Help, How Do I Boost My Immune System?

Fighting Colds and Flu


Q:  What are some of your favourite supplements and health regimens that you use to improve the immune system for cold and flu season? – Lauren, Woodbridge


A: Cold and flu season is creeping up on us. It’s time to start thinking about tonifying the immune system and stocking the supplement cupboard with some essentials. To strengthen and support immune function, never underestimate foundational work like staying well hydrated, avoiding excess sugar and processed food consumption, getting sufficient sleep, and maintaining a consistent exercise routine.


Do you remember how good your mom or grandmother’s homemade chicken soup made you feel when you were sick? It’s not just nostalgia or the love that went into making the soup that made you feel better.  The herbs and bones from the chicken add some extra oomph to the stock (as would beef and fish bones). The resulting bone broth is full of bioavailable minerals, amino acids and nutrients that help fight inflammation, heal tissue, boost immune function and support collagen production.  Drink it straight up, cook rice or veggies in it, or make soup with it. Hint: Frozen and powdered versions are available at natural grocery and supplement stores when you’re in a pinch.


For Centuries, castor oil has been traditionally used to stimulate the healing power of the body to help quell inflammation and pain, protect the liver, alleviate constipation, heal wounds, improve immune function etc. One of the key benefits of castor oil is its positive effect on the body’s lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of lymph nodes and vessels spread throughout the whole body. The lymph nodes contain specialized white blood cells (macrophages and lymphocytes) that engulf and destroy infectious organisms, and the nodes also act as collection centres to filter the lymph fluid from debris and damaged cells. The vessels help circulate the lymphatic fluid to rid the body of dead cells, toxins and waste, and transport the infection-fighting white blood cells throughout the body. The simple act of applying a castor oil pack to the abdomen (where a large portion of the lymphatic system resides) can improve lymphocyte production and lymphatic circulation, in turn boosting immune function. Look for an organic, cold pressed, hexane-free castor oil.


Black Seed Oil comes from black cumin seeds.  The health benefits of black seed oil are numerous, and stem from its powerful phytochemical constitution of thymol, thymoquinone, and thymohydroquinone.  With regards to immune health, research has shown that black seed oil is effective in fighting against various multi-drug resistant bacteria and viruses, as well as molds, yeast and fungus. Few other herbs compare to this type of incredible antimicrobial activity. In addition to this, black seed oil may also provide health benefits such as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, allergy and asthma support, improved liver function, as well as improved cholesterol and blood sugar regulation.  


As with any suggestion, check with your MD or ND to ensure that the recommended products are compatible and safe for your unique health needs.


Dr. Michelle Pobega, ND, runs a naturopathic practice near the Annex neighbourhood of Toronto. Stay connected with her at, Facebook and Twitter @MPobegaND

Categories: Supplements, Neutraceuticals, & Herbs