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influenza pandemic is now an "absolute certainty"
Since Mike Leavitt, the U.S. Health and Human Services
Secretary, announced in early August that the possibility of an
influenza pandemic is now an "absolute certainty," I've been
reading the latest reports on immune enhancing herbs. Well,
folks, now is the time to start taking them. And the sooner the
A chilling series of articles on the avian flu epidemic recently
appeared in the May 26, 2005, issue of the British magazine
Nature (May 26, 2005) on the pandemic flu threat. In one
article, Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of
Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says that the bird flu, which
has killed millions of birds and has been found in 10 countries,
"has the potential to trigger the next pandemic, which, judging
from history, is well overdue."
The World Health Organization has estimated that within months
of the start of a pandemic, nearly 30 million people would be
hospitalized and as many as 7.5 million would die.
That's scary stuff, especially when you consider that
flu-related deaths in the United States have already risen
dramatically since the 1970s, and that influenza now claims more
lives each year than AIDS. The rising death toll is largely the
result of the growing number of elderly people and their
vulnerability to the flu, and—according to researchers—the fact
that only about 65 percent of older people get vaccinated.
But the reality is that flu shots do not protect aging immune
systems, and they are actually probably more harmful than good.
Even the extremely conservative Journal of the American Medical
Association has said that "the main weapon doctors have against
flu—a vaccine—has proven disappointingly ineffective in the most
vulnerable population, people 65 and older."
So what can you do to help yourself and your loved ones stay
healthy this winter? In this Health and Wellness Update we'll
tell you why flu immunizations wreak havoc on the immune system
… and which herbs have been scientifically shown to strengthen
your resistance to the colds and flu that make millions of
people miserable each year.
To your health,
Don't Catch That Cold or Flu!
Arm Yourself NOW—with Proven Immune-Enhancing Nutraceuticals
Your immune system is like an invisible shield that protects you
from invading bacteria and viruses. The problem is that stress, a
poor diet, environmental pollutants, and sleep deprivation can
weaken it. Because of this, it's more important than ever to
support your immune system—especially at this time of year.
Approximately 62 million Americans will get a cold this year,
and put a $40 billion strain on the U.S. economy—because of lost
work and school time. On top of that, the National Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 10 to 20
percent of Americans will come down with the flu. Children are
two to three times more likely than adults to get sick with the
flu, and they frequently spread the virus to others.
Although most people recover from the illness, CDC estimates
that in the United States more than 100,000 people are
hospitalized and about 36,000 people die from the flu and its
complications every year. But even more worrisome, scientists
fear that a new flu virus will emerge in this century and cause
a severe pandemic … and they are especially concerned about the
deadly H5N1 flu strain, which is transmitted by birds and is
becoming endemic in Asia.
In this special Health and Wellness report, we'll tell you how
to avoid respiratory infections and the flu. And if you do
happen to get sick, you'll learn how several herbal extracts can
reduce the number of days that you are out of commission.
Maintaining a strong immune system
Immune health depends on eating right, getting enough sleep and
exercise, and avoiding environmental toxins and stress. It's
almost impossible to avoid environmental toxins because of
plastics, automobile emissions, and the overuse of insecticides
and pesticides—just to name a few. Sugar and alcohol consumption
inhibit proper immune function. And obesity has been linked to
decreased immune function, as well.
About 60 years ago, researcher Weston Price, D.D.S., observed a
high degree of immunity among native cultures as he traveled to
places like Africa, New Zealand, and the Andes Mountains. The
indigenous cultures were virtually free of tuberculosis, cancer,
dental disease, and arthritis. Price also noticed that the two
things these peoples had in common were a diet of whole,
unprocessed foods and an active lifestyle.
Scientific research has since confirmed Price's observations.
Proper immune function relies on good nutrition, physical
activity,and emotional health.
Daily nutritional supplementation is your best bet for making
sure your nutritional needs are met, as well as supporting your
immune health. And during cold and flu season, it's important to
take more aggressive measures.
