It seems 90 percent of what we hear about health care is bunk. Health food stores and the vitamin industry have thrived on the public’s gullible ways for years.
The industry is such a cash machine that even normal mainstream national pharmacies devote more shelve space to vitamins than to notions and potions (beauty products – not witchcraft).
What is a person to believe? Here I am, a sitting duck, one week before the single most important day of the year. The one day I absolutely, positively can’t be sick.
Everything revolves around Christmas. It’s that one day we have a perfect house, perfect charming children, and we are feeling perfectly fine. Good luck with that!
There are plenty of people willing to make a buck off your Christmas spirit and sell you all kinds of terrific sounding stuff to protect you. Echinacea tops my list of questionable natural products sold to keep you healthy for Christmas.
The Echinacea plant is in the daisy family. It’s hard not to like daisies, but perhaps not to eat. Echinacea preparations are made from the flowers, the leaves and even the roots of the plant. All are chemically distinct, and what they have in common is only the ability to be sold as Echinacea.
This plant is processed in every conceivable method, which results in pills having one-tenth to 100 times the dose on the label (a thousand-fold difference in concentration). Echinacea’s claim to fame is it’s a natural antibiotic.
No real measurable benefit has ever been shown to the scientific community. Even if the claim were true, it would be a terrible idea. Think lion hunting with a BB gun! Either nothing will happen or the situation will noticeably deteriorate (with the accent on ate).
The vast majority of germs in an infection are weak and easily killed. Kill the weak ones (with a weak antibiotic), and you leave a small number of strong resistant germs to grow back – that’s bad.
Vitamin C has also been touted as a magic elixir that will make you virus proof. It will at least make you Scurvy proof. For everything else – antioxidant and free radical scavengers activity aside – Vitamin C has not shown any real benefit in preventing winter bugs or helping you beat a cold any faster.
What discussion of natural antibiotics would be complete without a nod to Garlic, which is one of my favorite spices and seems pretty effective at keeping vampires away. Beyond that there are all manner of claims of anti-oxidant activity and immune system support.
These are more magic words than established scientific fact. Many test-tube experiments do not translate well to complex human physiognomy. Garlic, Echinacea, and Vitamin C all looked good in the test tube.
Is there any hope for staying healthy this Christmas? Let’s start with the most obvious; the humble flu shot. You start making antibodies as soon as you get the shot, and achieve full immunity at nine days on average. If you are better than average – and who isn’t – you might do it faster. It’s definitely worth a shot.
Consider your hands slimed. If you looked at them closely enough you would see millions of germs. Many are just hitching a ride and go away with the next hand washing. They are betting their tiny germ lives that you will touch your face. We call that auto inoculation – you may call it Christmas crud.
It doesn’t matter where you put those hands as long as you always wash them before rubbing your nose or sweeping the hair out of your eyes.
And try to not be a stressed out mess, over-caffeinated and under slept. That’s a great formula for weakening one’s immune system. But you knew that. Hand washing might be a more realistic goal.
And that’s the real deal for trying to remain healthy this Christmas.
Have a wonderful Christmas, and stay healthy.
Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.
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