Airborne Is an Effective Immune Booster

If you believe the headlines, the very popular cold-fighting supplement Airborne is nothing but a hoax, given that the company had to ante up a $23 million settlement for false advertising. But is it really useless in preventing colds and offering other therapeutic benefits? Although the company paid to settle — you can ask the millions of people who have successfully avoided days in bed thanks to Airborne and its immune-boosting combination of herbs and supplements… and you’ll learn that there are indeed multiple sides to the story. After reading the news of the lawsuit, I spoke with Mark Stengler, ND, a leading authority on the practice of integrated medicine and author of Bottom Line Natural Healing newsletter, about Airborne.

According to Dr. Stengler, a number of his patients still take Airborne to fend off colds and flu because it works for them — but he said there are also other supplements he finds as effective or more so. The basic premise remains true — when traveling or in crowded conditions (like shopping or parties) where it is likely you will be exposed to a variety of germs, it makes sense to strengthen your body to be more resistant. Airborne has ingredients that enhance immunity. It is a good basic formulation for children and adults — but it’s best to use it under the supervision of your doctor, since everyone processes these products differently and even immune-enhancing ones may interact with other medications or have different effects in different people.

If you’ll be on the road or on the run this holiday season, as many of us will be, or even going to the office and supermarket as you usually do, be aware that being tired and around many people increases your risk of getting sick. Fortifying yourself to fight off illness can be helpful, as can using natural soothing products if and when symptoms strike. Dr. Stengler sees no problem with using Airborne as an easy, basic immune booster if you have no other relevant medical concerns. For those who want to turn it up a notch, he has several suggestions.


  • N-acetylcysteine (NAC). In an Italian study, researchers found that seniors taking 600 mg of NAC twice daily developed fewer flu-like symptoms and had influenza-like episodes less frequently. NAC is a potent immune-enhancing agent that helps boost levels of powerful, disease-fighting antioxidant compounds known as glutathiones. Dr. Stengler often prescribes it twice daily to his patients who are especially susceptible to colds and flu or are exposed to sick people. Individuals on chemotherapy may be advised not to use antioxidant preparations, including this one.
  • Echinacea. Dr. Stengler says this oldie but goodie can make certain immune cells more efficient in attacking viruses, and has been shown to often reduce the length and severity of the common cold. Two effective supplements Dr. Stengler prescribes are Echinamide: Fresh Alcohol Free Echinacea Extract, Natural Berry Flavor and Anti-V Formula with Echinamide (softgels) (


  • Andrographis. This Chinese medicine herb (Andrographis paniculata) has been known to reduce symptoms of upper respiratory infections from colds and flu, including congestion. Combining Andrographis with Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) may provide even greater, synergistic benefits. Dr. Stengler’s patients often use these supplements during the course of a cold or flu. Caution: If you have a preexisting chronic condition such as high blood pressure, your physician may suggest something different as very high doses can cause side effects, including changes in blood pressure.
  • Elderberry extract. Studies show that this extract of Sambucus nigra stimulates the immune system. In a limited study in Israel, researchers found that people taking elderberry extract experienced a significant reduction in symptoms such as fever in just two days. Ninety percent were symptom-free after only three days. Dr. Stengler frequently prescribes Sambucol, the brand of elderberry ( that was used in the study.
  • Oscillococcinum. This top-selling homeopathic remedy is an excellent choice for reducing cold and flu symptoms. One study found that it reduced the duration of flu and flu-like syndromes. Dr. Stengler often advises his patients to use it at the first sign of cold or flu.
  • North American Ginseng. In a study of 323 adults with a history of catching colds, supplements of North American ginseng (P. quinquefolius) cut the length of colds by one-third. It also slightly reduced the chances of catching a cold. While it is rare, North American ginseng can cause side effects such as restlessness, nervousness, sleeplessness and nausea. Alert your prescriber if you have any preexisting chronic condition such as high blood pressure.
  • Zinc lozenges. The mineral zinc is a vital antioxidant that stimulates the body’s resistance to infection. Research suggests that zinc lozenges reduce the duration of colds. Dr. Stengler may prescribe Cold-Eeze — one brand used in studies — every two hours on the first day symptoms are experienced. Typically these lozenges should be taken for three days, after which frequency may be reduced. Stop taking them when symptoms abate.