Kick Your Cold (or Flu) to the Curb!

According to the CDC, the flu vaccine is only 23% effective this year.
Claus Rebler / Foter / CC BY-SA

This cold and flu season has been a particularly nasty one.  Symptoms seem to linger for weeks and with the low efficacy of the flu vaccine this year, there’s not much the conventional world of medicine has to offer.  Luckily, us naturopathic doctors have a few tricks up our sleeves to prevent the cold or flu from taking hold or speeding up its resolution if you already have it.

One of my favorite remedies to use during this time of the year is referred to as the anti-plague remedy.  While I haven’t delved into the history of this remedy and whether it was actually used to prevent the plague or not, it is loaded with enough strong immune-stimulating herbs to significantly decrease the length of an illness or boost your immune system enough to prevent the illness from ever taking hold.  The best part is that it’s made up of four easy-to-find ingredients and takes only minutes to make.  Just combine equal parts garlic, horseradish, onion, and apple cider vinegar in a blender until it makes a paste. Store in an air-tight container, keep refrigerated, and ingest a teaspoon or two as needed.  Yep, it’s that simple!  But what is it about these relatively common household food items makes this such a powerful cold and flu tool?

Garlic (Allium sativa)

Garlic is easily the epitome of “food is medicine”.  It has been in use for millenia, from places like Egypt to China, and by greats like Hippocrates and Louis Pasteur.  There’s a reason this herb has such a long-standing history of medicinal use. One of the main active constituents (or chemical components) that provides health benefits is allicin.  Allicin is an unstable compound, meaning it breaks down easily and can lose it’s effectiveness.  Raw garlic has the most amount of allicin with high quality garlic supplements being second best.  However, other constituents that allicin is broken down into (ajoene, vinyldiethiins, diallyl disulfide, trisulfide) also have been shown to have their own positive health effects.

Foter / CC BY-SA


Garlic has a wide variety of uses, mainly focusing on the cardiovascular and immune systems.  The Stinking Rose has been shown to lower cholesterol, decrease blood stickiness, and has a mild effect on lowering blood pressure.  Due to the anti-clotting effects, you should always check with your naturopathic doctor, the only type of doctor educated in drug and herb interactions, if you’re on anti-clotting medication such as Warfarin. In regards to our anti-plague remedy, garlic has strong anti-microbial activity, meaning it kills all those bad bugs, viruses and bacteria, that lead to things like colds and flus.


Onion (Allium cepa)

Onion, being in the same Genus as garlic, has overlapping effects of garlic when it comes to the cardiovascular and immune systems, perhaps to a slightly lesser extent, but also is great for allergies.  And if that wasn’t wonderful enough, onion also can lower your blood sugar or even be used as a poultice for insect bites and ear infections.

Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) and Apple cider vinegar

Recently, there have been more studies demonstrating the immune boosting effects of horseradish, especially on common opportunistic bacteria like Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which can be responsible for eye ulcers, foot wounds, and outer ear infections.  While the anti-plague remedy is not necessarily meant for conditions like eye ulcers, if you have ever eaten a large chunk of horseradish with sushi, you know the powerful effect horseradish has on clearing out your congested sinuses and why it’s a great addition to this home remedy.

Anti-plague remedy

Anti-plague remedy

Apple cider vinegar is famous for a large variety of health effects.  It seems like every week a new “50 Uses of Apple Cider Vinegar” blog post is being written.  While I commonly recommend apple cider vinegar in water to relieve bloating associated with indigestion, the only real research associated with vinegar consumption relates to lowering blood sugar levels.  This may, indirectly, have immune boosting effects since high sugar intake decreases immune system function.  However, further research is needed to determine any direct immune stimulating effects apple cider vinegar may possess.


Even after seeing countless people with the cold and flu, I am still cold and flu free for this season.  And I’m confident it’s thanks to this easy-to-make home remedy.

Stay Radiant,

Dr. Russell

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