Dr. Dasgupta: Long way to go. The whole part of it is that it is true that certain viruses can be tackled. For example, the HIV virus. With medication we can even make the virus so low that we can’t detect it. But unfortunately cold, which is a virus that has so many different varieties, we’re not anywhere close to the cure completely. What you can do is, we can probably lower the symptom by Vitamin C, but unfortunately there is no drug in the horizon which it can cure it. What kills people here in this country during winter is not the cold, it’s the flu. Of course you can prevent the flu by just taking a shot, it’s not a hundred percent guaranteed, but if you have the immunity against the flu then most likely you’re not going to have a life threatening illness. As you know, that flu can kill an elderly person. But common cold is not going to kill you, so there is not much rush to find a magic bullet for its cure. 

It’s amazing that the HIV is so manageable now but the common cold is the thing that affects more people.

Dr. Dasgupta: That’s true, but are you going to give the Nobel Prize curing common cold, probably not. If you can cure HIV you will. Those are killer diseases and they will focus on those researches but not on something which is a benign disease.

What kind of role does the environment play in your immune system

Dr. Dasgupta: Air is pollution. Pollution can trigger the immune response because what you have is allergy production. Houston is the allergy capital of the country. What I’m saying is if you live in a big city try to find out ways where you can feel relaxed.

What are the top five things to help your immune system?

Dr. Dasgupta: Don’t eat junk food, reduce the stress, and try to live in a clean environment, eat healthy, have lots of friends and a social life and exercise regularly. These are the five things which I recommend.

Are there studies that say happiness can actually help with your immune system?

Dr. Dasgupta: Studies are fairly limited so it is hard for me to make a statement as a scientist. There are a few studies, it has not been a hundred percent established, but there are a few papers in the literature published which shows that when a condition can calm you down people who have happiness live longer. One thing which has been proven is that married men live longer than single men.

Other than Vitamin C are there any other supplements that people can take that may help them ward off and been proven to boost the immunity?

Dr. Dasgupta: There are actually several supplements, but I think Echinacea is probably the most popular and it’s one of the bestselling herbal supplements. As I said before, there is some controversy in the literature, but overall it doesn’t hurt you so you can take it.  Goldenseal might boost your immune system, a few peppers not well established and Ginseng which people are using for a long time also helps boost your immune system.

When you’re boosting the immune system what is happening?

Dr. Dasgupta: It’s a very complex process and it’s hard for me to explain, but it goes through a cascade of events. The exact molecule and pathways we have is not yet figured out. The difficulty of the research is when you work with an herbal supplement it’s a mixture of many compounds. If you use a western drug we know the composition, we know the structure, but with herbal supplement we don’t have that information. What we have is an initial preliminary results which are exciting which are already published. Ask me ten years later I can tell you in more detail.

What should people look out for?

Dr. Dasgupta: I would suggest that instead of going to an herbal store and talking to a store person who doesn’t have any idea about what these things are, there is a group of doctors called Natural doctors or ND and those doctors a highly knowledgeable because they go through the treading. I would suggest talk to your natural doctor if you have someone of that level, talk to an herbalist who has that education. You can even go and talk a chiropractor. In fact I’m reading a book right now which was written by a chiropractor. It’s actually a pocket guide which gives you different foods which are very high in antioxidant.