Sick day cheat sheet: Therapeutic Immunity Boosters |

Sick day cheat sheet: Therapeutic Immunity Boosters

Amanda Rae
Food Matters
A bottle of oregano essential oil with blooming oregano twigs
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

Have you survived the petri dish that is the Aspen Mountain gondola? Me neither. If you’ve got chills and fever, a hacking cough, or just a mad case of the sniffles, get checked for coronavirus, then call in reinforcements. That’s what I did last week, learning that a viral lung infection would likely last “10 to 14 days,” according to my physician.

I remembered that about this time last winter, I typed Mom a frantic email about losing my voice.

“Don’t forget about thyme tea!” she replied, among a long list of reminders to stay hydrated, sleep long and pump my system with necessary vitamins and nutrients.

Her words echoed an adage oft-repeated in holistic circles: If you need a plant, it will present itself.

Once again, I have a whole bunch of fresh thyme in my refrigerator, to prepare a roast chicken.

So again I make some thyme tea with honey and lemon: woodsy, vaguely mentholated and medicinal—instantly soothing to my parched throat and pleasing to my nasal passageways.

Here’s why, and what else works for me, since so many readers found this roundup helpful last year (Please consult a doctor before making any drastic changes to your dietary regimen):


Oils in the herb have antimicrobial, antiviral and antiseptic properties, making it an excellent antidote to cold and flu symptoms. Thyme oil is an expectorant, breaking up mucus in chest colds and soothing respiratory conditions such as bronchitis. (Greeks, Romans and Egyptians often burned the herb in temples to emit purifying smoke.) Thyme is also a great source of vitamins C and A, helpful to stave off bugs in the first place.

Make thyme tea using a sprig or two of fresh thyme + hot water. Add lemon and honey to taste.


Just like thyme, oregano is a powerful natural antibiotic, with intense antioxidant and antifungal properties. The oil is spicy and potent—just a few drops do the trick, which you’ll want to dilute in a carrier oil or other liquid to avoid burning soft tissue. I take oil of oregano when I first begin to feel rundown: three to five drops under the tongue, chased quickly with a big gulp of some strong-flavored beverage such as cranberry juice or coffee. It tastes like wood fire, but it works for me. For a milder effect, sprinkle dried oregano on meals to boost resistance.

True Greek Salad with oregano at The Wild Fig


Ah, garlic: the stinky powerhouse bulb used for centuries to ward off viruses and bacteria, stop coughing and quell fevers. Studies have shown a dramatic reduction in the length and severity of illness following garlic consumption, as it’s thought to kill microbes and boost immune and cardiovascular function. Crush cloves to better release allicin, the spicy compound with antiviral properties. Steep in broth or sauté with vegetables for best results, as raw garlic can irritate the digestive tract in some people. Vampires, beware.

Spinach gnocchi with fresh tomatoes and garlic oil at Campo de Fiori; sautéed garlic snow peas at Jing


Feeling queasy? This spicy root settles stomachs with powerful anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also used to reduce muscle pain and soreness and ease bloating, especially after consuming a big meal. Pickled and placed in a pile alongside sushi, ginger cleanses the palate between bites. Fresh is best when used as a cold remedy: Steep peeled, sliced ginger in hot water with lemon and honey to make an invigorating tea.

Ginger Greens or Ginger Beet Martini juice at Jus Aspen; ginger and fried garlic chicken pho at Bamboo Bear


Old-fashioned chicken soup is the original sick day panacea. No bones about it: The combination of vitamins, minerals, gelatin and antioxidants has been shown to slow cold bugs and ease respiratory symptoms. The protein in chicken meat provides amino acids that build antibodies and boost white blood cell count necessary to fight infection; liquids counter dehydration. Nostalgia may be at play, too, offering comfort when it seems the sky is falling.

Big Bowl of Chicken Noodle Soup at J-Bar; chicken vegetable barley soup at Butcher’s Block


The sunshine-hued, anti-inflammatory darling of the food world, turmeric spice is everywhere. While other ingredients are thought to be more beneficial to combat cold and flu viruses and bacteria, the incredible antioxidant levels of turmeric fight inflammation associated with sore throats, headaches and general pain. Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, is best absorbed with black pepper and a bit of fat, so try golden milk or a turmeric latte to start.

Turmeric Latte at Spring Café; Curry Crab and Dumplings at Aspen Public House


Spice is nice when it comes to sinuses: piquant compounds restore flow among congested passages by loosening phlegm. Chile peppers are also high in vitamin C, which can kick down the duration of a cold. Get the, uh, juices, flowing with anything spicy and feel the sweet burn.

Nashville Hot Chicken at HOPS Culture; Death Relish at Home Team BBQ; bird’s eye chile at Bamboo Bear

Despite conflicting research, Amanda Rae is also a big fan of apple cider vinegar.

Aspen Times Weekly

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