Natural Remedies for Cold and Flu Season
Get ready for cold and flu season as we are in the midst of adenovirus infections with the sore throat, hoarse voice and barky cough, rhinoviruses causing copious nasal drainage and congestion, and the dreaded influenza that leaves many bedridden for a spell. The good news is there are proven natural remedies you can take to limit the severity and duration of these infections, but you need to prepare ahead of time so you have them ready to go at the first sign of infection.
Zinc lozenges have become popular supplements to use when people feel a runny nose coming on. When zinc is sucked in the mouth in lozenge form, it binds to specific cell receptor sites in the nasal-oral cavity that inhibits the ability of undesirable entities to take hold. The key to success is to suck on two 24 mg zinc lozenges within the first 24 hours of a runny nose developing, and continue every two to three hours while awake until runny nose resolves. Limit zinc intake to less than 300mg per day and only for a few days at this level.
Vitamin C protects the body from free radicals and fights oxidative stress, both of which threaten the immune system. In fact, a major immune-supporting activity of vitamin C is boosting a potent internal anti-oxidant called glutathione, in human lymphocytes, cells that make up about 25% of all white blood cells in the blood. Studies demonstrate that dihydroquercetin acts to inhibit the oxidation of vitamin C, thereby helping to maintain its concentration and to recycle vitamin C throughout the body. This synergistic relationship between dihydroquercetin and vitamin C greatly enhances the efficacy of both molecules in the body’s organs and tissues. I suggest taking 1000mg every 2-3 hrs, up to 10,000mg daily.
N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is an amino acid that will also help raise the level of the master anti-oxidant, glutathione. NAC is even used in the emergency room to treat bronchitis and other lung conditions given its role as an expectorant or mucous thinner as well as an anti-inflammatory. I recommend 500mg 3-4x/day when congested with a cold.
Thymic Protein A (TPA) is an essential substance, necessary for the proper functioning of the immune system; specifically the portion named “cell-mediated immunity” which controls how viruses, bacteria, and other harmful agents are controlled and disposed of by the immune system. TPA is a “transmitter” which seeks out and stimulates the T4 helper white blood cells which act as the “brain” of the immune system and control critical infection-fighting cells such as the natural killer cells. When the body has a sufficient amount of properly working T4 cells then the entire immune system is prepared to function properly. I prefer a TPA product called ProBoost® given 3x/day. I don’t give to kids as they still have a thymus gland.
Astragalus (A. membranaceus) root extract has been shown to have beneficial antioxidant and immune-modulating effects. It seems to improve lymphocyte function by increasing the activity of interleukin-2, an important immune support chemical. In one study, a preparation using Astragalus has been used to successfully treat pneumonia in children. The authors believe it is beneficial because of its free radical-scavenging ability.
Andrographis (A. paniculata whole plant extract 12:1) is a traditional remedy used in India and Asia as a broad-spectrum natural antibiotic and immune system stimulator to treat bacterial, viral, and parasitic conditions. Multiple studies have shown the efficacy of Andrographis against the common cold. This herb has been shown to stimulate the proliferation of white blood cells and ingestion of infected cells. Studies indicate that Andrographis decreases the duration and severity of cold symptoms, such as fatigue, sore throat, and nasal secretions.
Sambucus nigra, also called black elderberry, has been shown to have antiviral properties and is commonly used to treat colds or flu. Studies have shown that elderberry can increase production of inflammatory cytokines, which may stimulate the immune response and enable the immune system to work faster at destroying the viral load. A component of elderberry has also been shown to bind to sialic acid receptors in the nasal mucosa, which is the same site used by the influenza virus for attachment. Multiple studies have shown that people with influenza who supplemented with elderberry experienced improvement in symptoms in 2 days, whereas recovery took at least 6 days in the control group. No adverse effects have been reported in clinical trials.
Vitamin D is well known to support immune function, and I highly recommend having your blood level of vitamin D checked. Supplement using vitamin D3, with as much as necessary to get blood levels into the 80-100 ng/ml range, or, taking 2,000 to 5,000 units daily is a reasonable guess for most adults.
Homeopathic remedies such as Oscillococcinum have some clinical evidence of benefit, although larger reviews have been less encouraging. In my experience it does help prevent the flu when taken regularly and reduce symptoms of infection when taken acutely.
Intravenous infusions of vitamin C are something we do a lot of during the winter months to treat acute viral infections. It only takes about 30-60 minutes and seems to stop cold and flu infections in their tracks.
The immune system works best when proper support is already in place so don’t forget that nutrition is our first medicine – avoid sugar and get 6-8 servings per day of fruits and veggies. Prepare now and go purchase your natural home remedy kit for cold season – you may do much better at quickly recovering from those viral beasties!
Scott Rollins, MD, is Board Certified with the American Board of Family Practice and the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. He specializes in Bioidentical Hormone Replacement for men and women, thyroid and adrenal disorders, fibromyalgia, weight loss and other complex medical conditions. He is founder and medical director of the Integrative Medicine Center of Western Colorado (www.imcwc.com) and Bellezza Laser Aesthetics (www.bellezzalaser.com). Call 245-6911 for an appointment or more information.