10 Best Supplements for a Cold: Natural Remedies to Support the Immune System

Key Points:

  • Before taking supplements to prevent colds and flu, pay attention to quality. Your body cares more about the supplements you actually absorb than the supplements you take. Liposomal supplements, for example, are more bioavailable and likely to effectively curb symptoms and prevent colds.
  • Some of the best vitamins to take when sick include zinc, magnesium, and liposomal vitamin C.
  • Besides supplements, there are other natural remedies you can try, like fire cider, fermented garlic honey, and elderberry syrup, to lessen cold and flu symptoms.

Feeling exhausted? Achy? Hoping to get through this article before you have to blow your nose… again?

Cold and flu season isn’t for the weak of heart. 

And it’s certainly not for the weak-of-immune-system, either.

Good news: we’ve compiled a list of all the best vitamins to take when sick with a cold. These natural remedies are science-backed, and most of them have been shown in studies to reduce both symptoms and the length of your sickness.

Grab your tissue box, take a quick browse, and head over to your pantry for one of these easy natural remedies.

Table of Contents:

High-Quality Flu and Cold Prevention Vitamins

The pharmacy aisles are filled with fast-selling solutions to your worst cold symptoms. 

But keep in mind: Not all of these are easy for your body to absorb. 

And if they don’t absorb properly into your bloodstream and then into your cells, they can’t really benefit you.

(We’re looking at you, low-quality vitamin C).

Many of the natural remedies and supplements for cold and flu we recommend here need a little quality control. Fruits and root vegetables should be organic, while all of your supplements should always come from a trusted source.

Remember, your body doesn’t care about the supplements you take — it cares about the nutrients it can actually use. 

10 Best Supplements to Take When Sick

These natural remedies and supplements for cold and flu can stop symptoms in their tracks and prevent future infections. 

1. Garlic

    A natural antifungal and antibacterial food, garlic has been used for centuries as an immune-boosting supplement for cold and flu symptoms. Garlic is particularly interesting for its ability to nourish the microbiome. While killing off bad bacteria (with its antibiotic properties) it can also nourish good bacteria as a prebiotic.

    One way to get the most nutrients out of garlic is to chop or crush it and let it sit for about ten minutes. This allows the garlic to release allicin, an active compound and enzyme with antiviral properties. Garlic can be enjoyed in soups, salads, dips, and even crushed on toast. You can also find garlic supplements for higher, more concentrated doses of allicin. Just make sure to read the label to check for quality ingredients.

    2. Zinc

      As a powerful trace mineral, zinc is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, and it’s particularly good for wound healing and skin health (chronic acne? Hello zinc). But these aren’t the only benefits of zinc. 

      Actually, zinc is known to boost immune system wellness by breaking down viruses and bacteria while activating immune system cells. One study explains further how its anti-inflammatory properties and cellular benefits combine for a healthy immune system. 

      It says, “The ability of zinc to function as an antioxidant and stabilize [cell] membranes suggests that it has a role in the prevention of free radical-induced injury during inflammatory processes.”

      3. Oregano

        A well-known herb, oregano has anti-inflammatory properties, antibacterial properties, and antioxidants. Translation? It’s a powerhouse of healthy ingredients that can target active infections and prevent future infections (even better). 

        Since inflammation is one of the main drivers of modern disease, a regular dose of oregano or oregano oil can be a powerful tool for optimal health, cold or not.

        4. Fire Cider

          A tonic full of immune-boosting ingredients like apple cider vinegar, horseradish, garlic, onions, peppers, raw honey, cinnamon, and ginger, fire cider is a unique winter drink used to keep cold and flu symptoms at bay. The exact ingredients used are up to you — but typically include a handful of natural antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory ingredients. Better than eating raw garlic, right?

          Since fire cider is traditionally fermented, it includes a lot of healthy probiotics, too. You can make a large batch at home, ferment it, and have fire cider available all flu season long.

          5. Elderberry Syrup

            Elderberries are the immune-boosting superfood. They’re native to North America and easy to forage (so, basically free if you play your cards right). Elderberries can be eaten plain or, more popularly, consumed in the form of a syrup or tonic. They’re high in vitamin C, prebiotics, antioxidants, and other essential vitamins.

