Echinacea, and other good herbs for healing
Boosting Immunity With Herbs
For over 4,000 years, the Chinese have used certain herbs to prevent
common diseases. The ancient Chinese knew nothing of bacteria or viruses,
yet some of these herbs were said to "strengthen the exterior", or the
"shield". Modern scientific research is confirming that they were
right. Thousands of years later, and sixty years after the discovery of
penicillin, the study of herbs affecting the immune system is one of
the hottest topics in pharmacological research. Can herbs really
strengthen our resistance and help us lead healthier lives? Both the
wisdom of centuries of observation, and the scrutiny of the scientific
laboratory, support the view that they can.
HOW THE IMMUNE SYSTEM WORKS
Our immune system recognizes and destroys anything foreign to the
body, including cells like bacteria and other microbes, and foreign
particles including toxic compounds. This recognition and destruction
is performed by cells in the circulatory and the lymphatic systems.
These cells are produced in the bone marrow and lymphatic tissue
(thymus, lymph nodes, spleen and tonsils) respectively. The cells begin
their lives as "stem cells". These cells are so featureless that there
is no way to determine what type of blood cell they will ultimately
become. They may develop into any of a number of different kind of
cells, for instance: red blood cells, various types of white blood
cells, etc. These cells are then released into the blood stream and are
carried to all parts of the body. There are essentially two types of
cells, one of which is called "memory cells". Memory cells, as the name
implies, remember specific foreign cells or chemicals to which they
have been exposed, and react immediately when they are next exposed to
those compounds. Drugs which effect the memory cells stimulate immunity
only to one disease or antigen. Vaccines are an example of drugs which
effect memory cells.
Most herbs for the immune system don't affect memory cells, but are
general immune system stimulators (immunostimulants). They increase the
activity of the immune system but are not specific to a particular
disease or "antigen" (a protein against which immune cells act).
Rather, they increase resistance by mobilizing "effector cells" which
act against all foreign particles, rather than just one specific type
(i.e. a measles virus).
Remarkably, since the discovery of penicillin, our scientists, in
search of drugs against infectious disease, have looked only for
chemicals which kill bacteria or viruses. Finally, they are coming to
realize that it is possible to boost the immune system, which can then
fight naturally against infectious agents, without the drawbacks of
antibiotic therapy. While immune stimulants cannot replace antibiotics
in some cases, they have proven far superior in others.
Echinacea is a very popular American wildflower and garden plant,
the purple coneflower. It's also one of America's most popular herbal
products, also used to prevent and treat the common cold, influenza and
infections. Echinacea is the best known and one of the most researched
Echinacea was among the most popular herbs used by Native American
Indians. At least 14 tribes used Echinacea for a coughs, colds, sore
throats, infections, toothaches, inflammations, tonsillitis, and snake
bites, among other uses. It was used by the Dakotas as a veterinary
medicine for their horses.
By the early Twentieth century, echinacea had become the best
selling medicinal tincture in America, used for a variety of internal
and external conditions. But by 1910 it had been dismissed as worthless
by the AMA, although it continued to be used. Echinacea fell into
disuse in this country in the 1930's. However, Europeans began growing
and using echinacea, especially the Germans, and to this day have
produced the best scientific documentation of its value. The extract's
popularity in the U.S. grew rapidly during the 1980s, and the plant is
now again among America's best-selling herb extracts.
The most common anecdotal reports about the use of ecinacea are
from people who begin taking the extract at the first sign of a cold.
Often to their surprise, they find the cold has disappeared, usually
within twenty-four hours, and sometimes after taking the extract only
once. Anecdotal evidence carries little weight in scientific circles,
but plant drug researchers have conducted over 350 scientific studies
about echinacea. Here's what some of those studies say about echinacea:
The most consistently proven effect of echinacea is in stimulating
phagocytosis, or the consumption of invading organisms by white blood
cells and lymphocytes. To prove this, scientists incubate human white
blood cells, yeast cells and echinacea extract. They examine the blood
cells microscopically and a count the numbers of yeast cells gobbled up
by the blood cells. Extracts of echinacea can increase phagocytosis by
20-40%. Another test, called "the carbon clearance" test, measures the
speed with which injected carbon particles are removed from the
bloodstream of a mouse. The quicker the mouse can remove the injected
foreign particles, the more its immune system has been stimulated. In
this test too, echinacea extracts excel, confirming the fact that this
remarkable plant increases the activity of immune system cells so they
can more quickly eliminate invading organisms and foreign particles.
