As the temperature plummets Matt Chittock investigates the arsenal of winter remedies coming ‘atchoo’ over the winter months.
As the rain and cold closes in on the UK, many of us will be wistfully eyeing those ads for Italian yoga retreats and wondering how we can feasibly stay out of the country until spring.
And while commiserations are due to those hard-working retailers who are stuck in England over the winter, they can at least take some cold comfort from the fact that the flu season means a big boost in sales.
After all, as Dr David Mantle, medical adviser at Pharma Nord, explains, sniffles and sneezes are pretty much part and parcel of life in colder climes as the mercury falls.
“The risk of acquiring infections causing coughs, colds and flu is greatest during the winter months,” he says.
This is down to a number of different factors. For one thing, Mantle points out that during cold weather people tend to congregate indoors, increasing the risk of passing on infections and creating the annual advent of the dreaded ‘office/shop-floor flu’.
The vitamin D factor
Interestingly though, it’s not the freezing weather itself that causes all these colds, although the rain and snow may be battering our immune systems. “Although it is generally considered a myth that cold weather causes colds, there is some evidence that exposure to cold weather weakens the immune system,” Mantle says.
This in turn may be linked to a deficiency of vitamin D, which has an important role to play in immune function.
“Vitamin D is synthesized in the skin when exposed to strong sunlight, and many people – particularly in more northerly latitudes) – are deficient during the winter months. In addition, the air becomes less humid in
winter, which reduces the ability of the respiratory tract’s mucous lining to trap and defend against infectious micro-organisms.”
This means that vitamin D definitely deserves pride of place on the winter remedy shelves. But it’s also important not to miss out on the many other tried and tested natural approaches that can help customers.
These tend to fit into two distinct categories: products that can reduce the chances of catching the lurgy in the first place (such as the aforementioned vitamin D), and those that reduce length and severity if and when it finally strikes.
When it comes to prevention it goes without saying that a balanced year-round diet that’s rich in antioxidants is best.
Research shows that this is where curries can come into their own – since key ingredients like chillies, garlic and turmeric all help keep the immune system strong.
Nutritionist Arancha Aria recommends feel-good sunshine foods like papaya, oranges and pineapples, which are all rich in vitamin C, the classic cold and flu-fighting vitamin.
“However, the quality of our food is not as good as it should be,” she explains. “Nutrient availability is compromised by use of chemicals, pesticides or poor soil content. So during the winter season it’s good to have a vitamin C supplement in the cupboard for extra help. Vitamin C Powder from Biocare is a highly absorbable form with low acidity, acting gently on the stomach.
“Furthermore, as a preventative, elderberry extract has been proven to be one of the most effective remedies for winter. It’s naturally
rich in anthocyanins – a potential antioxidant responsible for tissue integrity – which helps fight against free radicals and avoid oxidative damage.”
Away from fruit, vegetable and botanical-based antioxidants there’s one immune booster which even canny customers might have overlooked.
“One of the best ways to build-up our innate, natural immune defence is to seek out a substance we struggle to get from our modern diet – yeast,” says Mantle.
“Beta 1, 3/1, 6 glucans are naturally occurring complex sugars found in yeast, but are easily destroyed by modern farming and food processing. They ‘unlock’ our immune defences, allowing us to defend ourselves naturally. Choose a supplement offering 125-250mg of beta 1, 3/1, 6 glucans. Pharma Nord’s Bio-Glucan Plus combines beta glucans with selenium and vitamin D3 for extra immune support.”
Mantle explains that selenium contributes to anti-viral and anti-bacterial defences, yet most European diets contain far too little to make the selenium-dependent defence mechanisms work optimally.
So what about reducing cold and flu symptoms once the sniffles are in full swing? Zinc is still one of the front-runners after headline-hitting evidence showed that it can reduce the longevity of the common cold.
Aria recommends it is taken in gluconate form (as found in Biocare’s ImmunoBerry) either internally or as a lozenge. “It’s quicker and more effective for the respiratory tract if [zinc is] taken as lozenges (one every two hours, not more than six a day and not on empty stomach),” she says.
“For internal use, zinc citrate or picolinate are the most recommended (one tablet or capsule a day of 15-17mg) as zinc sulphate can cause a stomach upset.”
