How to help ourselves during COVID

Echinacea flower
Echinacea flower

There’s no panacea for avoiding COVID apart from following all the social distancing, masks and handwashing rules, and of course more recently the vaccination.  However, we can keep ourselves in tip top condition so we are more able to cope with it if we do get it. Some people are very ill, while others seem to breeze through it with very few symptoms, while others are asymptomatic.

Healthy Soul asked Ali Cullen, nutritional practitioner and consultant at A. Vogel, herbal manufacturers, to give us some advice. She is a nutritionist and herbalist and the following is what she recommends for staying healthy.

Support the immune system naturally:

• Get plenty of sleep.
• Drink alcohol in moderation only.
• Quit smoking.
• Exercise regularly.
• Maintain a healthy weight – being overweight or obese can risk changing the number of healthy bacteria in the gut and encourages inflammation in the body, both of which can leave you more vulnerable to illness or infection.
• Get out in nature daily if possible.
• Minimise unnecessary screen time.

What to eat

Ensure your diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, specifically those containing vitamin C, such as oranges, strawberries, red and green peppers and broccoli, and beta-carotene (vitamin A), such as red peppers, carrots, spinach, and yellow fruits such as apricots and mango – these nutrients help keep your respiratory tract healthy so that it is better able to fight infections.

Ensure you include sources of zinc in your diet, such as meat, shellfish, cheese, bread, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and fortified cereals – zinc helps to keep the immune system functioning normally and is essential for wound healing.

Use herbal support

By supporting the immune system, Echinacea helps to maintain the body’s resistance to infection.

Echinacea is a plant native to America but is now cultivated extensively in Europe. Up to 10 species of Echinacea have been identified, but only three (E. purpurea, E. angustifolia and E. pallida) are used medicinally. Echinacea purpurea has been most widely researched, and recent research flagged up its potential use against new coronaviruses.1 (See details of research at the end).

Vogel’s Immune Support provides:A Vogel Immune Support

• Vitamin C sourced from acerola cherries, which contains up to 100 times the amount of vitamin C found in lemons or oranges. Vitamin C is extremely supportive of immune function, and that found in acerola is more readily absorbed and used by the body.
• Nasturtium extract which contains glucosinolates that have an affinity for the lungs, and is also a very rich source of vitamin C.
• Zinc which is immune supporting.
• Vitamin D, also an immune supporting nutrient.


The science behind Echinacea:  

Echinacea has been shown in numerous studies to be effective in relieving symptoms of colds and flu. In 2004, Goel et al published a trial that demonstrated the efficiency of Echinacea purpurea extract in the treatment of colds and flu, when it is used as soon as a cold starts. At seven days, 95 per cent of the subjects using Echinacea were free of symptoms compared with only 63% in the placebo group.2

In 2005, Goel published another trial showing that volunteers taking Echinacea purpurea extract at the onset of a cold had a greater decrease in their daily symptom score than a placebo group.3 Both studies by Goel involved ethanolic extracts of Echinacea purpurea extract produced from freshly harvested plant material, as in our Echinaforce drops.

In 2006, a Cochrane Report reviewed 16 controlled clinical trials investigating the effectiveness of several different Echinacea preparations for treating the symptoms of common colds. They concluded that some preparations based on Echinacea purpurea (including the aerial parts) might be effective for shortening the duration or decreasing the severity of cold symptoms in adults if taken after the onset of those symptoms.4

Max the vitamin content of your meals

Numerous studies have shown Vitamin C to be beneficial for the immune system. In research, it has been shown on several occasions to reduce the severity and duration of the common cold.5

In one study, participants were given a tomato juice rich in lycopene (another antioxidant which helps to prevent against cell damage) and Vitamin C. Results found that, after consuming the tomato juice, markers of inflammation (associated with infection and disease) amongst participants went down, and the level of antioxidants went up.6

Vitamin C is also thought to be helpful in reducing fever. Consumption of fruits that are rich in Vitamin C is thought to help people recover more quickly from a fever, as well as reducing the ‘hot flush’ feeling that occurs when the body reaches a high temperature.7 Whilst high temperatures are useful at the initial stage of an infection, a persistent high temperature is uncomfortable and dehydrating.

As well as contributing to normal function of the immune system, Vitamin C helps to protect cells from the oxidative (chemical) stresses we face daily, helping us to feel less tired. It also helps the normal formation of collagen which is important for the functioning of our blood vessels, bones, joint cartilage, gums, skin and teeth.

