8   BALANCE YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM   Olive Leaf has been used medicinally since biblical times. The secret to its healing powers lies in the herb’s natural antioxidants, especially oleuropein—a compound with powerful antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Unlike antibiotic drugs, oleuropein isn’t broad-spectrum. Instead, it targets specific microbes and allows healthy bacteria to thrive. Olive leaf’s bacteria-busting capabilities are so effective they have been reported in several studies to target some extremely harmful microbes including Helicobacter pylori (the ulcer bug) and Staphylococcus aureus. Oregano is a powerful antioxidant and antibacterial, thanks to high levels of an active compound called carvacrol. Studies suggest that the oxygen molecules in carvacrol team up with the water in your body to create heat that kills bacteria. When pitted against a variety of common infectious microbes, researchers discovered that oregano oil kills Salmonella, E. coli, and several types of the Staphylococcus bug. Probiotics are good bacteria (beneficial flora) such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, that dwell in your digestive tract. These beneficial bugs strengthen the barrier function of the intestinal wall and enhance immunity by stimulating the body’s production of natural killer cells and T-cells. New research also shows that some probiotic strains can have a powerful effect on regulating intestinal inflammation signals that can create future health problems. Vitamin C is the most acknowledged immune stimulant on the planet. Studies show that immune cells (phagocytes and T-cells) accumulate vitamin C and use it to perform their tasks, especially during an infection. It’s so effective that when Israeli doctors gave the vitamin to a group of competitive swimmers with upper respiratory infections, 47 percent of those taking a daily dose of C experienced less severe symptoms and a more rapid recovery than those who didn’t supplement. Several studies also suggest that vitamin C may keep colds at bay. For those who do succumb to the sniffles, increasing vitamin C may shorten the number of days they’re symptomatic. This makes sense since the white blood cells that fight off infection have an increased need for vitamin C to do their job. Zinc helps convert ordinary white blood cells into specialized immune cells. Sucking on a lozenge containing the mineral within the first 24 hours of a cold can shorten its duration and severity. You can also get fast relief from a zinc nasal spray. Used within 48 hours of the first sign of a cold, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic found that it provided relief from nasal congestion, runny nose, hoarseness, and sore throat. Those using a zinc spray also got well nearly one and a half days sooner.