flu-350x122Every fall, millions of people, often at the urging of their employer or school, head to a clinic to get their annual flu shot. The shot is designed to provide protection against the year’s anticipated strains of the influenza virus. By the time winter is over, half of Americans will have received the influenza vaccine. The downside is that many of those will experience mild to severe side effects, and a 2013 study by the Centers for Disease Control found that older people who had been vaccinated sought medical treatment as often as those who had not.

    While flu is a potentially dangerous illness, particularly for small children, the elderly, and people with health challenges, colds are one of the most common winter complaints. In fact, there is an $8 billion market for over-the-counter medications designed to treat symptoms of the common cold. Yet a University of Florida study determined that the primary decongestant in these medications provides no more relief than a placebo.

    Meanwhile, the demand for natural remedies for colds and flu has been growing. Consumers of supplements have long depended upon vitamin C for winter relief. A 1999 study by Dr. H. Clay Gorton, D.C., published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics divided 800 students into two groups. The researchers then tracked each group for to assess the reports of cold and flu symptoms.

    Participants in the control group were given pain relievers and decongestants. Participants in the test group received doses of 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C each hour for the first six hours, and three times a day after that. Members of the test group with no symptoms took three 1,000 milligram doses of vitamin C three times daily as a prophylactic. After treatment with vitamin C, members of the test group reported a huge 85 percent reduction in cold and flu sypmtoms.

    What is the secret? Why is vitamin C so powerful in combatting colds and flu? Thomas Edward Levy, M.D., J.D., has written six books on the benefits of the nutrient. He says:

    One fact that all doctors and all lay persons agree on is that a strong immune system is key to recovering from an infection, neutralizing and eliminating a toxin, and bringing diseased cells back to a state of good health.

    Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, but it also directly stimulates some critical functions of the immune system. Immune cells contain active vitamin C transporter molecules which are embedded in their membranes. These molecules push vitamin C into the cells, particularly when the body is in stress.