A few issues ago, we exposed flu shots for what they are: a largely ineffective, money-making scam. [link] And although very few Americans die of influenza each “flu season,” it is statistically sound to cite an increase in respiratory ailments during the colder months of winter. The seasonal stress on the immune system can leave a body vulnerable. And there are significant steps one can take — aside from the hocus poke-us of a jab with a sharp needle — that can boost the immune system naturally.

Ask a friend for help.  A visit to your family chiropractor or acupuncturist for a tune-up can work wonders for the immune system. For my money, I go for just the chiropractic adjustment or basic acupuncture boost. Though many, if not most, chiropractors seem compelled to offer a whole host of adjunctive therapies, I maintain that chiropractic adjustment alone should be their forte and leave it at that. Another health practitioner that can help get the body in tune for the season is your friendly massage therapist. A couple visits or more can help fine-tune the immune.

Immune-boosting herbs. I first heard of Chinese Astragalus root from my friend Carin, back in my LA days. I mentioned I had been fighting a cold for a couple months. (This was back in the ‘90s, the last time I had one.) Carin said her husband, Tobe Hooper, director of Poltergeist and the classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre, had been down for months with a respiratory thing he couldn’t shake until he tried Astragalus. On her word, I tried it and I got better, quickly. Since then, it’s been a “go to” for any time I get a tickle in my throat or suspect a bug coming on. Another classic herb to boost the immune system is Echinacea. Of the two herbs, Echinacea is sometimes considered the tonic for prevention while Astragalus has a reputation of being more suitable for acute response. I use both, both ways. Recently, at the suggestion of Dr. Shawn Schmidt, I added Olive Leaf Extract to the herbal regimen. It’s highly touted as antimicrobial and antiviral. I use it if I really feel a threat emerging, like when you wake up and feel that crackly dryness on the soft palate. For all three of these boosters, I use the tincture and the brand I trust is Energique. (Not available at Whole Foods. Try No Name Nutrition or Dr. Schmidt.) Directions are on the bottle.

Salt. The body is homeostatically saline. A salt solution can work wonders. I find gargling with warm salt water is an excellent way to combat winter respiratory problems. I use a high quality non-iodized salt like Kosher or sea salt and dilute thoroughly in pure water so it’s about as naturally salty as tears; first thing in the morning and then during the day if indicated. Neti pots are also an excellent way to use saline solution. I use only the traditional method of neti and fastidiously avoid the packaged “nasal irrigation” kits sold in drugstores, which are all wrong. Neti gently clears out and cleanses the nasal passages and sinuses. Remember, the nose, throat, sinuses and lungs are the first line of defense when it comes to bacterial and viral exposure. Using a neti pot and gargling keep those front lines in tiptop condition.

Supplements and vitamins. Vitamin C is the granddaddy of them all when it comes to supplements to boost the immune system. There is no doubt it’s a powerful molecule with far-reaching impact on physical wellbeing. Though few modern people are familiar with scurvy, the disease borne of malnutrition was common during early seafaring days. Sailors would fall desperately ill after a few weeks at sea. Since Britannia ruled the seas early on, most documentation about scurvy was British. With symptoms including bleeding gums, eyes, skin falling off, scurvy was an ugly way to die. It wasn’t until 1750 that Royal Navy surgeon James Lind found that sailors could avoid scurvy by eating citrus fruits. Casks of limes were laded on each English vessel set to sea. Thus the nickname “Limey” came to be. Of course, now we know it’s not specifically limes that cured scurvy but the Vitamin C they contained.

In 1970, Linus Pauling (the only scientist ever to win two, unshared Nobel Prizes) published his classic Vitamin C and the Common Cold. His acclaimed bestseller virtually created the supplement and vitamin industry overnight. Since then, several conflicting studies have emerged, debating whether Vitamin C actually can specifically stop a cold. But there is little debate about its ability to boost the immune system overall. It is virtually side-effect free, so why not use it? Vitamins A, D and E are also good immunity-boosters, many easily available in seasonal foods. A baked sweet potato has 769 percent (not a typo!) of the daily value of Vitamin A.

Jade Screen This is a composite herbal supplement popular in Traditional Chinese Medicine. I’ve gotten Jade Screen from my herbalist, Nicholas Schnell. It’s used to protect the body from microbial attack, just like an impregnable jade screen would do. The primary ingredient is a variety of astragalus and is blended with siler root and bai zhu . There are few supplements that garner more rave reviews than Jade Screen.

We also asked visitors to our Facebook page what they use to avoid the flu (and flu shots). Visit HeartlandHealing.com/immune to read about other unique and holistic remedies and comments.

Be well.

Heartland Healing is a metaphysically based polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. Important to remember and pass on to others: for a weekly dose of Heartland Healing, visit HeartlandHealing.com.

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