Most people are aware that many experts recommend a little increased vitamin C as a way of preventing or limiting the symptoms of cold and flu bugs whether it's this time of year or during warm weather. An increasing numbers of studies have found that foods and supplements with high levels of vitamin C have strong antioxidant powers that may make cold and flu infections milder and shorter. And foods grown in dry, arid conditions often have higher levels of vitamin C and other antioxidants to survive their tough environments.
But for most of us in the United States, we don't have to travel very far to find healthy options when it comes to finding fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C. Produce aisles in our local grocery stores offer a great variety of fresh foods with high levels of the vitamin, foods such as blueberries (frozen are a good alternative when it comes to this fruit), broccoli, Brussels sprouts, garlic, ginseng, guava, kale, mushrooms, oranges and papaya. Just about any fruit and vegetable that's reasonably fresh and hasn't been sitting in the warehouse or on the dock too long are great options to feed yourself and your family when it comes to getting enough vitamin C to help fight off the winter rounds of colds and flu.
Another remedy that could be helpful according to new scientific research is the herb, Echinacea. According to ConsumerLab.com, which recently published an extensive product review of Echinacea, there seems to be real benefit in taking it throughout the cold season. It offers a 25-50 percent reduced risk of catching a cold which is on par with immune-boosting strategies such getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet and managing stress levels.
One study done in 2015 showed that a hot drink of Echinacea and elderberry was just as effective as the prescription drug Tamiflu at treating symptoms of influenza. While this may be the case, those at most risk of serious infection still need to follow the advice of their physicians and take Tamiflu, if and when prescribed.
For most people, Echinacea is relatively safe. It can have mild side effects such as stomach upset. And not all Echinacea products are equal. It's important to choose extracts made from the above-ground parts of the plant: flowers, leaves and stems. Such information should be listed on the label. And beware of products that list Echinacea as a "blend" or "proprietary formula" without specifying the type or amount in the product.
Also, because it stimulates the immune system, those with autoimmune conditions should take Echinacea cautiously, if at all, and only under the supervision of a licensed medical professional.