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January 3, 2012

Food As Medicine

Beat It Before It Beats You

Haaaaaaaaaaaachew! This is the second most common thing I’m hearing people say these days. (The first is “Happy New Year”). It is a sign that there might be a little itty-bitty microscopic pest duking it out with your immune system.

The common cold, as we know it, manifests as a bunch of unpleasant symptoms resulting from a virus (usually rhinovirus), not a bacteria (more on this later). However, not everyone who is infected with the virus necessarily gets sick. This depends on how well your immune system is able to fight the virus.

There are a number of factors that predispose an individual to infection:

  • Travelling between time-zones
  • Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep
  • Low vitamin C intake (and other nutrient deficiencies)
  • Stress (mental, emotional, physical, spiritual)
  • Social outlook and mood

If a virus does “set up shop”, we can prevent the illness from getting worse, speed up  recovery, and prevent the need for more serious interventions. The most crucial factor in making this work is RAPID ACTION. As soon as you feel a little itch in the back of your throat, or begin sneezing more than normal, or develop an unusual headache, or feel any abnormal symptom, begin the following recommendations immediately. You will be happy you did.

Taking Aggressive Action to Defeat the Common Cold

Echinacea:  Echinacea purpurea has been shown time and time again to boost the immune response. It specifically has a strong effect on macrophage activity.(1) It takes a couple of days to begin having an effect (again, emphasizing the importance of beginning treatment early).

Vitamin C: Vitamin C has the ability to alleviate common cold and flu symptoms (2-3) and prevent the illness altogether.(4) Since it is a water-soluble vitamin, it is either used or excreted, every 4 hours. Thus, 500-1000mg should be taken every 4 hours or less.

Zinc: Zinc can actually prevent the virus from attaching to specific receptor sites in the sinus and throat.(5) This must be done within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms or it is ineffective (rapid action!). The best form of zinc to take in this situation is a lozenge. Suck on two 24-mg lozenges every 2 hours (while awake) for the first day.

Garlic: If I was stranded on a desert island and I could only have one medicinal plant, it would probably be garlic. It’s immune boosting, antimicrobial effects are impressive. In a recent study, individuals who were given garlic experienced cold symptoms for an average of 1.52 days while the placebo group suffered for 5.01 days.(6) Take 1- 2 chopped cloves per day (chopping greatly increases potency). The garlic can be taken with honey (also beneficial for colds) or water.

What Not To Do

  • Do not take antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. As long as you are in relatively good health, your body should be able to fight infection on its own. If you have a virus, antibiotics won’t do anything anyway (antibiotics kill bacteria). And finally, antibiotics kill your good bacteria which make up a large portion of your immune system.
  • Do not try to “push through it”. If you only do one thing, that one thing should be REST. Rest as if you are in the “rest olympics” and you are going for gold.
  • Do not wait until you feel like absolute garbage (or insert word of choice). Act immediately.

It’s best to stock up on these things now, before the symptoms arrive. Consider it your natural first aid kit.

– Josh

ps. Warning: Not clinically proven (yet) – Watching this video can help you beat the common cold.(reference pending)


  1. Stimpel M, Proksch A, Wagner H, et al. Macrophage activation and induction of macrophage cytotoxicity by purified polysaccharide fractions from the plant Echinacea purpurea. Infect Immun. 1984 Dec; 46(3):845-9.
  2. Hemila H. Vitamin C intake and susceptibility to the common cold. Br J Nutr . 1997 Jan;77(1):59-72.
  3. Gorton HC, Jarvis K. The effectiveness of vitamin C in preventing and relieving the symptoms of virus-induced respiratory infections. J Manipulative Physiol Ther . 1999 Oct;22(8):530-3.
  4. S Sasazuki et al. Effect of vitamin C on common cold: randomized controlled trial. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2006) 60, 9–17. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602261; published online 24 August 2005.
  5. Gwaltney JM Jr, Winther B, et al. Combined antiviral-antimediator treatment for the common cold. J Infect Dis . 2002 Jul 15;186(2):147-54.
  6. Josling P. Preventing the common cold with a garlic supplement: A double-blind, placebo-controlled survey. Adv Ther . 2001 Jul;18(4):189–93.