Western medicine promotes vaccines, which contain dead or
weakened bacteria, viruses or other materials such as inactive
toxins, to stimulate the production of antibodies against a
specific pathogen. But as we well know, these vaccines can upset
the immune system's balance and produce side effects—which can
sometimes be uncomfortable and dangerous.
Fortunately there are a number of safe herbs that enhance
overall immunity by stimulating or strengthening the body's own
defense mechanisms, without adding stress to your system.
The truth behind flu vaccines
Vaccine sales are increasing and it seems the sky is the limit
as to how high sales will go. Global revenues from the sale of
vaccines, which was once primarily a commodity market, are
expected to reach nearly $10 billion in 2006, up from $5.4
billion in 2001.
Recently, the U.S. government agreed to stockpile $100 million
worth of a still-experimental vaccine against the deadly avian
flu virus. But are flu vaccines safe … and do they work?
Here are some of the toxins that are typically used in
-- Thimerosal (a mercury disinfectant/preservative) has been
implicated as a possible cause of the rising epidemic of autism
in American children. Although it has been eliminated from most
vaccinations in the US, it is still included in the flu shot.
And according to the World Health organization, it is still
widely used in developing countries.
-- Ethylene glycol (antifreeze)
-- Phenol, also known as carbolic acid (this is used as a
disinfectant, and/or dye)
-- Formaldehyde, a known carcinogenic
-- Aluminum, which is associated with seizures and is a
carcinogenic in laboratory mice. (It is used as an additive to
promote antibody response.) Although it has been linked to
Alzheimer's disease, there is no reason to believe it is a
Vaccines are also grown and strained through animal or human
tissues like monkey kidney tissue, chicken embryo, embryonic
guinea pig cells, calf serum, and human diploid cells (the
dissected organs of aborted human fetuses as in the case of
rubella, hepatitis A, and chickenpox vaccines).
Today, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 21 shots
before age 2, the first—for hepatitis B—coming within hours of
birth. Boyd Haley, a professor of chemistry at the University of
Kentucky contends that if a child in the 1990s got all of the
shots, he or she would be exposed to mercury levels of more than
100 times those deemed safe by the EPA.
According to a report published in the online version of the
British journal The Lancet, (Sept. 22) worldwide resistance to
drugs used to treat influenza has increased to 12 percent since
the mid-1990s. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDCP) in Atlanta screened 7,000 influenza A
samples for gene mutations known to build drug resistance. They
found that drug resistance increased from 0.4 percent in
1994-1995 to 12.3 percent in 2003-2004. They also found that 61
percent of resistant viruses isolated since 2003 were from
people in Asia. Some Asian countries had drug resistance
frequencies exceeding 70 percent.
The authors of the study express concern that rising rates of
resistance will cause Amantadine and Rimantadine—the drugs
typically used to prevent and treat influenza type A—to be
ineffective in the event of an influenza pandemic. That, in
turn, would make government stockpiles useless. The Lancet also
warns that circulating human flu bugs are very quickly becoming
resistant to two older-type flu drugs: Symmetrel and Flumadine.
The findings "raise concerns" about the widespread use of these
drugs, notes Rick Bright, PhD, research scientist at the CDC's
National Center for Infectious Diseases, and colleagues.
Tom Jefferson, MD, and colleagues at Cochrane Vaccines Field in
Alessandria, Italy, conducted a second study published in the
same issue of The Lancet and concluded that flu vaccines are
only mildly effective in the elderly, and at best, they help
prevent onset of complications.
"In fact, the vaccine doesn't work very well at all," said study
author Dr. Jefferson. "Vaccines are being used as an ideological
weapon. What you see every year as the flu is caused by 200 or
300 different agents with a vaccine against two of them. That is
In addition to the bad news about the inefficiency of vaccines,
it is likely there is going to be another shortage. During the
2004-05 influenza vaccination campaign, manufacturers
distributed approximately 57.1 million doses of vaccine,
substantially less than the estimated 83.1 million during the
Although drug manufacturers are working hard to produce a
vaccine to ward off an avian flu pandemic, we can only guess as
to whether the experimental new vaccines will work … and whether
there will be enough of them.
