Judith Boice, ND, LAc, FABNO

As the nights grow longer and the days colder, we naturally turn inward and spend more time in quieter activities. In Scandinavia, people take out their favorite sweaters and speak of hygge, happiness that comes from closeness, having more interpersonal time with friends and family (far more than the simple translation “cozy.”)

While some adore the cooler temperatures and changing leaves, others find the shorter days and damper weather a liability.You may struggle with colds, asthma, bronchitis, and/or digestive symptoms in the autumn. Chinese medicine recognizes that the body “leans” on different organ systems at different times of the year. The autumn is associated with Lung and Large Intestine, so not surprisingly this is peak cold and flu season.

How can you prepare yourself to navigate this season in top health? The following three natural medicines are excellent allies:

Bergamot Citrus bergamia var. aurantium is one of the top performers for reducing anxiety and improving moods. Like the sunny, warm climates where this fruit grows, bergamot brings a sense of peace and relaxation (Han, Gibson, Eggett, & Parker, 2017). Inhaling bergamot essential oil for 15 minutes reduces salivary cortisol (a marker of stress and anxiety) (Watanabe et al., 2015) and has a calming effect similar to benzodiazepine drugs without the sedating side effects (Rombola et al., 2019). Local application of bergamot essential oil also effectively reduces chronic pain (Rombola, 2016). According to Scuteri et al. (2019), bergamot even reduces agitation in those suffering with dementia, a symptom that is untouched by pharmaceutical medications. Recommendation: saturate a blank inhaler with bergamot essential oil. Hold near the nose and breathe normally for 5-10 minutes, up to six times a day.

The nutrient Zinc boosts immune function and speeds wound healing. Take 30 mg daily, with food, during cold and flu season. Taking zinc on an empty stomach can make you nauseous, so be sure to take with food. Most high potency multi-vitamin and mineral supplements already contain this amount of zinc. At the first sign of a cold, increase to 30 mg three times a day. Zinc can speed the resolution of the common cold by 1.65 days! (Science et al., 2012).

Yin qiao san is a Chinese patent medicine for “wind heat invasion.” Symptoms include sore throat, feeling more feverish than chilled, slight headache, and yellowish mucus discharge. Do not take the remedy if you feel more chills than fever and have no sore throat—the formula is very cooling. Yin qiao san is meant to cause sweating to help push out wind and heat. Make sure to avoid drafts and chills after taking the remedy. Take three tablets four times per day for sore throat. If you have a fever, increase the dosage to three tablets every 2—3 hours. This remedy is for the very beginning of a cold, within twenty-four hours (optimally, within 1—2 hours) of the onset of symptoms.


A bonus:

Sleep as much as you can. Most of us need 9 – 10 hours of sleep rather than the 8 hours routinely recommended. Two areas that suffer most from lack of sleep are the nervous and immune systems. Increasing sleep by one hour will improve concentration by 25%, and bolster concentration. Lack of sleep will diminish natural killer cells, B cells, and other important components of the immune. To improve your immune system and reduce your risk for colds and the flu, guard your rest time and sleep at least 8 hours per night.


Working with these natural medicines can improve your mood, boost your immune system, and address the first signs of a cold so you can enjoy hygge this season.

Free Report: Learn how to use essential oils safely to boost your family’s health


Han, X., Gibson, J., Eggett, D., Parker, T. (2017). Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) Essential Oil Inhalation Improves Positive Feelings in the Waiting Room of a Mental Health Treatment Center: A Pilot Study.. Phyotherapy Research, 31(5): 812–816. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5806

Krueger, J. and Majde, J. (1990). Sleep as a host defense: its regulation by microbial products and cytokines. Clinical Immunology and Immunopathology 57(2), 188-199.

Rombola, L., Amantea, D., Russo, R., Adornetto, A., Berliocchi, L., Tridico, L….Morrone, L. (2016). Rational Basis for the Use of Bergamot Essential Oil in Complementary Medicine to Treat Chronic Pain. Mini Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry, 16(9), 721-8.

Rombola, L., Scuteria, D., Adornetto, A., Straface, M., Sakurada, T., Sakurada, S….Morrone, L. (2019). Anxiolytic-Like Effects of Bergamot Essential Oil Are Insensitive to Flumazenil in Rats. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2019, 2156873. doi: 10.1155/2019/2156873

Science, M., Johnstone, J., Roth, D. E., Guyatt, G., & Loeb, M. (2012). Zinc for the treatment of the common cold: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l’Association medicale canadienne184(10), E551–E561.

Scuteri, D., Rombola, L., Morrone, L., Bagetta, G., Sakurada, S., Sakurada, T….Corasanti, M. (2019). Neuropharmacology of the Neuropsychiatric Symptoms of Dementia and Role of Pain: Essential Oil of Bergamot as a Novel Therapeutic Approach. International Journal of Molecular Science, 20(13), pii: E3327. doi: 10.3390/ijms20133327.