Bare Health

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Ease the sneeze this Winter!



It’s official! The clocks have turned back, the dark evenings arrived, those last few golden leaves are about to shed and the temperatures outside have taken a dip. I’ve already been reaching into the wardrobe for my cosy layers and woolly jumpers! It certainly feels like winter is creeping in. It’s also that time of year where those sniffles, coughs, colds and viruses are starting to rear their ugly heads. So, what steps will you be taking this winter to support your immune system?

For many, it will be a visit to the chemist for a ‘quick fix’ or some sort of medication to alleviate our symptoms in order to continue with our busy day to day lives. But often with a cold, flu or any other virus these medications will only have the ability to mask or treat symptoms but cannot eliminate the virus itself. It’s up to our immune system to do that. Viruses, which are small infectious agents that replicate inside the body, only cause illness in the first place when the immune system fails to do its job.

Our immune systems when in good working order are constantly working to keeping threats at bay. What many will not realise is that our bodies frequently host viruses that don’t result in illness – this is because a healthy immune system will neutralise viruses before they can replicate to the point of causing symptoms. So the most beneficial way of avoiding illness from viruses or any other infectious agent is to maintain a strong immune system.

There are many remedies found in nature that can be taken to bolster the immune system and of course a wholesome, healthy diet that is rich in fruit, vegetables & whole grains whilst adopting other healthy lifestyle strategies, for example getting adequate sleep, taking regular exercise, avoiding smoking and having a moderate alcohol intake will all help protect your body from environmental attack. Adding the following immune boosting foods to your next shopping list will be a great step in the right direction: garlic, kiwi fruit, blackcurrants, sprouts, oats, shiitake and reishi mushrooms, berries, broccoli, kale, and ginger to name but a few. Keeping adequately hydrated is also important, so always make sure that you maintain an adequate water intake.

But what if our immune system fails and we fall prey to a cold or even the flu? Well, at these times there is a natural remedy that has a high rate of efficacy in tackling common viruses. It’s the fruit of a tree that can be found growing in our hedgerows in abundance during the autumn months.  Black Elderberries – are the fruit of the Elder tree, of which worldwide, there are many species, but it is the ‘black elder’ or sambucus nigra, a small tree native to Europe, North Africa and Western Asia that is commonly used in medicinal preparations. The Elder Tree has a rich and varied history of culinary, medicinal and folklore uses. For centuries it has been associated with warding off evil and protecting from witchcraft. Today though, it is commonly recognised for warding off the evil of colds and offering protection from the flu.



Traditionally, almost every part of the tree is used to prepare medicines, tonics and drinks, including the flowers, berries, bark and leaves. The berries are a rich source of vitamin C, anthocyanins and flavonoids which are all powerful antioxidants that protect the body from free radicals. Studies have linked anthocyanins to increased immune coordination and shown to boost the production of immune cytokines – key messengers in the immune system that help regulate the immune response. This allows the body to defend us against disease.  A study published in 2004 demonstrated Elderberry’s ability to improve flu like symptoms. The study examined 60 people with the flu. The group that received the elderberry extract for five days had their symptoms subside four days earlier than the placebo group. Elderberries also have a strong affinity for the respiratory system and encourage expectoration thus reducing acute and chronic mucus congestion. They are also very soothing, they will coat the membranes alleviating sore throats and irritating coughs.

How does elderberry extract prevent viruses from replicating? Viruses are coated with hemagglutinin spikes that allow them to penetrate the cell membrane, enter and take control of the cell. Elderberries contain ‘antivirin’ - a compound which helps to neutralise the activity of the spikes. When deactivated the viruses are no longer able to enter our cells and replicate.

So next time you find yourself starting with the ‘odd sniffle’ that develops into a cold or even the dreaded flu, it might just be worth popping into your local health store for some soothing ‘black elderberry elixir’ or make yourself a warming brew with ‘black elderberry and echinacea teabags’. You’ll be back on your feet again in no time!

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The information contained within this article is intended for information purposes only and should not replace the advice of your GP or Healthcare professional. Always seek advice if taking prescribed medication or undergoing any course of treatment.

For more information, call into Bare Health, Congleton. Your local, independent health store.


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