Fall is definitely here, and with it, unfortunately cold and flu season. This is a good time to start adding certain "super foods" that have been shown to support immunity.
The active ingredient in garlic is allicin which has antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal effects. It becomes active when the garlic is chopped, minced or crushed and is most potent when consumed raw. The daily recommended 'dose' is 1-2 cloves, but instead of chomping down on raw garlic cloves (and then feeling isolated and lonely when no one wants to come near you), try sprinkling the minced bits on top of prepared dishes. From a TCM perspective, it is still considered beneficial when gently braised as long its on fairly low heat. Garlic warms our digestive system, moves Qi, dispels cold, detoxifies and is an antiparasitic. It affects the Lung, Stomach and Spleen channels most, all of which are important players in building our immunity.
One Chinese study showed that onions can inhibit three common influenza strains. Also, the sulfur found in onions has anti-inflammatory properties and can help with body aches and congestion. The organs most affected by the onion are the Lung, Stomach and Large Intestine. This super food drives out cold, loosen Qi stagnation and produces perspiration, which is important when trying to break a fever. Red onions are most powerfully immune boosting, and a half an onion a day is recommended. If it is cooked too long it does loose its effect.
This is a great cough suppressant that also fights bacteria and viruses. Besides boosting immunity, it can also be used in cases of digestive weakness with lack of energy, diarrhea and abdominal pain. When treating dry (not productive) coughs, steaming pears and adding some honey is a great treatment to moisten the lungs. It also moistens the large intestine and can be used to treat constipation, in which case it can be combined with roasted black sesame seeds which have been ground into a porridge and then dissolved in warm water. One caution about honey though: do not give it to children under 12 months old because it can be a source of botulinum toxin!
Ginger should be your first thought when you start noticing any cold or flu symptoms and is most effective when taken right away. From a TCM perspective this is because ginger will "relieve the surface from pathogenic wind" (the cause of a cold or flu) and produce sweating to drive out the pathogen. It also supports the Lungs and helps relieve coughing. A popular Chinese home remedy is simmering a thumb sized piece of ginger (chopped into small pieces) and green onions in two cups of water for ten minutes and drinking at the first sign of a cold. I think you could add some honey to it too, not only to improve the flavor but also to add some of the immune boosting qualities of that super food.
In the next few weeks I'll post some recipes using these super foods, so stay posted. Do you have any good immune boosting recipes to share?