A humble cup of hot herbal tea can also make customers feel better faster, although research shows that the effect is mainly psychological.
However, at the end of the day the smartest way to get through a bout of cold and flu is bed-rest accompanied by plenty of fluids.
Because of the breadth of natural remedies that can work for colds and flu, many companies have packaged together effective ingredients to ape the ‘maximum strength’ medicinal remedies that are available from pharmacies.
For instance, Pharma Nord’s Bio-InfluZinc + C lozenges feature bioavailable zinc bolstered with vitamin C sourced from acerola cherry extract. “Acerola cherries are known for their exceptionally high vitamin C content, 30 times that of an orange,” explains Mantle.
The trend continues with Source of Life’s Wellness formula which blends botanicals including goldenseal and elderberry with
nutrients such as vitamin A and selenium all together in an convenient, easy-to-take tablet form.
Finally, a good way to get the most from the category might be to stock some of the growing number of natural sanitizers on the market. A single sneeze propels up to 100,000 bacteria into the air. So with this in mind a product like Quash (which features manuka honey and aloe vera) or Jurlique’s Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer, might offer retailers the opportunity for clever cross-merchandising.
A taste of honey
These products may still dominate the shelves in your local pharmacy, but in the wider world there has been a serious backlash against the common-or-garden cough syrup.
Last year Dr Tim Ballard, vice chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, advised that: “The medical evidence behind cough medicines is weak and there is no evidence to say they will reduce the duration of illnesses – as such, GPs are unlikely to prescribe them.”
This is in part because coughing is a natural part of getting rid of a cold. Although unpleasant, it helps remove mucus from the airways and so clears a path to recovery.
As an alternative, the NHS website now recommends a simple hot honey and lemon drink – and this is where health stores can cash in. As manuka honey grows in popularity it can be sold as a way to soothe coughs, with added health benefits.
There’s scientific proof that it works too. In one study, children aged two and over with upper respiratory tract infections were given up to 10ml of honey at bedtime. The soothing effect of the honey appeared to reduce night-time coughs and actually improve sleep.
Meanwhile, packaged products like Comvita Propolis Herbal Elixir are pushing the benefits of honey to the fore, combining manuka honey and tea tree oil to provide welcome cold relief.
A shop with a view
Emma Ryan from Down to Earth in Hove says that the time people start coming in for winter remedies depends upon how well-informed they are. “The people that come in when autumn starts know they’ve got to boost their immune system for winter.
In the early stages of the season we usually do well with echinacea (which tends to be A. Vogel), plus the high vitamin C products and zinc (which tend to be mostly Viridian, although we do stock Solgar). Customers are also starting to realize that the B vitamins can help their immune systems. Then, as you go through winter, we sell more fresh food products like ginger – and of course loads of honey!
One thing that does sell, to people who already know about it, is citricidal, which is grapefruit seed extract. Not everybody likes it as it tastes really, really strong. You mix it with water, but we recommend when customers take it they have something in their other hand that tastes pretty strong too! It really is an acquired taste.
Sage is definitely high up on our list; either sage tincture or in a throat spray. People usually choose that when they already feel a bit rotten. It’s got benefits for customers with sore throats – we’ve got a couple of singers who come in and absolutely swear by it.
Natural beauty sells throughout the year, but since everyone’s skin dries out in winter, people do buy skin oils – especially when they realize how beneficial they are.”
Available in a synergistically-formulated liquid that helps customers achieve a healthy immune system, ImmunoBerry from Biocare features concentrated elderberry, as well as a pure source of zinc to keep colds and flu at bay.
Terra Nova’s Fresh Freeze Dried Beetroot Juice, Cordyceps & Reishi Super-blend Powder is a clever winter all-rounder with the natural benefits of medicinal mushrooms to keep you feeling tip-top as the cold season descends on the UK.
Ain’t nothing but a ‘D’ thang
Pharma Nord’s Bio-Vitamin D3 can help stimulate the body’s production of antiviral and antibacterial proteins, helping boost immunity all winter-long. The vitamin D3 is dissolved in oil for easy absorption and delivered in tiny ‘pearl’ capsules which are convenient to take.
Marketed as an effective natural cleanser, Higher Nature’s Citricidal Liquid is a potent and easy-to-take supplement derived from grapefruit seeds that’s a useful tonic for getting through the harsh winter days.
