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We’re in the thick of it — right smack dab in the middle of cold and flu (and, well, other viruses) season. It happens every year. We’re not surprised. And, of course, by now, we know the drill:

Get plenty of rest. 

Drink lots of fluids. 

Load up on zinc, vitamin D3, and elderberry.

But why? Why do we load up on these vitamins and supplements?

Why are they so important, and what are their benefits?

For centuries, traditional medicine practitioners and herbalists the world over have used elderberries for their supposed range of health benefits which include boosting the immune system to help the body fight off colds, flu, and other respiratory infections. 

Science backs it up too!

There is some evidence to support the claim that elderberry can help treat colds and flu, though the available studies are small.

A systematic review concluded that elderberries might have antioxidant and antiviral effects, though the authors state that more research is needed. 

In one study, 60 people with flu-like symptoms took 15 milliliters (ml) of elderberry syrup four times a day. Their symptoms improved 4 days before the people who took a placebo. In a double-blind, randomized control trial, researchers examined if elderberry extract could prevent people from experiencing cold-like symptoms after traveling on an airplane. People took lozenges containing 300 mg of elderberry extract and 150 mg of rice flour twice a day for 10 days before traveling.

They found that the capsules did not prevent the symptoms, but people who took elderberry had less severe symptoms that lasted for a shorter time.

The same can be said of the benefits of zinc. Numerous studies have shown it to be beneficial for immune function, wound healing, and slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration eye disease.

Researchers have found that when zinc is taken within 24 hours after cold symptoms start, the supplement can help shorten the length of colds.

We can throw vitamin D3 in the mix too. Vitamin D is essential for bone and muscle strength and immune function. In addition, it may help prevent depression, inflammatory disease, and heart disorders. 

In short, it seems like having a ready and abundant surplus of these compounds in our body at just the right moment when you actually need them enables your body to recover much faster from. The catch is that taking these things once you get sick doesn’t help! You have to be dosed up before you start the sniffles! They aren’t magic pills that protect you from ever getting sick, but they will help you get back to full health a lot faster!