Your best bet is to take control of your own health. Don't leave
it in the hands of the government and Big Pharma. Do everything
you can NOW to strengthen your immune system with potent, yet
gentle, proven herbs that have a proven track record and
scientific studies to back them up.
5 proven herbal extracts to get you through the winter without
getting a cold or flu
• Andrographis paniculata
• Astragalus root
• Olive Leaf extract
• Elderberry extract
Andrographis paniculata is an herb used in traditional Chinese
and Indian medicine to support healthy digestive,
cardiovascular, and urinary systems. In Sweden, however,
Andrographis has been used for more than 10 years as a primary
herb to combat flu and upper respiratory infections. And
according to recent scientific studies, Andrographis has
demonstrated significant success in fighting the common cold,
flu, upper respiratory infections, and even Streptococcus.
The most significant compounds in Andrographis are diterpene
lactones, known as Andrographolides, which produce significant
Several double-blind, placebo-controlled parallel group clinical
trials investigated the effect of Andrographis extract on
uncomplicated upper-respiratory tract infections. In all of them
there was significant improvement in the symptoms of subjects who
took the herbal extract versus those who took a placebo.
In one study (at the School of Medicine, University of Chile,
Santiago) a group of 158 adult patients was divided in two. One
group took the herbal extract and the other group took a
placebo. The patients then self-evaluated their symptoms of
headache, tiredness, sore throat, sleeplessness, nasal
secretion, phlegm, and intensity of cough. By the second day,
the group that took Andrographis showed a significant decrease
in the intensity of the symptoms of tiredness, sleeplessness,
sore throat, and nasal secretion when compared to the placebo
group. By the fourth day, the Andrographis group exhibited a
significant decrease in the intensity of all symptoms. The
researchers concluded that Andrographis had a high degree of
effectiveness in reducing the prevalence and intensity of the
symptoms in uncomplicated common cold beginning at day two of
treatment. No adverse effects were observed or reported.
Another study took place at the Erebuni Medical Centre, Yerevan,
Armenia. Ninety-five patients took Andrographis, and 90 took the
placebo. After five days, the individuals who took the herbal
extract showed great improvement in the symptoms of malaise,
sore throat, nasal secretion and headache, while eye and cough
symptoms didn't differ much between the two groups. Temp-erature
was also slightly lowered in the Andrographis group. The
researchers concluded that Andrographis, in addition to having a
positive effect on upper respiratory infections, also helps
reduce the inflammatory symptoms of sinusitis.
A meta-analysis (a statistical analysis that summarizes the
results of many studies) of Andrographis found that the data
suggest that Andrographis is superior to placebo in alleviating
the subjective symptoms of uncomplicated upper respiratory tract
infection. There is also preliminary evidence that Andrographis
produces a preventative effect.
Researchers at the Department of Pharmacology, Chulalongkorn
University, Bangkok, Thailand, found that Andrographis inhibits
the adherence of Streptococcus mutans to a surface.
How safe is it?
Studies have found very few adverse reactions to Adrophraphis,
and many of them were mild and rare. Overall, Andrographis has
been found to be a safe and efficacious treatment for the relief
symptoms of uncomplicated upper respiratory.
2) Astragalus root
Astragalus root is native to Mongolia and China, and has been
used for thousands of years in China to ward off illness,
strengthen the immune system, and chi—the building block of all
spiritual and physical energy. While over 2,000 types of
Astragalus exist worldwide, the Chinese version has been
extensively tested, both chemically and pharmacologically.
Astragalus enhances immune function by increasing the activity
of certain white blood cells, which increases the production of
antibodies. It also increases the production of interferon (an
anti-viral and anti-tumor agent naturally produced by the body)
and stimulates natural killer cells.
In addition to boosting immunity, Astragalus has antibacterial,
adaptogenic, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral effects.
According to James Duke, Ph.D., a leading authority on healing
herbs, Astragalus increases production of the body's own
antiviral compounds alpha-and gamma-interferon, which generally
protect against viral invasion.
