10 Immune-System-Boosting Teas, According To A Functional Medicine Doc

Functional Medicine Practitioner By William Cole, D.C., IFMCP
Functional Medicine Practitioner
Dr. Will Cole, D.C., IFMCP, is a leading functional medicine expert who specializes in clinically investigating underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Cole is also the bestselling author of Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum.

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Tea is packed with nutrients, each variety (white, green, black, oolong, and herbal) boasting its own unique set of benefits. And while I like to drink all types, there are certain varieties I gravitate toward depending on the benefits I am looking to tap into.

When I feel a cold coming on, I reach for the varieties I know will build up my immune system to fight off illness completely or at least reduce my symptoms. Here are the top 10 I like to curl up with during cold and flu season:

1. Elderberry

Elderberry is so powerful that even Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, praised its healing abilities, referring to it as his "medicine chest." Its antimicrobial and antiviral properties have been borne out in many studies, and it has been shown to be a viable remedy against both pathogenic bacteria and influenza viruses.

In addition to being steeped in tea, elderberry can be found as a syrup and is a common ingredient in cold and flu medicines.

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2. Echinacea

This herb is also known for its antiviral and antibacterial properties. You might even recognize echinacea as a common ingredient from your pharmacy's cold and flu aisle.

I prefer to take echinacea in tea form, so I can sip it throughout the day. Pro tip: Increasing the steep time will increase its dosage and potency.

3. Hibiscus

This herbal tea is a great choice when you are feeling under the weather, due to its vitamin C content. Studies have shown that vitamin C can reduce cold symptoms by up to 30%.

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4. Ginger

For digestive distress, ginger reigns supreme. Ginger eases nausea and soothes an inflamed gut. In fact, studies have shown it is so powerful that it can help ease the nausea associated with pregnancy and chemotherapy side effects.

5. Slippery elm

Slippery elm, also known as the red elm tree, is widely used in cough drops and teas. This is because it forms a substance called mucilage when mixed with water, which coats the throat and provides relief. It is also commonly used to ease the symptoms of laryngitis and other respiratory problems, like coughing. 

Slippery elm contains bioflavonoids, tannins, calcium, and vitamin E, all of which provide their own unique health-boosting properties.

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6. Licorice root

This tea is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine. Its flavonoid content helps boost immune health, and it has been shown to fight off various viral and bacterial infections

7. Chamomile

When I'm feeling under the weather, I typically find it difficult to get good-quality sleep. But sleep is so important for healing and repairing from illness. Sip a cup of chamomile in the evening for its powerful ability to help you wind down and catch some restorative Zzz's.

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8. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm tea boasts a light, sweet lemon flavor for those who like their tea on the sweet, not bitter, side. It has high vitamin C content to add to your quotient for the day and is a great natural sleep aid

9. Peppermint

If you are congested, peppermint tea is a great option. Peppermint leaves naturally contain menthol, which clears the sinuses and opens up your nasal passages. It can also help soothe any nausea you may be experiencing.

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10. Pu-erh

Pu-erh tea is made from the true tea plant, Camellia sinensis (which is where black, green, white, and oolong teas come from). Because of this, you can find Pu-erh varieties in green, black, or white tea.

Pu-erh is classically known to come from the Yunnan province in China. Studies have pointed to Pu-erh having antibacterial properties, which means it can help fight off harmful bacteria.

So next time you are feeling under the weather, grab your largest mug, your coziest blanket, and curl up with one of these cold- and flu-fighting teas!

William Cole, D.C., IFMCP
William Cole, D.C., IFMCP
Will Cole, D.C., IFMCP, is a leading functional-medicine expert and a Doctor of Chiropractic. He...
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William Cole, D.C., IFMCP
William Cole, D.C., IFMCP
Will Cole, D.C., IFMCP, is a leading functional-medicine expert and a...
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