Boosting the immune system’s defences for winter

No matter how fit someone feels or how good they look, it’s impossible to tell how healthy they are on the inside. An underperforming or below par immune system can leave anyone vulnerable to a host of illnesses and infections – or even raise the risk of developing potentially serious health problems.

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The hectic modern lifestyle – often with high levels of stress – can have a huge effect on physical wellbeing, cutting down on the body’s natural ability to respond to new threats. However, immunity can be gently but significantly boosted by a host of natural ingredients, working to support and encourage the body’s own natural defences against illness, helping ward off infections from viruses, bacteria and fungi.
The experts at Kwai and Potter’s Herbals have the answer: two products that use key vitamins and herbs to promote healthy immunity as well as maintain lower cholesterol levels and a healthy heart. Kwai Heart+Immune daily tablets feature dried garlic powder for cardiovascular health and vitamins A, C and E for the immune system. Potter’s Herbal’s Elixir of Echinacea Plus contains the key immunity promoting herbs Echinacea, wild indigo and fumitory. Together, the two products make the ideal immune boosting combination.
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Potter’s Herbals Elixir of Echinacea Plus: 
One of Potter’s Herbals oldest remedies, Elixir of Echinacea Plus gives all the benefits of this hugely popular herb in an easy-to-take, pleasant-tasting liquid. With a highly concentrated formulation, each 5ml dose contains the extract from 640mg of top quality Echinacea angustifolia root, enhanced by the addition of wild indigo and fumitory. It is traditionally used for symptomatic relief of nasal or throat catarrh and minor skin irritations.
Echinacea balances and stimulates the immune system and helps the body to fight against infection. Potter’s Herbals Elixir of Echinacea Plus contains a standardized extract and one of the highest concentrations on the market, which ensures you are receiving high levels of the active ingredients. A number of laboratory and animal studies suggest that Echinacea contains active substances that enhance the activity of the immune system  and so has the ability to raise the body’s resistance to bacterial and viral infections.  Antibacterial, antiviral and antioxidant effects have also been documented. 
Most experts say that when taken in adequate and frequent doses at the onset of symptoms, Echinacea can shorten the duration and severity of a cold. Based on new research, it may also make sense to start Echinacea if you’ve been exposed to someone with a cold.      Echinacea is also used for skin diseases and to aid wound healing and for upper respiratory-tract infections such as tonsillitis and pharyngitis, as a preventative as well as a treatment. Fumitory has anti-pain and anti-inflammatory properties  and contains sanguinarine, which is antiseptic. Wild indigo has antimicrobial, antiseptic and antipyretic – fever reducing – properties. Constituents include polysaccharides, which have been shown to enhance antibody production and also demonstrate other immunomodulatory activities, supporting its anti-infective use.   
Commenting on Potter’s Herbals Elixir of Echinacea Plus, Dr Serene Foster, Immunologist and Medical Herbalist, and advisor to the Henry Potter Advisory Committee says “It is encouraging to see effective  herbals available over the counter. The cold and Flu season costs the nation a lot in terms of lost days at school, work, and while on holiday. Now we can all benefit from good mixtures which address all aspects of colds. When Potters Herbal Elixir of Echinacea Plus is taken at the first sign of a cold, it will support and balance your immune system to reduce the symptoms and shorten the time you suffer a cold and make you feel better faster”
