Natural ingredients to fight respiratory infections and be active

Category: Immune, Integrative Nutrition

Acute respiratory infection (ARI) is a clinical entity that encompasses a group of infectious pathologies of the respiratory tract. These are illnesses with less than two weeks of evolution, of sudden onset and affecting the upper respiratory tract (ears, nose, sinuses, throat, bronchi and trachea). They are usually viral in origin.

How are acute respiratory infections spread?

Transmission occurs through saliva droplets that are coughed up or through contact with contaminated surfaces. For these reasons, ARIs are easily spread when people are grouped together in enclosed spaces.

With the arrival of autumn and winter, temperatures drop and humidity rises, which encourages micro-organisms to proliferate. There is also less sun exposure, which weakens the immune system. As a result, these factors increase the frequency of infection.

How to combat ARI naturally?

In order to reduce the likelihood of getting sick, shorten the days of convalescence and reduce the intensity of symptoms, it is necessary to strengthen the immune system. In this sense, activating the body’s defences to combat these pathologies can be done in a natural and effective way.


Inonotus obliquus, or chaga, is a medicinal mushroom considered by the scientific community to be antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immunostimulant (1). Its compounds are characterised by a wide range of antiviral activity against different subtypes of influenza (2).

In a review of medical literature, inhalations of extracts were shown to control inflammation of the respiratory tract (3).

Sun mushroom

The mushroom Agaricus blazei Murrill has a broad spectrum of biological activities that make it useful as an adjunctive therapy for a number of conditions (4). In a literature review, 14 studies were found that point to its positive effect on the immune system.

All indicate that it activates the innate and adaptive immune response, with increased cytokine synthesis and an overall immunomodulatory effect (5).


Sambucus nigra berries contain bioactive substances, such as essential oils, anthocyanins and polyphenols, with high antioxidant capacity. Traditionally, its use was focused on treating influenza, but its antimicrobial and antiviral properties have recently been discovered (6).

Several studies suggest its antiviral effect against at least 10 different influenza strains. In one study, 70 patients with influenza A and B symptoms were given elderberry syrup and placebo. The result was that symptoms were relieved on average four days earlier in the former group, with little need for rescue medication (7).

Cistus Incanus

The plant Cistus incanus is typical of the Mediterranean and has been used for centuries as a natural remedy against influenza. In essence, it stimulates the immune system and generates a resistance that acts to shorten the duration and intensity of viral illnesses (8).

Its polyphenols bind to the surface of certain viruses, inhibiting their attachment to cells and preventing the spread of infection. Application to the entry routes of influenza viruses has a protective effect, which does not generate resistant viral variants (9).

Drosera rotundifolia

It belongs to the carnivorous plant family and has traditionally been used to treat coughs and asthma. Its active ingredients include plumbagin and 7-methyljuglone, which have antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties (10).

As a result, it helps to decongest the bronchial tubes and improve breathing, as well as being effective in relieving dry, irritable or persistent coughs. The European Medicines Agency recognises the value of plant extracts in the treatment of coughs, including Drosera rotundifolia (11).

Pelargonium sidoides

This plant originating in southern Africa contains active ingredients such as gallic acid. . Among its clinical effects, it relieves coughs and sore throats.

In a randomised trial in children and adolescents with acute bronchitis, almost 80 % showed a reduction in cough intensity to 50 % and felt ready to resume their usual activities (12).

Currently, several European countries have developed modern phytotherapy preparations with the extract of this plant to treat sinusitis, bronchitis and pharyngitis (13).

Vitamins A and C

They have a high antioxidant power and contribute to the normal functioning of the immune system. Vitamin A modulates the formation of white blood cells and T-helper cells, as well as the production of specific antibodies (14).

Vitamin C, in high intracellular concentrations, generates reactive oxygen species while activating chemotaxis, phagocytosis and proliferation of B and T cells. All are necessary actions for the elimination of pathogenic micro-organisms (15).

Essential oils

Combinations of essential oils alleviate the symptoms of ARIs and boost immunity (16). They are a natural alternative to reduce the duration of illness and are particularly effective in respiratory viral processes.

Black cumin has an antimicrobial effect and activates the immune response. It is also a bronchodilator and antioxidant (17).

Eucalyptus is used to prepare an essential oil with antioxidant and antiseptic properties. It soothes throat irritation and coughs, making it particularly suitable for ARI (18).

Ravintsara or Cinnamomum camphora formosana decongests the respiratory tract and possesses active ingredients such as 1,8-cineole and α-terpinene. It has antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and immune-stimulating properties (19).

Scots pine has expectorant, antiviral, antiseptic, antipyretic and vasodilator effects. It helps to clear secretions from the respiratory tract and helps to clear the nose so that breathing is easier. It has an anti-inflammatory action and reduces bronchial hyper-reactivity (20).

Oregano is rich in carvacrol, thymol, p-cymene and polyphenols, which give it its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. It acts by reducing bronchial inflammation and improving immunity (21).

Star anise contains anethole, phellandrene and limonene, which soothe a scratchy throat and stimulate the immune system (22).

Lemon essential oil is one of the richest in active ingredients, restoring and protecting the respiratory tract, thanks to its antibacterial, antipyretic, antiviral and expectorant properties (23).

Acute respiratory infections have powerful therapeutic allies among vitamins, plant extracts and essential oils.


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