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Healing with Plants: Beating the Winter Bugs

The strongest weapon against the first signs of infection is a robust immune system that is primed and ready for attack.  With the cold and flu season looming, traditional herbal wisdom provides us with a powerful toolbox we can draw upon to stimulate the immune response in effort to combat viruses before they take hold and take over. 

Healing the body with medicinal plants is as old as mankind. Since ancient times, physicians have searched for cures in nature with the medicinal knowledge of each successive generation conveyed to the next. Herbal remedies have been used for centuries for their powerful immune-boosting properties and with the cold and flu season upon us, it is timely to rediscover this traditional wisdom for our modern-day needs.

In the early 19th century, a group of physicians called the ‘Eclectics’ developed and used botanical remedies that were native to North American tribes. These doctors documented their success using specific herbs that matched the symptomatic picture of the individual during influenza pandemics. Their herbal treatments were reported to quickly alleviate the pain and symptoms of influenza, prevent pulmonary complications and even death in many patients.

It is believed rapid symptom alleviation results from a quietening of the cytokine storm [which is also what happens during the current virus]. Recent investigations have revealed these herbs reduce the production of proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines that are responsible for the challenging symptoms of influenza.

Herbal medicines have been revered by history’s physicians and modern-day practitioners for their ability to rapidly reduce symptoms and stop an infection in its tracks. Their unique compounds have been shown to rapidly fight the symptoms of early onset cold and flu, such as headache, fever and a dry, scratchy throat and may reduce infection duration and even reoccurrence. 1,2 

Eupatorium perfoliatum (Boneset) was considered the most important influenza remedy and was routinely used to treat patients who ‘felt as if their bones were breaking’ from pain.1  The Eclectics’ noted that cases were ‘rendered milder, deep-seated pain was promptly relieved, cough and respiratory irritation lessened, and recovery was expedited’. Additionally, weakened elderly patients with pneumonia were able to expel stubborn mucous from the lungs and fever quickly resolved.1

Sambucus nigra (Elderberry) and Echinacea purpurea (Echinacea) are well-known botanical medicines, traditionally used synergistically for their anti-viral and immune-boosting properties. A meta-analysis provided evidence that elderberry supplementation given at the onset of infection substantially reduced overall symptoms compared to the control group.2 Additionally, Echinacea was shown in a 2015 meta-analysis to reduce the risk of respiratory tract infection recurrence and the development of complications, most notably pneumonia, with the strongest effects shown in immunocompromised people.3

Elderberry has become a popular remedy for colds and influenza and for good reason.  A 2019 meta-analysis provided evidence that supplementation given at the onset of upper respiratory symptoms substantially reduced their duration, with a profound effect observed in influenza cases.1  In-vivo and in-vitro models demonstrate potent antiviral and immune-boosting activity due to active phytochemicals such as anthocyanins.1 In addition, mechanistic research indicates that this botanical can reduce haemagglutination of red blood cells, helping to inhibit the replication of several strains of the common cold and flu.3,4 


Although herbal medicines can be immensely helpful, it is essential that you source only pure products.  Always consult a qualified herbal medicine practitioner and never self prescribe or order products on-line.  At  True Medicine we use only certified herbal medicines with a choice of  liquid, capsules or tablets to meet your individual needs.


Arrange a consultation at True Medicine by phoning us on 0468 774 633 and prevent infections this winter.


  1. Hawkins J, Baker C, Cherry L, Dunne E. Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) supplementation effectively treats upper respiratory symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials. Complement Ther Med. 2019;42(October 2018):361-365. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2018.12.004  
  2. Schapowal A, Klein P, Johnston SL. Echinacea Reduces the Risk of Recurrent Respiratory Tract Infections and Complications: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Adv Ther. 2015;32(3):187-200. doi:10.1007/s12325-015-0194-4  
  3. Ulbricht, C. et al. An evidence-based systematic review of elderberry and elderflower (Sambucus nigra) by the natural standard research collaboration. J. Diet. Suppl. 11, 80–120 (2014).   
  4.  Porter, R. S. & Bode, R. F. A Review of the Antiviral Properties of Black Elder (Sambucus nigra L.) Products. Phyther. Res. 31, 533–554 (2017).  
  5. Abascal K, Yarnell E. Herbal treatments for pandemic influenza: Learning from the eclectics’ experience. Altern Complement Ther. 2006;12(5):214-221. doi:10.1089/act.2006.12.214