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Elderberry and the Common Cold

By Dr. Robert Brody

As the leaves fall off the trees and we enter the season of wearing long coats and warm boots, we must stop and prepare for cold and flu season. With the colder temperatures, our immune systems begin to use a lot of energy to try and keep our bodies warm. Many people think they have a great immune system because they never get sick and they think they don’t need to prepare themselves for becoming sick. However, if we look at chronically ill people such as those with cancer, diabetes, or chronic fatigue, we see that these populations do not usually suffer from colds, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are healthy. It may be a peculiar thing to say, but I want you to be healthy enough to get the common cold.

It’s a good thing

Nothing in this world will stop you from getting the cold, but when your body is distracted fighting off cancer, diabetes, irritable bowel disease, or any other chronic medical condition, it will not mount a proper immune response to the common cold. When the body can’t fight a cold, it still becomes infected but the symptoms are suppressed.  It can cause a longer, chronic low-grade infection causing fatigue, malaise, sluggishness, and an overall lack of vitality. Most of the symptoms of a cold have to do with removing waste or cleaning up the battle field, if you will. Removing waste and restoring vitality are key components to my treatment philosophy of giving the body what it needs. So the stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, sinus congestion, headaches, sneezing and watery eyes is a good thing. It is your body’s way of removing the dead cells and viral particles after the immune battle.

Elderberry and Colds

There is new research out of Australia that shows “elderberry reduces the duration and severity of the cold, but not the rate of cold occurrence” (1).  This has to do with its antioxidant compounds, namely its anthocyanins. Also, “evidence suggests that chemicals in the elderflower and berries may help reduce swelling in mucous membranes, such as the sinuses, and help relieve nasal congestion” (2). This research is just starting to catch up to what naturopathic physicians have been saying for years–elderberry supplements are good for the common cold. If you have a cold or the flu, there are some really simple things you can do to help your body fight off the infection, clean up from the infections, and increase some lost vitality from the infection.

What I do

My normal go-to when I feel the first symptoms of a cold or the flu is Elderberry  along with a Andrographis spp. supplement, which acts as an antibacterial/antiviral.  I then follow up with some Carob when I am no longer sick but my energy is still low. I have found that with this combination, I am able to heal faster and get back to work sooner. The above approach paired with following your Blood Type Diet, which reduces inflammation and limits dietary lectins that are not right for your type, will give your immune system a much needed boost in the cold winter months.

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