Okay, I know this issue is supposed to be about the immune system, but I'd first like to vent about something else for a moment.
Perhaps it's just me, but weren't the news stories on the dangers of ephedra much bigger, far more in your face, and didn't they go on much longer than the stories a couple of weeks ago on Vioxx, the arthritis drug implicated in heart attacks and cardiac arrest? Based on the visibility and length of time the stories ran (the Vioxx stories were off the air within a couple of days) can there be any doubt but that ephedra is far more dangerous than Vioxx?
So what's my point?
My point is that the total number of deaths attributed (very tenuously, I might add) to the "deadly herb" ephedra totaled 155 over 5 years. The number of deaths that Vioxx appears to have caused total, conservatively, some 27,000. Shame on the medical community and shame on the media for this dangerously misinformed bias!
But enough of that. Back to the task at hand, looking at nature's immune enhancers and pathogen destroyers
Scientists have known for years that it is possible to improve the functioning of the immune system. Here in the United States, the approach has been to use expensive, proprietary drugs. Current favorites include concentrated cytokines such as Interleukin and Interferon. The rest of the world, on the other hand, has adopted a more natural approach by seeking to use natural substances to:
- Stimulate and strengthen your immune system
- Fight infection
- Strengthen tissue against assault by invading microorganisms
- Stimulate macrophage capability
- Increase T-Cell production and protect T-helper cells
- Complement the action of Interferon and Interleukin 1
- Assist the Cell Mediated Immune Response
Surprisingly, not only are the natural immune boosters far safer than the drug approach (having far fewer side effects); they are also far more powerful than their pharmaceutical counterparts.
Let's take a look at some of the more powerful immune boosters available to us. First, we'll look at the herbal boosters, then a couple of other options that are available.
Echinacea is truly a miracle herb. For one thing, it contains echinacoside (a natural antibiotic, comparable to penicillin in effect) that can kill a broad range of viruses, bacteria, fungi, and protozoa, which makes it invaluable in wound healing and in the treatment of infectious diseases. Research has also reported echinacea's efficacy in treating colds, flu, bronchitis, tuberculosis, infections, etc.
Echinacea also contains echinacein, a biochemical that protects against germ attack by neutralizing the tissue dissolving enzyme, hyaluronidase, produced by many germs. Also, studies such as one published in Infection and Immunology show that echinacea contains substances that boost the ability of your body's macrophages to destroy germs. And other studies from the University of Munich have shown that echinacea extracts boost T-cell production by as much as 30% more than immune boosting drugs.
Pau d'arco (Tabebuia heptophylla) comes from the rain forests of Brazil and other areas of South America. This amazing herb nourishes the body's defense system and helps protect against pathogenic organisms. It has been used for centuries to improve immune function, detoxify, and reduce pain throughout the body—especially in the joints. Research has shown that it contains a natural antibacterial agent, has a healing effect on the entire body, cleanses the blood, and kills viruses.
Pau d'arco has been used as a treatment for AIDS, allergies, all infections and inflammations, anemia, asthma, arthritis, arteriosclerosis, as a blood builder, bronchitis, all types of cancer, candida, colitis, cystitis, smoker's cough, diabetes, eczema, fistulas, gastritis, gonorrhea, hemorrhages, hernias, Hodgkin's disease, liver disease, leukemia, lupus, multiple sclerosis, osteomyelitis, Parkinson's disease, polyps, prostatitis, psoriasis, rheumatism, skin cancer, skin sores, spleen infections, snake bites, ulcers, varicose veins, warts, and plain old wounds.
Natives of the Amazon jungle have used Suma for at least the last 300 years. It wasn't until 1975, however, that Suma was introduced to the 20th century and tested at the University of São Paulo, Brazil.
The studies, conducted by Dr. Milton Brazzach, concluded that although it was not a cure, it nevertheless brought significant relief for cancer, diabetes, and gout sufferers—with no undesirable side effects. Since then, studies at the American College of the Healing Arts by Dr. Michael Tierra, author of The Way of Herbs, indicated that consistent use of Suma may help combat fatigue (including treatment of chronic fatigue and low-energy conditions), prevent colds and flus, speed healing, regulate blood sugar, and stimulate the sex drive.
The key working ingredients in Suma are:
- Pfaffic acid, which prevents the spread of various cell disorders.
- Pfaffocides and other saponins, which help stop diseases already in progress.
- The plant hormones sitosterol and stigmasterol, which prevent cholesterol absorption and improve blood circulation.
- Alantoin, which helps accelerate healing.
- And most important of all: Germanium. Suma has one of the highest concentrations of Ge-132 of any plant known.
What's the big deal with Ge-132? It was actually discovered about 20 years ago by a Japanese research chemist named Kazuhiko Asai. Its full name is bis-Carboxyethylgermanium Sesquioxide (or Germanium Sesquioxide, for short).
