I’ve been a big advocate of elderberry extract and herbal throat lozenges to treat colds and flu for decades now. But, if you're caught without them or need additional support, there's a little known herb from Asia that you should also be familiar with.
When I was in Thailand several years ago, the locals were using a very bitter-tasting native plant that grew along the roadsides to treat cold and flu symptoms. Around the Bangkok area it was called Fa thalaai. I later discovered that its botanical name was Andrographis paniculata. It seemed to work quite well, and, as a result, I continued to keep track of research efforts regarding the plant.
The Chinese have also used Andrographis paniculata for centuries. They use it as a supporting ingredient in medicines used for treating problems of the lungs and throat. In Thailand, cigarette manufacturers add the herb to their products for its soothing effect on the throat.
I found that the herb is also well known and widely used in India. In the 1919 Indian flu epidemic, the herb was one of the primary forms of treatment that finally brought the epidemic under control. In that country, the herb is called the King of Bitters. This name may have caught the eye of researchers in Sweden, where much of the current research is now being conducted.
"Swedish Bitters" have been a popular tonic in parts of Europe for over 400 years. In just the last year or so, this relatively "new" herb has quickly become one of their hottest-selling cold remedies. Its popularity has undoubtedly been fueled by modern research.
During the past few years, researchers have shown that Andrographis is effective, not only in treating the symptoms of colds and flu, but also in providing a non-toxic method of preventing these problems in the first place.
Based on various studies, the dosage of Andrographis has varied anywhere from 400 milligrams three times a day to between 1,000 and 2,000 milligrams three times a day. With a standardized product (containing 5 percent of the active ingredient andrographolide), a dosage of 400 milligrams given three times a day should be good for treating existing cold symptoms, and a dosage of 100 milligrams taken two times a day should be enough to help prevent colds.
Currently, there aren't too many Andrographis products available in this country, and the ones that are available usually contain a combination of ingredients (which decreases the amount of Andrographis you get).
When the word finally gets out that this Asian herb is more effective than echinacea, I'm sure that this will change. In the meantime, if you have access to a Chinese pharmacy, they should be able to sell you the herb in either bulk or capsules. I also recommend Maria Treben's Original Swedish Bitters or Metagenics Andrographis Plus.