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Not long ago, it seemed that zinc and echinacea were the only cold-fighting supplements on drugstore shelves. Now, there are so many natural immune boosters available that choosing between them can be daunting. We asked the experts our editors trust most to nominate their all-time MVPs. The result: an arsenal of products and strategies to get you through the season of stuffy noses and scratchy throats.
By Rebecca Misner
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The Chinese-Medicine Practitioner
Licensed acupuncturist and board-certified herbalist Selma Rondon has practiced Chinese medicine for nearly 30 years.
According to Chinese medicine, the key to warding off illness is keeping the body's organs in balance. To do so, practitioners prescribe herbal formulas and perform acupuncture treatments on their patients. Short of visiting a professional, there are steps you can work into your routine. Rondon recommends protecting your head against cold or damp air, for example, because a chill can disrupt the natural circulation of chi, or vital energy, leaving the body vulnerable to illness.
When it comes to colds, Rondon says most of us have an "Achilles' heel" -- the illness goes right to our chests or sits in our sinuses. An herbalist can provide you with an individualized formula based on such weak spots and symptoms. If visiting an herbalist isn't an option, Rondon suggests a few off-the-shelf formulas, including Yin Chiao for sore throats, headaches, and chills; Bi Yan Pian to clear the nose; and Fritillaria Extract to break up a cough (all available at etamhoa.com).
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The Integrative Ear, Nose, and Throat Doctor
Board-certified otolaryngologist Benjamin Asher, M.D., utilizes both alternative and Western treatments.
Asher recommends a daily dose of Cold-FX during cold season. The supplement contains a proprietary extract of North American ginseng, a root thought to stimulate the immune system. In addition to warding off upper respiratory infections, Cold-FX can shorten their duration and lessen their severity, says Asher.
One of Asher's favorite cold fighters is Umcka, a derivative of the plant Pelargonium sidoides, which has antiviral, antibacterial, and immune-boosting properties. Try Schwabe Kaloba Syrup and Umcka ColdCare from Nature's Way.
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The Holistic-Health Counselor
Alexandra Jamieson, a natural-foods chef and health counselor, advises patients on how to eat for optimum wellness.
According to Jamieson, winter colds can be directly linked to increased sugar consumption, which, she says, depresses the immune system. In addition to limiting sweets, she advises eating immune-boosting mushrooms to your diet and taking a supplement such as Host Defense MyCommunity Extract, a blend of 17 mushrooms.
At the first sign of a sniffle, Jamieson cuts out sugar, white flour, and dairy. "White flour gums up the digestive system, which we need to be in tip-top shape to fight a cold, and both dairy and white flour increase mucus production and cause inflammation," she says. To speed recovery and relieve symptoms, she suggests sea vegetables, onion, and garlic for their antibacterial and antiviral properties; ginger for its anti-inflammatory and warming benefits; and miso soup to aid digestion.