I still kind of like Chinese medicine for prevention of cold and flu. There are two tried and true formulas, one for prevention and one for nipping in the bud should symptoms arise. More recently the formula Gan Mao Ling became very popular among the alt med cognoscenti in NYC, but that is really more for shortening the duration of a cold or flu, and I don’t know that’s it’s used for prevention.
At the office, we all pop Jade Wind Screen (Yu Ping Feng San), an astragalus based formula, a couple times a day, either when we’re in midst of an epidemic or when we know we have someone in the office who is potentially contagious. There are many, many companies who offer this product, in both tablets, capsules, powders and tinctures, but we have always used the (somewhat large) tableted version of Health Concerns, based in Oakland, CA. Their formulation, called Astra C, includes a bit of vitamin C and zinc, zinc especially being important for both immunity generally and epithelial IgA in particular.
For kind of aborting an infection should fever, achiness, sore throat type symptoms appear, I have always seen fantastic results with Yin Qiao San. Notably, it includes the dynamic duo of Flos forsythia and Lonicera japonica, both of Jude Law “Contagion” renown and also a subject of great interest with researchers (mostly in China) as they look for effective treatments. Here I have developed a particular fondness for the powdered version. It tastes a bit nasty (bitter, earthy) for those not used to twigs, barks, roots and rhizomes, but I suspect that probably is part of its effect. Probably the best brand out there is KPC. (Kan Herbs offers nice tinctures.)
This is what we do for a normal season of respiratory contagion. Should things get dicey, we might have a few more things on hand and would likely reach for a medicinal mushroom tincture-- reishi mushroom in particular, to boost NK cell immunity, but I need to research this a bit more.
If you look for these products and have trouble finding them or questions, feel free to contact me. I have access to several online dispensaries and/or drop ship ability with specific companies, and I can pass along the lowest prices they permit me, typically 10-15% over wholesale.
Mike Barr is a long time Poz contributor, historian/scribe for Act Up/NY T+D Committee and Treatment Action Group, pharmaceutical ghost writer né alternative health aficionado. He is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist in NY and NJ, tending to folks in Union Square, Chelsea, Boerum Hill and Hoboken. Reach out to him at evacupuncturist at that Google mail service or at michaelbarracupuncture.com.