Herbs and Nutritional Supplements for Supporting Cold & Flu

FLU Season is Here… many of you have unfortunately already experienced this or had a friend or family member sick with the flu. Influenza has limited drug treatment options, which means supportive care is the generally the best medicine unless the patient is very sick and needs hospitalization. You can find more information about the flu and when seeking medical attention is warranted here on the Centers for Disease Control website.

There are a host of herbal and natural products that may help support the immune system during acute illnesses like the cold and flu. Some of them even have documented anti-viral properties. A product want to highlight tonight is Viracid. This is a natural supplement by Ortho Molecular Products containing key herbs and nutrients that target T-cell activation, natural killer (NK) cell activity, thymus hormone secretions, and nutrient balance.1-23 You can find it on my FullScript Store and click on Cold & Flu.

FullScript also stocks other quality brands with similar ingredients such as Immune Support & Berry Well Immune Support (Vital Nutrients), Daily Immune (Pure Encapsulations), and Immune Support Packets (Designs for Health). These are also quality brands that I trust. You will just have to look at the ingredient list and decide what would work best for you and your family.

Check out the ingredients that make up Viracid in the tables below and if you have specific questions about you or your family feel free to set-up up a consult! There are some drug interactions with some ingredients so please reach out for a consult if you would like to discuss your personal situation. The biggest caution for anything that stimulates the immune system is for people taking immunosuppressant medications. Zinc also can impair absorption of other medications and nutrients if taken at the same time.

Next week I’m going to be taking about IgG Protect and Colostrum Concentrate and how it may support the immune system as well!

Andrographic Paniculata Leaf Extract1,2Can reduce the intensity and prevalence of symptoms in uncomplicated common cold (headache, nasal, throat, malaise, and temperature). 85mg/day for 5 days
Astragalus Membranaceus Root Extract3-6May help prevent upper respiratory tract infections by increasing immune helper cells. In lab studies it shows antibiotic activity. Powdered root capsules (250 –500 milligrams); Two capsules three times a day
Echinacea Purpurea Extract7-8Treatment at early onset of cold or flu symptoms was effective for relieving symptoms in a shorter period of time than placebo in a controlled studyEchinacea purpurea has been used safely at a dose of 1.8 grams daily for 8 weeks
European Elder9On average, this elderberry extract has reduced the duration of influenza-like symptoms (aches and pains, mucus discharge, nasal congestion, cough, quality of sleep) by about 56% 5.7mg four times a day for 5 days
L-Lysine10A study conducted in China of 88 families found the L-Lysine group to have increased immune cell counts and function. 1000-3000 mg daily
Pantothenic Acid (vitamin B5)11 Supports white blood cell levels, and immune system energy.Amounts up to 10 grams have been ingested without significant adverse effects.
Vitamin A12The incidence of acute lower respiratory infection was significantly lower in underweight, supplement-treated children than in underweight children on placebo Safe up to 10,000 IU/day
Vitamin B1213,14B12 supports immune cell function. Generally considered safe, even in large doses up to 1032 mcg
Vitamin C and Acerola Fruit Extract16-20In 5 case studies with adults given 1 g/day of vitamin C, decrease in cold duration was only 6%, whereas in two studies with children administered 2 g/day the median decrease was four times higher at 26%.For acute needs, do not exceed 2000 mg daily (children), 3,000 mg daily in adults for acute illness.
Zinc21-23• Improves our immune cells and their ability to ward off infection
• Kids who take zinc every day have significantly less colds, less days of schools missed, and less days of antibiotic use
Zinc gluconate lozenges significantly reduced the duration of symptoms of the common cold in a controlled trial.
Zinc acetate/gluconate lozenges provide 9-24 mg of elemental zinc per dose.

Special thanks to Danielle Baker, PharmD Intern for help compiling this information.


