Q. Dear Terry, “I’m looking for natural ways to keep my 6-year-old son’s immune system healthy, especially with everything going on. He’s around other kids a few days of the week. What herbs or vitamins would be good to give him?” – Alma P., New York, NY
A. Dear Alma, One of my favorite ingredients for supporting the immune system in children and adults is elderberry (Sambucus nigra). It is one of the best, most clinically studied herbs for fighting colds and the flu. Elderberry can disrupt viruses and restores the body’s ability to fight them off without the side effects or drug resistance that you see from antibiotics or other prescription medications. Elderberry has been found to be effective against numerous pathogens, including Streptococcus pyogenes and Escherichia coli. Elderberry extract has been shown to be especially effective when combined with other nutrients, like vitamins and minerals.
In addition to elderberry, vitamins A, C, D, and E are key for good immune function. Vitamin A (as retinyl acetate) is antiviral and can help stop colds or flu. Vitamin C is probably one of the best known ingredients for immune support. Taken as a preventative nutrient, it may reduce the incidence of colds by as much as 50 percent! Increased vitamin D levels may correspond with a reduced risk of infection. Vitamin E, as d-alpha and mixed tocopherols, provides the whole family of vitamin E as you would find in food.
Minerals are also central players in immune health and are often in short supply in our diets. One study demonstrated that zinc reduced cold symptom duration by 42 percent when taken on the first day of symptoms. Selenium is another mineral our immune system needs when in distress and is an excellent partner to zinc.
I would take elderberry, vitamins, and minerals on a daily basis at levels that are appropriate for kids. Because children may have difficulty swallowing capsules or softgels, these ingredients can also be found in a chewable form as well.
Terry . . . Naturally
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