We have all been there. We start feeling feverish or perhaps are developing a sore throat. Instead of taking a break and taking care of ourselves, we keep pushing through our busy day and end up with a full-blown cold or worse – the flu.

When we get to this point, we either end up at our doctor’s office and having to take a few days off work, or we make a mad dash to the local health food store completely overwhelmed by the choices available and not knowing what to choose or how to dose the nutraceuticals or the botanicals. At this point we just want someone to help us and we find ourselves at the mercy of the recently hired college students, whose advice on botanical medicine we end up taking.

Instead, consider scheduling a visit with a naturopathic doctor. A naturopathic doctor is trained in using botanicals and nutraceuticals and will help you:

  • recover faster,
  • have fewer and less severe symptoms,
  • and miss less work or school when you find yourself with the flu.


The following are a few of my favorite botanicals that are great at fighting the flu.

Sambucus nigra commonly known as black elder or elderberry

Black elder extract has been shown in clinical trials to

1. Inhibit influenza A virus replication by binding to virions thereby blocking the ability of the virus to replicate. It was also shown to be as effective at inhibiting H1N1 as tamaflu.

2. To reduce flu symptoms in patients by 3-4 days.

Elderberry tastes great and it is safe to take during pregnancy and lactation. I have given elderberry to patients as young as 6 months old for prevention of flu and general immune support. Black elder can be taken as an extract, glycerite or chewable. Whenever I give elderberry to a patient for the flu, I always combine it with other botanicals that I formulate for the patient.

Roschek B, Fink RC, McMichael MD, Li D, Alberte RS. Elderberry flavonoids bind to and prevent H1N1 infection in vitro. Phytochemistry. 2009;70:1255-1261.

Zakay-Rones Z, Varsano N, Zlotnik M, et al. Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. J Altern Complement Med. 1995;1(4):361-369.


Lomatium dissectum, known as lomatium

Lomatium is a great antiviral botanical to have on board when fighting the flu. It is an Immunomodulator, anti-viral, and anti-microbial. Lomatium has been shown in clinical trials to decrease the severity of the flu, and the duration of infection.

Caution! People with a known allergy to celery should not ingest lomatium. Skin rashes have occurred in this population of patients.

VanWagenen BC, Huddleston J, Cardellina JH 2nd.

J Nat Prod. 1988 Jan-Feb;51(1):136-41.


Echinacea angustifolia known as Echinacea

Echinacea is a primary botanical to help the body fight against bacterial or viral infections. This is a widely used plant and it is very specific for the upper respiratory tract. Clinical data shows that Echinacea reduces both the duration and severity of symptoms associated with colds and influenza. One of the antiviral mechanisms of this plant has been shown to activate macrophages which destroy pathogens and increase phagocytosis by increasing the levels of white blood cells.

Melchart D, Linde K, Worku E, et al. Immunomodulation with echinaceae a systemic review of controlled clinical trials. Phytomedicine 1994;1:245-54.


Caution! Echinacea may cause allergic reactions in people that are sensitive to plants in the Asteraceae family.

Vitamin C

A virus cannot reproduce on its own. Viruses have to hijack a hosts cell in order to replicate. Vitamin C has been shown to prevent the proteins from the virus from reproducing and it inhibits enzymatic activity so that the virus is not as likely to penetrate the hosts cell.

Kim H, Jang M, Kim Y, Choi J, Jeon J, Kim J, Hwang YI, Kang JS, Lee WJ.

J Pharm Pharmacol. 2016 Mar;68(3):406-20. doi: 10.1111/jphp.12529.



Remember: nutraceuticals and botanical medicines are powerful therapies. Before starting introducing nutraceuticals or botanical medicine into your daily routine, you should consult with a licensed naturopathic physician.

The contents of this article are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition