Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Kiyoshi Saito "Winter in Aizu" (2), 1970 woodcut
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts collection
It's a little ironic that I've been procrastinating on this post because I've been sick, but there you have it.
I've figured out how to prevent colds and flus, but not adenovirus. I had the exact same strep-like symptoms and sickness after my stress-filled summer vacation/adrenal fatigue extravaganza and the measures I took then also didn't work, just like this time, so I haven't yet cracked that code (believe me, if I do, I'll be letting everyone in the world know.)
On to the things that DO work consistently for me...
Ideally, you want to get your immune system to be strong enough to resist pathogens in the first place and one of the best herbs for accomplishing that is:
In my supplement retail days, when staying well was an uphill battle due to the sheer volume of contact with sick people coming in to get supplements for their colds/flus, I learned the value of astragalus. It drastically cut down on how much I got sick.
Astragalus is a major herb used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and is well researched with known antiviral and immunostimulatory properties. It can be used continuously to help build the immune system (although it's good to give any long-term herb use a short break periodically for a week after about 6 weeks of continuous use. Some herbalists recommend 6 days on/1 day off.)
I like Gaia Herbs liquid astragalus, but there are many quality brands on the market. Just don't get your herbs from a drugstore or grocery store (most of those brands use cheap ingredients)
When using astragalus, if you do get sick, it's best to temporarily discontinue taking it during the acute stage of an illness.
Caution: those with autoimmune diseases may want to avoid astragalus (I no longer use it after being diagnosed with Hashimoto's).
Ok, any homeopathy skeptics can skip this one. It's homeopathically prepared influenza virus. However, I'm including Influenzinum because, since taking it prophylactically, I haven't had the flu in close to a decade. Not even a chill. I don't think that's due to a placebo effect (the flu is no respector of placebo affects and I'm not very susceptible to placebos anyway). My husband also has not had a flu in years since he started taking it. Two for two!
Consider it a natural alternative to the flu shot (note on flu shots: the virus often mutates by the time the shots are available, rendering them useless. Another issue with flu shots is potential flu-like symptoms).
You can use Influenzinum by itself, but I've found it also works fine in combination flu formulas. Most homeopathic flu combo formulas include it (just read the ingredients list). I take it once a week for the duration of the season.
Gaia Quick Defense
This is probably the mother of all echinacea products. You may have heard about the mixed results echinacea studies have produced and there's a good reason for that. Specific parts of the plant must be used and specific varieties of the plant are more active than others. So, the KIND of echinacea absolutely makes all the difference. In fact, I used to think that echinacea didn't work well for me until I tried Gaia's.
Gaia knows their echinacea and has been involved in echinacea research and received a grant to study it from the National Institutes of Health.
Quick Defense has been very reliable in keeping me from getting colds when I get that first tingling in my nose that I know will turn into a head cold if I leave it untreated. It's meant to be taken every few hours for the first couple of days. It's important to take it according to directions- frequent dosing is key (really, with any remedy during the early stage).
Yin Chiao is a classic Chinese herbal formula for when you feel the first signs of a cold or flu coming on. It's appropriate for symptoms like that first tickle in the throat, the stiff neck when you're coming down with something or that first weird sneeze where you know something's up (I've found that it's really good to learn to identify early illness symptoms because the sooner you treat it, the better off you'll be!)
Yin Chiao is also great for seasonal and weather changes that trigger colds. I've noticed that I'm more susceptible to getting sick after sudden temperature changes and especially after being out in damp, windy weather (Chinese medicine calls these "invading evils";-) You can take Yin Chiao to lessen the severity of and get over a cold or flu faster.
I like Planetary Formulas Yin Chiao.
Another option that is similar to Yin Chiao is Cold Snap.
Ferrum Phos. 6X
Again, homeopathy skeptics move along! Ferrum Phos.6X is a handy remedy to have on hand for any early inflammatory symptoms such as fevers, inflamed/tingly sinuses and mild aches. It's very safe for children, including babies and toddlers. I keep it in my purse (it's very portable!) in case I start to feel something when I'm out and don't have access to my arsenal.
Elderberry syrup is a popular flu remedy (and elderberry has a lot of research behind it). In my experience, the best elderberry product on the market is New Chapter Immunity Take Care lozenges. Influenza is an "envelope virus" and this particular elderberry product has been proven effective against influenza and envelope viruses. I can't find the data sheet on it, but I have actually seen the study data with my own eyes.
Here's a product PDF with a little more info.
To Ease Your Suffering:
Honey Loquat Syrup
Honey Loquat Syrup is a godsend when you have a sore throat or a nasty cough (in fact, it's really helped me get through this adenovirus). I like that you can take it by the spoonful or add hot water to make a tea. Unlike over the counter cough syrups from the drugstore, it has a pleasant flavor and no artificial flavors or colors.
Mucostop is a systemic enzyme that breaks down mucus when taken on an empty stomach. I don't usually have it on hand, but when I've taken it, it's definitely made a difference with the amount of sinus drainage during head colds.
I've included product links to iHerb.com because I do most of my supplement shopping there. They have a great selection and good prices (as well as cheap international shipping). If you're interested in placing an order with them, here's a little treat for you: you can use my referral code HAZ439 for $5 off your first order!
Other useful things...
Earth Clinic is a great resource for home remedies, with feedback on each remedy. Maybe that apple cider vinegar will do the trick for your sore throat. Or maybe hydrogen peroxide will ward off the sniffles when dropped in your ears (I swear this seems to work!)
Get your sleep! Lack of sleep is one thing that totally sends my immune system downhill fast.
Wear that hat and scarf. Your mom (or grandma) was right. Keeping your head and ears covered helps keep you well. And keep that neck covered too. Protect yourself from those "invading evils".
Lay off the sugar. It may be suppressing your immune system.
I hope you all have a healthy, sickness-free winter!