By Ellen Kamhi PhD RN www.naturalnurse.com .
The media world is a-buz about ‘bugs’! However, the new threats of “swine flu”, bring us back to a basic discussion. Should be just sit around and wait until we become a victim, and then take an antibiotic or Tamiflu and hope that the illness goes away? Or would it be wiser to be a health advocate, and shore up our immune system- the body’s natural defense mechanism. (One interesting point to consider is that Tamiflu was developed by Gilead Sciences. Donald Rumsfeld was Chairman of the Board of Gilead from 1997-2001, when he became Secretary of Defense under Bush. )
The immune system is made up of a combination of specialized cells, chemicals, tissues, and organs. These include the lymph nodes, thymus gland, spleen, bone marrow and tonsils as well as specialized white blood cells, which recognize and engulf invading microorganisms and cellular debris.
The ability of the immune system to function optimally is influenced by many factors. These include inherent genetic makeup, environmental influences, (such as pollution, pesticides, hormones, artificial flavoring/colorings in food), obesity and stress levels; not only exposure to infective agents, whether they are natural or man-made. We can aid our immune system by eating a high amount of organic green vegetables, whole grains and nuts, while cutting down on ‘junk food’ consumption. Stress reduction, through prayer, meditation, yoga and moderate exercise, such as a daily walk around Century Village’s great walkway- is more important than ever when we are under sustained stress.
Herbs may be used in several ways to aid in our Anti-Germ Warfare personal campaigns. Tonic herbs strengthen the immune system over time, while strong immune system stimulants have a more immediate action, and are used during an acute infection. Many herbs have been scientifically proven to have strong broad spectrum anti-microbial properties.
Herbal tonics work to help maintain a dynamic balance in the body and usually need to be taken long-term. Astragalus is said to build Wei chi. “Chi” is the Chinese concept of life energy force. One study by the National Cancer Institute demonstrated Astragalus’ ability to help strengthen the immune system’s resistance, especially to viral infections. Reishi has been called the “mushroom of immortality”, and has been used for centuries as an overall tonic. Ligustrum berries are used by Chinese physicians specifically for their immune enhancing activities. Codonopsis is a Chinese herb that contains the bitter yellow compound, berberine, that helps the immune system prevent infections. Other immune system tonic herbs include Siberian Ginseng and Schisandra. Schisandra has been shown to build non-specific resistance, improve brain function, increase work capacity and build strength.
Osha Root has been used traditionally by both the Chinese and Native Americans, (who called it Chuchupate), for increased immune function. Echinacea is a well researched and respected immune system stimulant. It helps increase the activity of white blood cells, which engulf invading microorganisms. Thuja is an herbal extract from the Northern White Cedar tree. It is a strong immune stimulant that Native Americans used for colds, coughs, bronchitis and other respiratory infections. Possibly the mushroom with the greatest capability of stimulating the immune system is the Maitake. Maitake contains specific chemical components that have been scientifically studied for their strong immune enhancing effects.
Oil Of Oregano(Origanum vulgare) is rich in vitamins and minerals including Vitamins A and C, Niacin, Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, Iron, Potassium, Copper, Boron, and Manganese. In addition, the herb contains many active chemical constituents that provide beneficial support to our bodies, such as thymol and carvacrol. These components strongly discourage the growth of microorganisms, an action recognized by traditional herbalists throughout history as well as supported by modern scientific research. Oregano oil is exceptional in its ability to destroy many different kinds of microorganisms including bacteria, fungus, virus and parasites. Oregano oil has been shown in scientific studies to actively inhibit and destroy E. Coli, candida albacans and the bacterias that cause strep and staff infections. Unlike pharmaceutical drug antibiotics, oregano oil does not cause the development of resistant strains of bacteria. Although it is always possible for an individual to have an allergic reaction to any substance, there are no known adverse effects to oil of oregano.
The bitter compound, oleuropein, extracted from the olive leaf, has the capacity to destroy and inhibit the growth of an incredible array of pathogenic organisms, including bacteria , yeasts and viruses, such as the cold and flu virus, herpes, and even retro-viruses. Bacteria and parasites destroyed by oleuropein include planterum, E. coli and malariae, to name a few. Apparently, the old anti-malarial olive leaf and wine remedy had some merit! No toxic effects have been reported, even at high doses.
Rosemary ( Rosmarinus officinalis)has been used as an anti-infective agent since ancient times. Rosemary was regularly burned in hospitals and sick-rooms to purify the air and prevent infection. It was also used in courts to keep the judge and jurors from contracting plagues and fevers that the prisoners brought up from the dungeon. A sprig of Rosemary was also often carried at funerals. The aromatic oils of rosemary contain active essential oils, rosmarinic acid, phenolic acids and tannins with antioxidant and antimicrobial activities.
Thyme (Thymus) was used by the Greeks to keep venomous creatures away from the home. The Egyptians used it to mummify their dead, due to its antimicrobial and antioxidant activity. The thymus gland got its name from thyme, due to its similar structure to the thyme flower; interesting because both thyme and the thymus gland promote immune function. The principle components consist of phenol, thymol and carvacrol. An article in Chemical Abstracts in 1977 revealed that thymol’s antimicrobial activity is 20 times stronger than phenol.
Ellen Kamhi PhD RN, The Natural Nurse®, can be heard on radio daily. She is the author of several books, including THE NATURAL MEDICINE CHEST. Dr. Kamhi has been involved in natural health care for over 4 decades. She answers consumer questions at http://www.naturesanswer.com, and does private consultations. http://www.naturalnurse.com 800-829-0918