As the weather cools and the fall foliage turn its spectrum of reds, oranges and yellows it serves as a reminder of the eminent cold and flu season.  Almost everyone has experienced the uncomfortable effects of either a cold or the flu. With either condition, the afflicted victim is miserable.

Cold symptoms have a gradual onset and usually last about a week, of which the first three days are the most contagious.  Symptoms of a cold are:  sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, cough, chest discomfort, mild bodily discomfort and rarely a fever.

Flu symptoms have a quick onset and are more severe than cold symptoms. The flu is associated with headache, muscular aches and pains, fever, chills and can involve vomiting and diarrhea.

Whereas flu shots are available to immunize against influenza, many have chosen not to take the flu shot or should not, due to an egg allergy. (Egg whites are used as the medium in the flu vaccines; consider that eggs are on the list of the top four allergy foods).

So what can one do to improve health and build up the immune system to ward off colds and flu’s?   Plenty!  Nature has provided an array of vitamins/minerals and herbs that are proven to prevent and/or shorten the duration and severity of the common cold and viral influenzas. Being aware of the earliest signs of the impending affliction and taking action can prevent the illness or expedite the recovery. As a precaution, when taking prescription drugs consult with your health care provider or pharmacist to avert herb/drug interactions.

Vitamin A is the choice whenever there is any type of “itis”. For example: sinusitis, rhinitis, bronchitis. Vitamin A plays a role maintaining these types of mucosal membranes.  A deficiency of Vitamin A is associated with impaired immunity and increased risk of infection.

Vitamin C can fight off invading germs.  It helps by preventing infections from spreading. In general it can boost immunity, helping to ward off or prevent colds & flu’s.

Vitamin E seeks out and destroys germs thus playing an important role in the maintenance of the immune system.  A marginal vitamin E deficiency impairs the immune response.

Zinc plays an important role in the immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells that fight infection more aggressively.   Zinc deficiency tends to increase the bodies susceptibility to a variety of bacteria and viruses. With a cold or flu, often times the sense of taste disappears, that’s the clue that zinc supplementation is necessary.

There are a number of herbs that also have an important role in building immunity or acting to destroy bacteria and viruses.   For example, astragulus, acts to strengthen the immune system, thus building resistance to illnesses and when used in conjunction with Echinacea, enhances the immune system.

Olive leaf, Grapefruit Seed extract, Oil of Oregano support immunity and combat bacteria and viruses.  They can be used as a preventative measure against viruses that cause colds and influenza.

Goldenseal, when taken at the first signs of illness can help prevent further symptoms from developing.  It is helpful in reducing fevers; relieving congestion and helping the body excrete excess mucous. Don’t be alarmed if there is copious mucus discharge for a day or so. It’s a sign that Goldenseal is working.

Yarrow supports immune function and helps encourage sweating.  A fever is the body’s first line of defense to combat any bacteria or virus, stimulating the immune system and forcing the pathogens to slow down or even killing them.

There are many other herbs which have been used throughout history to combat viral and bacterial infections.  Some key factors at keeping the immune system on guard is, washing hands often, staying well hydrated and getting plenty of rest.  An overly stressed body is more susceptible to “catching” every bug going around.

This information is for educational purposes and is not intended for diagnosis or treatment.