Astragalus also enhances T-cell production and stimulates
macrophages, which in turn help other immune cells fight
bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi, toxins, and diseased
Astragalus contains numerous components, including
polysaccharides, flavonoids, triterpene glycosides, amino acids,
and trace minerals. It owes most of its immune-enhancing
effects to polysaccharides, a group of complex sugars
responsible for initiating the immune response. Polysaccharides
work with other key components to then strengthen and build the
In a small Chinese study, ten people whose heart muscles were
infected with Coxsackie B virus—the cause of myocarditis or
heart inflammation—received injections of Astragalus extract for
three to four months. The activity of their natural killer cells
rose 11 to 45 percent. European studies suggest that many of the
immune-stimulating compounds in Astragalus are active when taken
Another Chinese study found that Astragalus increased immune
function in patients with congestive heart failure.
A recent Japanese study tested the effect of Astragalus (and two
other root extracts) on laboratory animals and found that it
stimulated immune response.
How safe is it?
Astragalus is safe to take on a regular basis and does not
appear to suppress the immune system with long-term use. It has
no known side effects when used as recommended.
3) Olive Leaf extract (Olea europaea L.)
The olive tree, a small evergreen native to Mediter-ranean
regions, has been revered throughout history for its
contribution to the culinary and healing arts. It has been used
for thousands of years as a folk remedy for treating fevers,
wounds, infection, and for skin rashes and boils. Now,
scientific research has shown that the active ingredients in
olive leaves do indeed have vast healing powers.
Olive Leaf extract has been used effectively against viruses,
retroviruses, bacterium, parasites, yeasts, protozoans, fungi,
molds and other microbes and diseases in laboratory testing.
Researchers also believe that the natural antioxidants found in
olive leaves prevent cardiovascular disease by inhibiting the
oxidation of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) the "bad"
cholesterol, which, in turn, retards the formation of
atherosclerotic plaques. Olive Leaf extract also plays a role in
supporting normal blood pressure and in reducing the risks
associated with stroke, by inhibiting the production of
thromboxane—a factor in blood clotting.
Olive Leaf has a variety of active constituents including
several types of flavonoids (apigenin, luteolin, chrysoeriol,
hesperidin, rutin, quercetin, and kaempferol) and the most
abundant active ingredient called oleuropein, (pronounced
oh-lee-or-oh-pin) which has proved to be a powerful antioxidant
The components of Olive Leaf extract inactivated every cold and
flu virus they were tested against. Oleuropein may also have
antibacterial properties. When unheated olives are brined in
order to preserve them, oleuropein is converted into another
chemical called elenolic acid. Elenolic acid has shown
antibacterial actions against Lactobacilli and Staphylococcus
aureus and Bacillus subtilus in a test tube study.
An in vitro study revealed that oleuropein and its derivative
hydroxytyrosol act as natural antibiotics against a range of
bacteria. Most impressively, these two components of Olive Leaf
inhibited Staphylococcus aureus, the bacteria responsible for
many hospital-acquired infections.Staphylococcus aureus is
notorious for its ability to mutate against antibiotics.
In other studies, oleuropein was found to be effective against
dozens of different viruses, Staphylococcus, Haemorrhagic
septicaemia, and HIV-1 infection.
How safe is it?
Olive Leaf extract has been demonstrated to be safe and
effective in animal experiments and by the hundreds of health
practitioners around the country who have used it to treat their
patients with remarkable results.
4) Elderberry Extract
Elderberry extract has traditionally been used to ease cold and
flu symptoms, sinus problems, fevers, and muscle pain. In the
1980s, virologist Madeline Mumcuoglu, Ph.D, researched how
Elderberry fights the flu. According to Mumcuoglu, flu viruses
are covered by tiny protein spikes of hemagglutinin, which they
use to attach to, and infect, healthy human cells. Elderberry
extract contains active substances that are able to prevent
viral hemagglutinin, or the process of the invading cells using
their spike-like projections to introduce its enzyme into
healthy cell membranes. She further noted that the viral enzyme
is also neutralized in the presence of Elderberry extract.
Elderberry contains rutin and quercertin (flavonoids), Vitamin
C, and anthocyanins.
