Two Powerful Immune System Herbs
The top-selling herb in the USA, echinacea has been used for centuries by Native Americans to treat colds, flu and many other ailments. Because it contains three compounds with specific antiviral activity, echinacea is an effective immune stimulant that helps battle viral infections. Physicians such as Andrew Weil, M.D., author of "Natural Health, Natural Medicine," advise taking echinacea at the first sign of sniffles or sore throat.
Although echinacea is a native American herb, it is widely used in Europe. Commission E, the German scientific committee that judges the efficacy and safety of herbal medicines for the German government, has approved echinacea for treating influenza-like symptoms. "Commission E's approval of echinacea constitutes a significant scientific endorsement," says USDA botanist James Duke, Ph.D., writing in "The Green Pharmacy," (Rodale Books, 1997).
Studies indicate that echinacea raises levels of a chemical in the body called properdin, which activates the immune system to strengthen defense mechanisms against viruses and bacteria. According to Dr. Duke, echinacea is so powerful that, "root extracts of the plant have been shown to act like interferon, the body's own anti-viral compound."
While he notes that echinacea may be helpful in treating chronic fatigue syndrome, echinacea can also be used to help remedy sinusitis, yeast and bladder infections, and breastfeeding problems.
Research indicates that echinacea is most potent when taken for limited periods of time. "Because its immune-enhancing effect may diminish after prolonged use, it should not be used daily or on a long-term basis. It is important to give the body a 'rest period,'" Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D. explains in his book, "Optimal Health," (Bantam Books, 1997). "The usual recommended time frame is six to eight weeks followed by one to two weeks off," says Dr. Sinatra.
While echinacea is arguably the king of herbal anti-virals, Goldenseal is considered by many to be the queen of herbal antibiotics. When taken together, echinacea and goldenseal strengthen immunity by combatting both viruses and bacteria.
The main healing constituent in goldenseal is berberine, a powerful antifungal and antibacterial compound. Berberine's antiseptic and immune-stimulating properties may account for why goldenseal has long been used to treat a broad spectrum of infections such as bronchitis, sinusitis, yeast and other fungal infections. Goldenseal appears to increase the blood supply to the spleen, an organ which helps produce fighting cells for the immune system.
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