Not Your Average Flu Shot

by Skylar Morelli

Winter is approaching! The days are shorter, the trees are losing their leaves, and our immune systems are likely going to be compromised. Flu season is right around the corner, and it’s important to be both proactive and reactive about avoiding and treating the flu. There are plenty of ways to keep your body healthy such as exercise, keeping warm, eating a nutrient-dense diet, and getting a flu vaccine. Could adding nutrient-dense juice shots also help?

Also known as “nature’s flu shot,” juice bars are raving about them. They consist of lemon, ginger, turmeric, and cayenne pepper. The lemon, ginger and phototurmeric are liquefied through a juicer, while the cayenne pepper gets sprinkled in. The shot comes in a little cup, and you take them back in one shot (if you dare). Many claim that these shots have potent antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antibacterial, and antiviral properties that can help alleviate colds, flus, and many other ailments. The shots also give you instant energy and are a great, nutritious way to start any day. How does it work? Let’s break down the ingredients and look at the research.


Ginger (Zingiber officinale), is a root that grows in the ground and is used as a potent spice in food and teas and has also been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes. It has been gaining a lot of attention for its anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, and antioxidant properties. . In a study that observed human cell cultures and effects of ginger, they found several interesting things. 1 Higher doses ginger decreased release of arachidonic acid. Arachidonic acid can increase oxidative stress and inflammation. Research indicates that inhibitors of arachidonic acid have potential therapeutic value against inflammation and tumors. Ginger also displayed anti-tumor properties by inhibiting growth of existing lung and colon cancer cells in vitro.


Lemon is rich in vitamin C, which is essential for proper immune functioning. This vitamin helps scavenge free radicals and helps recycle glutathione levels, another antioxidant. The more free radicals we have in the body, more likely we are to get sick. Vitamin C helps increase production of lymphocytes, which are the white blood cells needed to fight infections. Lymphocytes help to attack invading bacteria, toxins, and viruses that enter body, such as the flu. 3


Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant spice that helps stimulate the immune system. Curcumin, the main component in turmeric, exhibits antiviral activity in the body. Many studies have observed that curcumin affects membrane mobility and can suppress cellular entry of viruses like influenza and hepatitis. In a study on curcumin and influenza activity, researchers concluded that curcumin did inhibit activation of type A influenza viruses in cell cultures.4 They also found that curcumin treatment had different effects at different stages of the flu. They tested the cell cultures at three points in time: eight hours before and throughout infection, at the same time of infection, and two hours post infection. In the very early stages of influenza infection, curcumin displayed highest influenza inhibition properties, although curcumin also was effective at all stages of the flu.

Cayenne pepper

Cayenne is a very hot pepper that increases circulation and heats up the body. It contains the powerful phytochemical capsaicin. Capsaicin has been gaining interest in research studies. It may offer protection against inflammation. But, what’s even better is that it helps clear up sinuses! In the dead of winter, it’s hard to go anywhere without hearing sniffles, coughs, and sneezes all around you. Cayenne has been proven to relieve sinus pressure and congestion. In a randomized control trial of 46 participants, half the group was randomly assigned to the intervention, which was a capsaicin-based nasal spray.2 The other half received a placebo. After two weeks, subjects in the intervention group had improved individual symptom scores and total nasal symptom scores. Sinus pain, sinus pressure, nasal congestion, and headache pain were also significantly improved.

Let’s put it together

Together all four of these ingredients pack a spicy punch that instantly heats you up and may cut through any indigestion or clear up your sinuses. Whether you need an instant fix to warm up your body, need to clear sinus congestion, or want some anti-inflammatory benefits, nature’s flu shots may help you to feel better.

It’s important to note that “nature’s flu shot” is not in any way a substitute for an actual flu vaccine – If you truly want to prevent the flu, getting a vaccine at your local clinic is the best bet!  Flu shots are important for people in higher-risk groups (children, the elderly, or the immune compromised) or for people who work with them, like in schools and hospitals.

If interested in trying nature’s flu shot, you can find them at whole foods (called the “Immune Boost”) for $3, or at juice bars anywhere from $3 to $6. You can also purchase ginger, turmeric, lemon and cayenne and make these fabulous shots at home, or add them to your go-to hot toddy. If you have an issue with anything spicy, be sure to ask your shot-preparer for a chaser as this shot is spicy and intense. Cheers!

Skylar Morelli is a second-year NutComm Student. She believes the sunshine and ocean are the most potent forms of therapy.

The Friedman Sprout is a monthly student run newspaper that aims to serve the student population at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, prospective students, and alumni. Our mission is to report on newsworthy information that affects the Friedman community including nutrition research, food policy, internship and volunteer opportunities, as well as school events. Our editorial slant is that of sustainability in food and nutrition.

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