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SICK OF GETTING SICK?
Let Supplements Be Thy Guide
By Ellen Bodal
St. John's Wort
Convetional Wisdom: This herbal supplement was first used by Native Americans to treat everything from sore throats to snake bites, but today is most commonly used to prevent and alleviate symptoms of the common cold.
The Facts: Taken in tablet, liquid, or topical form, echinacea can serve as a pain reliever or a weapon against a bevy of viral and bacterial infections.
The Mystery: Despite some proven effects, the debate is still heated over whether echinacea has any effect whatsoever on the common cold. A well-publicized 2005 University of Virginia study showed no benefit from taking any form of the plant.
The Bottom Line: Echinacea is reported as the most popular herbal defense against the common cold. Further research is being conducted (some critics claimed the dosages in the University of Virginia study were too low), so for now, this herb’s efficacy lies in the wisdom of the masses.
Convetional Wisdom: Since the days when oranges were kept in bulk under ship decks to stave off sailors’ scurvy, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) has been known as a vital nutrient and a weapon against the common cold.
The Facts: The pirates were right: Vitamin C does prevent scurvy, and countless doctors and patients swear by the nutrient—in both pill and whole food form—to boost immunity, improve eyesight, heart health and just about any other malady you can name.
The Mystery: Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling’s controversial theory that megadoses of vitamin C can prevent colds has never been clinically proven.
The Bottom Line: Vitamin C plays a role in a strong, healthy immune system, so make sure to get fresh natural foods rich in vitamin C, like oranges, red bell peppers and rosehip tea.
Convetional Wisdom: Popping zinc at the first sign of a cold can reduce the duration of your coughs and sniffles.
The Facts: Zinc lozenges and tablets are effective at sidelining the common cold. And while nasal sprays have become popular, they are not as effective and, in some cases, have caused a loss of the sense of smell, or anosmia.
The Mystery: The ’80s enshrined zinc in sunblock form. These days, colored zinc oxide—or Zinka®—is cool again on the slopes. A bright yellow schnoz is a conversation starter on the lift, and Zinka® also does a killer job blocking the sun and the wind.
The Bottom Line: Zinc is a naturally occurring mineral that plays a key role in supporting a healthy immune system. A 2000 German study showed that, since the body has no specialized zinc storage system, a daily moderate intake is important. (Too much zinc can be toxic.) Oysters are very high in zinc while various meats, nuts and pumpkin seeds also deliver healthy doses.
Convetional Wisdom: Shorter winter days plus more time spent indoors means less exposure to sunlight, our main source of vitamin D.
The Facts: It’s vital stuff for healthy bones and a deficiency can lead to rickets, osteoporosis or bone loss.
The Mystery: The amount of vitamin D we synthesize from the sun depends on everything from geographic location to smog levels and even sunscreen use.
The Bottom Line: Mimic the sun’s effect by taking vitamin D tablets, vitamin D-rich cod liver oil capsules or eating vitamin D-fortified foods, like cereal and yogurt, or drinking milk.
Convetional Wisdom: The winter blues are a common affliction, and St. John’s Wort is the most widely suggested herbal treatment for seasonal depression.
The Facts: As with most herbal remedies, it is strongly recommended that you check with your doctor before using St. John’s Wort to lift your mood.
The Mystery: The name may come from Saint John the Baptist, as the plant tends to bloom near the feast of St. John in June. St. John’s Wort has been linked to magic since the Middle Ages, and some still believe it can ward off evil spirits.
The Bottom Line: Magical or not, a mug of St. John’s Wort tea or the herb in capsule form might help lift some winter moods. >>>