            Many people who use elderberry syrup as an alternative to vitamin C supplements swear it keeps them healthy all winter long. Elderberries can also promote kidney health, relieve headaches, and calm stress.

            One study looked at elderberries as a preventative to cold and flu exposure during air travel. The participants who took elderberries had shorter colds and milder symptoms than those who took a placebo.

            6. Green Tea

              If fresh-squeezed elderberry syrup and fire cider aren’t your ideal supplements to prevent colds and flu, you can explore this more traditional approach: Green tea. Consumed for thousands of years, green tea is considered both medicinal and enjoyable. It’s packed full of antioxidants and known to help everything from type 2 diabetes to brain fog. Try matcha green tea for a bolder, earthier flavor profile.

              7. Liposomal Vitamin C

                What’s the best vitamin to take when sick? Most people say it’s vitamin C. 

                Vitamin C is used by almost every organ and system in the body, and it’s a potent antioxidant, fighting free radicals in the cell. It’s commonly associated with cold and flu prevention and may be used to lessen the symptoms of acute illness.

                It’s also important to remember that vitamin C can rapidly deplete during times of stress (both physical and emotional). So, even if you think you get enough vitamin C in your diet, it’s always worth taking a little extra when you have a cold.

                Grocery store vitamin C supplements are often made synthetically from broken-down corn starch (yikes). This is difficult for your body to actually use and may be ineffective against cold or flu symptoms. That’s why we’re big proponents of liposomal vitamin C — it’s high quality, maintains standards of purity, and it’s actually absorbable by your cells.

                8. Fermented Raw Honey

                  Easy to access and packed with sweet flavor, raw honey is a fantastic natural supplement for cold and flu season. Fermented raw honey (perhaps with some garlic thrown in) makes a delicious addition to toast or a syrup for a bubbly drink. Along with all the benefits of garlic, fermented honey contains natural probiotics (gut health and immune system health go hand-in-hand) and antibacterial properties. Plus, it’s soothing to a sore throat.

                  9. Magnesium

                    Magnesium deficiency is widespread — which isn’t good news for those with weak immune systems. Consider magnesium the do-it-all mineral. It’s a cofactor for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, helping with blood sugar management, sleep quality, and more. Magnesium is also required to make glutathione (a powerful antioxidant) in the body.

                    And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Not only is magnesium directly connected to immune system health, it also activates other essential vitamins like vitamin D.

                    10. Nebulized Saline and Iodine

                      While nebulizing saline and iodine isn’t the same as taking a supplement, it can be helpful to target nasal passageways and sinus symptoms directly. One drop of iodine in your saline solution will do the trick. This method works to break up mucus and get your fluids moving. In one study, nebulizing saline was shown to reduce viral load and decrease symptoms of the common cold and COVID-19.

                      What’s Better Than Reducing Cold Symptoms? Never Having Them at All

                      What’s the worst part about going head-to-head with flu season? Being unprepared. 

                      Honestly, so many of us think we’re indestructible…and then our kid comes home from preschool with a stuffy nose, or a coworker says, “It’s just allergies.”

                      When the sniffles and sneezes latch on with a vengeance, you don’t want to be caught unprepared.

                      That’s why we recommend staying well-stocked on liposomal vitamin C. This potent antioxidant works to lessen cold and flu symptoms. But even better, research suggests it can prevent you from getting them at all with consistent intake.

                      Shop High-Quality Vitamin C That Actually Absorbs

                      References

                      Bayan, L., Koulivand, P. H., & Gorji, A. (2014). Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects. Avicenna journal of phytomedicine, 4(1), 1–14.

                      Tiralongo, E., Wee, S. S., & Lea, R. A. (2016). Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Nutrients, 8(4), 182. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8040182

                      Prasad A. S. (2008). Zinc in human health: effect of zinc on immune cells. Molecular medicine (Cambridge, Mass.), 14(5-6), 353–357. https://doi.org/10.2119/2008-00033.Prasad

                      Huijghebaert, S., Hoste, L., & Vanham, G. (2021). Essentials in saline pharmacology for nasal or respiratory hygiene in times of COVID-19. European journal of clinical pharmacology, 77(9), 1275–1293. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00228-021-03102-3

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