Echinacea causes an increase in the number of immune cells, further
enhancing the overall activity of the immune system. Echinacea also
stimulates the production of interferon as well as other important
products of the immune system, including "Tumor Necrosis Factor", which
is important to the body's response against cancer.
Echinacea also inhibits an enzyme (hyaluronidase), which is
secreted by bacteria, and helps them gain access to healthy cells.
Research in the early 1950's showed that echinacea could completely
counteract the effect of this enzyme, and this could help prevent
infection when used to treat wounds. While echinacea is usually used
internally for the treatment of viruses and bacteria, it is being used
more externally for the treatment of wounds. It also kills yeast and
slows or stops the growth of bacteria, and helps to stimulate the
growth of new tissue. It combats inflammation too, further supporting
its use in the treatment of wounds.
Research in 1957, showed that an extract of echinacea caused a 22%
reduction in inflammation among arthritis sufferers. That is only about
half as effective as steroids, but steroids have serious side-effects.
Steroids also strongly suppress the immune system, which makes them a
poor choice for treating any condition in which infection is likely.
Echinacea, on the other hand, is non-toxic, and adds immune-stimulating
properties to its anti-inflammatory effect.
Most people use echinacea for warding off colds and influenza.
Extracts, either alcoholic or non-alcoholic, are the most commonly used
form, and the usual amount taken is one dropperful at a time (15-25
drops). This is taken at the first sign of a cold and repeated two or
three times a day. European clinics do not use continuous doses of
echinacea but rather alternate three days on and three days off. This
is because some testing shows that the immune system in healthy
subjects can only be stimulated briefly before returning to its normal
state. After several days without stimulation, immunostimulants can
again be effective.
Echinacea has an excellent safety record. After hundreds of years
of use, no toxicity or side-effects have been reported except rare
allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. The purple coneflower is a
truly American contribution to world health care
through herbs. This safe and effective immune stimulant was discovered
and first used by the Native Americans and is now a major medicinal
plant used throughout Europe and the U.S.
Breathing problems, asthma, hay fever, bronchitis, hemorrhage of bowel & lungs, glandular swelling.
During the middle ages, Thyme was thought to increase courage, and
was given to knights as they went into battle. Today, in addition to
its culinary uses, Thyme is used as an expectorant and a disinfectant,
and is also known for its antifungal properties. It may bring relief to
migraine headaches and help clear the lungs and respiratory system.
Properties Astringent, Carminative, Emmenagogue, Nervine, Expectorant, Stimulant, Stomachic, Tonic
Use: Good for gargle for sore throat, poor digestion, tonsilitis,
lung problems, pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma,coughs, colds, nose and
throat infections mucous congestion in intestines, flatulence,
scrofula, dropsy, jaundice, inflammations, burns, bruises, skin
GINSENG, KOREAN (Panax) is the most widely used and studied ginseng
in the world. As an adaptogen herb, it is believed to help "balance"
the body. Ginseng's botanical name, Panax, is derived from the Greek
goddess, Panacea, the one who "heals all.". Ancient Chinese records
dated from 25 AD mention this plant as a superior herb for increasing
overall strength and endurance, and for promoting health and well-
being throughout the body. Korean Ginseng is said to be hotter than
either the American or Siberian Ginseng.
David Mowrey in his book, "Next Generation Herbal Medicine ", has
compiled a "Top Twenty" listing for Korean Ginseng based on the "mass
of clinical data and 3,000 years of ancient Chinese medicine":
IRISH MOSS *
Encourages immune system to produce more T-cells and macrophages.