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Elderberry Both traditional use and scientific evidence support this berry’s ability to prevent viral infections. Viruses hijack your cells and reprogram them to make more viruses, which allows the infection to spread more virulently. Elderberry works at least in part by binding to cell-receptor sites to block viruses, and other research suggests a similar benefit against bacteria. In a recent study of Australians on long, overseas flights, taking elderberry extract significantly reduced the duration and severity of colds compared to those taking a placebo, cutting both by more than half.

Echinacea This herb has a long history of use for infection, particularly bacterial infections and sepsis. It has many actions including mobilizing white blood cells to fight infection. In spite of being the subject of hundreds of clinical studies, the results on echinacea have been mixed, likely due to the range of species and extracts available, part of the plant used, dosage, and methodology. One review of a number of studies concluded that people were 55 percent more likely to experience a cold taking a placebo versus echinacea. Herbalists use relatively high doses of the fresh plant tincture—ideally the root—taken every waking hour or two from the first tickle of an infection until it passes. Echinacea extract numbs the tongue, doesn’t taste great, may cause a flareup of autoimmune disease, and occasionally causes allergies in people who react to other daisy family plants. Maria Noël Groves, RH (AHG), is a registered clinical herbalist and freelance health journalist nestled in the pine forests of New Hampshire. She is the author of the book Body into Balance. Learn about herbs, distance consults, online classes, and more at

“Consuming Lentinula edodes (Shiitake) Mushrooms Daily Improves Human Immunity: A Randomized Dietary Intervention in Healthy Young Adults” by X. Dai et al., J Am Coll Nutr, 4/11/15 ● “Echinacea for Preventing and Treating the Common Cold” by M. Karsch-Völk et al., Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2/14 ● “Echinacea in the Prevention of Induced Rhinovirus Colds: A Meta-analysis” by R. Schoop et al., Clin Ther, 2/06 ● “Inhibitory Activity of a Standardized Elderberry Liquid Extract Against Clinically-Relevant Human Respiratory Bacterial Pathogens and Influenza A and B Viruses” by C. Krawitz et al., BMC Complement Altern Med, 2011 ● “Show Me the Science—Why Wash Your Hands?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,, 11/18/15 ● “Sleep Habits and Susceptibility to the Common Cold” by S. Cohen et al., Arch Intern Med, 1/12/09


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