Zinc contributes to normal functioning of the immune system, and a deficiency in zinc may lead to a weakened immune response. Zinc supplements are known to play a role in reducing oxidative stress (which can increase the risk of illness and infection). One review of several studies found that 80-92mg per day of zinc may reduce the length of the common cold by up to 33%.8 In addition, zinc supplements have been found to reduce the risk of infections and promote immune function in older adults.9 Zinc also plays a critical role in wound healing and is commonly used in hospitals to treat burns, certain ulcers and other skin injuries.10 This is because zinc is required for collagen synthesis and the body’s inflammatory response, as well as immune function, all of which are crucial for wound healing.

Another key nutrient in Immune Support is Vitamin D. Vitamin D has a role to play in various bodily systems, including the immune system which it helps to support function normally. As vitamin D deficiency is a fairly common occurrence across all population groups, this could be a contributing factor in regular bouts of sickness, colds and flu.

Biologically active forms of Vitamin D contain calcitriol which acts as a cytokine, a chemical produced by infected cells to help mobilise immune cells into fighting the infection. Low levels of vitamin D are, therefore, associated with lower levels of cytokine activity. This means that, when the body is under attack from pathogens and viruses, it is less able to call on the help of immune cells.

Vitamin D can sometimes be hard to come by in the winter months when we don’t get sufficient access to sun light – a key source of vitamin D. At this time colds and flu can be more abundant so it is especially important to ensure you get enough vitamin D, either through your diet (although these sources are fairly limited or by taking a gentle supplement.


1 Signer, J., Jonsdottir, H.R., Albrich, W.C. et al. In vitro virucidal activity of Echinaforce®, an Echinacea purpurea preparation, against coronaviruses, including common cold coronavirus 229E and SARS-CoV-2. Virol J 2020; 17: 136.
4 Tobler M et al: Characteristics of whole fresh plant extracts. Schweizerische Zeitschrift fur GanzheitMedizin, 1994

Boost the immune system

cherries for JuneHealth stores are doing a roaring trade at the moment, due to  Coronavirus and that’s because people who know about vitamins and herbal medicines are stocking up. So what are they buying?

Vitamin C:  has a reputation for fighting all viruses, and so it’s a daily essential. When you are healthy you only require 10mg of Vitamin C, because that’s all the body can absorb at once (it pees the rest out). When you are unwell the body is depleted of Vitamin C so you need much more.

How to take it: Cherry Active is made from Montmorency cherries and is packed with Vitamin C – take as a juice (which you can dilute and drink hot) or tablets.  Or you can buy capsules, tablets or gel Vitamin C.  See:See Vitamin C fights all viruses.

Cherry Active liquid made from Montmorency cherries. Delicious and packed with Vitamin C, Concentrate, 473ml, £17.15;  30 capsules.

Nature C Vitamin C tablets, made by A. Vogel. Chewable, tasty and made from food.

To purchase these with a 5% discount go to and put in the promotion code: HSoul1

Echinacea: is a herbal remedy that has the ability to boost the immune system and make you feel better. It was traditionally used by native Americans for many illnesses and infections, including snake bites.

Echinacea Hot Drink from A. Vogel  combines  fresh Echinacea root with herb extracts and Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) which is very warming and is claimed to prevent viruses entering cells of the body.

A. Vogel’s Echinaforce Echinacea Throat Spray moistens your throat and can prevent coughing.

A. Vogel Echinaforce Echinacea tincture, 50ml.

A. Vogel Echinaforce Echinacea tablets, 42.

To purchase these with a 5% discount go to and put in the promotion code: HSoul1

Zinc – 15 mg daily . Zinc is essential for a healthy immune system and may prevent viruses from entering cells which they need to do in order to multiply.

Bee Health, Vitamin C and Propolis, 60 tablets

Garlic – garlic is antiseptic, antifungal, antiviral and antibiotic. You can heavily lace your food with garlic, which will keep everyone away, not just the devil. Or you can take Allicin capsules – allicin is the active property in garlic that boosts the immune system. antiseptic, antifungal, antiviral and antibiotic.

Allicin Max Veg Caps, 30 – 180.

To purchase these with a 5% discount go to and put in the promotion code: HSoul1

Mineral deficiencies

Vitamins and minerals are essential to life, but most people think that they get enough of them from their food. With the soil depleted of essential nutrients due to over-intensive farming, and with an environment that is completely polluted, it is unlikely that this is true.  Also read: Vitamins and Minerals Chart.

