Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and we’re thankful for family, for friends, for health, and for opportunity. One of the ways that we’re showing our appreciation for our health is by taking steps to prevent illness!

There are five things we should do everyday to maintain a healthy baseline. Sometimes we forget that the best way to combat the flu season is simply with good habits.

Get lots of sleep: Anything under 7 hours can impact our mood, energy, and immune system.
Wash your hands regularly: This is the easiest way to avoid spreading germs!
Manage stress levels: Chronic stress may raise the risk of sickness by fostering resistance to cortisol.
Drink plenty of water: Staying adequately hydrated can help your body eliminate toxins and waste materials, making your immune system able to better fight infection.
Eat a consistently healthy diet: Immune system maintenance requires a steady intake of the necessary vitamins and minerals.

In addition to these lifestyle adjustments, we can boost our immune system with some extraordinary herbs. Our favorites are Black Elderberry and Echinacea!


Echinacea

Echinacea, also known as coneflower, is a medicinal plant that has been used for centuries to help keep the immune system active and healthy. Echinacea contains a compound known as echinacein which protects healthy cells from viruses and bacteria that try to invade them. Echinacea is used as an herbal medicine against the common cold and bronchitis. Studies have shown that preparations of this plant boost the phagocytic immune system.


Black Elderberry

Studied by the National Institute of Health during the H1N1 flu, black elderberry was found to have strong antiviral activity. Taking black elderberry not only reduced the severity of influenza, but also the duration.

Black elderberry, also known as elder, has been used for centuries to treat wounds. For wounds, it would be applied directly to the injury. It is also taken by mouth to treat respiratory illnesses such as cold and flu. The evidence suggests that chemicals in elderberries may help reduce swelling in mucous membranes, such as the sinuses, and help relieve nasal congestion. Elder may also have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anticancer properties.

A number of compounds are found in elderberries, the most important being anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are powerful flavonoid antioxidants and have immune stimulating properties and help prevent damage to the body’s cells. Among all fruits, elderberries are the most concentrated source of anthocyanins. Black elderberry boosts the immune system, thus helping to ward off illness.

A landmark study demonstrated black elderberry’s efficacy against not only influenza viruses, but also gram positive and gram negative bacteria. These pathogens are known to complicate influenza causing a secondary bacterial pneumonia. In this study, black elderberry was found effective in helping fight both bacterial and viral causes of infection. These activities suggest that additional and alternative approaches to combat infections might be provided by this black elderberry.


Medicinal Uses and Indications

Colds and Flu

Elderberry may help treat cold and flu symptoms by reducing congestion and possibly making you sweat more. One study suggested that using a standardized elderberry extract could shorten the duration of flu by about 3 days.

Another preliminary study found that a lozenge with elderberry extract helped reduce flu symptoms when taken within 24 hours of symptoms starting. In the lab, one study suggested that elderberry could kill the H1N1 virus (“swine flu”) in test tubes, but researchers don’t know whether it would be effective against H1N1 in people.

Bacterial Sinusitis (Sinus Infection)

One study examined the use of a proprietary product, Sinupret, to treat bacterial sinusitis along with an antibiotic (doxycycline or Vibramycin) and a decongestant. People who took the combination did better compared to those who did not take Sinupret. However, Sinupret contains other herbs along with elderberry, so no one knows whether taking elderberry alone would work as well. Sinupret contains extracts of five herbs: elder (Sambucus nigra, Caprifoliaceae) flowers, primrose (Primula veris, Primulaceae) flowers with calyx, common sorrel (Rumex acetosa, Polygonaceae) herb, European vervain (Verbena officinalis, Verbenaceae) herb, and gentian (Gentiana lutea, Gentianaceae) root. Sinupret has been sold in the German and European market for more than 70 years.

USANA’s Booster C contains these important herbs plus Vitamin C and Zinc in a soothing Lemon-Berry flavor, making it an essential member of your flu-fighting team this winter!

If you’re looking for additional ways to prepare your immune system for the flu season, our Health and Education Retreat is an opportunity to detoxify and receive in-depth education about nutrition.

How are you staying healthy during the holidays? Let us know your secrets in the comments!