Colds and Flu
Humans have lived for millions of years
without pharmaceutical antibiotics. Pharmaceutical antibiotics
were introduced into medicine in the 1930s to 1940s. Prior to
that time, physicians and their patients relied primarily on
antimicrobial substances like colloidal silver, antiseptics like
alcohol and hydrogen peroxide, and various plant extracts which
stimulated the body's own defense mechanisms. This latter
approach that of stimulating the body's defenses is rarely
considered today in orthodox medicine. Although there are few
immune-stimulating pharmaceutical drugs available today, there
are a number of immune-enhancing nutrients and herbs that can
dramatically energize a flagging immune system, and help
overcome an attack by bacteria and viruses.
Herbs have been used for centuries in virtually every culture in
the world. Native American medicine relied heavily on the use of
herbs, and traditional herbal remedies are still commonly
prescribed in Eastern countries such as China, Korea, and Japan
as well as Europe. Over time, trial and error led to the
development of folk medicines, with the most effective remedies
being passed down through the generations. Herbs have been used
in an attempt to treat nearly every known affliction and
disease, with mixed results. While some herbs have been shown to
be ineffective, others have stood the tests of time and
research, proving their worth. The following examples point out
how nature has provided us with safe, effective methods of
improving our health and quality of life.
In traditional Chinese herbal medicine Astragalus is believed to
promote and enhance the immune system, replenish the defensive
energy and accelerate wound healing. A. membranaceus, the form
of Astragalus used for medicinal purposes, is believed to
enhance immune function by altering the metabolism of immune
cells. Studies in both humans and laboratory animals have
demonstrated a potent antiviral potential via its ability to
protect against infection from the viruses that cause influenza
and the common cold. Both oral and nasal administration of
Astragalus extracts have offered protection against the common
cold. In patients who are susceptible to colds and flu,
treatment with Astragalus for short periods of time (two weeks)
enhanced interferon induction by the white blood cells,
resulting in increased levels of cytokines (such as
interleukin-2 and IgA and IgG).
Astragalus treatment leads to an increase in T-helper cell
activity. This increase in immune function was clearly
demonstrated in one study where immuno-deficient and healthy
normal mice were treated with Astragalus extract. This effect
has been noted in humans as well. When mononuclear cells from
cancer patients and healthy volunteers were inoculated with
extracts of Astragalus, not only did T cell levels rise to
levels similar to that of healthy cells (prior to treatment), T
cell levels in cells from healthy individuals were also
Echinacea, an herb native to North America, has played an
important role in Native American medicine. It was used by
numerous tribes to treat a variety of symptoms and diseases,
including: sore mouth and gums, toothache and coughs, and as an
anti-inflammatory and antiseptic agent.
More recently Echinacea has been closely examined for its
influence on immune cell proliferation, antibody production, and
antiviral activities. One of the most popular uses of Echinacea
is for support and recovery from the common cold and influenza.
Two recent studies support the use of Echinacea for this
In the first study, 108 patients with colds received either
Echinacea or a placebo for eight weeks. Of those patients
receiving the Echinacea, 35.2 percent recovered and remained
healthy, while only 25.9 percent of the placebo group remained
healthy. When patients did become infected, the length of time
between infections was 40 days for the Echinacea group vs. only
25 days for placebo. When infection did occur in patients
receiving Echinacea, the symptoms were less severe and resolved
In a second study, 180 patients with influenza were given either
an E. purpurea Echinacea extract or a placebo. The group
receiving Echinacea showed significant reduction of cold
Cats Claw (Unicaria tomentosa), a woody vine that grows in Peru,
is a traditional phytomedicine of the Ashaninka Indians. The
Ashaninkas drink a tea made of the bark once every week or two
for general health. In the event of an illness, they consume
about a liter every day until all symptoms have disappeared.
Both the root and the bark of Cats Claw, a liana growing to 100
feet or more, are sources of a rich variety of pharmacologically
active compounds. Among some of the compounds found in U.
tomentosa are catechins, alkaloids, ellagic acid and other
phenolic antioxidants which are beneficial in the treatment of
specific types of cancer. The most immunologically active
alkaloids, the oxindole alkaloids, isopteropodine and
pteropodine, have been found by Dr. Klaus Keplinger, an Austrian
researcher, to stimulate immune function. In addition, the
presence of glycosides, proanthocyanidins and beta sitosterol
help provide anti-viral, anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory
support for the body.
