In recent studies, these supplements moved fast as lightning (for immunity).
There’s a lot to love about February (like post-Valentine’s Day chocolate sales!). But it’s also the final stretch of sniffle season. Looking to KO colds and the flu? Consider these supplements your shortcut to a black belt.
Traditionally used in the herbal arsenal against infections, elderberries in syrup form were the subject of a study looking at international travelers. More than 300 intercontinental travelers were randomized to receive either elderberry syrup or a placebo.
Cold episodes, duration, and symptoms were diarized, and the participants also completed pre- and post-travel surveys. In the placebo group, more colds occurred. Plus, their colds lasted significantly longer and the symptoms were worse.
The echinacea family, particularly Echinacea purpurea, is widely cultivated for its medical characteristics in the US, Canada, and Europe. Traditionally used in wound healing to improve immune function and to treat respiratory struggles caused by bacterial infections, its extracts have been shown to have antioxidant and antiviral properties and are thought to be safe, according to a recent review in the journal Phytotherapy Research.
One interesting study compared the effectiveness of two mouthwash solutions—one containing echinacea and one containing chlorhexidine, a chemical often used in antibacterial mouthwash—on the oral microbacterial health of hospitalized patients. Seventy patients aged 18 to 65 who were intubated received either a mouthwash with echinacea or chlorhexidine for four days. “The echinacea solution was more effective in decreasing the oral microbial flora of patients in the intensive care unit. Given the benefits of the components of […] echinacea, it can be suggested as a viable alternative to chlorhexidine,” the researchers concluded.
Pine bark extract
Known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, pine bark extract (Pycnogenol) has also been researched for its impact on the common cold. Seventy study participants who took 50 mg of Pycnogenol daily and 76 control subjects were evaluated for cold symptoms and resultant complications. The supplement group enjoyed fewer sick days and fewer lost working days. Their use of over-the-counter medications also dropped, as did the number of complications.
Oil of oregano
Those who don’t shy away from strong flavors may consider oil of oregano their frontline defense against colds and flu. This potent oil contains carvacrol, known for its antimicrobial and antioxidant activities.
Plus, “It is particularly effective against foodborne pathogens, including Escherichia coli, Salmonella,
and Bacillus cereus,” noted a recent report in Phytotherapy Research. As with any modification to your natural health regimen, if you’re unsure of how to use essential oil, consult a qualified health care professional.
A recent review of 14 studies on the effects of flavonoids on upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) and immune function reported that, compared to controls, flavonoid supplementation decreased URTI incidence by 33 percent, and sick-day count also dropped by 40 percent. No side effects were noted. Flavonoids are a common ingredient in immune-support supplements.
By stocking up on these and other natural health aids that fight cold and flu, you’ll be able to do a little dance
at the prospect of an infection-free winter.