We all know the flu this year is bad.
In this case, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.
So how can you prevent the flu?
First off, there are some easy and free things you can do (see this post).
There are also natural products that help prevent flu.
How do you know which supplements actually prevent flu versus those that claim to prevent flu, but don’t really work?
You can tell the difference between what works (and what doesn’t) by reviewing the scientific evidence. But my guess is you don’t really have the time to sift through dozens of scientific articles.
So I’ve done the research for you — I’ve read and assessed the studies so you don’t have to.
Here are the details on the most popular supplements used to prevent flu — I’m telling you if they are effective and safe.
American ginseng (Panax ginseng) is used for various medical purposes.
Studies show American ginseng may decrease the risk of developing the flu or common cold in adults. Evidence also suggests American ginseng may reduce symptom severity if you get the flu or common cold.
American ginseng is considered likely safe when used orally and short-term. The most common side effect is headache. American ginseng can decrease blood glucose and those with diabetes; high doses are associated with insomnia and schizophrenia. American ginseng can interact with prescription medications — especially warfarin — so be cautious.
Bottomline: American ginseng may keep you from getting the flu or common cold. However, you need to make sure you discuss using ginseng with your healthcare provider due to drug interactions and medical condition reactions.
Echinacea is used for treating and preventing the flu, the common cold, and other respiratory infections.
There is plenty of evidence for echinacea in treating colds (see this post for more info).
However, there is less evidence to support using echinacea to prevent flu. In fact, the most compelling evidence suggests echinacea may improve immune response to influenza vaccine.
Echinacea is considered likely safe when taken orally and used short-term.
Echinacea species are related to the ragweed family. If you have a ragweed allergy, echinacea is not for you. Because echinacea stimulates immune function, it may not be appropriate for those with autoimmune diseases.
Bottomline: Echinacea may help you once you get sick. However, it’s effectiveness in presently flu is questionable.
You are likely most familiar with garlic as a culinary herb. However, garlic is also used medicinally for conditions such as blood pressure, dyslipidemia, and infections.
Garlic is considered safe when used orally and appropriately.
Bottomline: If you get sick with a cold or flu, garlic may reduce your illness severity. As of now, there isn’t strong evidence to suggest garlic will prevent flu. Garlic may prevent the common cold.
Now You Know
You are armed with the evidence behind the most popular supplements to prevent the flu and common cold.
Now you can navigate the supplement aisles with confidence and make an evidence-based decision that is right for you.