According to studies by Dr. Parris M. Kidd, "This substance, while free of major side effects, can apparently invigorate, rejuvenate, restore sexual function, protect against miscarriages during pregnancy, heal burns without scarring, cure radiation sickness, restore eyesight and hearing, kill the pain of advanced cancer, and shrink cancers within weeks. Circulatory disorders, including heart attacks, angina pectoris, stroke, and peripheral impairments respond well to Ge-132, as do hepatitis and cirrhosis and several behavior disorders."
Astragalus root is an immunostimulant used in the treatment of chronic viral infections, hepatitis, edema, common cold, and flu. In vitro, Astragalus increases the interferon response to viral infection and works synergistically with administered interferon. And astragulus increases phagocytic activity and antibody levels and improves the functioning of natural killer cells.
Many of the compounds found in Reishi, Maitake, and Cordyceps mushrooms are classified as Host Defense Potentiators (HDP). It is believed that combinations of these compounds target and strengthen the human immune system as well as aid in neuron transmission, metabolism, hormonal balance and the transport of nutrients and oxygen. Through a host-mediated (T-cell) immune mechanism, they help the body regulate the development of lymphoid stem cells and other important defense responses.
The anti-cancer and immune enhancing effects of the Reishi mushroom are thought to be largely due to the polysaccharides. Reishi mushrooms are high in mucopolysaccharides, which your body incorporates into cellular membranes making them resistant to viruses and pathogenic bacteria. The polysaccharides appear to activate the macrophages, the white blood cell that "consumes" viruses, bacteria, and other large particulate matter.
Maitake mushrooms have a very high concentration of a unique polysaccharide compound called beta-1,6-glucan, which researchers now consider to be one of the most powerful immune stimulants and adaptogens known. A research study reported in the Chemical Pharmaceutical Bulletin (1988) showed that maitake produced a 64% inhibition of breast cancer and tumor activity and a 75% inhibition of skin cancer and tumor activity. Also, laboratory studies conducted at the US. National Cancer Institute and the Japanese National Institute of Health showed that maitake extract kills the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and enhances the activity of T-helper cells. Research has demonstrated that Maitake stimulates a variety of different immune cells including macrophages, NK-cells, Th, Tc and Tdh cells. And not only does it stimulate the production of these immune cells, but it increases their efficiency and effectiveness by increasing the production of interleukin-l, interleukin-2, and lymphokines. As we've already talked about, these are chemicals that your body normally produces to stimulate the body's immune responses and help target foreign substances. Maitake has been confirmed to have a multifaceted benefit for cancer and tumors.
- It protects healthy cells from becoming cancerous.
- It helps prevent the spread of cancer (metastasis).
- It slows or stops the growth of tumors.
- It works in conjunction with chemotherapies by lessening their negative side effects. One study reported a 90% lessening of side effects from chemo including hair loss, pain and nausea.
Cordyceps has properties similar to those of ginseng and has been used to strengthen and rebuild the body after exhaustion or long-term illness. It has also been used traditionally for impotence, neurasthenia, and backache. Recent research with extracts of Cordyceps has yielded a protein-bound polysaccharide with high oral activity against tumors, as well as immunological enhancement. Cordyceps is one of the most valued medicinal fungi in all Chinese medicine, and also one of the most expensive (costing as much as $249 per kilogram). Cordyceps is widely employed to treat upper respiratory problems, impotence, weakened immune systems, and by athletes to increase endurance.
When we talked about the medicinal mushrooms, we mentioned the role that Beta 1-3 Glucan plays. Well, there is also Beta 1-3/1-6 Glucan, a natural complex carbohydrate found primarily in the cell walls of yeast. It works by "activating" macrophage cells.
The polysaccharide component of aloe vera, acemannan, possesses significant immune enhancing and antiviral activity. Unfortunately, there is great variation in the amount of acemannan from one manufacturer to the next. Products with high levels of acemannan activity have been proven to increase lymphocyte response to alloantigen by enhancing the monocyte release of interleukin-I. In addition, acemannan has been shown to increase macrophage levels and have a positive effect on CD-4, CD-8, T-4, and T-8 levels
Alkyglycerols (also known as alkolxyglycerols, or AKG's) are naturally manufactured in the body and are found in mother's milk, the liver, the spleen, and bone marrow. They play a major role in the production and stimulation of white blood cells. They also help to normalize bone marrow function. The immune supportive effect of AKG's helps our bodies protect against bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. The most potent source of AKG's in the world is shark liver oil.
