Green foods for immune support

As we pass through the short days of winter, which also brings the cold and flu season to those of us in the northern hemisphere, our thoughts may turn to fortifying ourselves with a good diet, making it as healthy as possible till that day when the arugula sprouts in the garden or the new crop of berries arrives (ok, getting a little poetical here!)

Anyway, here are NYBC suggestions for green foods and green/red foods combinations, which many use to boost the nutritional content of their diet when that boost is most needed:

Organic DAILY 5 (Jarrow). A mix of greens and reds (fruits). Used as directed, it is a 30-day supply, at $23.40/month. It is a blend of high quality, organic (USDA seal) fruits and vegetables, rich in antioxidants such as proanthocyanidins.

Each single (6 g) scoop provides 3,240 mg of a blend of organic fruits and vegetables, including apple, carrot, raspberry, strawberry, cranberry, blueberry, beet powder acerola powder, broccoli and spinach. In addition, each scoop includes 1,720 mg of organic flax seed powder as well as 110 mg of a blend of organic barley grass, wheat grass and oat bran powders.

Green Vibrance is a more complex mix of probiotics, greens, and immune supportive nutrients. The list of ingredients is long, so please follow the link to see how this green food supplement is structured. A month’s supply is $38.50, and a 60-day Green Vibrance is also available for the savings-conscious. (The large size will save you about 20% off the one-month version, if our calculations are correct.)

Rhodiola rosea

For a review of the botanical Rhodiola rosea, we recommend “Rhodiola rosea: A Phytomedicinal Overview,” published in HerbalGram 2002;56:40-52 (American Botanical Council).

Known as a medicinal botanical for at least 2000 years, Rhodiola rosea derives from a plant typically found at high elevations in Asia and Europe. Traditionally, the botanical has been used to increase physical endurance, longevity, resistance to altitude sickness, and to treat fatigue, depression, anemia, impotence, and nervous system disorders.

Since the 1960s, Rhodiola rosea has found a place in medical and pharmacological texts, especially in Russia and Scandinavia. It’s described as a stimulant to combat fatigue, a remedy for psychiatric and neurological conditions, and a means to relieve fatigue and to increase attention span, memory, and work capacity in healthy individuals.

The authors of the 2002 Herbalgram review include two practicing M.D.s (Richard P. Brown, Assoc. Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Patricia L. Gerbarg, Assistant Clinical Professor in Psychiatry at New York Medical Center) who have used Rhodiola rosea in treating more than 150 patients with conditions including “depressive syndromes, mental and physical fatigue (secondary to psychiatric and medical conditions), memory loss and cognitive dysfunction from a variety of causes, sexual dysfunction, and menopausal-related disorders.” The authors also advocate additional research to confirm and define the benefits of this botanical for treating depression, disorders of memory and cognition, attention deficit disorder, Parkinson’s disease, endocrine disorders (infertility, premenstrual disorder, menopause), sexual dysfunction, and disorders of the stress response system (fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and post traumatic stress disorder). They also note continuing interest in studying the herb’s application to sports performance and aviation and space medicine (enhancing physical and mental performance while reducing stress reactions).

Read the full review at:

See also NYBC’s entry for Rhodiola rosea at

Rosavin (Ameriden)

Rhodiola for Depression

Andrew Weill reports on studies suggesting that Rosavin, made from Rhodiola rosea, may be helpful in sustaining mood.

Herb Reduces Depression, May Extend Life

Rhodiola rosea is not a widely known botanical remedy, but perhaps it should be. Several recent studies have revealed that the herbal extract of this yellow-flowered, Arctic mountain plant may have multiple health benefits. A study published in the Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, reporting on people with mild-to-moderate depression, showed that patients who took a Rhodiola extract known as SHR-5 (sold under the trade name Arctic Root) reported fewer symptoms than those who took a placebo. And a study by researchers at the University of California at Irvine revealed that fruit flies that ate a diet rich with Rhodiola lived an average of 10 percent longer than those that ate three other herbs known for their life-extension properties.

As usual, these modern findings come long after indigenous people have already determined the plant’s value. Russians and Scandinavians have used it for centuries to combat stress and depression.

See also NYBC entry on Rosavin, a Rhodiola rosea extract produced by Ameriden.

Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus)

Here’s an excerpt from the University of Maryland Medical Center’s very up-to-date Complementary Medicine website entry on Siberian Ginseng, a traditional botanical which has been the object of new research attention in the last decade.

See also the NYBC entry for Eleuthero/Siberian Ginseng. Note that the NYBC item is a MMS Pro/Murdock Madaus Schwabe product, which has an excellent record for quality control. (An important concern, since studies have shown a great deal of variability among commercially available ginseng products manufactured in the US.)

Siberian ginseng, also known as eleuthero, has been used for centuries in Eastern countries, including China and Russia. Although a distant relative of American ( Panax quinquefolius ) and Asian ginseng ( Panax ginseng ), with some overlap in its uses, Siberian ginseng is a distinct plant with different active chemical components. Prized for its ability to restore vigor, increase longevity, enhance overall health, and stimulate both a healthy appetite and a good memory, it is widely used in Russia to help the body adapt to stressful conditions and to enhance productivity.
Until recently, most scientific research on Siberian ginseng was conducted in Russia. This research has largely supported its use to maintain health and strengthen the system rather than to treat particular disorders. Siberian ginseng may help the body deal with physically and mentally stressful exposures, such as heat, cold, physical exhaustion, viruses, bacteria, chemicals, extreme working conditions, noise, and pollution. By strengthening the system, it may also help prevent illness.

Research on Siberian ginseng has included studies on the following:

Immune system

A 4-week study in healthy subjects found that those who received Siberian ginseng extract had improvements in a number of measures that reflect the functioning of the immune system. Several combination supplements containing Siberian ginseng and other herbs have reported benefits in patients with colds and the flu. Laboratory studies also support the use of Siberian ginseng to improve immunity.

Mental performance

A 3-month human study of Siberian ginseng among middle aged volunteers found that there was a significant improvement in memory and concentration as compared to placebo.

Physical performance

Although Siberian ginseng is frequently used to enhance physical stamina and increase muscle strength, studies have shown mixed results for these purposes. Other studies support the use of Siberian ginseng to decrease symptoms of fatigue.

Male fertility

Siberian ginseng has a long history of folkloric use for male infertility. Animal studies suggest that Siberian ginseng may be helpful in increasing reproductive capacity.

Elderly quality of life

One study found Siberian ginseng use in elderly patients improved their quality of life including aspects of mental health and social functioning after 4 weeks of therapy. When the ginseng was stopped, the improvements decreased.

Herpes viral infection

A 6-month study of 93 people with herpes simplex virus type 2 (which can cause genital herpes lesions) found that Siberian ginseng reduced frequency, severity, and duration of outbreaks. Talk to your doctor about whether it is safe or appropriate for you to use Siberian ginseng as a supplement to prevent herpes outbreaks.

Also note these warnings and contraindications: avoid use with hypertension, hyperactivity or extreme nervous anxiety. Not recommended during pregnancy or lactation. Check with a healthcare professional before taking Siberain Ginseng if you have blood sugar problems or diabetes.