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Dr. Leo Galland and son Jonathan Galland.

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Get an Edge on Beating the Swine Flu

By Jonathan Galland

CBN.comSo, swine flu is back and could be worse than the outbreak in the spring. The question is: How bad is the H1N1 influenza going to be?
Experts worry that H1N1 could repeat the infection pattern of the 1918 flu pandemic: mild in the spring, as this one was, but back with a vengeance in colder months. 

As flu season starts, news articles remind us to wash our hands frequently, sneeze into our elbows, stay home when sick, and just wait for the H1N1 influenza vaccine, which “might be ready” October 15th.  
Waiting and washing, that’s the mantra when it comes to worrying about H1N1 influenza.  There has been very little about what to do to build the body’s resistance to swine flu.
As often happens, I’m frustrated by the lack of information.

I know that there is research about building up immune system defenses that just isn’t on the mainstream medical radar and as a health writer I want to know more about the nutritional aspect of flu prevention and protection.

Below I’ve listed the published research I found on three supplements that might give me an edge in fighting the flu.  

American Ginseng
American ginseng (Panax cinquefolium) is an herb with immune stimulating effects. Research done at the Eastern Virginia Medical School found that taking an extract of American ginseng during the winter helped to reduce the incidence of acute respiratory illness (ARI).  Seniors participated in two randomized, placebo-controlled trials conducted during the influenza season. 90% of the participants had received influenza vaccine. They received 200 mg. of a proprietary ginseng extract twice a day or a placebo.  Of the 101 participants receiving the placebo, seven developed influenza.  In contrast, of the 97 participants taking the ginseng extract, only one developed influenza.

Published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society, the research notes that this represents “an overall 89% relative risk reduction of ARI in the CVT-E002 (American Ginseng) group.” The paper concludes by saying that ginseng extract “was shown to be safe, well tolerated, and potentially effective for preventing ARI due to influenza.”

An amino acid called NAC (N-acetlycysteine) was examined in an Italian study for its ability to help prevent symptoms of H1N1 flu. NAC is presently sold as a nutritional supplement, but has been used for over 40 years to loosen mucus in patients with chronic bronchitis.
Researchers from the University of Genoa and the University of Pavia conducted a randomized, double blind trial in 20 Health Centers across Italy during flu season. The study, published in the European Respiratory Journal in 1997, looked at an earlier strain of H1N1 influenza.  Two-hundred-sixty two (262) subjects of both sexes received either placebo or NAC tablets (600 mg.) twice daily for six months.  The study reported: “NAC treatment was well tolerated and resulted in a significant decrease in the frequency of influenza-like episodes, severity, and length of time confined to bed.”

While both the placebo and NAC groups got the flu at similar rates of infection, “only 25% of virus-infected subjects under NAC treatment developed a symptomatic form, versus 79% in the placebo group,” according to the study.

The authors add that “Prevention by NAC of influenza-like symptomatic episodes was particularly evident during the winter season.”

Elderberry Fruit Extract
Elderberry fruit is high in antioxidants and has been used in traditional European healing practices.  In research published in the journal Phytochemistry in July 2009, extracts of the Elderberry fruit were found to help prevent H1N1 infection.  Tests done in vitro found that flavonoids from the elderberry extract blocked the ability of H1N1 to infect host cells. The study concluded that “The H1N1 inhibition activities of the elderberry flavonoids compare favorably to the known anti-influenza activities of Oseltamivir and Amantadine,” (two drugs used to treat flu).
In another study, conducted during flu season in Norway, researchers gave 15 ml. of Elderberry syrup four times a day to people suffering from influenza-like symptoms. The results were published in The Journal of International Medical Research, finding that “Symptoms were relieved on average four days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo. Elderberry extract seems to offer an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment for influenza. These findings need to be confirmed in a larger study.”

Of course none of these supplements are guaranteed to prevent swine flu or any other illness. They are not drugs or vaccines.  And I am not a doctor.

But as someone very interested in health, I feel better taking a proactive approach.  I began taking NAC a few weeks ago, and have ordered American ginseng and elderberry extract.  For me, that beats waiting and worrying any day.

For more healthy lifestyle information visit Jonathan’s website at

Copyright © 2009 Renaissance Workshops Ltd. Used by permission.

Jonathan Galland is a health writer for newspapers, magazines, and major news Web sites. He is frequently interviewed as a weight loss and health expert on the radio and has appeared on Martha Stewart Living Radio. His work has been featured on the cover of Fitness, Glamour, and Women's World and in publications such as The Washington Post, Body and Soul, Self, and The Wall Street Journal. Jonathan is co-author of The Fat Resistance Diet, with his father Leo Galland, M.D. Their book has been translated and published in Italy as La Dieta Galland and in Japan as Dr. Galland’s Metabolic Diet.

This article is provided for general educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical advice or counseling, the practice of medicine or the provision of health care diagnosis or treatment, the creation of a physician-patient relationship, or an endorsement, recommendation, or sponsorship of any third party product or service by the sender or the sender's affiliates, agents, employees, or service providers. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your doctor promptly.

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