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Immune-Boosting Supplements for Winter Health



By Christine Climer

Holiday cheer isn’t the only thing that abounds this winter: Cold weather ushers in the sniffles, sneezes and coughs of cold and flu season. Check with your health care provider to see if any of these supplements can help your family avoid illness or feel better quickly in the event you do get sick.

Immunity-building herbs

Echinacea, used intermittently to boost immune function and decrease severity of colds and flu.

Astragalus, used to strengthen immune function and prevent colds. Also used intermittently, it is often alternated with echinacea.

Garlic, because of its antiviral and antibacterial properties, has been used to prevent respiratory infections.

Goldenseal is considered a natural antibiotic, often used for respiratory infections. It is also commonly used in conjunction with echinacea to support immune function.

Licorice has been used historically to treat numerous respiratory ailments. Most recently, it has been suggested as a potential treatment for SARS.

Elderberry decreases the severity and duration of the flu.

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Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony company. Since 1987

Vitamins and minerals

Beta Carotene/Vitamin A is necessary for proper immune system function and respiratory strength. Deficiency increases the risk of respiratory infections.

Vitamin C is also necessary for proper immune function and healing.

Zinc deficiency increases the risk of serious respiratory infections. Supplementation has been found to increase resistance to colds and speed recovery from pneumonia.

Selenium is a key nutrient in resistance to viral infections. The flu is worse in people who are selenium deficient, and the virus actually mutates into a more powerful form in such people. This stronger virus is then spread within the community.

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Ankri S, Mirelman D. Antimicrobial properties of allicin from garlic. Microbes Infect. 1999 Feb;1(2):125-9.

Beck, MA, et al. Selenium deficiency increases the pathology of an influenza virus infection. FASEB J. 2001 Jun;15(8):1481-3.

Biesalski HK, Nohr D. Importance of vitamin-A for lung function and development. Mol Aspects Med. 2003 Dec;24(6):431-40.

Brooks WA, et al. Zinc for severe pneumonia in very young children: double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Lancet. 2004 May 22;363(9422):1683-8.

Cinatl J, et al. Glycyrrhizin, an active component of liquorice roots, and replication of SARS-associated coronavirus. Lancet. 2003 Jun 14;361(9374):2045-6.

Goel V, et al. Efficacy of a standardized echinacea preparation (Echinilin) for the treatment of the common cold: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2004 Feb;29(1):75-83.

Josling P. Preventing the common cold with a garlic supplement: a double blind, placebo-controlled survey. Adv Ther. 2001;18(4):189-193.

Nelson, HK, et al. Host nutritional selenium status as a driving force for influenza virus mutations. FASEB J. 2001 Aug;15(10):1846-8.

University of Maryland Medicine, Complementary Medicine Program website

Zakay-Rones Z, et al. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res. 2004 Mar-Apr;32(2):132-40.

© Christine Climer

Christine Climer is a registered nurse with experience in pulmonary disease, pediatrics, home health and hospice services. Also trained in early childhood education, she is currently executive director and child care nurse for an early childhood health promotion organization. She lives with her husband and three children (including a set of twins) in Texas and enjoys researching health issues and gardening.


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