Use Herbs and Supplements to Help Prevent Illnesses
Edited by Sobi, Eng, Grimm
Herbal supplements, have also been labeled as botanicals, have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years in all cultures around the world. In the U.S., herbal supplements are not regulated like pharmaceuticals are by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Herbs used as medicine are just that, medicine, and should be treated as such.
There are herbs in many forms on the market; prepared teas, individual herbs, ointments, pill form, tinctures, and essential oils.
- Garlic (Allium sativum): Garlic has a long history as an antiviral. Garlic contains a sulfur compound known as allicin, which has antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Allicin is available only in raw garlic, as cooking destroys the medicinal effect. Crush or chop raw garlic and allow it to sit for about five minutes and add at the end of cooking to prevent destroying the medicinal properties. Garlic can be eaten raw.
- Ginseng (Panax ginseng, P. quinquefolius): Some suggest that ginseng decreases the severity of colds. I would caution the use as it has been shown to increase blood pressure for some people.
- Mushrooms: Maitake mushrooms (Grifola frondosa), reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum) and shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) boost the immune system to defend against a number of viruses. Using a mixture of mushrooms for mushroom soup makes a powerful immune booster. Some mushrooms also have anti cancer effects.
- Chicken soup: Chicken soup has the compound carnosine that boosts the immune system to help fight the flu. The heat from the liquid stimulates the hairs (cilia) in the upper and lower respiratory tracts to flush out mucous, and consuming liquids helps to keep the mucous thin so that it drains easier.
- Ginger (Zingiber officinale): Ginger contains chemicals known as sesquiterpenes that specifically fight rhinoviruses (common cold). Ginger has also been used for control of nausea. To make ginger tea, bring to a boil 2 cups of water with one tablespoon of fresh chopped ginger, simmer 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and add juice of a fresh lemon and raw honey to taste. Strain and enjoy.
- Hot drinks and honey: Any hot drink can help soothe a sore throat, and suppress a cough. Honey coats the throat and relieves irritation with its antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.
- Zinc: Studies have shown zinc to be effective in reducing the duration and severity of colds. The body metabolizes zinc acetate better than zinc gluconate. A way to tell when a supplement contains the needed zinc ions, is a common side effect of dry mouth.
- Elderberry: (Sambucus nigra) Elderberry is a very old remedy for colds and flu. In studies elderberry appears to significantly shorten the duration and reduction of symptoms for the flu. Elderberries should always be cooked before consuming to avoid their toxic effect. 
- Olive leaf Extract: Olive leaves contain oleuropein, a component of elenoic acid, and in tests have shown to decrease the viral load and prevents or inhibits spread to the lungs.
- Green Tea (Camellia sinensis): Green tea has flavonoids, that appear to inhibit viral infections by preventing the virus from entering the cells.
- Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra): (also spelled or licorice) Researchers at the Institute of Medical Virology at Frankfurt have tested four pharmaceutical drugs and glycyrrhizin, a compound found in the root of the liquorice plant, against samples of coronavirus from SARS patients. These tests showed that Glycyrrhizin inhibited the viruses ability to penetrate cells. Liquorice extract (not de-glycyrrhizinated liquorice or DGL) may be an effective for the treatment of viral illnesses.
- St John's wort (Hypericum perforatum): This is a popular remedy for depression. It has shown to have antiviral properties against influenza, herpes simplex and HIV.
- Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea):Also know as Purple Cone flower, it has been known to boost the immune and may also have some antiviral properties. There have been several clinical trials using the roots and flowers, that has shown to reduce the severity and duration of symptoms of the common cold, upper respiratory tract infection and viral bronchitis.
Warnings and Tips on Using Herbs and Supplements
- Consult with your health care provider and/or your pharmacist before using any herbs, or tinctures as they may not be compatible with your current medication or any illnesses you may have.
- Read up on the USDA information about the use of herbs before trying them out to see what works for you.
If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please post in the comments section below.