“No matter how well we look after ourselves, with a healthy diet and plenty of exercise, there’s always more we can do to help ward off infection from the bacteria, viruses or fungi we encounter on a daily basis. The body has a finely tuned and hugely powerful defence mechanism to fight off invading pathogens and maintain overall health, but it can still benefit greatly from extra support and nurturing.”
  RRP £10.16    Available in Boots nationwide.
Kwai Heart+Immune: 
Garlic has been cultivated and used in traditional medicine for thousands of years for a variety of conditions, such as bites, tumours, wounds and headaches. More recently, garlic has been studied for its potential to combat cardiovascular disease, particularly for its effects on blood cholesterol levels. Each Heart+Immune tablet contains 300mg of dried garlic powder and this has a guaranteed yield of 1.8mg of a substance called allicin, which is the active ingredient that is key to helping lower cholesterol and boosting cardiovascular health. It is impossible to get this needed level of allicin from eating garlic and so Kwai is the product to ensure you are getting this benefit from garlic’s natural active ingredient. It is also odourless and does not taste of garlic. 
New research published in the leading dietitian journal Complete Nutrition has confirmed the potential for the garlic in Kwai – releasing 1,800 mcg of allicin per tablet – to help reduce cholesterol levels linked with heart disease, along with other cardiovascular benefits. There is substantial evidence that links raised levels of a type of cholesterol called low-density lipoprotein (LDL) with the risk of developing atherosclerosis, and clinical trials have shown that lowering LDL-cholesterol can cut CHD risk. However, not all garlic preparations are effective for improving LDL cholesterol. Unless a garlic preparation has effective allicin releasing potential, LDL cholesterol levels may not be reduced. A standardised dried garlic preparation releasing 1.8 mg of allicin per dose, such as Kwai Heart+Immune, has been shown to help cut cholesterol while other forms of garlic – such as extracts or garlic oils – may have little beneficial activity.   
The allicin from garlic is also thought to combat infection by helping to stop bacteria replicating, so acting as a natural antibiotic as well as inhibiting both viruses and fungi. Garlic has a strong reputation for its ability to help healing and fight infection in wounds – during the First World War it was used as a natural antiseptic for the wounded – and it has also been used to prevent coughs, colds and flu or tackle an already present infection. In addition to the garlic, immunity is also boosted thanks to Heart+Immune’s key vitamin content. Each daily tablet contains 100% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of both vitamin A and C and 125% of the RDA of vitamin E.
Commenting on Kwai Heart+Immune, independent dietitian Dr Carrie Ruxton says: “It is now well accepted that vitamins A and C and garlic have a vital role in supporting a normal immune function, while vitamin E is a potent antioxidant, helping to protect cells from oxidative stress which leads to cell damage. Human research on garlic shows that it is antimicrobial and can reduce levels of harmful bacteria and viruses which cause disease. 
“Indeed garlic is used in traditional medicine across the globe to treat a variety of conditions. Eating garlic is not always practical and it’s unclear whether sufficient amounts of the active ingredients in garlic can be achieved using the fresh version. Therefore, a combined supplement, such as Kwai Heart and Immune, offers a simple, effective option for supporting normal immune function.”
30 tablets RRP £6.12; 100 tablets £16.33.    Available from Boots
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How to lose a cold in five days…

