It’s that time of the year! Cold and flu season has returned. Most flu cases occur between November and February and colds also peak during winter months. You may be noticing a sniff or two or a more serious case coming on. Adults get about 2-5 common colds every year and children can have 7-10 colds per year, making it the leading cause of doctor visits and the most common infection in the US.1 Although extremely prevalent, our understanding of cold and flu is relatively poor.
Colds are caused by more than 100 different types of viruses and flus are caused by the influenza virus. They are both acute respiratory viral infections. Cold symptoms can vary among people and by type of virus, but can include headache, nasal discharge/obstruction, cough, and sore throat and usually resolve within 10 days or so. Flus have typically more sudden onsets and symptoms that can include fever higher than 101°F, cough, muscle ache, weakness, headache, and nasal congestion.2 An easy distinction between cold and flu is the combination of cough and fever (more severe than colds).
Traditional medicine focuses on temporary symptom relief to treat common colds, such as anti-inflammatory agents, analgesics, and decongestants. There are antiviral drugs available for the flu, but to be effective, they have to be taken within the first 2 days of the symptom onset. Although most times colds resolve without medical treatment within a couple of days, it is still uncomfortable and can be painful. Flus can result in more serious complications and about
36,000 people die each year in the US from the flu.
Unfortunately, flu vaccines are only 60% effective.3 So what can you do to prevent getting colds and flus or to quickly resolve them when you get them? We recommend the following supplements to boost your immune system to help your body naturally fight colds and flus and prevent getting them in the first place.
1. Elderberry: Elderberry has been traditionally used to treat cold and flu symptoms. Elderberry is rich in antioxidant phenolic compounds including flavonoids, which enhance immune responses in the body.4 Clinical studies show that
elderberry extract can suppress viral replication and reduce symptoms and duration of flu and cold infections.5, 6
2. Astragalus Root: Astralagus is an herb from Chinese medicine prescribed to increase system vitality. Active ingredients include immune stimulating polysaccharides that helps treat immune deficiency conditions such as lupus by increasing the production of white blood cells (especially T cells and macrophages) and natural killer cell activity.7, 8
3. Shiitake Mushroom: Shiitake mushroom has been traditionally cultivated in East Asia and widely consumed as a nutrient-dense food source and for its medicinal properties. Only recently has Western medicine and research been catching up to reveal and study its properties. Letinan and other polysaccharides in shiitake mushrooms are able to increase resistance against infection diseases through proliferation of cells involved in defense mechanisms.9 They are also antivral and effective against influenza virus as they induce increased levels of interferons (proteins signaling the presence of pathogens that causes nearby cells to increase their defenses).10 In addition,
shiitake mushrooms have antioxidant, antifungal, antitumor, and antibacterial effects.
4. Maitake Mushroom: Also known commonly as “chicken-of-the-woods”, maitake mushroom has been used in traditional medicine for hundreds of years. Medicinal properties of maitake mushroom include activating immune cells in the body (macrophages, natural killer cells, and killer T cells) and potentiating activities of immune system mediators.11
5. Wild Cherry Bark: Wild cherry bark has been used in cough syrups for centuries because of its ability to vasodilate and calm the cough reflex, especially irritable and persistent coughs.12 Wild cherry is a good source of antioxidants and acts as an antihypertensive as well.
6. Beta 1, 3-Glucan: Beta-glucan is a complex polysaccharide found in cell walls of algae, bacteria, fungi, yeast, and plants. Beta-glucans are potent immunomodulators as they can initiate and regulate innate and adaptive immune responses by activating monocytes, macrophages, natural killer cells, and T cells.13
At Phoenix Men’s Health Center, we recommend ImmunoBerry Liquid made by Designs for Health, which contains all the ingredients listed above (elderberry, astragalus root, shiitake mushroom, maitake mushroom, wild cherry bark, and beta 1, 3-glucan) to boost your immune system and help you prevent or fight your cold/flu. Recommended intake is 2 dropperfuls a day to prevent colds and flus and 3-6 dropperfuls each day if you are fighting a cold or flu. Right now, if you shop here through our online Designs of Health shop, you can get 20% off by using the code FIRST20 at checkout. If you prefer to shop through Amazon, use our promo code DFH74844 to get 15% off! ImmunoBerry Liquid is also available at our center for purchase.
1. Johnston, S., Holgate, S. Epidemiology of viral respiratory infections. In: Myint S., Taylor-Robinson, D. eds. Viral and other infections of the human respiratory tract. London: Chapman & Hall, 1996: 1-38.
2. Eccles, Ron. Understanding the symptoms of the common cold and influenza. The Lancet infectious diseases5.11 (2005): 718-725.
4. Barak, Vivian, Tal Halperin, and Inna Kalickman. The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines. European Cytokine Network12.2 (2001): 290-296.
5. Vlachojannis, J., Cameron, E., and Chrubasik, S. A systematic review on the sambuci fructus effect and efficacy profiles. Phytotherapy Research24.1 (2010): 1-8.
6. Tiralongo, E., Wee, S., and Lea, R. Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Nutrients8.4 (2016): 182
7. Sinclair, S. Chinese herbs: a clinical review of Astragalus, Ligusticum, and Schizandrae. Alternative Medicine Review3 (1998): 338-344.
8. Sun Y., Hersh E., Lee S., McLaughlin M., Loo L., Mavligit, G.. Preliminary observations on the effects of the Chinese medicinal herbs Astragalus membranaceus and Ligustrum lucidum on lymphocyte blastogenic responses. Journal of Biological Response Modulation 2.3 (1983): 227-237.
9. Yap, A., and Ng, M. Immunopotentiating Properties of Lentinan (1® 3)-b-D-glucan Extracted from Culinary–Medicinal Shiitake Mushroom Lentinus edodes (Berk.) Singer. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms5.4 (2003).
10. Rahman, T., and Choudhury, M. Shiitake mushroom: a tool of medicine. Bangladesh Journal of Medical Biochemistry5.1 (2013): 24-32.
11. Schar, D., and DipPhy, M. “Maitake 102: Maitake (Grifola frondosa) as an Immune Stimulant.”
12. Wren, Richard Cranfield. “Potter’s new cyclopaedia of botanical drugs and preparations.” (1956).
13. Chan, G., Chan, W., and Sze, D. The effects of β-glucan on human immune and cancer cells. Journal of hematology & oncology 2.1 (2009): 1