(NaturalNews) It is almost the peak of the winter season here in the Northern Hemisphere, which means coughs, colds, influenza, and various other respiratory ailments are on the rise. Such conditions are typically the result of poor diet, low immunity, and lack of natural sunlight exposure, among other things, but developing them does not have to be inevitable, especially if you take the proper preventive steps now to avoid them. Here are eight foods and spices to help keep you free of respiratory tract infections during these cold, winter months:
1) Echinacea. This flowering herb has been a staple in natural medicine for hundreds of years, as it possesses unique, immune-boosting compounds that work almost immediately at the first sign of infection to quell it quickly. Commonly referred to throughout history as a "cure-all" herb, echinacea helps naturally boost the body's own natural levels of properdin, a chemical substance that activates the part of the immune system responsible for warding off bacteria and viruses. Echinacea can also help reduce the severity of existing cold and flu symptoms, and help quickly eliminate such conditions (http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/echinacea-000239.htm).
2) Garlic. A powerful immune booster, garlic has also been used for many centuries as a natural remedy for respiratory illness. Long before synthetic antibiotics were invented, in fact, garlic was the medicine of choice for treating infections, as it contains powerful medicinal compounds such as allicin, sulfhydryl and various other sulfur-containing compounds that ward off disease. Adding more fresh garlic to your diet or taking garlic supplements is a great way to fortify your immune system to avoid disease (http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/garlic-000245.htm).
3) Green onion (scallion). A close relative of garlic, the green onion also possesses powerful immune-boosting compounds that make it an excellent remedy and preventive food for respiratory tract infections. Rich in organic sulfur compounds, as well as vitamin C, B vitamins, and trace minerals, green onions are a food you will definitely want to eat plenty of during the winter months. Try making a vegetable soup out of green onions, leeks, and garlic for immune support, and add any other ingredients you like into the mix (http://www.pyroenergen.com/articles09/green-onions-scallion.htm).
4) Ginger. Packed with more than a dozen antiviral compounds, ginger is an excellent herb for both preventing and treating colds and flu. Ginger is especially helpful if you already have a respiratory ailment that you are trying to get rid of, as the herb works exceptionally well at relieving pain and disinfecting the body. Ginger can be taken as tea, brewed into a tincture, or chopped or grated and added to food (http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/ginger-000246.htm).
5) Elderberry. No immune-boosting arsenal would be complete without elderberry, an herb that ranks among the most effective remedies for treating respiratory illness. Rich in antioxidant flavonoids, elderberry is uniquely suited to both prevent and treat illness due to its unique ability to minimize the swelling of mucous membranes. The fruit is also a powerful anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anticancer food (http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/elderberry-002880.htm).
The Wellness Mama blog has a great recipe for making your own elderberry syrup medicine at home: http://wellnessmama.com
6) Oregano. A potent antibiotic and antiviral herb, oregano, and particularly oil of oregano, is another amazing remedy that works particularly well at treating respiratory illness after it has already formed. You can mix five or six drops of oil of oregano in water and gargle with it for instant relief, or you can drink the entire thing down to kill a flu or cold in as little as 24 hours. Oil of oregano can also be purchased as a supplement in capsule or gelcap form (http://www.earthclinic.com/Supplements/oregano-oil.html).
7) Vitamin C. Though it is sometimes mocked by the mainstream medical system as an inert substance, vitamin C has long been confirmed as a powerful nutrient for boosting immunity and warding off disease. A 2004 study review out of Finland, for instance, found that respiratory patients who take vitamin C are far less likely to develop colds, pneumonia, and other respiratory infections (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15605943). Just be sure to take non-GMO ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, or natural vitamin C as it comes from "superfoods" like acerola cherry and camu camu berry (http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/vitaminC/).
8) Vitamin D. Millions of Americans have dangerously low levels of vitamin D in their system, which is a primary cause of chronic illness today, including respiratory illness. This is why it is important, especially during the winter months, to either supplement daily with between 2,000 and 10,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D3 -- some doctors recommend that severely deficient patients take upwards of 40,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily -- or use a tanning bed or tanning wall daily.