Ginseng has been used for centuries in China, Japan, Korea, and
parts of the former Soviet Union for its supportive role in
maintaining health. As an adaptogen, Ginseng is believed to
produce a state of increased resistance to stress, supporting
our ability to resist disease by building up our general
vitality and strengthening our normal body functions.
Soviet researchers have been particularly keen on ginseng and
have claimed their studies show the herb and its extracts can
boost immunity, inhibit cancer, increase energy and physical
stamina and have variable effects on blood pressure and blood
A recent study found that ginseng helps prevent symptoms of the
common cold and improves antibody response to influenza vaccine.
For 12 weeks, 227 volunteers who visited three private medical
practices in Milan received daily oral capsule doses of either
100 mg of a standard Ginseng extract or a placebo. During the
fourth week they received an influenza vaccination. There were
only 15 cases of influenza or common cold in the group receiving
the ginseng extract, versus 42 cases in the group receiving the
placebo. By the eighth week, antibody titers rose to an average
272 units in the ginseng group, versus only 171 units in the
placebo group. Additionally, at both the eighth and twelfth
weeks, natural killer cell activity was nearly twice as high in
the Ginseng group versus the placebo group.
Antioxidants Support Immune Response
Recent studies have shown how antioxidants may play an important
role in the treatment of viral diseases. Antioxidants not only
reduce disease symptoms, but may also reduce the long-term
effects of chronic oxidative stress, which has been linked to
the development of cancer from some viral infections. Oxidative
stress is seen in individuals infected with influenza,
immunodeficiency virus and hepatitis.
Vitamin C has seemingly been at the center of nutritional
research, particularly with regard to the common cold. It is
well known that vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, and this
protective activity is now proving vital in recovery from
infection. A number of studies have found that, during
infection, there is a marked decrease in vitamin C levels in
plasma and white blood cells. The concentration of vitamin C in
phagocytes and lymphocytes is over 10 times greater than in
plasma, and low intake of vitamin C has been shown to decrease
phagocytic activity in animal models.
Other studies have shown that higher vitamin C concentration
increases the proliferative responses of T lymphocytes in vitro.
Vitamin C has also been reported to induce the production of
interferon in cell culture, and one study has found a
correlation between natural killer cell activity and vitamin C
concentration in leukocytes. Under in vitro conditions, vitamin
C has been found to inactivate viruses and bacteria. In human
studies doses higher than 100 grams per day have been used for
severe bacterial and viral infections.
In a recent study, Italian researchers found that two grams per
day of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) was effective in restoring
bronchial responsiveness in hospital workers suffering from
upper respiratory infections. The authors suggest that ascorbic
acid can effectively re-establish the redux state in inflamed
airways and may prove beneficial for treatment of coughs during
upper respiratory infection.
Vitamin E, the bodys premier fat-soluble antioxidant and
complement of vitamin C, is the major protective antioxidant for
cell membranes. Just as vitamin E protects serum lipoproteins
and regulates prostaglandin balance, new research suggests that
vitamin E supplementation may enhance phagocytosis, cell-www.ed
immunity, humoral immunity, and reduce the effects of stress on
the immune response.
In an animal study on heart disease in the elderly, aged mice
were fed vitamin E at 500 parts per million two months before
exposure to influenza. These animals were found to have
substantially lower amounts of the influenza virus in their
lungs than control mice given smaller amounts at 30 parts per
A related study on age and immune response involved 47 subjects,
aged 61 to 79 years. Researchers reported that those receiving a
supplement containing vitamin E and other micronutrients showed
a significant increase in immune response. Specifically, an
increase in CD57 natural killer cells, T cells and T cell
subsets. Conversely, in the placebo group there was a decrease
in T cells, CD4 cells and the CD4:CD8 ratio. Researchers
concluded that nutritional intervention provided an effective
approach for delaying the overall decline in immune function
noted with increasing age.
Glutathione is an intracellular thiol (sulfur-containing
compound) that acts as the bodys principal antioxidant by
providing intracellular defense against oxidative stresses
caused by free radicals, reactive oxygen interwww.es, and
certain toxic chemicals. Glutathione aids in the recycling and
maintenance of tissue vitamin C and vitamin E levels.
