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Time for immune boosters

Flu season has already arrived

It seems way too early, but we’re hearing that there have been multiple cases of flu recently reported in Huntsville. Apparently, it’s past time to prepare our immune systems.

What should you do? Doctors, of course, recommend getting a flu shot. But depending on the vaccine composition and the flu strains that appear each year, a shot may not give you total protection. There are more things you can do to get your body in better shape to fight winter’s viruses.

Top of the list are always going to be lifestyle tips: get plenty of sleep, eat a balanced diet, minimize stress, wash your hands often. In addition, there are some key supplements well known for keeping bad bugs at bay:


Used medicinally since ancient times, elderberry is anti-viral, antioxidant, and immune boosting. Studies show elderberry is active against multiple pathogens, most notably influenza A & B, Streptococcus, Branhamella catarrhalis (respiratory infections), Herpes simplex and even HIV.

In clinical trials elderberry has shortened the duration and severity of cold and flu symptoms. Through its hemagglutinin protein, elderberry inhibits flu infection if taken preventively, and the same molecule inhibits virus reproduction if elderberry isn’t started until flu symptoms take hold.

It’s a pleasant-tasting fruit that can be taken as syrup, gummies, capsules or lozenges. Many take it preventively all winter long.


Another herb with a long history of medicinal use, Andrographis is antibacterial, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory. Known as the King of Bitters, this plant also improves digestion and liver function.

Studies show Andrographis can reduce the duration and severity of symptoms, reduce frequency of infection, and provide noticeable improvements in just three days. Dr. Aviva Romm (medical doctor, herbalist & midwife) mentions the herb as one of her top choices for choosing an antibiotic alternative. She says it is “effective for the prevention and treatment of colds, bronchitis, viral sore throat, and sinus infections.”

Ruth’s carries Andrographis capsules or Andrographis in formula with other immune-boosting herbs.

Medicinal Mushrooms

All mushrooms, even the grocery store variety, contain beta glucans, powerful fibers found in the cell walls that help fight inflammation and modulate the immune system. The most potent medicinal varieties include Reishi, Chaga, Maitake, Cordyceps, and Turkey Tail.

These medicinal mushrooms enhance activity of natural killer cells, which attack virus-infected and cancer cells. They also increase the production of macrophages, a type of immune white blood cell that engulfs and digests, microbes, cancer cells and anything else that does not appear healthy to the immune system. Animal studies show shiitakes protect against the flu.

Mushrooms tend to slowly build deep health, so it’s best to start on them early in the season. Either individual mushroom supplements or combination products, such as Host Defense MyCommunity, work well.