Herbalist Stephen Harrod Buhner points to some everyday foods that can serve as powerful immune boosters, including tea made from the fresh juice of ginger root.

fresh ginger juice

When it comes to combating the flu virus, fresh ginger provides potent immune system support; dried ginger does not. Photo © Syda Productions/stock.adobe.com.

The immune system is an “organ” just as our lungs and livers are and there are things you can do to keep the immune system healthy. Certain foods do help immune health. Some of the best foods that support immune health are:

  • Yogurt. Regular intake does result in fewer sick days. The body’s white blood cell count increases substantially and the GI tract bacterial community remains very healthy, which also helps. Kefir can also be used.
  • Oats and barley. Farm animals given a mix of the two have many fewer infections, including those from influenza. (And yes, in spite of rumors to the contrary, we actually are animals, too.)
  • Garlic. Although not as strong an antibiotic as I had formerly thought, regular garlic intake does boost immune function — in one study, those taking garlic were much less likely to catch colds and flu.
  • Selenium-rich foods have been found to help clear influenza infections from the body. Selenium is found highest (in descending order) in Brazil nuts, fish (tuna, cod, halibut, sardines, flounder, salmon), poultry (chicken and turkey), sunflower seeds, shellfish (oysters, mussels, shrimp, clams, scallops), meat (liver, beef, lamb, pork), eggs, mushrooms, whole grains, wheat germ, onions, garlic, asparagus, broccoli, tomatoes.
  • Chicken soup. Yes, it does work.
  • Black tea. It significantly increases the immune system’s interferon levels. Green tea will also be of benefit.
  • Zinc-containing foods. Zinc is an essential mineral, especially in immune function. It enhances the actions of many of the immune system’s actors, including T cells. Zinc is highest in oysters, wheat germ, liver, seeds (highest in sesame, tahini, pumpkin, squash, and watermelon seeds), roast beef, dark chocolate and cocoa, lamb, peanuts, garlic, chickpeas.
  • Mushrooms. But not the usual store-bought variety. Shiitake and maitake can both be used in cooking, and they are both very good for raising immune function, primarily due to their high levels of polysaccharides. Their polysaccharides raise immune function considerably when taken as a regular part of the diet.
  • And of course: ginger in the diet, broccoli and other members of that family (all have some of the same properties as isatis), red bell peppers (which are gram for gram, higher in vitamin C than anything else on the planet), and oregano.

Ginger is useful for the flu only if the juice of the fresh root is used. Dried ginger is useless.

Fresh Ginger Juice Tea


  • 1–2 lbs. fresh ginger root 
  • ¼ lime
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne
  • 6 oz.  hot water


  1. At the first signs of an infection that is not going to stop, juice one to two pounds of ginger. (Squeeze the remaining pulp to get all the juice out of it, and keep any leftover juice refrigerated.) Pour 3 to 4 ounces of the juice into a mug, add one-quarter of a lime (squozen), honey, cayenne, and hot water. Stir well. Drink 2 to 6 cups daily. 

Text and recipe excerpted from Herbal Antivirals © 2013 by Stephen Harrod Buhner. All rights reserved.

Stephen Harrod Buhner

Stephen Harrod Buhner is the author of Herbal Antivirals,Herbal Antibiotics, and 17 other works. He speaks internationally on herbal medicine, emerging diseases, complex interrelationships in… See Bio

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Herbal Antivirals

by Stephen Harrod Buhner

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