Herbal Remedies for Colds and Flu


| 10/1/2013 12:00:00 AM


What are the best natural cold and flu remedies?

Many herbs have a long tradition of use against colds and flu, but while some have demonstrated strong antimicrobial and antiviral properties in the lab, relatively few herbal remedies for colds and flu have been scientifically tested for effectiveness on a large scale because of the expense of such research. “Pharmaceutical companies spend millions to study new drug formulations because they can patent them,” says Dr. Randy Horwitz, medical director for the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. “But you can’t patent herbs, so there aren’t as many clinical studies. Instead, we usually evaluate them on a risk-benefit basis: We compare the potential risks associated with a medical condition (as well as the available therapies) and compare them to the potential benefit of herbal therapy.”Chicken Soup

Horwitz recommends one or more of the following herbal remedies for colds and flu: Kan Jang (a blend of the herbs Andrographis paniculata and Siberian ginseng), garlic, astragalus, medicinal mushrooms or black elderberry.

Several clinical studies have shown that Kan Jang reduces cold symptoms and duration if taken when symptoms first start. “The herbs work synergistically to stimulate the immune system,” Horwitz says.

Studies have shown that garlic has antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties. One clinical study found that taking garlic supplements can help prevent the common cold. Horwitz advises his patients to eat a whole garlic clove twice a day if coming down with a cold. “Fresh garlic is always best — cooking destroys some of its beneficial compounds,” he says. (Take it with olive oil or work it into a recipe if plain garlic is too much for you.)



Astragalus, a bitter-tasting Chinese root, can be chopped and added to soup, or taken as a 250-milligram capsule three times a day when symptoms appear. Research has shown that it increases antibody levels and stimulates T-cell activity. Medicinal mushrooms — such as reishi, shiitake and maitake — are extremely effective for boosting immunity, according to Horwitz. He recommends looking for a blended mushroom product and following the label’s directions for consumption. “I take them myself, along with astragalus, at the first sign of cold,” he says.

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