Toast winter with a freshly made breakfast smoothie using Naturya’s Organic Chlorela Powder, which helps boost your B12 and provides enough nutrients to see you through until spring comes around. It works well in a milkshake too.
Antibiotics are a wonderful invention; they have saved many lives and still play a very important role in combating infection. However, there is some concern that antibiotics, are used a little too frequently nowadays and are rarely required for conditions such as coughs, colds, sore throats and flu, so doctors are currently promoting more responsible use. It is however; extremely important to complete a course of antibiotics once started to prevent the development of antibiotic resistant strains.
Antibiotics are well known to significantly disrupt protective intestinal and vaginal microbiota, reducing bacteria considered to have health-promoting properties such as Bifidobacterium spp. and Lactobacillus spp.. Antibiotics, as with any medication, can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. By altering the microbial balance within the gut, further pathogenic bacteria are able to selectively overgrow increasing the risk of developing a further intestinal infection; the main symptom of which being antibiotic associated diarrhoea (AAD). A diverse microflora plays an important role in the functioning of strong immune and digestive systems, so it is not surprising that studies are indicating immune lowering effects of antibiotics.
During antibiotic therapy extra protection could be provided by consuming a probiotic supplement, such as Bio-Kult at the same time as antibiotic therapy. We recommend taking them at least 2 hours apart and continued for at least 2-4 weeks after completion of the antibiotic course at a dose of around 5 billion CFUs a day.
The immune system can need some extra help during the colder months if busy fighting off all those extra winter bugs. Up to 70% of our immune cells are located in the gut, and supported by a strong microflora. One strategy therefore, to support the body’s natural immunity to prevent initial infection, and reduce the need for antibiotics, is to consider regular consumption of fermented foods or probiotic supplements.
In the summers of the Arctic Circle, the sun shines continuously for 70 days and nights, creating a unique climate which produces smaller, darker – and therefore more concentrated – berries than European climates. During this intense summer, the berries soak up rays of light then remain resilient through winter.
Having evolved to survive in the harsh climate, wild arctic berries are stronger and more efficient than cultivated berries and contain a greater amount of antioxidants; this makes them more than worthy of the title superberry.
Traditionally consumed by Laplanders as part of their daily diet, arctic berries have a high nutritional value and are bursting with antioxidants, including high amounts of vitamins A, C and E.
Key arctic superberries include: lingonberry, bilberry, raspberry, cranberry, buckthorn, crowberry and cloudberry.
There is potential for the application of arctic superberries in cosmeceutical products, beauty foods and drinks, and health and wellbeing supplements.
Echinacea is esteemed for its immune boosting qualities. It helps the body build resistance while attacking and killing microbes that compromises it. Echinacea is an exceptional herb that also has natural and numerous health benefits; it contains anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties and helps to combat seasonal allergies. HealthAid EchiGuard is blended using the root of the Echinacea plant, as it is known to contain the most effective mixture of active ingredients. Take EchiGuard tablets to help with colds and flu; also it helps to reduce the severity or duration of the virus. EchiGuard™ retails at £9.99 for 30 tablets. Contact HealthAid Ltd on 020 8426 3400 for purchase and stockist information or visit
Terranova Astragalus, Elderberry & Garlic Complex, formerly known as Resistance Support Complex, contains a synergistic blend of botanicals, enhanced with Magnifood for maximum bioavailability and bio-absorption, including – Larch Tree Arabinogalactan – helps support the immune system and the microflora in the gut; Astragalus – studies suggest helps boost interferon and white blood cell counts; Elderberry Fruit – one of the most popular immune enhancing herbs; Garlic – Sulphur compounds in garlic are active against microbes; Oregon Grape Root – wide activity against pathogens; Stabilised Rice Bran – provides several immune-supporting nutrients; and Osha Root and Maitake Mushroom. No fillers, binders or other excipients. Suitable for vegans.
Amazing Grass® Green Superfood Blend includes a proprietary combination of organic, non-GMO wheat grass, barley grass, alfalfa, spirulina, spinach, chlorella and broccoli. Every serving is full of vitamins and minerals. To help achieve the recommended 5 to 9 daily servings of fruits and vegetables, Tangerine Defense Green Superfood has a blend of organic mushrooms, herbs and vitamins added which help deliver powerful immune-boosting antioxidants, plus a tangy burst of tangerine flavour. Helps support overall health and immunity, aids digestive function, alkalises and strengthens immune system. Raw, vegan and gluten free.
