Who’s Afraid of Cold and Flu Season? Not NYBC!

As the days get shorter and we approach the end of October, here in the Northern Hemisphere many worry about the Cold and Flu Season. Colds and flus aren’t fun for anyone, and people with compromised immune systems may be especially vulnerable. Here are some recommendations from NYBC, both in the prevention department and in the symptom alleviation department. Using these supplements, we believe, can make the Cold and Flu Season a lot less scary!

Vitamin D. According to some recent thinking, the “cold and flu season” may actually be the “Vitamin D deficiency season.” As the days grow shorter, people get less sunshine, leading to a decline in the body’s levels of this vitamin, which is essential to good health in many more ways than we used to think. Taking Vitamin D during the winter may therefore be one of the most effective ways to prevent colds and flu. Many researchers who’ve studied Vitamin D now recommend at least 2000 IU/day, but those with a known deficiency may be advised to supplement at even higher levels. There’s a simple test available to check for Vitamin D deficiency – ask your doctor.

Cold Away. This blend of Chinese herbs from Health Concerns is designed to “clear external heat and alleviate symptoms of the common cold.” A key component of this formula is the herb andrographis, which in several recent US studies was found to significantly decrease cold symptoms and the duration of a cold; it may also be useful for prevention. (NYBC stocks over 20 varieties of Traditional Chinese Medicine formulas, by the way.)

Vitamin C. Many good studies have shown a decrease in cold symptom duration, but no benefit for prevention. According to a guide to natural products published by the American Pharmacists’ Association in 2006, taking between one and three grams of Vitamin C per day may decrease cold symptoms (sore throat, fatigue, runny nose) by one to 1½ days.*

N-acetylcysteine (NAC) supports respiratory and immune system function. It has been studied extensively for chronic bronchitis. NAC is also the antidote for acetaminophen poisoning, now the leading cause of liver disease in the US. (Acetaminophen’s best-known tradename is Tylenol®, but it’s also found in many other drugs, so it’s become all too easy to overdose–especially when you’re fighting cold or flu symptoms.)

One popular way to take NAC is to use PharmaNAC, notable for its careful quality control, pleasant “wildberry” flavor, and effervescent fizz!

Botanicals. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, astragalus is used for chronic respiratory infections, for colds and flu (both prevention and treatment) and for stress and fatigue. It contains complex sugar molecules called polysaccharides, which some studies show stimulate virus-fighting cells in the immune system. Researchers at the University of Texas and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center have turned up evidence that astragalus boosts immune responses in lab animals, and in human cells in lab dishes.

Probiotics. They say the best defense is a good offense, so consider upping your intake of the beneficial bacteria found naturally in such things as kefir (the lightly fermented milk beverage) and yogurt: they boost the flora in your intestinal tract, which is where an estimated 80% your immune system resides. Also note that NYBC stocks several varieties of probiotic supplements, including Jarrow’s Ultra Jarro-Dophilus, which has helped many maintain healthy digestive function, always a key to getting proper nutrition into your system and thus supporting immune strength.

And this just in: See posts on this blog for Beta Glucan, which, according to very recent research reports, may be of substantial benefit for fighting colds.

*Natural Products: A Case-Based Approach for Health Care Professionals, ed. Karen Shapiro. Washington, DC: American Pharmacists’ Assoc. (2006), “Cold and Flu,” pp. 173-192.

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What’s in Your Medicine Cabinet for Cold and Flu Season?

What’s in Your Medicine Cabinet for Cold and Flu Season?

As the cold and flu season approaches, don’t forget the supplements! Here are some good choices for preventing colds and flus, or for lessening symptoms:

Vitamin D. According to some recent thinking, the “cold and flu season” may actually be the “Vitamin D deficiency season.” As the days grow shorter, people get less sunshine, leading to a decline in the body’s levels of this vitamin, which is essential to good health in many more ways than we used to think. Supplementing with Vitamin D during the winter may therefore be one of the most effective ways to prevent colds and flu. Many researchers who’ve studied Vitamin D now recommend at least 1000 IU/day, but those with a known deficiency may be advised to supplement at even higher levels. Our #1 recommendation for cold and flu season! See NYBC’s D-3 2500IU or D3 1000IU or D3 400IU.

Cold Away. This Health Concerns blend of Chinese herbs is designed to “clear external heat and alleviate symptoms of the common cold.” A key component of this formula is the herb Andrographis, which has been studied in several US trials in the last decade, and was found to significantly decrease cold symptoms and the duration of a cold. See NYBC’s Cold Away.

