Natural medicine for the Immune System

Why washing your hands is the most important measure you can take…

Here is an easy take on why washing your hands is a priority from US MD, Eugene Gu. “The coronavirus is a developed virus - meaning it has an outer membrane made of oil and fat that it steals from our own cells by pinching off a piece of our cell membranes in a process called viral shedding. It allows the virus to invade our immune system but there’s a trade off. All enveloped viruses like the coronavirus are extremely susceptible to simple soaps and detergents of any kind. That’s because our soap literally explodes the outer membranes of these viruses. Without the envelope, they can’t invade our cells or cause any harm. They simply die.”

Whilst containment is an important part of prevention there is more you can do for your patients using a combination of Elderberry and Astragalus.

The use of elderberries for giving the body a boost has a tradition in folk medicine dating back to the 17th century. In fact it is said that Hippocrates called the elder tree his “medicine chest” because of its many health-promoting properties.

Like most other berries, elderberries are a good source of antioxidants. In fact they are rated more effective than cranberries and blueberries, touted for their high antioxidant capacity. 

Beyond these antioxidant benefits benefits elderberry has been shown to be a powerful tool in the dispensary for various strains of influenza and bacterial infections. In a double blind randomised controlled trial (RCT) elderberry extract was demonstrated to have immune system modulating properties in healthy people suggesting that elderberry plays a role in boosting overall immune function. 

Elderberry extract was shown to be effective against 10 different strains of the flu and reduced the  duration of the flu symptoms compared to placebo. The same study showed that elderberry extract increased production of inflammatory cytokines (IL-1 beta, TNF alpha, IL-6, IL-8) by 2-45 fold compared to lipopolysaccharide (LPS) a known monocyte activator which ramped up these immune tools by just 3-10 fold.

Astragalus extracts are native to China and have been used in both traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and western natural medicine for centuries. In TCM, astragalus is commonly found in mixtures with other herbs, and is used in the treatment of numerous ailments, including heart, liver, and kidney diseases, as well as viral infections, and immune system disorders. 

While there are dozens, if not hundreds of reported uses, astragalus is commonly use for both the treatment and prevention of the common cold. An antiviral activity has been reported but it is the strengthening of the immune system as a preventative that is of most interest when used concomitantly with Elderberry as astragalus is also well known for its adaptogenic qualities to aid the body whilst experiencing acute episodes of stress.

Lactobacillus rhamnosus and the use of probiotics in the prevention of upper respiratory tract infection show that probiotics are not just for the digestive system

In 2015, the Cochrane library released its second met analysis looking at the role that probiotics can have in the prevention and treatment of acute URTI. Looking at a total of 3720 participants including children, adults and older aged people, it concluded that “probiotics were better than placebo in reducing the number of participants experiencing episodes of acute URTI, the mean duration of an episode of acute URTI, antibiotic use and cold-related school absence.”

It is considered that there are a number of ways in which probiotics enhance health, one of which is the immunomodulation of local immunity (by maintaining gut wall integrity) and systemic immunity (by boosting non-specific and specific arms of the immune system).

Do you have any prescriptions or protocols for the immune system that you would like to share?

We are always looking for contributions from our network of practitioners in Hong Kong to add to the fresh and innovative ways we can use natural medicine to help people. 

We have added links to two of our favourite considerations for the maintenance of the immune system that we think your patients will benefit from!

Combining elderberry, astragalus and other immune strengthening ingredients in a great tasting liquid for both adults and children. Research suggests that certain herbs, mushrooms and other natural compounds have the ability to support normal immune functions such as natural killer (NK) cell activity, cytokine synthesis, and the T-cell and B-cell mediated responses.

Ther-Biotic® Complete is a robust, broad-spectrum, hypoallergenic blend of 12 probiotic species in a base of inulin. Designed to supply a complete component of synergistic and complementary species, each capsule provides 25 billion CFU protected by our proprietary InTactic® technology for maximum viability throughout the intestinal tract.