With the common cold and flu ruining everyone’s new year, I have decided to give you all a few evidence-based tips to speed up recovery and reduce the severity of it. One of the things that you need to understand is that the influenza vaccine is not a guaranteed method of preventing the illness. In fact, almost every person who has come to me with this complaint in the last few years has had the vaccine. The correct way to prevent the common cold and flu is to actually boost the immune system by enhancing the function of immune cells (E.g. NK cells, T cells, B Cells, Interferons, etc).
There are two reasons why the vaccine is not always useful: 1 – The vaccine is made months ahead of time and by the time you get the shot, the flu virus has already had a chance to mutate. This makes the vaccine less effective. 2 – The vaccine only gets your body to create antibodies which target the flu virus. The problem with this is, just because your immune system knows what to target, doesn’t mean it has the strength to actually fight it. It simply means that your body has a headstart in targeting the infection. It is like a commander knowing where the enemy is, but having no soldiers. This is why many people who get the vaccine, still end up getting sick. To learn how to boost your immune system, go to my article on rebuilding the immune system.
1. Aged Garlic Extract
Garlic is known for it’s potent anti-bacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties but what most people don’t know is that Aged Garlic Extract has been through clinical trials in which it has reduced the duration and severity of illness in patients with upper respiratory tract infections. It does this by improving the function of Natural Killer (NK) cells and Gamma Delta T-cells (1). This special form of garlic can also be used for prophylaxis.
2. Andrographis Paniculata
Known as “Kalmegh” in Ayurveda, this herb is well known for fighting infections. During my medical training, this was one of the most common herbs we would prescribe for our patients with the cold and flu. In clinical trials, Andrographis Paniculata has been effective in reducing the duration and severity of sickness in patients with upper respiratory tract infections. It has proven to be clinically effective against the common cold, sinusitis, pharyngotonsillitis, and familial Mediterranean fever in clinical trials (2,3,4). In my clinical experience, it also assists in fighting off the Flu.
3. Vitamin D3
One of the common vitamin deficiencies is that of Vitamin D. According to statistics, a very large portion of the population is deficient in it. Vitamin D has a long list of benefits and uses within the body. A lack of it is linked to inflammatory (autoimmune) disorders, cardiac illnesses, bone problems, poor immunity and more. In a clinical trial, supplementation of Vitamin D3 resulted in a significant reduction in the duration and severity of symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections (5,6).
You can try getting more sunlight, but depending on your location it may not be good enough. Talk to your Holistic/Ayurvedic doctor about supplementing it. If you are already supplementing it and it is not coming up, you need to find the underlining cause (usually a problem with HCl, improper administration, Liver or Kidney troubles).
This one is actually quite popular among most natural health enthusiasts. Zinc has gotten a lot of attention for its testosterone boosting benefits, but it also plays a pretty vital role in fighting off infections. In clinical trials, Zinc has reduced the length and severity of the common cold (rhinovirus). Zinc lozenges are quite common these days and have also been through clinical trials (7,8). In my experience, the lozenges are the best way to go rather than the supplements.
Lung Congestion – Licorice Root is the easiest expectorant to remove phlegm from the lungs. In fact, Licorice root has been used for treating SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). Turmeric and Honey are also useful as both of these have mucolytic and anti-inflammatory properties. The external application of Mustard oil is another great way to relieve lung congestion.
Nasal Congestion – Neti wash. Using a neti pot with salt water is a good way to dry out mucus in the nasal passages. If the nose is too congested, this may not help – In those cases, the use of “Tinospora Cordifolia” aka “Guduchi” is extremely effective. Guduchi contains a potent antibiotic agent known as “Berberine” which is also a powerful tool against infections. In clinical studies, Guduchi has reduced nasal congestion quite effectively (9).
Fever & Headache – White Willow Bark is a known anti-pyretic and painkiller which is effective in reducing fevers and headaches. In some cases, I have noticed that calcium also helps to reduce fevers. More effective for headaches is a special extract of curcumin known as Meriva – which has shown similar results to that of paracetamol for pain relief (10).
Lethargy – B-vitamins can kick up energy levels and help you get through your day. Try using a methylated b-vitamin supplement this is a more easily absorbed form. However, it is best to rest during an infection and allow your body to dedicate all of its energy to fight off the infection.
(Always use medicinal herbs under the supervision of a doctor)
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By Dr. Nishal Ramnunan B.A.M.S.
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