no affiliation.)

Make an antiviral tea with whichever of these herbs you have in your kitchen: ginger, oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil, lavender, ginger or cinnamon. You can mix them all together or use individually. Add 1 tsp to 1 Tbl of herb per 8 oz boiling H2O and let steep covered for 15 minutes. Do not boil these herbs! You can also take chicken noodle soup, chicken broth or bone broth and add thyme, oregano, etc.

When I first heard about C-19 I bought five pounds of Organic Thyme because as an Herbalist it is my #1 Allstar Power Player when it comes to killing viruses and microbes. It also is very soothing to add to boiling water and do a steam inhalation if your lungs are irritated and you are coughing. Fast forward to February 2021 Carvacrol the medicinal monoterpene in oregano and thyme are now both under investigation by C-19 research scientists for in vitro and in vivo use against C-19, "The in vitro and in vivo studies have shown multiple pharmacological properties such as anticancer, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, vasorelaxant, hepatoprotective, and spasmolytic." Thyme essential oil is very soothing to irritated lungs as an antiviral and an antispasmodic so can help calm a bad pneumonia cough when inhaled in a steam or essential oil diffuser.

Because many C-19 patients get secondary fungal infections using herbal medicines that are good all around antimicrobials can be somewhat protective to preventing the formation of secondary infections. So I now feel validated and justified about my purchase of the five pounds of Organic Thyme and the great thing about this herb is almost every patient has it in their kitchen cupboard! Recently in July 2021 Thymus oil is being researched as a treatment for Feline Coronavirus. While this is not the same virus as C-19 I am always happy to read about herbal research science. Anyone that thinks herbs do not work should not gargle with LIsterine as Thyme was the original antiseptic used in this famous mouth wash!

Garlic is one of my favorite antiviral foods! If you care how you smell then it is not a good choice for you! My Norwegian Great Grandma Minnie always advised us to eat a raw garlic sandwich weekly to boost our immune systems. Growing up I was never really sure if garlic killed germs or if it just made you smell so bad that nobody would come close enough to get you sick. But in Naturopathic school at Bastyr University I learned about all the amazing research on garlic science. While I was in school I worked many urgent care shifts and would often get sick and began to rely on "Minnie's Magic Sandwich"As someone that has worked twenty three flu seasons interacting with 20-50 sick people a day.... I will admit that this is the #1 thing I do to kill whatever has infected me. I chop up several cloves of garlic and spread a lot of butter on white bread to get it down. If you have a weak stomach do NOT do this. You will also smell VERY VERY BAD or as my daughter said "Mom you smell like a Man Bun!" So only do this if you do not care how bad you will smell.

Hyperthermia, Sauna's, Sweating or a hot bath are also the best thing to help your body make a fever. Unless the fever is greater than 104F you do not want to suppress the fever with Tylenol. That is actually impeding your white blood cells from working harder. The fever is helping your immune system kill the virus. If you do not have access to a Sauna you can do my "Poor Man's Sauna" I always do after many years working in nasty germ filled urgent care setting....which is to take a very hot bath, as hot as you can stand, for as long as you can stand (an hour ideally) while sipping on water with electrolytes (be sure to have someone monitor you while you are in the bath so you don't get overheated, dizzy or pass out trying to get out of the bath...) Then you will put on your flannel pajamas, wrap yourself in a fleece bathrobe and pile several blankets on top of yourself until you are sweating. This is when I pop a Lifetime Movie on and sip my Emergen-C or Herbal Tea so I can sweat for at least 1-2 hours.

When you can no longer stand sweating or you start to become cold, it is then time to take a COLD shower and rinse all the sweat off. It is imperative that you end all sauna's and sweats on cold to properly boost your immune system! I do this several times a day at the initial onset of sickness and believe this works better than any herb, supplement or vitamin I can take to boost my immune system. Plus it is free so if you are broke and cannot even afford vitamins you can at least afford a hot bath...I hope! If you have high blood pressure or any heart issues you should NOT do this.

