What is the best tea for a cold and flu? Can tea be used to prevent the cold and flu? Does vitamin C actually work?

 
Winter brings with it the festivities and holidays, but also can be a dreaded time of year for some because of colds, flu or other associated sicknesses.
 
With a little planning you can get through the season with barely more than a sniffle,  even while people around you are dropping like flies. Some of this is based on science, but also my experience working in several restaurants which involve handling cash, touching keyboards, interaction with staff and the public. In other words, a land mine of potential ways to catch something. The tactics discussed within this article has worked for me for several years, even those where I did not get a flu shot. While not scientific, there is also clinical evidence which leads me to the overall conclusion that regular tea drinkers simply do not get sick as often.
 

Part One - The physical defense

 
 
In the 1980's and 1990's there was a product called "The Club" for automobiles. Cities like New York, where I grew up had a big problem with car theft at the time. The club was nothing more than a metal bracket that hooked to your steering wheel making it impossible to steer the car. The club wasn't fool proof and eventually thieves developed workarounds. But the main purpose of the club was to make your vehicle a less inviting target. A thief when given the choice would choose a non-club equipped vehicle over yours.
 
The same thought process applies with the avoiding colds. And the first part is simply making yourself a less inviting target.
 
To reduce the physical  chances of coming in contact with the cold or flu means frequent hand washing and proper humidification. Also, keeping your bedroom at proper humidification levels while you sleep will allow your nose and sinus passages from becoming dried out overnight and will reduce the chances of a virus getting a foot hold when you are around sick people.
 
Frequent hand washing is also important especially if you are in public spaces.  However, anti-bacterial gels have been shown to have potential long term negative health consequences. The FDA has already banned certain ingredients found in hand sanitizers. But even some of the non-banned ingredients - the alchohols, ethanols may have side effects (see below). While sometimes there is no choice, it is better to use soap and water where possible.
 
One little trick to FORCE you to wash with soap and water is a side effect of drinking tea. If you sip on tea through out the day, you will inevitably have pretty regular bathroom trips. Therefore by default, you will need to use a rest room and use soap and water! 
 

Part Two - The immune defense

 
 
 
 
Assuming something gets through, your immune system in the next line of defense. The flu shot, while not 100% effective is going to reduce your chances of contracting the flu, and at the very least reduce the intensity if you should get it. Beyond that, your overall immune system condition is very important. A diet full of sugar, processed foods and inactivity will result in a immune system that is not at full strength. All this intertwines with your gut bacteria. As Dr. Steven Gundry describes in his book 'The plant paradox' - consider your body a condominium for microbes. If you do not give them good living conditions, they will not perform their functions efficiently. Therefore having a good overall 'gut' is vital for a strong immune system.
 
Eating well and physical activity will keep your immune system up to snuff during the vulnerable season. Even a little exercise daily is better than nothing, and there are numerous apps that follow the seven minute scientific workout that allow you to get moving without needing expensive equipment and requires just a little time each day.
 
One of the main reasons that hand sanitizers might be negative is because they destroy good bacteria as well as bad. They also do not carry away dirt like soap does. So while they may in short term kill everything on your hands, they will also dry out your hands and introduce chemicals that may not be ideal for your micro floura as a whole.

 

Part Three - Boosting the immune system

 
 
The supplement industry makes billions off various pills. Do they in fact work? Some supplements contain immune boosting ingredients, but there is not much in the way of studies that confirms lower incidents of flu or colds by taking them versus what you get in every day foods. Vitamin C may help avoiding colds, but does not seem to help avoid them. Plus, there are side effects from over dosing. Your best bet is to get as much vitamin C from foods such as greens and citrus. 
 
But did you know that simply drinking tea on a daily basis will help boost your immune system? It turns out there are studies that show certain components found in tea - specifically EGCG and L-theantine that help strengthen the immune system by priming T cell activity. Tea in general is anti-bacterial/anti-fungal, which is why tea drinkers also get less cavities.
 
 

Part Four - Breakthrough!

 
 
No matter how much you wash your hands, or how many precautions you take, there will be a time where the enemy slips through your defenses and attempts a beachhead. The key is to wipe this beachhead out as quickly as possible before the germs can grab more than a toe hold. Normally we can sense something wrong - a headache, post nasal drip, or some imbalance that says something is not right. Here is where you need to add some weapons to the arsenal.
 
But before we move forward, if you caught the flu you will know it. The flu is highly contagious during this initial phase. If you feel like you got hit by a truck - STAY HOME. 
 
Certain herbs like ginger, lemon balm, sage, or lemon verbena serve as antiviral sore-throat soothers. Also Echineccia has been shown in clinical trials to be as effective as tamiflu - with fewer side effects and much lower cost. If you happen to have a sore throat, honey will also work to soothe. 
 
There has been some evidence that zinc lozenges will reduce the length and severity of a cold. But should you decide to go this route, there are side effects from over dosing and usage is not recommended except when you are actually sick.
 
Echinecea is another common supplement. You could in theory take tablets, but drinking a tea with echinecea in it is probably a better bet, because it will contain more than just the one ingredient and more side benefits, plus the hot fluids which are recommended.  It also lowers the chances of overdosing. Using this rapid response method has worked for me personally, as well as other people I've advised. Whenever I feel any imbalance, I immediately switch to a mostly herbal tea regimen, including blends formulated with Echinecea. That, coupled with going to bed early has allowed me to wake up the next day refreshed and germ free.
 
From a cost perspective tea is also superior. Firstly, you can drink the tea all the time - not just when you are not feeling well. Most herbal teas can be consumed on a regular basis without overdosing or negative side effects. Just be aware if you are any medications, and look up the ingredients that are not familiar to you. WebMD is a great resource for this. Common ingredients like sage or ginger can be consumed moderately on an every day basis. Plus there are other benefits, such as anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
 

Conclusion

 
 
If you are drinking tea now, you are already boosting your immune system naturally. Keeping some herbal varieties with some of the ingredients mentioned, eating right and keeping fit will greatly increase your chances of avoiding sickness. Does tea help prevent colds and reduce the symptoms of a cold - YES!