In 1993, a team of Israeli scientists studied the effect of
Elderberry on flu patients. During a flu epidemic at an Israeli
Kibbutz, half of the flu patients were given Elderberry syrup,
the other half a placebo. Within two days, 90% of the group
treated with Elderberry extract had a complete recovery,
whereas, it took 6 days for 91.7% of the control group to
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study,
scientists assessed the effect of Elderberry extract on the
healthy immune system—namely, its effect on cytokine production.
(Cytokines are small secreted proteins which mediate and regulate
immunity and inflammation.) The production of inflammatory
cytokines was tested using blood-derived monocytes from 12
healthy human donors. Production of inflammatory cytokines was
significantly increased, leading the researchers to conclude
that Elderberry extract might be beneficial to the immune system
activation and in the inflammatory process in healthy individuals
or in patients with various diseases. Elder-berry extract could
also have an immunoprotective or immunostimulatory effect when
administered to cancer or AIDS patients, in conjunction with
chemotherapeutic or other treatments.
How safe is it?
Elderberry is very safe for adults and children. No adverse
effects have been reported.
Echinacea purpurea is a perennial herb native to the midwestern
and southeastern United States. Native Americans used it more
than any other plant for treating illness and injury, including
wounds, snakebites, burns, toothache, and joint pains. Although
Echinacea's popularity waned with the advent of antibiotics, it
became respected among herbal practitioners in Europe after the
first scientific study in 1932. Today, Echinacea is the
best-selling herbal extract in America. In fact, according to
Nutrition Business Journal, sales of Echinacea products in 2004
totaled about $155 million.
More than 500 scientific studies have been done to determine
Echinacea's pharmacology and clinical applications. Researchers
have discovered that the herb contains a diverse range of active
components affecting different aspects of immune function.
Echinacea's polysaccharide and phytosterol constituents support
the immune system by activating white blood cells (lymphocytes
and macrophages).39 Echinacea also promotes nonspecific T-cell
activation, a type of white blood cell important in providing
resistance to mold like bacteria, yeast, fungi, parasites, and
viruses (including herpes simplex, Epstein-Barr, and viruses
that cause hepatitis.) The T-cells then increase the production
of interferon, an important part of the body's response to viral
In addition, Echinacea contains several components including the
glycoside echinacoside and the polysaccharide echinacin, which
have mild antibiotic and antifungal activity. Also, the
polysaccharide constituents of echinacea roots have been shown
to exhibit anti-inflammatory properties, which promote tissue
repair41—which is why Echinacea has a long history of use for
the external treatment of wounds, burns, eczema, and other
Several double-blind studies have confirmed the benefit of
Echinacea for treating colds and flu,42-45 and the vast amount
of positive outcome clinical studies support the use of
Echinacea for preventing and treating cold and flu, preventing
and treating upper respiratory infections, and increasing
general immune system function.
What about the brouhaha over the study published in the July 28,
2005 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine? In case you
didn't read about it, it concluded that certain extracts of
Echinacea were statistically ineffective in lowering rates of
infection or severity of symptoms of an induced cold virus in a
group of 399 college students. And the media did a fantastic job
of smearing Echinacea as a reliable herb with powerful benefits.
It's important to understand that the study was flawed. Although
a majority of the scientific community acknowledges that the
study was performed in a scientific manner by a reputable
institute, Wayne Silverman, Chief Administrative Officer for the
American Botanical Council, pointed out three main flaws of the
First, the extracts used in the study were made in a university
lab, and they were not comparable to any Echinacea products
Even in the published discussion of the study, re-searchers
said, "Given the great variety of Echinacea preparations, it
will be difficult to provide conclusive evidence that Echinacea
has no role in the treatment of the common cold."
The second problem with the study was the dosage administered.
Silverman said, "We believe that with more frequent and higher
dosage, the results might have been different. The dosage used
in the study was probably one-third of what it should have
been," he said.
The real problem is that all Echinacea products are not equal.
The right active constituents must be identified and
standardized. Researchers make a huge mistake when they test an
Echinacea product without these qualifications.
