Occasionally the stresses of life reduce our immune system defenses and the door opens just wide enough to let a cold or flu sneak in and take hold. Here are some of the best tested immunity boosters in existence. Use them well to build your strength back and show that cold or flu the way to the exit sign!
Special Virus-Killing Foods:
Garlic is a commonly used cold medicine. It is widely used in Russia and is known there as "Russian Penicillin". Garlic supports immune function and it can kill bacteria, parasites, fungus and the flu virus. One test-tube study showed that fresh garlic kills various viruses, including one which can cause flu like symptoms (1). Aged garlic extract can also protect against the flu (2). One good way to benefit from garlic is to cut up a couple raw cloves into small pieces and swallow the pieces whole at the first sign of a cold, then eat one clove per day until fully well.
Horseradish is another plant that can ease throat and upper respiratory tract infections. It has good antibiotic properties. Horseradish has been shown specifically to destroy the flu virus and reduce the severity of flu infections in animals (3). This plant is a member of the mustard family. You may have found that eating horseradish can make your eyes water and nose run. Indeed, it can create a similar release of watery fluids inside the bronchial passages of the lungs which helps to flush them out and wash away congestion. For this reason, hot foods and spices in general are also very good for colds and flus.
Echinacea: The Immunity Herb of Choice
Studies of echinacea show that it plays a critical role in fortifying the immune system to fight illness. Although scientists have had little success developing drugs or vaccines to eradicate the common cold or flu, echinacea improves immune function in humans, and especially improves the virus-fighting white blood cells, even when given in very low doses (Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 1995, vol. 1). Echinacea can cut the duration of a cold in half (4).
Hearty Vitamins for Colds: Vitamin C and Zinc
A Scandinavian researcher recently conducted a review of 21 studies that tested between 1 and 8 grams (1,000 to 8,000 milligrams) of Vitamin C for the common cold. He concluded that "in each of the twenty-one studies, Vitamin C reduced the duration of the cold and the severity of the symptoms by an average of 23% (5). Even much lower amounts of vitamin C such as 100 milligrams have been found to be beneficial (6). In addition to enhancing the activity of immune cells, Vitamin C acts as a vital component in the production of collagen, the principal protein found in all connective tissues. By helping maintain the strength and integrity of connective tissue structures, vitamin C keeps infections from spreading throughout the body (from the Handbook of Vitamins).
Zinc accelerates the growth of immune cells while inhibiting the replication of the cold-causing viruses. Zinc also helps maintain the health of the thymus gland which is one of the organs of immunity. Located at the base of the neck, the thymus produces white blood cells for fighting off foreign cells and toxins. In one study, zinc gluconate lozenges of 13.3 milligrams each were tested against a placebo in a group of 100 patients with cold symptoms. The people took one lozenge every two hours while awake. Coughing disappeared within 2.2 days in the treated group versus 4 days in the placebo group. Sore throat disappeared after 1 day versus 3 days in the placebo group, nasal drainage in 4 days (versus 7 days), and headache in 2 days (versus 3 days). (Annals of Internal Medicine, 1996, vol. 125).
Supplements of Lactobacillus acidophilus and other friendly bacteria, and the growth factors that encourage their development in the stomach, may help to protect the body from harmful organisms that cause infection (7,8). Acidophilus and other friendly bacteria are known as probiotics, which means "promoting the growth of microorganisms". Lactobacillus has been shown to increase the numbers of circulating immune cells and elevate the body's antibody responses. Its best to use probiotics that also contain a prebiotic such as fructooligosaccharides (FOS). FOS are carbohydrates that support the growth of probiotic organisms in the gastrointestinal tract. A recent study showed that FOS molecules can bind to disease-causing bacteria and prevent their attachment to the body's cells (Lancet, 1996, vol. 347).
Usher that cold or flu out right out the door and keep it away by eating healthy, whole foods, drinking pure water, and taking the right cold-fighting foods and supplements.
1. Weber ND, et al. In vitro virucidal effects of Alluim sativum extract and compounds. Panta Medica 1992;58:4176-23.
2. Brinker F. Eclectic dispensatory of botanical therapeutics, Vol. II. Section IV: Botanical medicine research summaries:133-4. Sandy Oregon: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1995.
3. Esanu V, Prahoveanu E. The effect of an aqueous horse-radish extract, applied as such or in association with caffeine, on experimental influenza in mice. Virologie 1985;36(2):95-8.
4. Hoheisel O, Sandberg M, Bertram S, et al. Echinagard treatment shortens the course of the common cold: a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Eur J Clin Res. 1997;9:261-268.
5. Hemilš H. Does vitamin C alleviate the symptoms of the common cold?-A review of current evidence. Scand J Infect Dis 1994;26:1-6.
6. Renker K, Wegner S. Vitamin C-Prophylaxe in der Volkswertf Stralsund. Deutsche Gesundheitswesen 1954;9:702-6.
7. Fernandes CF, Shahani KM, Amer MA. Therapeutic role of dietary lactobacilli and lactobacillic fermented dairy products. FEMS Micro Rev 1987;46:343-56.
8. Bengmark S. Immunonutrition: role of biosurfactants, fiber, and probiotic bacteria. Nutrition 1998;14:585-94 [review].