Which Herbs Really Work Against Colds, the Flu, and Other Respiratory Viruses?
Many of my patients have been asking which immune support supplements, herbs and vitamins are best to take during cold and flu season. The answer depends on which part of your immune system is active. There are two parts of your immune system, the Innate and the Adaptive Immune system and each requires different support. Below I explain the function of and the correct regimen to support each one.
Innate Immune System:
This refers to the body’s defense against an infection that is triggered immediately or within hours of a foreign cell or organism appearing in the body. It is composed of barriers that keep viruses, parasites, bacteria and anything the body identifies as foreign, out of your body and limits its ability to spread throughout the body. The goal is to kill the virus right away, even before you have symptoms.
The following supplements are great for supporting the innate immune system:
- Vitamin A- the best sources are eggs, bovine liver milk, and cod liver oil.
- Vitamin C- found in citrus fruits, rose hips, camu berries, and acerola cherries.
- Vitamin D- found in eggs and bovine liver
- Zinc (Lozenges)
- Andrographis- a plant with anti-viral properties
- Beta Glucan- found in reishi, shiitake, and maitake mushrooms, and oats
- Astragalus – a plant that increases production of white blood cells
If the innate immune system does not eradicate the virus, then the adaptive immune system will be triggered.
Adaptive Immune System:
This system activated by exposure to pathogens. It identifies a specific marker on the cell surface of a virus and forms a plan of attack against that specific virus. Adaptive immunity remembers each specific virus and how to kill it. Therefore, if you come into contact with that virus again, it can kill it easily and you will likely be immune to that specific virus.
Immune cells secrete proteins called cytokines which mediate the immune response. Sometimes the adaptive immune system overreacts to an infection and releases too many cytokines. This is known in immunology as a “cytokine storm”. This storm can progress into acute lung injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome, making influenza and covid-19 potentially fatal The treatment goal during the adaptive immune response is to prevent as best possible a cytokine storm from occurring.
Supplementing for the adaptive immune system should begin if your initial symptoms do not improve or if they grow worse. The appropriate supplementation depends on which cytokines are elevated. A blood test or an Applied Kinesiology (AK) resonance test can indicate which are elevated. I have outlined three key cytokines below and which natural nutritional supplements are effective for lowering them.
Interleukin-6 when too high, it can increase inflammation to damaging levels and raise body temperature to unsafe levels. The following have been shown to lower it:
- Zinc (Lozenges)
- Skullcap- an herb with anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.
- Berberine- a plant chemical with anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. Found in Golden Thread, European barberry and Oregon grapes
- Andrographis – a plant with anti-viral properties
- Avoid strenuous exercise- which increases interleukin 6
- Lower your insulin by limiting sugar intake. A diet low in carbohydrates is desirable. Consume plenty of vegetables and good fats and protein.
Interleukin-1 beta- when too high it can raise inflammation to damaging levels.
Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha - causes your immune system to attack and inflame your joints, leading to joint pain and damage.
The following are effective for lowering Interleukin-1 beta and Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha
- Turmeric root
- Glutathione- The liver uses cysteine to make glutathione
During the adaptive immune system response, the liver also needs to be supported. It metabolizes cytokines and uses the following vitamins and minerals to do so. They can all be found in beef liver:
- Folic Acid, Manganese, B6, B2
N-acetyl-L-cysteine is an amino acid that should also be considered, because it helps to break down mucus in the respiratory system.
AK resonance testing indicates which cytokines may be elevated so that the appropriate nutrients can be recommended. Dr. Phelts offers this service at his office. If you cannot get tested, then the following supplements work great in both situations:
****Warning about taking Elderberry during this time. Elderberry became popular, because it was effective against the Spanish flu. However, it increases cytokines and may amplify a cytokine storm, which makes the condition severely worse in those with COVID-19.
****If you are sick please refer to the CDC website for information about when to seek healthcare. Currently they are recommending that you "Stay home, call a healthcare provider if you have symptoms". Recommendations may change as they learn more about COVID-19.
Be Safe and Healthy,
Seminar, “Thoughts On The Covid-19 Outbreak “ March 18. 2020 by Dr. Wally Schmitt, DC, DIBAK, DABCN and Kerry McCord, DC, DIBAK
The Internet Book of Critical Care, March 2, 2020 by Josh Farkas MD, https://emcrit.org/ibcc/covid19/
Be Safe and Healthy,
Dr. John Phelts
124 E. 40th St.
New York, NY 10016