Even people with a healthy immune system can find themselves battling an occasional cold or bout with the flu. When you do find yourself under the weather, feeling better fast is likely your top priority.
Yet, conventional over-the-counter medicines simply mask symptoms without addressing the underlying cause of your misery. The following herbs and supplements can arm your body with the tools it needs to fight the “bug” while help you get over symptoms quickly.
Read more to discover some of the best nutrients to support your immune system when a cold or flu bug is trying to take hold of you.
Aged Garlic Extract
Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) is best known for its cardiovascular benefits.
But scientists at the University of Florida have found that this pungent herb also reduces the duration of the common cold or bout with the flu by as much as 61%. During their study, 120 cold and flu sufferers also experienced a 21% reduction in the number of symptoms and 58% fewer missed work days due to their illness. More importantly, the duration of their cold was cut by an impressive 61%.
According to the researchers, this was because AGE boosted the number of T-cells, especially NK cells.
To experience these effects the next time you have the sniffles, take at least 800 mg divided into 2 daily doses.
Keep in mind that this does not happen with just any garlic. Aged garlic extract has a proprietary growing and production method that enhances and creates immune supporting phytochemicals that are unique to the extract.
Astragalus has gained a reputation as an antiviral and potent immune booster–and for good reason.
A staple in Traditional Chinese Medicine, astragalus is rich in polysaccharides, flavonoids, multiple trace minerals, and amino acids.
Numerous studies show that this herb stimulates the immune system by increasing the activity of NK cells, macrophages, and T-cells. Taken during cold and flu season, it may help prevent colds and other upper respiratory conditions. This herb also has powerful free radical fighting capabilities.
Echinacea is well known for its ability to turn on the body’s innate immune response as well as stimulating the production of antibodies called immunoglobulin M.
A review at the University of Connecticut found that echinacea decreased the odds of developing the common cold by 58%.
There are several types of echinacea on the market, including Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea pallida, and Echinacea purpurea, with immune boosting properties. But the secret to the effectiveness of any of these varieties is to take the herb at the first sign of the sniffles.
But remember: because echinacea is considered an immune stimulator, consult with a healthcare provider knowledgeable in dietary supplements if you have an autoimmune disease.
Medical mushrooms, such as maitake, reishi, shiitake, agaricus, and poria cocos, have been used for centuries throughout Asia to enhance immune function and restore vitality.
Modern research shows that these mushrooms superstars are rich sources of:
- Lentinan (which helps fight infection)
- Maitake D-fraction (which stimulates cancer-fighting immune cells)
- Beta-glucan (a unique fiber that enhances the immune system’s rapid response to bacterial infection)
- Active hexose correlated compound (an immunomodulating compound that also increases the body’s antibody response to the flu vaccine, making it even more effective)
While some varieties like maitake and shiitake are delicious cooked, others like reishi are used strictly for medicinal purposes. For immune balancing, look for a mushroom supplement that includes several types of culinary and medicinal mushrooms.
Olive leaf has been used medicinally since biblical times. The secret to its healing powers lies in the herb’s natural antioxidants, especially oleuropein–a compound with powerful antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties.
Unlike antibiotic drugs, oleuropein isn’t broad-broad spectrum. Instead, it targets specific microbes and allows healthy bacteria to thrive.
Olive leaf’s bacteria-busting capabilities are so effective that they have been reported in several studies to target some extremely harmful microbes includes Helicobacter pylori (the ulcer bug) and Staphylococcus aureus.
Oregano is a powerful antioxidant and antibacterial, thanks to high levels of an active compound called carvacrol.
Studies suggest that the oxygen molecules in carvacrol team up with the water in your body to create heat that kills bacteria. When pitted against a variety of common infectious microbes, researchers discovered that oregano kills Salmonella, E. coli, and several types of the Staphylococcus bug.
Probiotics are good bacteria (beneficial flora) such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, that dwell in your digestive tract.
These beneficial bugs strengthen the barrier function of the intestinal wall and enhance immunity by stimulating the body’s production of natural killer cells and T-cells.
New research also shows that some probiotic strains can have a powerful effect on regulating intestinal inflammation signals that can create future health problems.
Vitamin C is the most acknowledged immune stimulant on the planet. Studies show that immune cells (phagocytes and T-cells) accumulate vitamin C and use it to perform their tasks, especially during an infection.
It’s so effective that when Israeli doctors gave the vitamin to a group of competitive swimmers with upper respiratory infections, 47% of those taking a daily dose of vitamin C experienced less severe symptoms and a more rapid recovery than those who didn’t take the supplement.
Several studies also suggest that vitamin C may keep colds at bay. For those who do succumb to the sniffles, increasing vitamin C may shorten the number of days you are symptomatic. This is because the white blood cells that fight off infection have increased need for vitamin C to do their job.
Zinc helps convert ordinary white blood cells into specialized immune cells. Sucking on a lozenge containing the mineral within the first 24 hours of a cold can shorten its duration and severity.
You can also get fast relief from a zinc nasal spray. Used within 48 hours of the first sign of a cold, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic found that it provided relief from nasal congestion, runny nose, hoarseness, and sore throat. Those using a zinc spray also got well nearly one and half days sooner.
If you feel a cold coming on, or are already suffering from a case of the sniffles, try using the above immunity-boosting nutrients to alleviate and treat symptoms. These natural nutrients can help you fight back and feel better in no time!