No Straggler Here
I was one of those people who used to get colds a lot. In fact, I know that taking vitamins and nutrients makes a difference. Ever since I began my regimen of vitamins, I've had a lot fewer colds, and when I do get one, I'm under the weather for a much shorter time. One of my secret weapons has been the Chinese herb astragalus. Everyone seems to know about echinacea, but astragalus, although lesser known, is in many ways an even more powerful immune system booster and general tonic. Astragalus is what herbalists call an "adaptogen." That means it helps the body maintain balance -- if your immune function is too high, it brings it down, for example in autoimmune disease, and if your immune function is too low and you keep getting colds, it brings it up. Numerous scientific studies have confirmed the medical value of astragalus: It increases energy, stimulates antibodies and increases resistance to viruses. (One Chinese study showed an 11% to 45% increase in natural killer cells -- key components of the immune system -- after taking astragalus, plus a significant increase in the production of the body's own antiviral arsenal, interferon.) And wait, there's more! This little herbal remedy also contains amino acids and 14 trace minerals. It's a great source of selenium, which has an antioxidant content 500 times greater than that of vitamin E. Medical herbalist Chanchal Cabrera in Ashland, Oregon, recommends it for chronic immune disorders, including allergies, HIV, autoimmune disease and cancer. Astragalus is also perfectly safe. It has no known side effects, and even children can use it -- just be aware that the dose is for a 150-pound adult, so proportion a child's dose accordingly (e.g., a 50-pound child gets one-third of the dose). In fact, just about the only "contraindication" is using it with the immune-suppressing drug cyclophosphamide, used to prevent transplant rejection and as a chemotherapy agent. The immune-enhancing effects of astragalus could theoretically work against the suppressing effects of that drug, so if you're on cyclophosphamide, says Cabrera, check with your doctor or herbalist. Astragalus is available in many forms -- root, powder, extract or tea (use 3 g to 6 g of the dried root in 12 oz of boiling water). The most common form -- and the one herbalists use most -- is the tincture. At the first sign of feeling under the weather, Cabrera suggests 3 ml to 5 ml three times a day, taken in hot water or tea. Try this and you may understand why the Chinese often keep it in their water container to get the tonic effects all day long.