Chris Newbold, Head of Nutrition at BioCare gives the following advice on how to detect a deficiency:

Symptoms: Itchy skin, poor wound healing, white marks on nails.
Deficiency: Zinc
Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a key role in normal function of the immune system, DNA synthesis, healthy bones, cognitive function, fertility and reproduction.  It contributes to the normal function of the immune system and normal function of bones, teeth, cartilage, gums, skin and blood vessels. Good natural sources of zinc include seeds, whole grains, crab, sardines and red meat.

Also try: BioCare Zinc Ascorbate (£11.55 for 60 capsules) from the Nutri Centre.

Symptoms: Exhaustion, poor concentration, loss of appetite, pale skin
Deficiency: Iron
Iron deficiency is Britain’s most common nutritional disorder. It affects up to 18 per cent of women due to blood loss through menstruation. Iron contributes to the formation of red blood cells and haemoglobin and oxygen transport in the body. Good natural sources of iron include red meat, eggs, green leafy vegetables.

Also try: BioCare Iron Complex (£14.10 for 90 capsules) from the Nutri Centre.

Symptoms: Frequent bouts of infections
Deficiency: Selenium
Selenium contributes to the protection of body cells, the function of the immune system and thyroid function. A diet low in selenium could affect the quality of a man’s sperm. Good natural sources include Brazil nuts.

Also try: BioCare Selenium (£10.25 for 120 capsules) from the Nutri Centre

Symptoms: Anxiety, irritability
Deficiency: Magnesium
Magnesium is a vital mineral that contributes to the normal function of heart muscle, energy-yielding metabolism and general muscle and nerve function. Good sources of magnesium include spinach, almonds and whole meal bread.

Also try: BioCare Magnesium EAP Complex (£22.55 for 90 capsules)  from the Nutri Centre

Symptoms: Mouth ulcers, frequent colds and infections, flaky skin
Deficiency: Vitamin A
Vitamin A is essential for helping fight infections, improving vision and keeping skin healthy. Deficiency in Vitamin A is rare but low intakes are relatively common in adults. However, pregnant women are advised not to take supplements containing Vitamin A because it has been linked to an increased risk of birth defects.  Good sources of Vitamin A include liver, eggs, cheese and yoghurt.

Also try: BioCare BioMulsion A (£11.20 for 10 ml) from the Nutri Centre

Top health tips

Eat porridge and wholegrains for long life. More research into eating plenty of fibre has found that eating fibre-rich foods like porridge mean that you are less likely to die prematurely.  The study of nearly 400,000 people in the US found that whole grains like oatmeal, wild and brown rice, fruit and vegetables had best results.  Read Sowing  Wild Oats.

Learn a second language to keep your brain active. Apparently speaking more than one language increases brain power and delays Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers at the York University in Toronto found that a second language was more effective than doing crosswords or Sudoko.  

Cut down on red meat: on the one hand it’s good for you as a great source of iron and zinc, but too much can be cancer causing scientists have declared. The Government is going to issue warnings about this, but it’s only for excessive amounts – 70g or three bacon rashers will be the recommended maximum level per day. Eating organic avoids traces of routine medication in animals.

Lavender oil for athlete’s foot: persistent athlete’s foot can become resistant to creams, but researchers at the Coimbra University in Portugal found that the antifungal properties of lavender work well against the fungus that causes nail infections, ringworm and athlete’s foot. Read more in Aromatherapy oils have so many uses.

Drink a moderate amount of red wine but the key is ‘moderate’. At a time when the number of people with liver disease has doubled, it is only red wine that offers protection to the heart when drunk in moderation – up to two glasses a day.

Limit high energy drinks which are packed with caffeine. I was shocked when I gave a talk to some schoolgirls about how to cope with exams. Quite a few of them took caffeine tablets to keep them going, at a time when they should be limiting caffeine. There is a tendency for teenagers to over-consume these drinks and recent research at the University of Miami found that high-caffeine drinks could cause strokes or seizures in children, especially if they have diabetes or behaviour disorders.

Take zinc for a cold as Indian scientists found that it could make it last for less time. Zinc has numerous other health benefits such as: fighting infection, normal growth in children, healthy hair, skin and nails, and for men healthy sperm and prostate gland.  Conversely, not enough zinc can lead to skin rashes, hair falling out, lethargy, sleep disturbance, infections, night blindness, loss of smell and taste, and more.   Read Vitamins and Minerals Chart.