Cold and flu viruses are relentless in trying to invade your body – but strong immunity will boost your chances of staying healthy.
Imagine a pill you could take that helped keep every cell in your body healthy – impossible? Not really. Over the past 30 years, a wealth of scientific evidence has accumulated on the power of nutritional supplements – vitamins, minerals, herbs – to significantly improve cell performance and ensure the efficiency of all the body’s biochemical processes.
Nutrient deficiencies compromise the immune system by reducing the ability of the T-cells (white blood cells) to repel antigens (foreign substances, like bacteria and viruses) in the body. Unless you are meticulous about analysing the food you eat, it is difficult to be sure that you are getting the right amounts of the nutrients you need; plus, factors like stress, illness, intense exercise, and your genetic composition and biochemistry all conspire to affect how well or badly you absorb those nutrients. A good quality all-in-one vitamin and mineral supplement is an excellent idea, especially as many nutrients work best when combined with others. For peak immunity, add these specific herbs and nutrients:
Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata)
In traditional Chinese medicine, this is considered to be ‘bitter’ and ‘cold’, which means it is appropriate for any conditions that are defined as ‘hot’, such as acute infections and fever. Andrographis works as a preventive, helping to reduce the likelihood of catching a cold or flu, and also as a treatment, reducing symptoms such as fever, tiredness, sore throat, headache, cough, poor sleep, mouth ulcers, earache, and nasal and throat congestion.
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)
Long used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat infections, this herb boosts the body’s production of interferon, a natural antiviral and immune stimulant.
Codonopsis (Codonopsis pilosula)
This herb, with its distinctive bell-shaped flowers, is native to north-western China, and featured in the Yellow Emperor’ Inner Classic, a medical treatise which is thought to date to the third millennium BC. It is a gentle adaptogen, stimulating and increasing energy, while also easing asthma and coughs and reducing excessive mucus. It has a tonic effect on red blood cells, which enhances haemoglobin production, and on the lymph glands, which speed the removal of toxins from the body.
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)
The use of this herb can be traced back to ancient Native American tribes; today it is used all around the world to strengthen immunity and fight off colds and flu. Research shows that it improves the body’s production of interferon, T-cells and natural killer (NK) cells, as well as speeding tissue repair. Its best proven use is as a treatment for colds and flu; however, other research suggests it may be of use for patients with autoimmune disorders, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) Also used to make wine and jam; elderberry syrup has been used for centuries by European herbalists to soothe sore throats. Elderberries are a rich source of antioxidants, and the standardised extract used in modern nutritional supplements has been shown to repel several flu viruses and reduce the severity of cold symptoms.
Produced by bees which pollinate the manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium), manuka honey is superior to regular honeys due to its exceptional antibacterial and healing qualities and its ability to improve both digestive and immune health – enjoy a delicious dollop in a smoothie or over cereal and yoghurt, or add to tea to help soothe a cough and sore throat. Olive (Olea europaea) Olive leaf extract may very well improve your immune system’s capacity. Studies suggest that olive leaf extract’s main active ingredient, oleuropein, has a beneficial effect against disease producing microorganisms through its effect on natural immunity. Taken daily it may help reduce the risk and incidence of upper respiratory tract infections. It also helps soothe a sore throat, and relieve coughs and nasal digestion.
This supports optimal immune function in two ways – one, it boosts the activity of immune cells, and
two, it supports and improves the production of collagen, the protein found in all connective tissue, which means it helps to counter inflammation and the spread of infection.
Research that tested zinc supplementation against placebo has shown that people taking zinc reported less nasal congestion and fewer sore throats. Zinc is thought to work in two ways: first by increasing T-cell quantities, and secondly by fighting cold viruses where they enter the mucous membranes.
Top Winter Wellness Tips
Keep moving: Try a bushwalk, a run or maybe an aquarobics class in a heated pool or a hot yoga class. Sip, sip, sip: Don’t forget your water bottle! It’s just as important to stay hydrated in winter, especially if you work in an overheated office. Eat for the season: Cook up hearty soups, stews and casseroles, all rich in immune-boosting nutrients!
Add insurance: Add immune boosting supplements to your daily routine, including olive leaf, vitamins A and C, zinc and a good quality probiotic.
Be cozy: Dress to suit the season – warm layers will help your body to retain heat and prevent you from catching a chill.
Stay safe: The CoVid-19 vaccine may be here, but that doesn’t mean you should go back to pre-virus habits! Thorough hand-washing and regular use of hand sanitiser can reduce your chances of catching a cold or flu.