multivitaminsIt’s that time again. Here I am, slumped on the sofa, surrounded by tissues and reeking of Lemsip (or a competing supermarket own brand). It’s at dark times like this I wonder, what could I have done to prevent this sad state of affairs?

Apparently the average adult catches 2-3 colds per year, so there are plenty of products out there claiming to prevent or hurry the demise of the inconsiderate little virus.

There are also the traditional cures, including those your mum probably told you about – starving a fever and feeding a cold – whatever that means! Do any of them actually work?

Orange juice/Vitamin C

This is often promoted as a way to keep your immune system healthy but there is no evidence to suggest that it is any more beneficial than other fruit and veggies. Drinking the juice once you have a cold does make you feel better though – sugar rush! If you are taking a vitamin C supplement before and during your cold, you may shorten the duration of your cold.


The manufacturer of the supplement claims that it is the world’s best known herb for supporting the body’s defence system. However, a review of research in 2006 by the Cochrane Collaboration (a network of scientists who evaluate medical research) found that taking Echinacea was no more effective than a placebo at preventing colds. There is one species of Echinacea, Purpurea, which was found to have some effect in shortening the duration of colds, although the evidence was not entirely conclusive.

“The more recent, better-designed studies tend to find that Echinacea doesn’t work,” notes researcher–and Cochrane reviewer–Bruce Barrett of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. “Or it’s possible that Echinacea has only a very small positive effect that some studies will pick up on and others won’t, depending on how they’re designed.”

Multi-vitamin/probiotic supplements

One study (accepted to be the only reasonably conclusive one) followed 225 men and women who took a probiotic multivitamin over two successive cold seasons. The result was that the participants taking the supplement got as many colds as those taking the placebo. However, those taking the supplement found that their colds were shorter by up to two days. They also suffered less from coughing and other symptoms.

Chicken soup

Makes your stomach feel lovely and warm and cheers you up a little, which may hasten the end of your cold!

Vicks First Defence

Apparently it traps the little blighter virus particles at the back of your nose and can be used to stop a cold becoming full-blown (excuse the pun!) In a trial most users noticed that their colds were reduced by one day in comparison with people using other cold relief products.

So, if you use one or more of these products you may reduce your suffering by one or two days but as you probably already guessed, once the virus sets up camp in your nose, there is not much you can do but wait it out. Sorry.

Some lovely little facts about colds….

The virus causing the common cold can only affect you if it gets directly into your nose. So unless you have let someone sneeze directly into your face on the bus or train, you have probably infected yourself with your own hands. If you are concerned about catching a cold this way, carry an antibacterial gel with you and make sure you use it before touching your face.

The virus starts to get busy once it hits the back of your nose, with symptoms appearing within 12 hours. You will find the peak at 1 1/2 to 3 days, and symptoms are generally gone within a week.

Viruses can survive on cold hard surfaces for up to 24 hours so don’t assume you’re safe if you haven’t been near someone who has a cold.

What’s the best way to treat a cold?

1. Begin treatment at the earliest sign of a cold.

2. Take a sustained-release, first-generation antihistamine (the kind that can make you drowsy) like diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Newer, non-sedating antihistamines like Ioratadine (Claritin) don’t appear to be as effective.

3. At the same time, take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), like aspirin or ibruprofen.

4. Continue taking the antihistamine and NSAID every 12 hours until the cold symptoms clear (3 to 7 days).

5. If your stuffy nose or cough doesn’t seem to be getting better, add an oral decongestant like pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) and a cough suppressant like dextromethorphan, or DM (Robitussin Cough DM).

6. If you feel worse or no better after 7 to 10 days, see your doctor. You may have developed a bacterial infection.

Source: adapted from



Demand for herbal remedies grows in UK

London: Following a surge of consumer interest in herbal remedies, leading high street pharmacy Boots has sold out of their own-label peppermint oil in over 1,000 of their 1,400 stores nationwide and have had to put in emergency orders to keep up with consumer demand.

This is the second time Boots have witnessed record sales of herbal products this week, with traditional remedy Echinacea already flying off the shelf at a rate of nearly one pack per minute – that’s nearly 7,000 packs per week.

Although the evidence supporting many herbal remedies is currently under debate, with some scientists claiming that many herbs provide little or no benefit to users, consumers are continuing to purchase herbal remedies for their safe and natural action.

Scientists have dismissed Echinacea’s efficacy as an immune booster for those people suffering from respiratory ailments like coughs and colds. But herbal experts claim that the evidence is irrefutable and continue to defend use of the healing herb, citing the hundreds of studies that have demonstrated its efficacy and sales have risen as a result. Peppermint oil has also received media attention due to its use as an alternative remedy for helping relieve digestive discomfort, a common occurrence for many people during the winter season’s over-indulgence.

Herbalist and nutritional consultant Dr Ann Walker says: ‘There is a huge amount of evidence to suggest that herbal medicines are a natural and safe way to self-treat many health conditions, so it is no surprise that sales are rising as people cotton on to the fact that they don’t always have to choose the pharmaceutical route’.

Boots pharmacist Angela Chalmers says: “People are increasingly embracing a more natural lifestyle and using herbal remedies is part of that way of life. Always talk to your Boots pharmacist if you need advice on which herbal remedy to take.”