  1. Caceres DD, Hancke JL. Use of visual analogue scale measurements (VAS) to assess the effectiveness of standardized Andrographis paniculata extract SHA-10 in reducing the symptoms of common cold. A randomized double blind-placebo study. Phytomedicine. 1999 Oct;6(4):217-23.
  2. Gabrielian ES, Shukarian AK. A double blind, placebo-controlled study of Andrographis paniculata fixed combination Kan Jang in the treatment of acute upper respiratory tract infections including sinusitis. Phytomedicine. 2002 Oct;9(7):589-97.
  3. Kemper K, Small R. Astragalus (Astragalusmembranaceous). 1999.http://www.longwoodherbal.org/.
  4. Upton R, ed. Astragalus Root: Analytical, quality control, and therapeutic monograph. Santa Cruz, CA: American Herbal Pharmacopoeia. 1999:1-25.
  5. Shao BM, Xu W, Dai H, et al. A study on the immune receptors for polysaccharides from the roots of Astragalus membranaceus, a Chinese medicinal herb. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2004; 320:1103-11.
  6. Hou Y, Ma G, Wu S, Li H. Studies on the effects of Astragalus membranaceus on virus infection and interferon system. Chin Med J 1981; 94:35-40.
  7. Lindenmuth GF, Lindenmuth EB. The efficacy of Echinacea compound herbal tea preparation on the severity and duration of upper respiratory and flu symptoms: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study. J Altern Complement Me 2000; 6:327–34.
  8. Block KI, Mead MN. Immune system effects of echinacea, ginseng, and astragalus: a review. Integr Cancer Ther. 2003 Sep;2(3):247-67.
  9. Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res 2004; 32:132-40
  10. Zhao W, Zhai F, Zhang D, et al. Lysine-fortified wheat flour improves the nutritional and immunological status of wheat-eating families in northern China. Food Nutr Bull Jun 2004;25(2):123-129.
  11. Melampy RM, Cheng DW, Northrop LC. Effect of pantothenic acid deficiency upon adrenal cortex, thymus, spleen, and circulating lymphocytes in mice. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med1951; 76:24-27
  12. Chen, H., Zhuo, Q., Yuan, W., Wang, J., and Wu, T. Vitamin A for preventing acute lower respiratory tract infections in children up to seven years of age. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2008;(1):CD00609.
  13. Tamura J, Kubota K, Murakami H, et al. Immunomodulation by vitamin B12: augmentation of CD8+T lymphocytes and natural killer (NK) cell activity in vitamin B12-deficient patients by methyl-B12 treatment. Clinical and Experimental Immunology. 1999;116(1):28-32. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2249.1999.00870.
  14. Eussen SJ, de Groot LC, Clarke R, et al. Oral cyanocobalamin supplementation in older people with vitamin B12 deficiency: A dose-finding trial. Arch Intern Med 2005; 165:1167-72.
  15. Wintergerst ES, Maggini S, Hornig DH. Immuneenhancing role of vitamin C and zinc and effect on clinical conditions. Ann Nutr Metab 2006;50(2):85-94
  16. Hemila, H. and Chalker, E. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane.Database.Syst.Rev. 2013;1:CD000980
  17. Karlowski T. R., Chalmers T. C., Frenkel L. D., Kapikian A. Z., the prevention and treatment of the common cold. II. Rev Allergy 1968; 22: 948–956. 47. Bee D. M. The vitamin C cont
  18. Anderson T. W., Reid D. B. W., Beaton G. H. Vitamin C and the common cold [published erratum: 1973; 108: 133]. Can Med Assoc J 1972; 107: 503–508.
  19. Schwartz A. R., Togo Y., Hornick R. B., Tominaga S., Gleckman R. A. Evaluation of the efficacy of ascorbic acid in prophylaxis of induced rhinovirus 44 infection in man. J Infect Dis 1973; 128: 500–505.
  20. Mink K. A., Dick E. C., Jennings L. C., Inhorn S. L. Amelioration of rhinovirus colds by vitamin C supplementation. Med Virol. 1988; 7: 356.
  21. Dardenne M, Pleau J, Nabarra B, et al. Contribution of zinc and other metals to the biological activity of the serum thymic factor. Proc Natl Acad. Sci 1982;5370-3.
  22. Mossad SB, Macknin ML, Medendorp SV, Mason P. Zinc gluconate lozenges for treating the common cold. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Ann Intern Med .1996; 125:81-8.
  23. Allan GM, Arroll B. Prevention and treatment of the common cold: Making sense of the evidence. 2014:186(3):190-199.




Leave a Reply 2 comments

Kevin Sholder - December 10, 2019 Reply

Dr. Hartzler, for the entry on Vitamin C it states:

“In 5 case studies with adults given 1 g/day of vitamin C, decrease in cold duration was only 6%, whereas in two studies with children administered 2 g/day the median decrease was four times higher at 26%.”

Do any of the studies also compare adults being given 2 g/day?

Thank you for your website!!

    Melody Hartzler - December 11, 2019 Reply

    Hi Kevin! Most of the data with Vitamin C in adults that shows a decrease in duration of the cold is high doses given at the start of cold symptoms. There isn’t a lot of evidence for larger doses chronically just short term. This article outlines several studies. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6124957/ A couple studies gave up to 8 grams the first day of symptoms and only https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4601508 . I personally love Viracid by OrthoMolecular because it combines a lot of nutrients and typically if I catch the cold early I do Biocidin Throat Spray and only 50% of the time do I get other symptoms, if I do I take Viracid for a few days and it drastically decreases the time I am sick. Zinc lozenges are great too at the start of symptoms. Hope that helps!

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