Supplements to Prevent the Flu

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

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

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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.

Garlic

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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 has evidence to show it reduces illness severity if you get a cold or flu. There is also evidence to suggest garlic helps prevent colds. The evidence for influenza is less compelling.

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.

In health,

Skye

 

Does Echinancea Really Work?

Picture this.

Your nose is runny. Every time you swallow your throat burns a bit. You feel a touch feverish. Your congested-sounding voice sounds a little pathetic to even your own ears.

Let’s be honest — you feel a bit miserable.

That’s right.

You have a cold.

And you would do anything to feel better fast. Because you have something really important next week (think job interview, date, exam, wedding, etc.).

Suddenly you vaguely recall hearing something about an herb. You open the search engine on your browser and start to enter - e, c, h … wait … you have no idea how to spell it. Thankfully Google supplies the rest.

Echinacea.

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And you start to wonder if it really works. Or if buying some is a complete and total waste of your hard earned money.

Then you go down the rabbit hole of internet “research.” Fifteen minutes go by and you still aren’t sure if you should get some echinacea or just suck it up and feel sick for the next week.

What do you do?

I’ll tell you what you’ll do — you’ll remember your trusty friend Skye told you all about echinacea. She told you if there were scientific evidence to support using it and, if so, how to use it.

So . . . Does Echinacea Work to Treat Colds?

Yes! There are multiple randomized controlled studies that demonstrate echinacea helps treat colds.

Echinacea can decrease the longevity of the common cold. One study showed using echinacea twice daily decreased cold duration from 9 days to 6 days — a decrease in 33%.

Not only can echinacea decrease the length of your cold, it can also decrease the severity of your symptoms. Another study showed using echinacea significantly decreased cold symptom scores by 23%.


How Does Echinacea Work?

Echinacea is thought to have a lot of ANTI effects. By that, I mean antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral effects. These effects all help echinacea fight off infection.

Echinacea also posses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can also help when you are under the weather.

When Should I Take Echinacea?

To reap the benefits of echinacea, you should start using it AS SOON AS your cold symptoms develop.

As one of my best friends says - immediately if not sooner.

If you wait too long, echinacea probably won’t give you much of a benefit.

What Are the Risks of Echinacea?

Great question.

Everything — absolutely everything — has side effects. And echinacea is no exception.

The good news is echinacea is generally well tolerated. The most common side effects are stomach upset and rash.

And there is a risk of allergic reaction because echinacea is a plant.

If you have a genetic tendency toward allergies, autoimmune conditions, or a skin condition called pemphigus vulgaris, echinacea is probably not for you.

And you should always get your healthcare provider’s blessing before adding anything to your medicine regimen.

Okay . . . I’m Convinced and Want to Try Echinacea. How Much Should I Take?

That is a tricker question for several reasons. One reason is studies that support echinacea used specific proprietary products. Another is echinacea products come in various formulations — capsules, elixirs, tinctures, and tea, to name a few. Furthermore, there are different parts of the echinacea plant that can be used (above the root, below the root, etc.).

So how do you know what to use? I typically go back to the original scientific studies for guidance.

One study used 5 milliliters of an echinacea elixir twice daily for 10 days. Another used 20 drops of echinacea extract in alcohol every two hours on the first day of cold symptoms followed by three times daily for 10 days.

Tea was used in a study. Traditional Medicinals Echinacea Plus tea blend was consumed five or six times on the first day of cold symptoms followed by one cup a day for 5 days.

Bottomline: you need to evaluate the specific product you plan to use for safety, efficacy, and dosage.

I’m Not Sick Right Now. Should I Still Take Echinacea?

That is an excellent question.

If you want to learn how echinacea can be preventive, check out my post on natural ways to prevent colds.

Now you know the 4-1-1 on echinacea. Wishing you health and happiness! And if you do have a cold, I hope you start feeling better fast.

xxx,
Skye

Three Natural (& PROVEN) Ways to Prevent a Cold

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Image Credit

Even though it’s February, cold and flu season is still rampant. And where I live it seems like everyone is coming down with a cold (and a few with flu).

Because I love you and care about your wellness, I want to make sure you have all the information on preventing colds.

Because an ounce of prevention is worth of pound of cure.

So I’m highlighting three natural (and evidence-based) things you can do to help prevent catching a cold.

Disclaimer: This is for informational purposes only. This is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure disease. The information in this post is not a substitute for medical advice or care.

1. SALINE SPRAYS AND IRRIGATION

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The Prevention

Saline is a fancy name for salt water.

In the winter, exposure to cold air and artificial heating can leave your nasal passages and sinuses dry. Why is this a problem?

When your nasal passages and sinuses are dry, bacteria, viruses, and irritants are not removed as efficiently.

Saline rinses and sprays cleanse and moisturize the nasal passages.

The Evidence

A study in 2004 showed that use of a daily nasal saline spray resulted in significantly fewer colds and upper respiratory tract infections.

How to Use

Saline irrigation can be done using a neti pot, battery powered irrigator, or saline spray. Each device has special instructions for use.

Saline irrigation products should be used by one person and one person only. Word to the wise: if you use a neti pot or irrigator, make sure to keep it clean. A contaminated pot or irrigator can lead to problems.


2. ECHINACEA

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The Prevention

Echinacea is an oldie, but goodie in the cold world. There is some evidence to support echinacea remedies colds. But there is also research to show echinacea can PREVENT colds.

The Evidence

A meta-analysis of 14 trails found echinacea significantly decreased the odds of developing a cold by 58%.

How to Use

To prevent colds, echinacea is ingested orally. Doses range from 1,000 mg to 2,400 mg of echinacea daily. Capsules and liquid formulations are both available.

Common side effects of echinacea include stomach upset and rash.

3. WASH YOUR HANDS

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Image Credit

The Prevention

I know, I know. This sounds like a total no-brainer.

Except many people do not wash their hands regularly.

And hand washing is easy, cheap, and extremely effective.

The primary way colds spread is when someone who is sick coughs or sneezes. Droplets with germs land on places you touch (doorknobs, telephones, keyboards, money). Or the sick person coughs or sneezes into their hands and then proceeds to touch something and infect it. Then you (happy and healthy) touch the infected item and subsequently rub your nose or touch your mouth. Next thing you know, you have a raging cold!

The Evidence

Does hand washing really work?

YES!

A study conducted with the Navy showed hand washing 5 times a day reduced the incidence of upper respiratory infection by 45%.

How to Do It

Wash often for 20 seconds or more using hot water and soap.

When is it most important to wash?
  1. ALWAYS wash your hands before eating.
  2. ALWAYS wash your hands after using the bathroom.
  3. Wash your hands after you sneeze or cough.
  4. Wash your hands after touching animals.
What do you do if you’re not near a sink?

Don’t worry! You can use hand sanitizer in a pinch. Just make sure the sanitizer is 60% rubbing alcohol or more.


THE NEXT TIME YOU FEEL A COLD COMING ON

So the next time you feel a cold coming on, you have three proven, effective, and natural weapons in your arsenal.

Do you have an amazing cold prevention hack I didn’t mention? I’d love to hear all about it!

Wishing you wellness,

Skye
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