Lactoferrin is one of the cytokines produced in the human body. It is found anywhere that is especially vulnerable to attack, such as in the gut, eyes, ears, nose, throat, urinary tract, etc. Lactoferrin has been shown to:
- Inhibit virus replication, including both the AIDS and Herpes viruses, in healthy cells
- Inhibit tumor growth and metastasis
- It is directly toxic to both bacteria and yeast and is therefore invaluable in helping prevent bacterial and candida overgrowth in the gut
- Activate neutrophil cells
Supplementation with lactoferrin (or stimulating its production in your body with probiotics) can significantly boost the immune system and/or help the body recover from any existing infection. On the other hand, maintaining healthy levels of intestinal flora allow the body to produce its own lactoferrin.
Colostrum is the clear, yellowish, pre-milk fluid produced from the mother's mammary glands during the first 72 hours after birth. It provides both immune and growth factors essential for the health and vitality of the newborn.
Obviously, supplementation with human colostrum is not an option. But researchers have found that bovine colostrum is virtually identical to human colostrum, with one exception -- the immune factors are actually several times more concentrated.
The immune factors in colostrum have been shown to help the body resist pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, yeast and fungus. In addition, colostrum contains a number of antibodies to specific pathogens including E coli, salmonella, rotavirus, candida, streptococcus, staphylococcus, H pylori, and cryptosporidia. Also, medical research has shown that proline-rich-polypeptide, a component of colostrum, works as an immunomodulator, boosting a low immune system and balancing out an overactive immune system.
Incidentally, colostrum is a potent source of lactoferrin.
And finally, another key component of colostrum is Transfer Factor, or more accurately: transfer factors. Transfer factors are very, very small molecules that transfer immunity information from one entity to another. In effect, they transfer immunity "memory," thereby giving you instant resistance to a number of diseases -- diseases that you've never had.
Glutathione is a natural amino-acid-based tripeptide molecule found in human cells. In addition to being a powerful antioxidant, glutathione works to support the active functioning of the immune system and is a key component of all lymphocytes. In fact, all lymphocytes require sufficient levels of intracellular glutathione to function properly. It also plays a major protective role against the damaging effects of the whole range of pathogens and carcinogens.
For many people, glutathione supplements are upsetting to the stomach. It is also questionable as to how much of the glutathione molecule actually makes it through the digestive process and into the bloodstream. Alternatives include the glutathione precursors cystine and glutamyl-cystine and specially formulated whey products.
Mangosteen contains a unique group of antioxidants called xanthones. Xanthones, particularly beta and gamma mangostin, work to maintain the immune system, support cardiovascular health, optimize joint flexibility, are naturally antibiotic, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory, and are some of the most powerful antioxidants found in nature (over 14 times the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity of red raspberries). In addition, recent studies have confirmed that gamma Mangostin is a potent COX inhibitor, an important factor in reducing inflammation, pain and fever.
Now, while it is true that the immune boosting abilities of mangosteen have not yet been proven in human studies, the number of in vitro studies (backed by mountains of anecdotal evidence) supports the listing of mangosteen in this report.
The Pathogen Destroyers
Pathogen destroyers represent an alternative, complementary route to optimizing your immune system. They don't build immune function as the immune boosters do. Instead, they "free up" immune function by directly destroying pathogens in the body that would otherwise "occupy the attention" of your immune system.
Olive Leaf Extract
Olive leaf extract has a long history of being used against illnesses in which microorganisms play a major role. In more recent years, a drug company discovered that in vitro (test tube) testing, an extract from olive leaf (calcium elenolate) was effective in eliminating a very broad range of organisms, including bacteria, viruses, parasites, and yeast/mold/fungus.
Oil of Wild Mountain Oregano
Oil of oregano is antiviral, antibacterial, anti fungal, and anti parasitic. It also has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. The key components, the isomeric phenols, in dilutions as low as 1 to 50,000, destroy a wide range of pathogens, including: Candida albicans, Aspergillus mold, Staphylococcus, Campylobacter, Klebsiella, E.coli, Giardia, Pseudomonas, and Proteus. Another phenol constituent, thymol, actually helps boosts the immune system.
Grapefruit Seed Extract
Grapefruit seed extract is a broad spectrum anti-pathogen.
Internally grapefruit seed extract can help with gastrointestinal disorders, diarrhea, food poisoning, parasites (single and multi-celled), candida yeast infections, thrush, oral infections, colds and flu, sore throats, strep throat, and sinusitis. Externally grapefruit seed extract is used for many skin conditions as well; acne, athletes foot, cold sores, warts, cuts, scrapes, wounds and infections, rashes, head lice, dandruff, nail fungus, chickenpox and much more! Physicians have observed that the herpes simplex virus becomes inactive just ten minutes after the application of grapefruit seed extract.
