Best Supplements for Colds and Flu

This fall, and leading into winter, has been the ultimate test for what is working against the cold and flu. My wife is an elementary school teacher, so you can imagine what kind of medicinal arsenal I have stockpiled. Your immune system will never be tested more than it will from children.

The best supplements for colds and the flu should successfully fend off numerous viruses and bacteria. Even with different immune systems, and susceptibilities, we have something for everyone to increase the probability of staying well.

Top 3 Cold and Flu Prevention Lifestyle Tips

1. Don’t stay up late and get enough sleep: Getting to sleep early is one of the best and easiest ways to boost your immune system. If you think you are starting to get sick, go to bed by 9:30 or earlier. Adults need 7-8.5 hours, while teenagers and children need more.

A recent study took 164 healthy men and women with an average age of 30, infected them with the cold virus and quarantined everyone to see who got sick. Adults who averaged five or six hours nightly during the study were four times more likely to catch a cold than people who slept at least seven hours per night. Of those who slept more than six hours, only 18 percent got colds.

2. Don’t overtrain at the gym but get enough exercise: I can’t tell you how many times I use to get a cold from overtraining and being exposed to sick people at the gym. If you are starting to feel fatigued or achy, skip the gym. Missing one day is better than one week.

3. Don’t go overboard on sugar and flour-based foods: This one is more challenging during the holidays, but the fact is that this combination depletes B1, folate, B12, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C and glutathione.

Best Supplements for Colds and the Flu 2019

1. Life Extension Enhanced Zinc Acetate Lozenge

For 2020, this zinc lozenge has been a consistent winner against the cold and flu. A systematic review found that three placebo-controlled trials that used zinc acetate lozenges in daily doses of over 75 mg showed a 42% reduction in the duration of colds. I have found that just one lozenge (19mg) has been effective in stopping the early tickle in your throat that is a sign of a virus.

The most effective way for zinc to work against cold and flu viruses for it to dissolve in your mouth, and use the forms zinc acetate or zinc gluconate. You want to keep a lozenge in your mouth for 20-30 minutes at the first sign of cold or flu symptoms. Killing the virus early in the game is your best chance.

2. Herb Pharm Certified Organic Super Echinacea Extract and Herb Pharm Black Elderberry or Elderberry Syrup

If you are looking for something to use sporadically when needed, you want to use these two tinctures together. Or, this elderberry syrup also contains echinacea, raw honey and propolis.

The echinacea formula uses the root, seed, leaf, and flower of the echinacea plant in a tincture form, thereby enhancing the immune building capabilities of each part instead of just the leaf or flower. The black elderberry formula uses fully ripened organic black elderberries, yielding the most potent form.

Echinacea Proven Effective Against the Common Cold

A meta-analysis has confirmed my own results with echinacea, finding that it decreased the odds of developing the common cold by 58% and the duration of a cold by 1.4 days. This percentage is most likely influenced by other remedies being used, and the timing of use once exposed.

I have found that two droppers 2x a day for a week as needed to be the most effective approach. After this, take a break for 4-7 days of use because it becomes less effective.

Elderberry Proven Effective Against the Flu

One study investigated elderberry syrup for treating influenza A and B infections. Sixty patients (aged 18-54 years) suffering from influenza-like symptoms for 48 hours or less were enrolled in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study during the influenza season in Norway.

Patients received 15 ml of elderberry or placebo syrup four times a day for 5 days and recorded their symptoms. Symptoms were relieved on average 4 days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo.

3. Daily Immune Builder by Herb Pharm

If you want something to take daily as a preventative, this is the one you want. This formula contains echinacea, astragalus, reishi, schizandra berry and prickly ash bark.

In the old video game Super Mario Brothers, mushrooms would restore your health by getting an additional heart to your life meter. This is what mushrooms do in real life. I have always been a huge advocate of mushrooms – especially medical mushrooms like Cordyceps, Reishi, Maitake, Chaga and Coriolus. The heath benefits are a mile long, and research will continue to figure out how these alien fungi work.

I have battled tested this Chaga product and this Maitake product.

Reishi May Be Protective Against the Flu

Reishi has an impressive list of research that isn’t utilized enough in the US. In Asia, Reishi is highly revered and for good reason. It has been my experience that Reishi works best for those who are prone to allergies, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, bronchitis (Cordyceps as well) and general low immunity to begin with. Take a look at what it can do:

  • Analgesic
  • Anti-allergy activity
  • Bronchitis-preventative effect, inducing regeneration of bronchial epithelium
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antibacterial against Staphloccoci, Streptococci and Baccillus pneumonia
  • Antioxidant
  • Antitumor
  • Antiviral against the flu
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Enhances bone marrow nucleated cell proliferation
  • Cardiotonic action, lowering serum cholesterol levels with no effect on triglycerides, enhancing myocardial metabolism and improving the coronary arteries
  • Central depressant and perpheral anticholinergic actions on the automatic nervous system reduce the effects of caffeine and relax muscles
  • Enhanced natural killer cells in mice
  • Expectorant and antitussive properties in mice
  • Anti-HIV activity
  • Improved adrenocortical function
  • Increased production of Interleukin-1 and Interleukin-2
  • Liver-protective and detoxifying effects
  • Protection against ionizing radiation
  • Slight anti-ulcer activity
  • Increase white blood cells and hematoglobin

4. Virgin Cod Liver Oil or Rosita Extra Virgin Norwegian Cod Liver Oil

The Viking Solution to Colds and the Flu

If you are prone to respiratory illnesses, you will want to consider cod liver oil.

