Your throat feels a little sore, then the sneezing starts — along with the body aches and congestion and low grade fever. You know what is coming, something we all dread, the common cold.
Not only does December mark the beginning of winter; it also is the time that cold and flu season kicks into high gear.
The average adult will experience two to three colds per year and the average child even more, at four to six per year. Although the cold makes us feel miserable and miss days of work and school, there are no effective pharmaceutical drugs that will rid us of this viral infection. There are, however, several botanicals and nutritional supplements that have shown benefit, in clinical studies, to decrease the frequency and severity of viral infections.
1. Vitamin D. Not only is vitamin D important for bone health but also for immunity. For prevention, take 2,000 mg daily.
2. Zinc acetate or gluconate lozenges. Recent studies have confirmed that zinc, an essential mineral, can help with prevention and treatment of the common cold. At the first sign of illness, take 10 to 24 mg every two hours (while awake) for three to seven days. For prevention, take 10 mg daily.
3. Vitamin C. It can help improve your body’s respiratory defense mechanisms. For prevention, take 500 mg daily. For treatment, take 1,000 mg three times daily for the first three to four days of symptoms.
4. American ginseng (panax quinquefolius). Ginseng is a botanical medicine that has wide-reaching benefits, including anti-viral, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects. Studies have shown benefit in both prevention and treatment of the common cold and flu. For treatment, take 500 mg three times daily, and for prevention, take 500 mg once per day.
5. Astragalus. This plant is native to China and has long been used to support the immune system. I like my patients to add this one at the start of cold season to prime the immune system. For prevention, the root can be chopped and placed in soups (remove once cooked), or it can be taken as a capsule at a dose of 750-1,250 mg daily.
6. Andrographis. This botanical is commonly used in Aruyvedic medicine and has been shown to decrease the severity and frequency of the cold and flu. At the first sign of cold symptoms, start 400 mg three times daily for three to four days.
This year, instead of just hoping you aren’t one of the millions who will come down with a cold, arm yourself early. Stock your cabinet or travel bag with a few of these therapies, and start them at the first signs of sickness. Don’t wait until your symptoms have fully developed, or these measures will be much less effective.
• Heidi Rula, M.D., is a physician at Integrative Care for Women in Mesa. Reach her at (480) 699-2508 or www.IntegrativeCareForWomen.com