Strengthen your immunity this cold and flu season with these vitamins and herbsThe cold and flu season is right around the corner so it's a good idea to get a head start on improving your immunity before it hits. There are plenty of vitamins and supplements that are currently known for possessing immune-enhancing properties. After all, washing your hands frequently and avoiding contaminated surfaces will only carry you so far in preventing infection.
This is perhaps the most well known herb for enhancing the effectiveness of the immune system. The plant has purple, cone-shaped flowers and grows easily in many climates making it an affordable herbal remedy.
Some studies have supported the hypothesis that Echinacea helps to shorten the duration and reduce the severity of flu and cold symptoms. The herb must be taken as soon as symptoms manifest and must be a high quality "standardized extract" according to most studies.
Some people may even choose to take Echinacea through an entire flu season or at least periodically as a preemptive move to prevent the onset of symptoms. The compounds found in Echinacea which are attributed to its immune-enhancing and healing qualities are polysaccharides, glycoproteins, alkamides, volatile oils, and flavonoids.
This herb is popularly used in Chinese medicine. It has traditionally been prescribed by herbalists primarily for its ability to enhance the activity of the immune system. Studies have shown that the herb stimulates the production of attack cells which seek out and kill invading viruses and bacteria. Not surprisingly, this herb is rich in many of the same compounds Echinacea contains.
Adaptogenic herbs ashwagandha and eleuthero:
These two herbs are primarily known for being excellent adaptogens which strengthen the immune system by reducing the impact of anxiety and stress. Stress and anxiety are two of the biggest enemies of proper immune function. While some of this "fight or flight" response is healthy, chronic stress weakens the immune system. Since ashwagandha and eleuthero help the body cope with these stressors more effectively, they have the secondary effect of strengthening immunity.
Vitamin C remains a staple of a solid immune-boosting nutritional and supplemental regimen. This vitamin is a powerful antioxidant, but it must be replenished every day since it is water soluble and we rid our bodies of it on a daily basis.
Studies have shown that the vitamin is used up by the body in an accelerated manner when an infection is present. This suggests it plays a major role in fighting off infection and has furthered the assertion that it is a vital part of healthy and effective immune function.
Other studies have demonstrated vitamin C's ability to produce or act as a medium to produce crucial white blood cells as well as to increase levels of interferon. Interferon is the antibody that protects cells from invading viruses.
Vitamin D, otherwise known as the "sunshine vitamin" has come to be known as a huge benefactor of the human immune system. This first came to be recognized after recorded increases in flu and cold infections during the months when solar exposure was at its lowest.
Further research uncovered several telltale findings which supported theories that vitamin D played a major role in strengthening immune response. It has also been revealed that vitamin D may play a very important role in preventing many types of cancer in great part due to this enhanced immunity.
The best way to get this vitamin is to get adequate sunlight on bare skin for at least 15 minutes per day. However, if you live in a climate where this is not possible, year round vitamin D supplements which use a fatty oil base are preferred as they support the best absorption of the vitamin.