8 Supplements to Boost Your Immune System
Get Your Body Prepared for Cold and Flu Season
Tans are fading, the kids are back at school, and temperature has begun its annual slide toward negative numbers. Fall is here. Now is the ideal time to start preparing for winter. Remember winter? It’s the season filled with blues, blahs and achoos. We know it makes good sense to prepare our homes and cars for winter but how many of us prepare ourselves? Here's the rundown on what to take and why.
Winter invariably brings bouts of flu, sore throats, sniffles and a general malaise as the days draw short and temperatures plunge. As if this combination weren’t enough, reduced exercise, being cloistered indoors and the excesses of the holidays leave us bloated and lethargic with our livers overloaded and lungs working overtime.
Ideally we should make the effort to counter winter's chills and blahs. Then reality sets in and we don't have the time or motivation to do what we know is best through diet and exercise. Supplements can bridge the divide, boost our immune system, alleviate symptoms and fortify us for the cold months ahead.
Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10):
Fall and winter sap our energy levels, making us feel run-down and tired. CoQ10 helps our cells use energy more efficiently and increases cellular oxygen levels. Additionally CoQ10 helps prevent and treat numerous degenerative conditions including heart disease, neurological diseases and cancers. Aim for 100-200mg daily.
This herbal treatment for warding off the common cold, flu and tonsillitis has anti-viral and antibiotic properties. There are multiple medicinal species of echinacea, the most potent of which is Echinacea angustifolia, and the most potent part is the root. Echinacea has a very distinctive taste, tingling (not burning) the tongue. The most active form is in a fluid extract. If you can't handle the tingling it can also be found in tablets, capsules and tea. Aim for 10-15 drops of Echinacea angustifolia root fluid extract each day.
Fish oil is a good source of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, which play an important role in brain function. People with depression may have low blood levels of these specific omega-3 fatty acids. Additionally these omega-3 fatty acids help prevent heart disease, degenerative conditions and neurological disorders. The optimal dose of fish oil for depression isn't clear, but it appears that supplements containing at least 300 milligrams of a combination of EPA and DHA may be helpful in relieving depression.
Oil of Oregano:
The winter essential in your arsenal for good health is Oil of Oregano. This oil blend, medicinal oregano essential oil (Origanum vulgare) usually blended with olive oil, is a potent immune booster and virus killer (remember that cold and flu are caused by viruses). Quite frankly if you take nothing else on this list, you should be sure to take Oil of Oregano each day. Oil of Oregano is available in various liquid strengths as well as capsules. If you can handle the strong oregano taste, we recommend the Super Strength liquid (two drops one to two times daily). If you can’t handle the drops, you can take Super Strength capsules (one capsule two times daily). Ensure the product uses true medicinal oregano (Origanum vulgare) and has an NPN number as this ensures the product has been evaluated by government authorities.
St John's Wort:
This herb has been shown in numerous studies to help relieve mild (not severe) depression including seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It works by acting on chemical messengers in the nervous system that regulate mood. St John's Wort needs to be taken daily over a period of time before becoming effective. Before using, talk to your practitioner as it reacts with some prescription drugs. Aim for 300mg (fluid extracts, tablets or capsules) three times each day.
This popular and well known vitamin works in numerous body systems and helps to keep your immune system healthy as well as reducing the duration and severity of colds. Your body doesn't store vitamin C so be sure not to miss a day. If you have a sensitive stomach choose a buffered form to reduce stomach issues. Aim for at least 1000mg a day.
Most people meet some of their vitamin D needs through exposure to sunlight. However, during the winter months (October to March) northern parts of the world such as Canada, lack the UVB rays needed to make vitamin D. Low vitamin D in the body has been linked to depression, poor bone health, rickets, and weakness or pain in joints and muscles (regardless of age). Look for supplements containing vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) which is the more biologically active form. Aim to get at least 1000 IU’s per dose.
This common mineral has strong anti-viral properties, helping reduce the duration of colds and flu and strengthening your immune system. For maximum effect be sure to use in combination with vitamin C. Zinc supplementation within 24 hours of the onset of cold symptoms, and continued every 2 awake hours reduces the duration of symptoms. Aim for 15mg doses: one per day for prevention, one every two hours once symptoms appear.
Good luck, and have a short, happy winter.
Joel Thuna, MH, is a master herbalist with over 30 years of experience. Dr. Claude Gallant holds a PhD in Microbiology.