Naturally Boosting Immunity During Cold Season
By Dale Kiefer
Andrographis: Ancient Herb Repels Infections
Humans have sought to prevent and treat infections for thousands of years. For example, healers in Asia and India have long prescribed the bitter herb Andrographis paniculata for the treatment of ailments ranging from infections and inflammation to colds and fevers.28 Modern science has finally taken note, and now researchers have isolated a number of the herb’s active ingredients. Chief among these are andrographolides, which are phytochemicals that are believed to exert their effects, in part, on tissues of the blood cell-producing bone marrow and/or spleen. Chinese researchers have discovered that one such compound, andrographanin, enhances the ability of certain white blood cells to recognize and neutralize foreign cells such as tumor cells and viruses.28 It is important to note that purified, concentrated bioactive andrographolides extracted from andrographis are far more potent, at considerably lower doses, than the crude herb alone.
In animal and human clinical trials, Armenian scientists have demonstrated that andrographolides are readily absorbed into the bloodstream following the oral ingestion of andrographis herb extract. In Sweden, scientists conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of standardized andrographis extract in the treatment of upper-respiratory tract infections (the common cold). More than 200 patients participated in the clinical trial. Symptoms were subjectively rated by patients and objectively rated by physicians during the course of treatment. These ratings (scores) covered symptoms such as muscle soreness, cough, throat pain, headache, elevated temperature, nasal symptoms, watery eyes, and swollen lymph glands. “Both the total symptom score and total diagnosis score showed highly significant improvement . . . in the [andrographis] group as compared with the placebo,” the researchers concluded. “In both studies, throat symptoms/signs were found to show the most significant improvement.”29
Russian researchers conducted a similar randomized trial of an andrographis extract preparation for the treatment of acute upper-respiratory viral infection. They concluded that the andrographis extract significantly relieved symptoms, “promoted cure,” and was well tolerated.30 The same scientists subsequently demonstrated that andrographis markedly reduced nasal secretions and nasal congestion among schoolchildren participating in a study of cold treatments. In this study, the andrographis extract was added to standard treatment and compared to another preparation containing the immune booster echinacea extract.
Meta-Analyses Document Efficacy of Andrographis
Scientists in Thailand conducted a systematic review of the published literature and a meta-analysis of all randomized, controlled trials of andrographis for the symptomatic treatment of upper-respiratory tract infections. By pooling results from a number of disparate trials, they were able to arrive at an “overall estimate of effect.” The studies included in their statistical analysis featured results from 433 patients. Symptom severity scores were compared between control and test patients. Based on statistical analysis of those scores, andrographis was judged to be significantly more effective in relieving cold symptoms than placebo.31
In 2004, scientists at the universities of Exeter and Plymouth, in the United Kingdom, also published a review of controlled clinical trials of andrographis for the treatment of the common cold. They identified seven double-blind, controlled trials that met their rigorous criteria for inclusion. Data gathered from nearly 900 patients were included. “Collectively, the data suggest that A. paniculata [andrographis] is superior to placebo in alleviating the subjective symptoms of uncomplicated upper-respiratory tract infection,” the British scientists wrote. “There is also preliminary evidence of a preventive effect.” Furthermore, they noted that “adverse events” were generally mild and infrequent. Adverse events are documented during clinical trials in an effort to assess safety and tolerability of a given test substance or procedure. Based on these results, andrographis appears to be both effective and safe.32
New Studies Confirm Immune-Enhancing Effects of Vitamin C
Vitamin C has long been viewed as an immune system booster owing to its ability to strengthen vital components of the human immune system. For example, vitamin C has been shown to boost antimicrobial and natural killer cell activities, and to increase the production of white blood cells. In its role as a water-soluble antioxidant, vitamin C protects cells against reactive oxygen species generated during the respiratory burst (cellular energy production) and in the inflammatory response.33
In fact, vitamin C is essential for proper immune function.34 Because the human body cannot manufacture vitamin C, we are dependent on dietary intake to provide adequate amounts of this essential nutrient. Vitamin C concentrations decline rapidly in blood plasma and white blood cells during infections, suggesting that illness increases one’s need for this nutrient.35
Swiss scientists recently published a report emphasizing the crucial roles played by vitamin C and zinc, an essential element. “Both nutrients play important roles in immune function and the modulation of host resistance to infectious agents, reducing the risk, severity, and duration of infectious diseases,” wrote the researchers. “These trials document that adequate intakes of vitamin C and zinc ameliorate symptoms and shorten the duration of respiratory tract infections, including the common cold.”33
Researchers are now investigating new sources of vitamin C that may prove to be more bioavailable to the body. One extremely rich source of vitamin C is camu camu, a small fruit native to the Amazon rain forest. Scientists have demonstrated that camu camu contains 30 times more vitamin C than an orange.
With winter just around the corner, millions of aging adults are gearing up to battle viral infections that can produce days and even weeks of coughing, sneezing, and other cold and flu symptoms. These infections can even induce potentially life-threatening complications such as pneumonia. Unfortunately, by the time cold and flu sufferers reach for over-the-counter medications, it is already too late to address the underlying factors that have diminished their bodily defenses against viral infections.
Fortunately, emerging scientific research demonstrates that the combination of beta-glucan, andrographis, and natural vitamin C from camu camu provides powerful, synergistic immune system support, helping the body to naturally defend itself against the dreaded seasonal onslaught of cold and flu viruses. Unlike traditional medications that merely mask symptoms while offering nothing in the way of immune support, natural supplements like beta-glucan and andrographis boost immunity to help the body repel microbial invaders and thus prevent cold and flu viruses from gaining a foothold. This potent supplement can be taken as a prophylactic during cold and flu season, and may also be increased in dosage in the event of an infection, thereby further bolstering the body’s immune-fighting capabilities and assisting recovery.
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