Although the three previous pathogen destroyers are extremely potent, garlic is my favorite -- for the simple reason that it is the "kindest" to the beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract. The olive leaf extract, oil of oregano, and grapefruit seed extract can all destroy your beneficial bacteria if taken in sufficient quantity. Garlic is kinder to probiotics. In addition, garlic is one of the best infection fighters available for both bacterial and viral infections. One of its many ingredients, allicin, is a natural antibiotic that does not appear to create resistant bacteria strains. In addition, fresh garlic extract has been shown to be deadly to many viruses.
Garlic also possesses the ability to stimulate the activity of the macrophages which engulf foreign organisms, such as viruses, bacteria, and yeast. Furthermore, garlic increases the activity of the T-helper cells. And garlic may be particularly effective in treating upper respiratory viral infections due to its immune-enhancing properties and its ability to clear mucous from the lungs. And finally, garlic is also effective against strep and staph bacteria.
(Everything that's been said about garlic goes for onions. Onions and garlic share many of the same powerful sulfur bearing compounds that work so effectively as antiviral and antibacterial agents.)
For External Use
Colloidal silver is a suspension of submicroscopic metallic silver particles in a colloidal base. Although colloidal silver can be an effective anti-pathogen, I have several concerns.
- Concentrations can vary wildly from company to company, and even from batch to batch within the same company
- In many products, the silver particles are too big and are not a true colloidal suspension. That means that over time, they drop out of suspension, and the concentration in the liquid lessens.
- When it is at sufficient strength to be effective, it is indiscriminate -- that it is it kills the good intestinal bacteria as well the bad.
- And it can indeed, if taken in sufficient quantity, cause argyria, an irreversible blue/gray discoloration of the skin. (Although rare as the result of using colloidal silver, it has nevertheless been documented.)
My bottom line recommendation, and I know this will anger many colloidal silver advocates, is to restrict colloidal silver to external use. And if you do decide to use it internally, use it only on special occassions, and be sure to follow up with a good probiotic supplement.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil was first used thousands of years ago by the aborigines as a natural antiseptic and fungicide. It has now been proven to possess anti-microbial activity against a wide range of pathogens. In addition to being used topically for everything from cold sores to acne to infections, it can also be used in a humidifier for relief from colds, flu, cold, bronchitis, and emphysema.
Note: tea tree oil is toxic if swallowed. It should only be used externally, or at low concentrations in humidifiers.
Conclusion: Building Immunity
Obviously, there's more listed in this report than any individual can handle at one time, so what should you do? Let me just tell you what I do.
For building my immune system, I center the program on a tincture that I formulated which contains several of the immune builders in one formula (Echinacea, pau d'arco, suma, astragalus, and cordyceps). This is my mainstay. I use a bottle a month. I also use a high quality organic colostrum supplement on a regular basis. As a backup to these two products, I float through the other boosters. For example, I'll go through a couple of bottles of an alkyglycerol product. Then when I run out of that, I'll use a couple of bottles of acemannan, then switch to a mushroom based AHCC formula, then a high potency beta glucan formula, and then a glutathione builder. Bottom line, I have two regular formulas (my Echinacea tincture and a 40% Igg, organic colostrum) that serve as the constant core of my program. Then I float in and out of the other boosters one by one. The net effect is that I'm always doing something to keep my immune system optimized -- boosting it in different ways, through different pathways.
And as for pathogen destroyers, I use my own antipathogen liquid as my mainstay. As I mentioned above, I like garlic because it works so well without damaging the beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract. In fact, though, I don't use it on a daily basis. I've learned to pay attention to my body. I use it when I need it.
- I use it whenever I've spent the day with people who have colds and/or the flu -- as a prophylactic.
- I use it after flying because of the recirculated air.
- I use it whenever I feel slightly off -- if I have a scratchy throat, my nose starts getting stuffy, at the first sign of a post nasal drip, or if I start to get a dull achy feeling, or if I feel my body temperature getting hotter than normal. In other words, I use it whenever I get the first sign that I might be getting sick. And then I use large doses of it -- usually downing an entire bottle in one day. Nine times out of ten, that does the trick.
- And on those rare occasions, that the cold or flu start to take hold, I continue the high dose of garlic formula and supplement it with olive leaf extract and grapefruit seed extract. And then I make sure I replenish my intestinal bacteria with a good probiotic formula, which I do on a regular basis anyway.
- I'll also usually supplement that program by using a Q-tip to get the Echinacea formula deep into my sinus cavities. That works wonders. Click here to see how that's done.
- I will also tip my head to the side and put a couple of drops of the Echinacea formula in each ear to kill any viruses hiding out in the ear canal -- a preferred breeding ground. Note: 3% hydrogen peroxide works too.
There, you now have some strategies to deal with the cold and flu season -- even if you didn't get a flu shot.
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