Glutathione also works by detoxifying hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)
and other organoperoxidases (free radicals), and by protecting
against oxidation within cells via the Glutathione Redux Cycle.
This role as a free radical scavenger is primarily accomplished
through glutathione peroxidase (GSH px), which interacts to
reduce hydrogen peroxide to harmless water and thereby limit its
capacity to cause damage.
Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) is a nutritional supplement that
increases intracellular production of glutathione (GSH), to
enhance the immune system. It has been theorized that the
ability of lymphocytes (CD4 cells) to correct oxidative damage
is determined by their capacity to regenerate intracellular
stores of glutathione, which allows them to respond vigorously
to a wide variety of antigens.
In 1981, researchers discovered that mice fed a non-denatured
whey protein concentrate exhibited a marked increase in antibody
production in response to T-cell dependent antigens. Numerous
experiments in subsequent years have confirmed this early
observation. Thus, enhanced immunity against colds and
hepatitis, and most dramatically, pneumococcal infection, could
be accomplished through dietary supplementation with whey
protein concentrates (WPCs).
Vitamin A is one of the best documented nutrients for supporting
immune function. A deficiency in vitamin A is known to reduce
resistance to infection by lowering neutrophil phagocytosis,
cell-www.ed immunity, humoral response and interleukin II
production. Recent research has found a strong link between
vitamin A intake and upper respiratory infections.
One 1996 study of newborn infants recorded substantial decreases
in upper respiratory infection in newborns given 50,000 IU of
vitamin A versus a placebo. Researchers concluded that neonatal
vitamin A supplementation may reduce infant mortality rates, as
well as lessen the severity of respiratory infection.
A second study linking vitamin A intake and respiratory
infection followed 28,000 children between six months and six
years of age. Higher intake of vitamin A was strongly associated
with fewer upper respiratory infections, lessened incidence of
diarrhea and a reduction in cough and fever. Of notice, there
was a significant positive association with vitamin A intake and
the lowered incidence of cough alone, a sign of a healthy
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) has been extensively researched for its
antioxidant properties, particularly in its potential to
neutralize the chemical by-products of smoking. NAC has been
used for bronchial congestion for over thirty years, and is used
to fight chronic lung diseases because of its ability to break
up mucus. However, one of the most exciting areas of NAC
research is in the area of immunology. NAC has been found to
significantly enhance human T-cell function, especially in older
individuals. NAC is currently undergoing clinical trials around
the world as an augmenter of immune function in people with
AIDS. Its ease of conversion to both extracellular and
intracellular glutathione, coupled with its stability and long
half-life in the body, makes it an economical and powerful
Thymic Protein A
Another powerful immune enhancer is Thymic Protein A, a protein
extracted from calf thymus which increases T-cells. T-cells are
types of white blood cells produced by the thymus gland which
locate and destroy foreign invaders. The thymus gland, which is
located behind the sternum (breast bone), shrinks as we age,
resulting in a decline in immune function. Thymic Protein A has
shown in numerous animal studies to dramatically improve immune
function. Thymic Protein A is safe and can even be used by
Olive Leaf Extract
Olive leaf extract is a potent anti-viral, anti-bacterial and
anti-fungal supplement that has been shown to be effective at
boosting the immune response and aiding the body in defending
against infections. Two components of olive leaf extract,
oleuropein and calcium elenolate, have been shown to be
particularly effective at inactivating the viruses that cause
colds and flu.
In the late 1960s researchers from the Upjohn Company discovered
that the components of olive leaf extract exhibited powerful
antibacterial and antiviral effects. Of special interest was an
antimicrobial fraction, calcium elenolate, that proved to be
lethal to every virus the researchers tested it against. Further
research demonstrated that other components of olive leaf
extract are toxic to a wide range of bacteria, protozoa, yeasts,
parasites and fungi. Most impressively, olive leaf extract was
found to effectively inhibit Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria
notorious for its ability to mutate against antibiotics and
responsible for many hospital-acquired infections.
Olive leaf extract is a proven antimicrobial substance that is
safe for preventive and daily consumption. Olive leaf extracts
safety and efficacy has been demonstrated by hundreds of
clinicians around the country who have used olive leaf extract
to treat their patients with remarkable results.
source of nutrients and supplements.
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