Alternatively if you are well enough to run that is also a great way to boost your immune system and get your temperature up. I have ran off many viruses from my days of working in urgent care and I believe exercise is one of the BEST things to boost your immune system and put it in to a killing state. Inactivity is bad for your immune system in general. Obviously if you are super sick do not do this it is best for when you first feel that tickle in your throat that you are getting sick with something. A fast run for 30-45 minutes is how I always stayed well even while I worked in urgent care for 8 years, never missing a day of work even while I worked in a constant petri dish of germs with sick people coughing on me while I tested them for strep throat, influenza and took their vitals. You can also ask my former Nursing Supervisor who cashed me out with four months of PTO sick leave that I never even used! So if anyone knows how to prevent getting super sick from whatever nasty virus is going around and keep their immune system boosted it is me, your #1 Favorite Naturopathic Doctor!

Please schedule an appointment to discuss individualized recommendations for treatment as I have zero free time to help patients outside of scheduled appointment right now. For prevention I recommend patients get the things they need ahead of time. If you are sick you can go to your Fullscript account under catalog to search for the herbs you need and have them overnight your supplements for a few extra dollars. Fullscript has been awesome during the Pandemic, your supplements are sent from Scottsdale with free shipping for all orders over $50. I paid $5 extra dollars and had my immune support arrive the next morning!

This worked very well for me when I was sick and didn't have enough of the antiviral support I needed on hand it was a lifesaver for me as the last thing you want to do is head down to your local health food store and infect everyone with your nasty virus! Please stick with high quality brands or the herbs may not work. My favorites are: Pure Encapsulations, Thorne, Integrative Therapeutics and Vital Nutrients. Do not buy the NOW brand in Fullscript as it is 100% GARBAGE in my opinion having worked in a health food store since 1994 and 27 years in the health industry....I do not believe you will get any benefit and may even be harmed by that garbage and recommend sticking with prescription grade products for effective natural solutions to colds, flus, viruses or whatever ails you. In America our supplements are poorly regulated by the government so you can pretty much put anything in a bottle and label it and sell it and nobody can stop you. That is why it is important to stick with organic products and trusted brands of vitamins, herbs and supplements especially when it is something as important as boosting your immune system!

Thank you to my readers for sending their questions in. Please put them on a post card and send them to my clinic address in Scottsdale below so I get to enjoy receiving something in the mail other than a bill. I love receiving your Naturopathic questions please keep in mind if they don't fit on a post card that you most likely need to pop on over to my SCHEDULE page and treat yourself to a Naturopathic consultation with me!

Dr. Nicole Sundene, NMD

(480) 837-0900

Dr. Sundene is a Naturopathic Doctor in Scottsdale, Arizona, and is considered a Female Hormone Expert  in Women's Health and Bioidentical Hormones. She specializes in Holistic Women's Health for Menopause, Thyroid, Hashimotos, PMS, Perimenopause, Autoimmune, Postpartum, Chronic Fatigue, Depression, Anxiety, Food Allergies, Digestion, Dermatology , Acne, Psoriasis, Eczema and Adrenal Hormonal Conditions. In 1999 she began working for a Hormone Doctor prior to starting Naturopathic Medical School. With over 22 years of experience in both Prescription and Natural women's health and hormones she presents to women the best integrated health solutions for their Chronic Disease. She has been an Herbalist for over 27 years and enjoys teaching women how to use herbs to balance their hormones, nutrition and optimize their health. Dr. Sundene relies on blood testing for her hormone metrics. The hormone testing is covered per the patient's insurance plan and conducted at certain points in the woman's menstrual cycle. To learn more about Hormone Testing for Women Visit: Bioidentical Hormones. Follow Dr. Sundene on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for more tips on Women's Health, Female Hormones and Naturopathy!

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