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When It's That Time of Year...COLD AND FLU SEASON, THAT IS.

Cold and flu season is once again upon us. What can we do to protect ourselves against these viral invaders and if an invasion occurs, what can we do? The answer is plenty!

Even healthy Individuals get an occasional viral infection, but building a strong immune system is good prevention. To do this, be sure to take a broad-spectrum multi-vitamin/mineral supplement with a minimum of 15 mg. of zinc and 100-200 mcg. of selenium. Studies show that selenium helps to keep viruses from replicating, while even marginal deficiencies of A and/or zinc may cause one to become more susceptible to infections. More is not better, however. All of these nutrients have the potential for being harmful in large amounts, so a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement is a good choice. In addition, I take 2,000 mg. of vitamin C daily and two olive leaf capsules to keep my immune system strong. This year, I am considering alternating the olive leaf with medicinal mushrooms. Of course, it goes without saying, that a good diet, six to eight glasses of water daily, exercise and adequate rest are very important. One or two cups of green tea may also be helpful as anti-oxidant protection. Add to your diet plenty of garlic, onions and ginger-foods, often recommended by "old time" herbalists such as Dr. John Christopher. Horseradish will also help to clear the sinuses.

In the event you suffer from an infection, regardless of your best efforts, natural remedies are available. There are many combination formulas available, but let's take a look at a few of them individually. Echinacea, one of the most popular herbs, helps increase white blood cells and helps strengthen the immune system. It is safe for children; however, it is thought that individuals with auto-immune diseases should not use Echinacea. Baptisa tinctoria, a lesser known herb, has been gaining respect recently as an anti-viral, and for good reason. Clinical studies show this herb is especially effective when there are body aches, fever/chills, vomiting and diarrhea. Several clinical studies have been performed on Elderberry, a very active anti-viral herb. In fact, studies are currently underway regarding elderberry for the West Nile virus, and early indications look promising.

Olive leaf extract is a broad-spectrum anti-microbial that has been shown to have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. Likewise, Oregano oil has also been shown to be effective against a host of pathogens.

Ginger root has been used for centuries to break up a cold and to relieve nausea and sore throats. Due to its effectiveness as a Cox-2 inhibitor, it is also very helpful as an anti-inflammatory for muscle aches and headaches associated with the flu. Since 80% of coughs are unproductive, Ivy extract is used in Germany to reduce this unproductive coughing. Indeed, it is the 30th most popular product used there. It is particularly well-suited for children due to its gentle nature, and is also available in a liquid form.

Many medicinal mushrooms are revered for building the immune system. Three types of mushrooms, Cordyceps, Maitake and Reishi, all have been shown to increase natural killer cell activity from 230–300%, respectively. Since these mushrooms modulate the immune system, they are particularly beneficial for individuals with auto-immune disorders.

Zinc gluconate lozenges have been shown to reduce the duration of a cold from an average of 7.6 to 4.4 days.

Homeopathics are often very useful. Although narrowing the choices for a single remedy is sometimes difficult for the layperson, combination products are also available. Homeopathic remedies are very safe and have the added benefit of not interfering with prescription drugs. Oscillococcinum (pronounced o-sill-o-cox-see-num) has been used in France for 65 years and is a popular European flu remedy. A German placebo-controlled study showed that after 48 hours, 62.9% of the individuals showed clear improvement with "Oscillo." In this study, the remedy was not taken at the very onset of symptoms— which is important to achieve the best results.

Although I have outlined many possibilities, there are a few formulas to help narrow your choices. Always start whichever protocol you choose as soon as symptoms develop (so it is a good idea to keep your favorites in the house).

As always, check with your physician before starting any regimen.

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