Vitamin C. Many good studies have shown a decrease in cold symptom duration, but no benefit for prevention. According to a guide to natural products published by the American Pharmacists’ Association in 2006, taking between 1 and 3 grams of Vitamin C per day may decrease cold symptoms (sore throat, fatigue, runny nose) by 1 – 1 ½ days. See NYBC’s C1000 – Ascorbic Acid with Olea Fruit Extract, or C -Buffered Vitamin C (easier on the stomach), or Super C Powder.

NAC (PharmaNAC). N-acetylcysteine (NAC) supports respiratory and immune system function. It has been studied extensively for chronic bronchitis. NAC is also the antidote for acetaminophen poisoning, now the leading cause of liver disease in the USA. (Acetaminophen’s best-known tradename is Tylenol, but it’s also found in many other meds, and so it’s become all too easy to overdose. We like PharmaNAC for its quality packaging, wildberry flavor & fizz! See NYBC’s PharmaNAC.

Botanicals. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Astragalus is used for chronic respiratory infections, for colds and flu (both prevention and treatment) and for stress and fatigue. (This herb is a favorite of integrative medicine specialist Dr. Andrew Weil.) An elderberry extract and American ginseng are two other botanicals that have been studied for cold and flu symptoms in recent North American research, with some promising results. The popular Echinacea, however, has generally disappointed in cold prevention studies.

MMS Botanicals at NYBC

NYBC carries selected botanicals from the manufacturer “MMS Pro,” which has been a supplier of “phytomedicines” (=plant-derived remedies) for 80 years. We like the fact that this supplier subscribes to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), an industry-recognized standard for quality control, and that its botanicals have been used in numerous clinical trials. MMS Pro also posts on its website independent certificates of analysis for many of its products. (Certificates of analysis provide evidence of independent verification of the purity and potency of a botanical.)

Here are the MMS Pro botanicals currently stocked by NYBC. Please
read carefully the descriptions on the NYBC website.

Astragalus

Echinacea

Eleuthero – also known as Siberian Ginseng

Garlicin Pro

Gingko-D

Horsechestnut Pro

St John’s Wort – Perika Pro

Astragalus extract studied to strengthen immune response to HIV

We’re always fascinated when modern laboratory science identifies mechanisms that help to explain how traditional botanicals work. Here’s an example regarding Astragalus, among the traditional botanicals of Chinese medicine. On this blog you can find several reports of earlier research pointing to this herb’s application to immune support. But according to UCLA investigators who have just published their findings in the Journal of Immunology, an extract of Astragalus also performs a very specific function at the cellular level in support of immune function–and thus may hold special promise for enhancing the effectiveness of HIV treatments.

Here’s a description of the new Astragalus research posted on http://www.aidsmeds.com on Nov. 10, 2008:

When cells reproduce, their DNA gets capped at the ends by long repeated strands of genes called telomeres. Telomeres protect the genes, much like the plastic tips on the ends of shoelaces. Unfortunately, telomeres get shorter every time a cell reproduces, which ultimately causes the cells to become “exhausted” and to stop functioning properly. This occurs naturally as a person ages, but more rapidly in the HIV-fighting CD4 and CD8 cells of people with HIV.

One of the lead researchers in telomeres and HIV, Rita Effros, PhD, and her colleague Steven Russell Fauce, PhD, of the department of pathology at UCLA, had experimented with gene therapy as a way to keep telomeres from shortening. But ultimately the researchers turned to what could potentially be a much less expensive method: an extract from the medicinal plant astragalus.

According to Effros and Fauce, the extract, TAT2, keeps an enzyme called telomerase turned on. CD4s and CD8s can naturally produce telomerase, which helps keep telomeres from shortening, but only for so long. After a cell has divided too many times, the telomerase gene turns off.

In test tube experiments, Effros and Fauce exposed CD4 and CD8 cells collected from HIV-positive patients to TAT2. Not only did the substance slow the shortening of the cells’ telomeres, but it also increased the cells’ production of proteins known to inhibit HIV replication.

While studies of TAT2 have not yet been conducted in people, the authors believe the strategy “could be useful in treating HIV disease, as well as immunodeficiency and increased susceptibility to other viral infections associated with chronic diseases or aging.”

