It's that time of year in the Southern Hemisphere - all of you Northern Hemispherians, enjoy your lovely summer but keep this is mind when things get cold again.
Zinc - studies have shown that children taking 10-20mg of zinc a day had fewer colds than control groups http://31. Singh M, Das RR. Zinc for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2011;(2):CD001364. [PubMed]. They took fewer antibiotics and although these studies were on children, there's no reason as to why this wouldn't happen with adults too as zinc is crucial for development of immune cells http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/68/2/447S.full.pdf
Echinacea - oh boy do we have fun with this one. First of all a lesson in latin. Plants are called by their latin binomials which means Echinacea purpurea (E. purpurea), or Echinacea angustifolia (E.Angustifolia) (the genus is Echinacea and the species is purpurea or angustifolia). These two species come from opposite sides of the U.S.A and E. Angustifolia was one of the most important medicines of the Plains Indians. The fact that the Plain's Indians favoured E. angustifolia gave hints at it being the better species (Wood M. 'The Book of Herbal Wisdom pg. 243). And because we live in a society where everything is now studied (and confirms what we already know) ..... recent studies have shown E. angustifolia to be more effective in improving the immune system by increasing lymphocytes in viral infection http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15949903. Much respected herbalist, Matthew Wood, suggests not to use Echinacea for more than a few weeks and is more suited to mild states of fever and lymphatic congestion (lymph nodes may feel 'ropey').
Probiotics - Lactobacillus acidophilus is a successful strain of gram positive bacteria in the fight against colds. It is shown in vitro (in a dish) to increase destruction of bacteria and helps in the first line of defence, fighting inhaled pathogens at the mucosal surface. It is one of the best strains to use for immune health. Gram positive or 'good' bacteria such as L. acidophilus also displaces gram negative 'bad' bacteria helping to decrease inflammation.
Mushrooms such as Cordyceps sinensis (a very um.. interesting looking fungi) can increase immune activation to fight bugs by as much as 77% more than control after two months of treatment. Reishi and shiitake mushrooms also help to modulate the immune system by turning on immune cells and improving their function. Put reishi and shiitake in miso soup for an extra prebiotic effect. Mushrooms also contain selenium which is important for immune function as well.
Remember to keep up your fluids and wash your hands before eating/after public transport or being in heated rooms with lots of other people. Gentle exercise, such as light running for thirty minutes a day is also shown to improve immunity.
If you're in Melbourne, you can contact me for appointments at this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. I also sell a pretty amazing herbal mix for sore throats and colds.
Yours in health