“Yogurt commercials have made the public aware that friendly bacteria can play a positive role in supporting a healthy immune system. What you won’t get in that yogurt, however, are the multiple lactobacillus and bifidobacteria strains of friendly bacteria that provide comprehensive probiotic support for immune health, including the creation of an inhospitable environment for harmful microorganisms, and the promotion of important mediators of immune response. That’s why I recommend daily supplementation with Jarrow Formulas Jarro-Dophilus EPS.” Gene Bruno, MS, MHS, is the dean of Academics at Huntington College of Health Sciences in Knoxville, Tenn. Jarrow Formulas Jarro-Dophilus EPS delivers seven strains of beneficial probiotic bacteria with a protective gel to ensure they get where they’re going.
Using a Neti pot to irrigate your nasal passages at the first sign of a cold can help prevent a sinus infection.
Natural medicine emphasizes prevention, and your body’s own powers of prevention are warehoused throughout your immune system. So it’s smart medicine to understand how to work with your immune system to prevent (and treat) colds and flu naturally.
Herbs and vitamins are powerful guardians and defenders of your health at a time when high-stress lifestyles and environments take a toll on immune systems—especially given the recent outbreak of swine flu. Indeed, infectious invaders get stronger and more prevalent each year, so your ability to withstand these onslaughts depends on the strength of your immune system.
The immune system is not a system in same way that the other systems of the body are. It’s really more of a concept than a system. There is so much of your body involved in immune function, and immune function is so closely linked to proper functioning of other systems, that it is hard to set it apart from your body’s other systems.
The following are three herbs that can help strengthen your immune system and make your body a prevention powerhouse. These herbs can also help treat colds and flu.
Andrographis: Indian Immune King
Andrographis is a shrub cultivated in India. In Ayurveda, it’s called kalmegh (king of the bitters), and in China, Chuan Xin Lian. Asian herbalists use it to treat a range of upper respiratory infections and symptoms, including flu, bronchitis, fevers, headaches, sore throats, tonsillitis, and general overall
The scientific literature includes more than 220 studies dating back to the 1970s, and many studies since 1990 have repeatedly shown benefits for cold and flu treatment. Scandinavians have been using andrographis for 20 years to reduce the symptoms and duration of infections.
A randomized double-blind study involving 152 patients with tonsillitis determined that a week of andrographis was as useful as the drug acetaminophen for relieving fever and sore throat. In a Chilean study, a group of 158 people with the usual assortment of miserable cold symptoms had significantly less symptom intensity after four days of taking andrographis. A study published in Phytomedicine found that an herbal combination featuring andrographis significantly reduced the duration, frequency, and severity of attacks in a flu-like illness. Other research has shown that andrographis is particularly effective at alleviating cold-related runny nose and congestion. There is also some evidence for a preventive effect against colds and flu with the herb.
Andrographis is commonly available in cold-relieving formulas. In the early stages of a cold, take 10 to 15 g of andrographis per day as tea or capsules, or up to 20 mL per day of the tincture.
Eleuthero: The Super Siberian Standby
Native to southeastern Russia, northern China, Korea, and Japan, eleuthero root has been nicknamed Siberian ginseng in this country. This popular herb is a distant relative of Asian ginseng and was originally used by Siberian people to increase performance and quality of life, hence the nickname. Chinese medicine records say that eleuthero use dates back 2,000 years. Called Ci Wu Ju in Chinese medicine, it is used to prevent respiratory tract infections and to provide energy and vitality.
Eleuthero’s reputation for increasing stamina and endurance is unrivaled. Soviet Olympic athletes used it to boost their training. People in high-performance and high-stress jobs (explorers, divers, sailors, and miners) use eleuthero to prevent illness.
Eleuthero compounds show antioxidant, anticancer, cholesterol-lowering, immune-enhancing, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and fever-reducing activity.
A 2007 study found that a combination of eleuthero and andrographis halved the number of flu patients who progressed
to complicated influenza, and reduced disease duration by 30 percent.
For a long-term immune boost, use 2 to 3 g per day of powdered root in capsules.
Isatis: the Chinese Champion
Isatis (leaf or root) appears to be synergistic with the herb astragalus; the two herbs are commonly combined in herbal immune formulas. Where astragalus is warming, isatis is cooling, so it is used to reduce fever. Isatis is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial, with activity against many types of virus and bacteria. According to traditional Chinese medicine, it also strengthens the lungs.
To treat a cold, use 10 g in a tea. For long-term immune strengthening, take 2 g daily in capsules.
Gan Mao Ling, another Chinese herbal classic, contains isatis and other herbs, including honeysuckle and chrysanthemum flowers; it is recommended for viruses accompanied by fever, chills, swollen glands, sore throat, and stiff neck. At first sign of illness, take five to 10 tablets, and continue three tablets per hour as needed.
Product Examples (below, left to right)
Herbalmax Immune Enhancer, with astragalus and other herbs, boosts your ability to fight off colds and the flu so you can stay healthy all year round.
Source Naturals Wellness Fizz, with isatis and many other herbs, strengthens your immunity with portable and easy-to-drink dissolvable tablets.
Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract Formula 103 (Immune) from Wakunaga Nutritional Supplements is an ideal all-around immune booster, with aged garlic extract, vitamin C, astragalus, oregano, and olive leaf.