Reference: http://www.aidsmeds.com/articles/hiv_astragalus_telomere_1667_15595.shtml

The story is being widely reported this week, so you’ll find other accounts as well. We also note that Astragalus has been one of the botanicals stocked by HIV/AIDS buyers’ clubs for years, based both on its use for immune support in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and on a recent wave of scientific interest. (Of course we’d like to have more information on the relationship between the extract employed in the UCLA study and the components of the botanical as it is traditionally harvested and crafted for medicinal use.)

For more information, see other entries under “Astragalus” on this blog, or the NYBC entry:

Astragalus

Astragalus: recent research on a botanical traditionally used for immune system support

Astragalus is traditional botanical that has drawn new research attention in recent years, especially for its usefulness in increasing the effectiveness of some cancer treatments while diminishing side effects. As background on this herb, we present the excerpt below from the NYBC entry on Astragalus (See complete entry for more information and cautions.)


Astragalus is considered a strong immune booster and an energy herb and may help to restore depleted red blood cell formation in bone marrow. Some evidence indicates that it stimulates the body’s natural interferon production, helps adrenal function, is a diuretic for edema and inflamed kidneys and helps cancer patients withstand the side effects of chemotherapy.


Some recent research on astragalus as an adjunct in cancer treatment
The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Integrative Medicine website reports on two major reviews, from 2005 and 2006, which examined published evidence about the use of astragalus as an adjunct therapy in certain cancer treatment settings:

–McCulloch M, et al. Astragalus-based Chinese herbs and platinum-based chemotherapy for advanced non-small-cell lung cancer: Meta-analysis of randomized trials. J clin Oncol 2006;24(3):419-430.
This analysis sought to determine whether Chinese herbal medicine containing Astragalus increases the effectiveness of platinum-based chemotherapy for advanced non-small-cell-lung cancer.

–Taixiang W, et al. Chinese medical herbs for chemotherapy side effects in colorectal cancer patients (Review). The Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2005; (1):CD004540.
Four clinical trials were included in this review to assess the effectiveness of Astragalus (Huangqi) compounds on the quality of life, side effects of chemotherapy, and on adverse effects in colorectal cancer patients.

See also the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Complementary Medicine website entry on Astragalus for this overview:



Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years, often in combination with other herbs, to strengthen the body against disease. It contains antioxidants, which protect cells against damage caused by free radicals, byproducts of cellular energy. Astragalus is used to protect and support the immune system, for preventing colds and upper respiratory infections, to lower blood pressure, to treat diabetes, and to protect the liver.

Astragalus has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and diuretic (helps eliminate fluid from the body) properties. It is sometimes used topically for wounds. In addition, studies have shown that astragalus has antiviral properties and stimulates the immune system, suggesting that it is indeed effective at preventing colds.

In the United States, researchers have investigated astragalus as a possible treatment for people whose immune systems have been compromised by chemotherapy or radiation. In these studies, astragalus supplements have been shown to speed recovery and extend life expectancy. Research on using astragalus for people with AIDS has produced inconclusive results.

Recent research in China indicates that astragalus may offer antioxidant benefits to people with severe forms of heart disease, relieving symptoms and improving heart function. At low to moderate doses, astragalus has few side effects, although it does interact with a number of other herbs and prescription medications.

CordySeng – 60 tabs from Health Concerns

Here’s some background information on Cordyseng – 60 tablets, available through the NYBC purchasing co-op.

CordySeng is a Health Concerns formula most often recommended for fatigue associated with chronic illnesses or during recovery from an acute illness or operation; also recommended generally for supporting immune function. The ingredients of HC CordySeng are: a proprietary mix of Cordyceps fruiting body extract, Ganoderma (Reishi) fruiting body, Astragalus root extract, American Ginseng root extract, Licorice root extract, and Ginger rhizome extract.

Suggested Use: One to three tablets 2-3 times per day between meals.

Warnings and cautions: not intended for use by pregnant women. Note that less that 1% of users may notice a Ganoderma allergy, which results in a itchy rash. If this occurs, discontinue.

A note about Health Concerns:

HC was among the first companies to manufacture Chinese herbal products in the United States for practitioners trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Most HC products are available in tablet form, which is the preferred method of administration for American patients. HC formulas draw on both Traditional Chinese Medicine and modern biochemistry and have been developed by experienced practitioners such as Dr. Fung Fung, Andrew Gaeddert, Misha Cohen, Bob Flaws, and Jake Fratkin.