Cod liver oil is a superior product over fish oils due to the vitamin A and D content, as well as an often higher amount of DHA. Vitamin D has become well known for its ability to fight against illness. Individuals with lower vitamin D levels (<30 ng/ml) were more likely to self-report a recent upper respiratory tract infection than those with sufficient levels. Cod liver oil has been found to reduce the incidence of viral respiratory infections, not only because of vitamin D but also because of vitamin A.

There are many cod liver oils on the market, some cheap and some expensive. This is one of those products where a cheap, heated, highly processed version that removes vitamins or adds synthetic ones back in cannot be substituted for a truly raw, pristine version that many of our ancestors used. 

The companies in Norway are using the old Norse way of processing cod liver oil. Rosita discovered that cinnamon is actually pro-oxidant when added to cod liver oil and instead use high-quality vitamin E and rosemary (Norse people used birch bark as an antioxidant). Both have been tested extensively for metals and contaminants, and the bottle is sent to you is fresh. You can see the small batch process here. I recommend using cod liver oil daily in the fall and winter, then using only once a week during the spring and summer while using vitamin D.

5. Vitamin C with Flavonoids (Rutin, Hesperidin, and Quercetin) or C-Salts Buffered Vitamin C


Since the early days of Linus Pauling, vitamin C has been on trial for its effectiveness against the common cold, even though it is considered one of the most well known anti-viral agents to influenza. Despite the controversy and disagreement of the medical world, the research and biochemistry of vitamin C show a positive benefit time and time again when the dosage is appropriate. If you go through the literature, you will find that the studies that fail to show a positive benefit are below 500mg, but as soon as you go over that amount with multiple dosages in a day due to the half life of vitamin C, the results change.

In a study of 463 students that used 1,000 milligrams every hour for 6 hours, then 3 times daily after that, reported flu and cold symptoms in the test group decreased 85% compared with the control group after the administration of megadose Vitamin C.

When you go through the biochemistry, you find that vitamin C is involved in almost everything. Read my article on vitamin C to learn more and read more studies.

6. Garlic

Garlic is a natural antibiotic, antiviral, antimicrobial, antifungal and antiparasitic. When I worked in a university vegetable garden, the garlic wouldn’t ever fall to disease. The 2017 season has proven garlic to be a top contender.

One doubled blind placebo study took 146 volunteers were randomized to receive a placebo or an allicin-containing garlic supplement, one capsule daily, over a 12-week period between November and February. The active-treatment group had significantly fewer colds (reduced by 63%) than the placebo group. The placebo group recorded significantly more days challenged virally (5 days compared to 1.5) and a significantly longer duration of symptoms. Volunteers in the active group were less likely to get a cold and recovered faster if infected. Volunteers taking placebo were much more likely to get more than one cold over the treatment period.

It is important not to use aged garlic, which does not have the high allicin compound like the one listed here. Freshly chopped raw garlic is another excellent option.

Does Red Wine Protect You Against the Flu?

You have probably heard of alcoholic drinks like a Hot toddy for sickness. Does alcohol have its place for cold and flu prevention?

A study* in the early 1990’s inoculated 391 subjects with the cold virus. Of the 391, 148 (38%) developed colds. Of the 243 that avoided the infection, 169 were non-smoking drinkers with a dose-response showing higher protection. Consumers of two to three drinks daily had an 85% greater resistance. Another study in 1997 that was published in the Journal of American Medical Association actually found that that alcohol abstinence was a risk factor!

In 2002, a study* in Spain found that total alcohol intake from beer and hard liquor was not related to the occurrence of the common cold. whereas wine was inversely associated with the risk of the common cold. Closer inspection found that red wine had the strongest effect against the common cold.

Red wine has also been found in studies to increase probiotic diversity, where 70-80% of your immune system resides. Scientists have isolated 11 strains of probiotic bacteria from wine and research has shown that polyphenols in wine increase gut diversity.

Not all red wine is treated the same. A large percentage of wine the US has been found to have higher levels of pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals and potentially harmful additives (The FDA has 76 approved additives in wine), along with glyphosate (even in organic US wine). Studies have found that wine from Italy and Argentina show the lowest levels of chemicals, metals, and additives due to a cleaner environment and the traditional practice of small batch winemaking.

*These studies can be found in The Science of Healthy Drinking.


Preparing for the Battle Against the Cold and Flu

Best Supplements for Colds and the Flu

What we have been doing is using vitamin C in two doses of 1000-1500mg, garlic, and 1/2 to 1 tsp. cod liver oil and the echinacea and elderberry tinctures as needed. If you start to feel something coming on, or you are around a lot of sick people, start using the zinc lozenge, and tinctures in water 2-3x a day. You can also use the Immune Building tincture daily. If you start feeling the tickle in your throat, increase your vitamin C as needed on the hour.

This has worked consistently and will be my go-to protocol for our clinical practice this season.

*If you have found some products that you swear by, feel free to share in the comment section. The fewer people that are sick, the lower the probability that we all get sick! If you are taking any medications or have any health conditions, always run these recommendations by your doctor first.

Due to the current workload at Nutrition Genome, Alex is not able to answer questions at this time. Please check back soon!