Colds and flu are the most common reason people miss work at the change of seasons, where our immunity may be below par. Many people take pharmaceutical products to soldier on – ignoring the body’s call to rest and recuperate. Many are unaware that other, more effective natural remedies will reduce the severity of these disorders in a non-pharmaceutical and natural way.
As cold and flu season approaches, it’s helpful to understand some of the botanical tools available to ward off colds and flu. It is also beneficial to realise that colds and flu are not just around in winter but can be around in summer. Viruses abound in any season, but we are most vulnerable at seasons where the temperature changes impact the Immune system.
What can add to our vulnerability is – increased stress levels, overworking and getting run down, ingesting different foods, too much alcohol, and too much exercise. All this can impact our immune system, which is geared to handle viruses. So preventatively, it would be prudent to look at these stressors and see what we can do to lessen their impact on our organic systems.
- Moderate exercise: exercise is good, especially resistance exercise, for stimulating the immune system. However, too much can have the reverse effect. How much is too much? This depends on the age and genetics of the individual, but if one is constantly tired after workouts or constantly sore or not sleeping well, then that is a good sign that the body is being overtrained. If you live to train -that is another sign.
- Reduce Work Stress: long hours or a demanding job will destroy immunity. Signs of not sleeping well, morning or afternoon fatigue, binging on alcohol or snacky food, feeling depressed or grumpy are all warning signs that stress impacts immunity.
- Having a good diet: Not eating a nutritious diet can impact immunity via the GUT or microbiome. The lower Gastrointestinal tract contains billions of microflora that help regulate our immune system by releasing and modulating biochemicals. Poor Gut health reduces immunity and makes one more vulnerable to anything that is going around. Unfortunately, the Standard Australian Diet ( SAD diet) does not provide all the essential nutrients for good health, let alone good bowel flora and immunity.
Let us look at a few herbs in some formulas that have a preventative effect by modulating the immune system.
Echinacea’s ability to stimulate the immune system has been well documented scientifically. Historically, Echinacea was taken by Native Americans at the onset of infectious ailments, and modern research confirms this use for infections. It has now been found that good results can be had for those who constantly have immune problems by taking Echinacea daily as a preventative measure.
Astragalus has tremendous value as a preventative agent, and it is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to build the immune system and ward off infectious illness. Modern research has confirmed the antiviral, antioxidant and adaptogenic properties of Astragalus.
In one open study, astragalus demonstrated a prophylactic effect for the common cold. And in another clinical trial, astragalus significantly increased the white blood cell counts of the participants. Astragalus should not be used in the acute stage of an illness, i.e. when you get a cold or flu, but for post-viral rehabilitation or preventative. Cordyceps This mushroom derivative came to fame with the use by Chinese Athletes for tonifying the lungs and helping to improve athletic performance. It indeed aids recovery time by acting on the adrenal glands and has been shown to improve the workings of the immune system. Cordyceps is used to treat post virus cough, fatigue and weakness, and help with long-standing infections. Mushrooms such as Reishi and Shitake have now been found to have similar properties in modulating Immune health. They have been found to contain unique compounds called polysaccharides that have been shown to boost immunity. Rhodiola Has come to prominence in recent years as an ” anti-stress” herb. It is used for long term fatigue, recurrent infections, nervous exhaustion and low immune function. It has weak anti-viral properties. It is included in many anti-stress or tonic formulas.
Other herbs that may be found in formulas that affect improving immunity are -Korean ginseng, Ashwagandha, Tulsi or holy basil, Garlic preparations, licorice.
Astragalus 8 formula is a classic example of a formula based on Chinese Therapy called Fu Zheng Pei Ben. In Chinese Medicine terms, Fu Zheng means rectifying and supporting all body systems’ health energy ( vital force). In contrast, Pei Ben means to strengthen the resistance mechanisms of the body, especially those underpinning a healthy immune system, by understanding a little about each herb in the formula will give clues as to how it works. It contains the following Herbs –
- Astragalus: Ranking as one of the Superior Chinese tonics for thousands of years, this herb enhances the functioning of the immune system, increases white blood cell counts, and aids digestion. It recently has gained fame as a longevity herb as it has been found to have a protective effect on DNA strands within cells.
- Codonodopsis: is believed to have similar actions to Ginseng but milder. Thus it can be used in formulas and be used over a long period. It is less stimulating and gently restorative to be very suitable for those who have chronic fatigue. It has mild immune-stimulating properties but is gentle enough to be used by children and nursing mothers alike who wish to have a gentle remedy.
- Reishi: The Supreme Tonic, whose use was initially reserved for Emporers of China, is revered for its effects on calming the spirit or balancing effect on the nervous system. It is vital to liver function, reduces blood pressure if high, and improves cardiac output. It is known as an immune modulator thus can be used in those who have auto-immune disorders and those who have cancer or require immune support / It has anti-allergy properties.
- Siberian Ginseng: Used by Russian Cosmonauts to increase strength and stamina, this herb has been widely studied for its effects as a – immune modulator, adrenal gland restorative, and Anabolic action on cellular tissue.
- Atractylodes: This herb is mainly used in formulas to strengthen digestion and improve the absorption of nutrients. Although it has mild immunostimulating properties and effects on adrenal glands, it primarily supports other herbs. In its support with different formulas, it assists in treating conditions such as Anemia, Arthritis, immunity deficiency, and signs of cold and dampness in the body.
- Ligustrum: This is considered an anti-aging rejuvenating herb, and it has immune-enhancing properties and positive effects on the hormones of the adrenal glands.
- Schizandra: This herb is said to purify the blood, sharpen the mind, improve memory, rejuvenate the kidney energy ( especially sexual function) and can help the skin to become radiantly beautiful.
- LIcorice: is an excellent tonic used in many herbal formulas to balance or harmonise the formula’s effect. Its main claim to fame is that it acts as a mild anti-inflammatory and increases the impact of the adrenal hormones. It is seen as an Adrenal gland restorative. It is an antispasmodic, mild expectorant, and detoxifier of organs.
In summary, a great formula you can use at the beginning of winter or change of season for a month or two to help prevent cold and flu or for recovery after contracting cold and flu where there may be post-viral fatigue.
For more information on the treatment of cold and flu and other articles, please visit wwww.adelaidenaturopath.net.au.
Free medical pulse diagnosis and immunity check are available via the website.
Peter Farnsworth N.D