The third problem was that using a group of college students in
a sequestered environment would not likely produce the same
results as using subjects with weaker immune systems, such as
"Unfortunately," said Silverman, "the results [of this study]
have been extrapolated to mean Echinacea is not effective,
period. This study should not be used as a reason to think
Echinacea is not effective at all."
Additionally, some health care professionals believe that
coverage of the study was biased, since media sources positioned
such a poorly designed study as front-page news.
The question that comes up, then, is why does the media ignore
news pieces on well-designed studies such as the study that
appeared in The Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics in
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study on
standardized Echinacea preparation [Echinilin], a commercially
produced Echinacea preparation, clinically proved that Echinacea
significantly reduced the severity and duration of the common
cold. Two hundred eighty two subjects aged 18-65 years with a
history of two or more colds in the previous year, but otherwise
in good health, received either Echinacea or placebo. They were
instructed to start the Echinacea or placebo at the onset of the
first symptom related to a cold, consuming 10 doses the first day
and four doses per day on subsequent days for 7 days. The
severity of the symptoms and dosing were recorded daily, and a
nurse examined the subjects on the mornings of days 3 and 8 of
One hundred twenty eight of the subjects got a common cold; 59
took Echinacea and 69 took a placebo. The total daily symptom
scores were found to be 23.1% lower in the Echinacea group.
Throughout the treatment period, the response rate to treatments
was greater in the Echinacea group. The researchers concluded
that early intervention with a standardized formulation of
Echinacea resulted in reduced symptom severity in subjects with
naturally acquired upper respiratory tract infection.
How safe is it?
Most of the studies of Echinacea have shown it to be a safe herb
with very limited side effects. According to the German
Commission E, because of its immune stimulating effects,
Echinacea should not be taken by individuals who have multiple
sclerosis, AIDS, tuberculosis, leukemia, or autoimmune disorders
such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, or by those taking
Zinc stops colds before they have a chance to take hold
In addition to the five herbs mentioned, the mineral zinc has
proven to be extremely effective in shortening the duration of
colds, and even halting them—sometimes before you reach for the
Although a Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
review of articles published between 1980 to 2003 on the
effectiveness of zinc in treating the common cold found that
clinical tests have been inconsistent, the review concluded that
zinc effectively and significantly shortened the duration of the
common cold when it was given within 24 hours of the onset of
symptoms. The review also found that the inconsistencies in the
clinical studies were mainly due to poor study design and the
contents of the zinc lozenges.48
In one study, 48 students, staff and employees at Wayne State
University who had cold symptoms for 24 hours or less were given
either a placebo or a zinc lozenge that contained 12.8 mg zinc
acetate. Participants were given 50 lozenges and asked to
dissolve one in their mouths every two to three hours while
awake as long as they had cold symptoms. They didn't take any
other cold preparations, and all the participants returned to
the clinic one day after their colds ended. At that time, their
plasma was examined for an immune factor called pro-inflammatory
cytokines which causes cold symptoms.
The zinc recipients suffered from their colds an average of 4.5
days, whereas the placebo group felt lousy for an average of 8.1
days. Most notably, the zinc recipients coughed for only three
days compared to six days for the placebo patients. When they
initially came in for treatment, those who ended up taking zinc
supplements actually reported more severe cold symptoms,
including fever, sneezing and sore throat. However, by day four,
their severity score was only half that of the placebo group.49
Lastly, anecdotal evidence often clarifies clinical evidence:
Many of us who use zinc lozenges or tinctures containing zinc
have found that when we take it at the first sign of a cold—for
instance, that scratchy feeling at the back of the throat, or a
mild burning sensation in the lungs—we are able to "nip it in
the bud," and continue with our normal activity without
succumbing to a bad case of the sniffles.
So pay attention to your body and start zinc as soon as you
notice the very first symptoms of a cold.
The good news is that you now have the information you need to
protect yourself and your family from getting sick this winter.
Stock up on the immune-enhancing herbs, cut down on sugar
consumption, get plenty of rest, and use common sense. If
there's a flu epidemic in your neck of the woods, go to the
grocery store when there's less likely to be a crowd. Don't go
to the movies. Instead, rent videos, etc.
And most importantly, wash your hands frequently!