Pure Gold Manuka Honey is farmed and harvested exclusively in the rural unpolluted pastures of New Zealand. Manuka Honey has been used for its various health benefits by the indigenous Maori population for centuries. Manuka Honey is unique and research has identified that this honey contains high levels of antibacterial activity not found in other honey. The Pure Gold logo is only applied to honey which is independently tested in New Zealand and guarantees its quality
At Helios we are busy preparing homeopathic remedies and creams for winter. Our trade range of remedies covers a wide variety of winter ailments from coughs, colds, sore throats and flu while our natural, plant based creams soothe dry, sore or chapped skin. Remedies and creams are made to traditional methods and all products backed by expert advice from our team of qualified homeopaths and comprehensive point of sale literature. Ensure your customers stay healthy this winter, naturally.
Nature’s Answer Vitamin D3 Drops contain 4000iu per serving, almost 7 times the RDA for grown adults, but a safe dose to maintain good health. Once almost exclusively known as a bone health nutrient, more recent studies have uncovered an incredible array of potential health benefits to increasing vitamin D levels, including improved immunity and improved health in many aspects. Nature’s Answer are the pioneers of low alcohol and alcohol free extracts, unconditionally guaranteed. Delivered in extra virgin olive oil, is delivered in a highly absorbable liquid form, with none of the fillers, binding agents, and other additives you will find in other brands.
BioCare® ImmunoBerry® contains highly concentrated elderberry extract with high levels of zinc, providing a potent, synergistic liquid that can be used to assist a healthy immune and respiratory system. Elderberry naturally contains anthocyanins; a potent flavonoid antioxidant to support tissue integrity and is rich in vitamin B and C to support a healthy energy level. Zinc contributes to a normal function of the immune system and zinc gluconate supports the integrity of the respiratory tract. Presented in a delicious fruity liquid, and free from artificial sweeteners, ImmunoBerry® is a great value, everyday essential for the winter months. Also available for Children, as Children’s Elderberry Complex.
The immune system is designed to defend against millions of bacteria, microbes, toxins, viruses and parasites that we encounter on a daily basis. It is a complex structure, needing a multifactorial approach to function efficiently. Solgar has combined six key nutrients with a berry blend to provide you with the comprehensive Beta Glucans Immune Complex formula. Beta Glucans Immune Complex contains Beta Glucan 1,3. Vitamin C as Ester-C®, Zinc, Selenium, Copper, Vitamin D3 and a Berry blend. Our unique berry blend of Elderberry extract, blueberry extract and acai powder have all demonstrated significant antioxidant activity.
Packed with a potent elderberry juice concentration of 6:1, Pukka’s Elderberry Syrup also contains Manuka honey, thymol, trikatu and licorice. It’s 100% organic, contains no artificial preservatives and is suitable for all the family including children over two. To mark the start of the winter season, Pukka invites you to join its Winter Wonderberry campaign. During November and December, any customer who buy Pukka’s Elderberry Syrup gets a free box of Elderberry & Echinacea tea. The campaign is supported by in-store POS and a significant PR and digital marketing push to help drive sales in store.
Do you have customers worried about constipation during the winter months? Lepicol is a multi-fibre source product containing 5 probiotic strains, inulin (a prebiotic fibre source) and gentle psyllium husk which contributes to maintaining normal bowel transit. In a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study, Lepicol was shown to be an effective solution for people with chronic constipation. The group given Lepicol experienced significantly more bowel movements in just one week, compared to the placebo group, as well as having a ten-fold reduction in laxative use.
CycloPower™ convenient chewable tablets are Manuka Health’s proprietary advanced delivery system that acts as 100% natural booster to enhance the availability and delivery of MGO Manuka Honey within the body. CycloPower™ works for natural supplements like turbo does for vehicles – it gets more performance without increasing the dose. It is scientifically formulated and patent protected formulation, suitable for vegetarians. Scientific research shows that CycloPower™: • Enhances delivery and availability of natural ingredients • Is a source of fibre • Contains no flavours, colours, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, gluten or dairy. • Dramatically lowers the Glycaemic Index (GI) of Manuka Honey