We are often asked in-store – and especially in the lead up to winter – what are the best products to help boost immune function and help you bounce back after being sick and, with so many options to choose from, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to determine what will be most effective for you and your family.
We strongly believe in taking control of our own health and proactively looking for ways to optimise our health and wellbeing. And, building up our personal defences against common colds, flu or COVID-19 is particularly important this year. We are always on hand – whether that be in-store or in a one-on-one phone consult – to talk you through the options and choose the products best suited to your needs.
But, what do I choose for my medicine cabinet at home? Here are some of my top products to keep my family healthy over the winter months;
Oriental Botanical Astragalus 8
I like to offer this product from the Oriental Botanicals range as a preventative. I understand that it works by preparing the immune system for an acute infection on the body, so is appropriate to use when you’re feeling well.
You could then switch over to your Ethical Nutrients Immune Defence or Bioceuticals Armaforce when you do come down with a cold or start to notice early signs of one.
Astragalus is a great herb to take because when you are feeling okay, it won’t overstimulate your immune system, instead, it works to get it ready for “defence” so to speak when you need your body to gear up to fight active infection.
I have had great feedback from colleagues and customers alike, telling me how much they love the Oriental Botanicals range. The herbs in this range are influenced by herbs used in Traditional Chinese Medicine compared to the herbs used in traditional western medicine in the other three ranges we stock – Ethical Nutrients, Herbs of Gold and Bioceuticals.
What pharmacists like about this range is that they have said to me they think the range really works and it’s good value at a lower price point if the other brands are a little over your budget.
These are like the modern-day multivitamin. Most people have a bottle in their fridge, men and women alike.
Researchers are hard at work with studies to prove just how important your gastrointestinal tract and its inhabitants are to a person’s health. There are increasing links between the population and range of good/beneficial bacteria (probiotic) in a person’s gut (which is not your stomach, it’s your whole tract including and mostly your bowel). So, these probiotics are thought to be beneficial to a whole range of systems, including your immune system.
I take a probiotic daily and it helps my digestive tract and the way my body processes nutrients. It’s a great supplement to use for overall health and a good support product for your immune system.
I usually use the Bioceuticals Ultra Potent C Powder as I like that one teaspoon provides 2.5g of Vitamin C and I can take it twice a day to give me a decent overall total dose of 5g.
Naturopaths will often recommend up to 6g a day in divided doses (taken in 1000mg doses) for when you are unwell. This does essentially mean taking a number of tablets, in separate doses throughout the day to make up the full 6g, which can be inconvenient for many. The Bioceuticals Ultra Potent C Powder allows you to get a similar overall dosage per day, with a teaspoon dose morning and night.
I generally prefer powders (I have been taking this type of product for over 10 years!) because they can all go together in my glass of water in the morning. The powder formulations are also good as they usually have fewer fillers and binders that are needed to hold a tablet together. I take the powder when I start to feel unwell, however, it can also be taken as preventative, at a smaller maintenance dose, day-to-day.
If a tablet is preferred, the Ethical Nutrients Extra C or Extra C Zingles (great for teenagers!) are very good quality products, and at a good price point.
Ethical Nutrients Immune Defence
This product has been a staple in my cupboard for a very long time. The formulation includes Vitamin C, Echinacea and Olive Leaf Extract and Andrographis which are both, deep immune system stimulants.
It is very, very similar to Bioceuticals Armaforce and both are great products.
I use Ethical Nutrients Immune Defence because there is a maintenance dose (which can be taken daily) as well as an increased dose for when you’re starting to or are already feeling unwell. Armaforce is not recommended to be used daily as maintenance so Ethical Nutrients Immune Defence is a great option for day-to-day support.
I’ve recommended these types of immune boosters to many patients and am finding most people have something like this in their cupboard at home for cold and flu season.
Immune booster and probiotic products are, more and more, becoming the new ‘multivitamin’ in people’s homes and are used as part of their self-select natural health kit.
When taking herbal products, in particular, keep in mind, they can:
- Taste a little bitter
- Make you feel queasy if you’re prone or if you’re taking a high dose. This is normal with herbs. If you eat five minutes before you take the tablets, it will reduce the chances of you feeling nauseous.
Bioglan Throat Clear Lozenges
I have loved using this product and it has been a part of my immune-boosting kit for years!
These are formulated with:
- Vitamin C – an important ingredient for your body to make infection-fighting white blood cells
- Zinc – Helps make your mucous membranes more impervious to penetration of bacteria and viruses
- Echinacea – good for people to take in early stages of symptoms as an immune system stimulant
- Peppermint oil
What I like about these lozenges is that you get the immune-boosting ingredients in lozenge form. You can keep them on you and take them throughout the day. I also like that you get these ingredients absorbing through the membranes of your mouth, which is an effective way for the body to absorb things.
The ingredients don’t have huge quantities in them but you can have a few during the day and;
- You’re getting in early by taking them frequently when symptoms first appear
- It’s a nice combination of ingredients
- Having ingredients like these in combination can have an additive effect as a whole.
I’ve always taken these with me on planes and when I travel with the family. They taste good. I have a few boxes and take a sleeve out at a time and put in my pocket and pop one out for each member of the family while we are in the car or waiting at the airport. Everyone knows that that is what Mum does at the airport and they’re all compliant patients!
I recently forgot to grab some before a big family trip and when I looked into my first aid/ vitamin cupboard to see if there were any spare sleeves, I found that I have the equivalent of about 4 boxes in loose sleeves in the drawers! It dawned on me just how much of this product I use!
Sambucol Elderberry Syrup
A favourite of many of my colleagues, black elderberry is a herb used in the Sambucol range. I’ve recently started using it at home and completely understand why many of my pharmacist friends and colleagues love it.
It tastes great, a bit like Ribena, which is unlike most herbs which are quite bitter. The Black Elderberry works to break up congestion and phalanges and is great for little kids with blocked noses – I recommend this product a lot for younger kids whose Mums are worried their kids are having trouble breathing at night due to constant congestion. Within approximately 2-3 days of taking Sambucol, the phlegm is often cleared up. It can also help to support the immune system by reducing the way foreign microorganisms adhere to the walls of our mucous membranes (inside our nose and mouth). I’ve used it on my family and myself and was very impressed with how quickly it worked.
I recently discovered the rest of the range and it’s delicious tasting and the lozenges with Manuka honey are extremely good!