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Ward off Evil (Colds)

Three easy ways to boost your immune system.

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IF YOU WANT TO AVOID A COLD: GARLIC

 In a recent study, British researchers gave 146 volunteers either a placebo or a garlic supplement once a day from November to February. People in the garlic group not only had fewer colds than the placebo group (24 vs. 65), the colds they did get cleared up faster (1.52 days vs. 5.01 days). Make sure the supplement contains allicin, a purifi ed version of garlic’s most biologically active agent.

IF YOU’VE BEEN EXPOSED TO SOMEONE WITH A COLD: ECHINACEA

When researchers at the University of Connecticut examined 14 major studies published on this herbal supplement in recent years, they found that taking it lowered the average guy’s risk of developing a cold by 58% after exposure. And if the echinacea users did get a cold, the duration was 1.4 days shorter than average. To get the most benefi t, look for the word purpurea on the label (it means you’re getting the strongest, purest form of the plant).

IF YOU’VE GOT A SCRATCHY THROAT: ZINC

You’ve probably seen ads for Airborne. Don’t bother with it. There’s absolutely no evidence that it works, and taking the supplement as directed would give you 3,000 milligrams of Vitamin C (more than 2,000 mg can cause diarrhea and upset stomach). Instead, pony up for some zinc lozenges. There’s increasing evidence these elemental treats may help reduce the severity of cold symptoms, especially if you start taking them right away, says Ray Sahelian, M.D., author of several books on alternative medicine and the newsletter Supplement Research Update. His advice: At the first sign of a sore throat or a burning nose, dissolve one zinc lozenge in the back of your throat. Then, take one every one to two hours for the next eight hours, then every two to three hours while you’re awake (no more than 100 mg in a 24-hour period). You only need to take zinc for the fi rst day or two, though. After that, it becomes less effective. (And be careful not to take too much. If you experience nausea, vomiting, or a foul aftertaste in your mouth, stop taking the supplement immediately.)

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