This is a guest post by Michele and entry for our non-fiction writing contest.
The following is a synopsis from the book Herbal Antivirals by Stephen Harrod Buhner. In what follows, I highlight the main points of Buhner’s excellent book, focusing on the practical aspects of treating influenza and cytokine storm without delving too deeply into the technical biological processes of influenza infection.
Legal Disclaimer: Please do not construe the following as medical advice. If you have a have a medical problem, I suggest you consult your physician or licensed holistic or allopathic healer.
Influenza: A Brief History
The year is 1918. World War 1 is over and solders return home carrying the influenza virus within their bodies The first wave of the flu was a typical flu – infecting many, but only killing the very old and the very young.
The second wave of the virus was deadly to those between the ages of 20 and 40. Why? Because it turned their own immune systems against them. It caused the immune system to go into hyper-drive, a cytokine storm, which filled the lungs with fluid, damaged the infected lung cells which burst open from the inflammation. Additionally, unlike most influenza viruses, which stay mostly confined to the respiratory system, this virus spread to every mucous membrane system in the body, including the brain, the nose, stomach and intestines. These infected cells, like the lung cells, inflamed due to the massive cytokines the body was producing to combat the virus and burst open, causing massive bleeding from the nose, stomach, intestines, skin and ears.
The infected were housed in hospitals at first but as the numbers rose they were housed in school gyms, auditoriums or any large buildings that could hold masses of people. The patients would bleed out, the floors awash their blood.
It is estimated that one third of the WORLD’S population fell ill – over 500 million – killing somewhere between 50-100 million of people, or three to five percent of the world’s population. The estimates vary widely. This is because the system was so overwhelmed that people were buried in mass graves. Records, if they existed at all, were very often incomplete.
Possibly sometime in the near future
Most health experts warn that the next influenza pandemic is not a matter if “if” but a matter of “when”. Strains most likely to cause a pandemic are H1N1, which caused the 1918 pandemic and 2009 swine flu pandemic, H2N2 which caused the Asian flu in 1957, H3N2 which caused the Hong Kong flu pandemic in 1968. Experts are also concerned about H5N1 and H7N9. These are all RNA type influenza viruses, which pass through both pigs and birds, overcrowded due to agri-business, ‘mating’ with other viruses, swapping genetic material and reworking its own.
When they emerge with a reassortment that can infect humans, they are so different, that previous year’s vaccines are often ineffective. As such, new vaccines must be developed each year. Because vaccines take a minimum of three to six months to develop, produce and ship, health officials are forced to use old data to predict which strains will be prevalent in the next season’s season flu. Sometimes their predictions are on the mark, and the flu vaccine is a good match for the dominant strains. Many times their predictions are wrong, and the flu shot offers little protection against infection. On average, the flu shot is 50-70 percent effective in any given year.
The Influenza Virus
Some years see a mild or moderate flu season. In other years the virus spreads around the world causing seasonal epidemics or even pandemics killing 250,000 to 500,000 people.
With seasonal flu, most of the deaths are in the very old and very young. One-third of people infected remain asymptomatic, and the rest get some degree of the ‘flu’, cold, achy, fever, chills, coughing, fatigue, headache, sometimes abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting.
The symptoms typically begin on the third day after infection, but the virus is already well established by that time. It sticks to cells with a kind of ‘glue’ softening the cell wall, gets into the cell itself where it is safe from the body’s immune system. There it replicates.
This is where elderberry tincture and syrup help as both a preventative and to lessen the severity of an already establishing virus – elderberry keeps the virus from attaching to the cell walls so it is unable to enter the cell and replicate. By inhibiting replication of the virus, elderberry tincture and syrup lower the viral load and hence lessen the severity of the illness.
The Cytokine Storm
Cytokines and chemokines are part of our immune system. They respond to infections of viruses and bacteria. They are inflammatory molecules that create conditions difficult for the invaders to survive – these are the reason wounds get red, tender and swollen. (A good visual metaphor here is that cytokines are like puss.)
I’m going to explain the process, and in parenthesis I will list herbs that stop this particular action.
When the viruses are inhaled, they attach to the lining in the lungs (Chinese skull cap, fresh ginger). As soon as they attach to the cell, it makes the cell surface softer and ‘tricks’ the cell into allowing it inside (Chinese skullcap, elder, licorice, rhodiola, ginger, isatis, lespedeza bicolor, Angelica keiskei, Amorpha fruiticosa, quercetin, Alpina zerumbet, Erythrina addisoniae and Cleitocalyx operculatus). Once inside the cell, the virus stimulates the cell to create a sealed bubble called a vacuole. This is where the virus does its replication. It feeds itself and releases waste through the tiny portals in the cell walls (Lomatium is one of the most potent inhibitors of these actions – even stronger than the pharmaceutical amantadine- starving the virus). Once those portals are open, the virus disassembles itself and releases viral RNA and core proteins, which stimulates the cell into making copies of the viral RNA, each slightly different (Chinese skullcap). As the new viruses grow in numbers, the cells bulge, its components are depleted so that the cell dies, and the newly created viruses are released into the body to infect new cells and the process begins anew.
To the rescue comes the immune system in the form of cytokines. However, the viruses are wiley little things, and stimulate the cytokines in such a way that they actually make the surrounding cells more porous to the viruses. More and more inflammatory cytokines are released to fight the invaders. Further, the virus strongly stimulate type 1 interferon production, but the virus combats that too by using a protein, the NS1 protein, which blocks the interferon (licorice). The virus also inhibits response of T and B immune cells (licorice, elder, red root, and zinc). This all happens within the first 3-6 hours after infection.
Subsequently, more and more inflammatory cells dive into action. The consequence of this is that more and more white blood cell filled mucus fills the lungs. The lymph system attempts to drain the lungs, but due to the amount of cytokines being produced, cannot keep up, or are themselves attacked so that they close up and the lungs fill with fluid (red root for lymph enlargement and drainage, inmortal for optimizing lymph drainage and pleurisy root for reducing inflammation in the pleurae and lungs. They can be used interchangeably to some extent).
More alphabet soup, more alphabet soup and more alphabet soup (it goes on for pages and pages), as the virus plays the body against itself. Herbs to modify the body’s response to keep it from killing itself are: Chinese senega root, Chinese skullcap, elder, ginger, houttuynia, licorice, boneset, cordyceps, Japanese knotweed, kudzu.
Each type of influenza sets off a slightly different cytokine cascade. For the avian flu, other medicinal plants are being added: Astragalus (the strongest), Magnolia offricinalis, Ginko Biloba, Folium syringae, Nigella sativa, Paeonia lactiflor and Lonicera japonica.
The bad news is that Tamiflu and Relenza are both excreted from the body in an activated metabolized form, flows unaffected through wastewater treatment plants and ends up in small amounts in waterways, where it comes into contact with waterfowl. Avian strains commingle with swine strains. As a result, resistance to these drugs is passed onto strains that can infect humans.
Mild infection: At the first sign of the virus, tingling or soreness in your throat, take elderberry syrup or tincture. Alternatively, juice 1-2 pounds of fresh ginger root (dried will NOT work). Take 3-4 ounces of this. Add the juice of 1/4 of a lime, a large tablespoon of honey and 1/8 tsp of cayenne to 6 ounces of hot water. Drink 2-6 cups daily. Either of these will usually end the infection within a few days. If not, it will still be useful by thinning the mucus, and slowing the spread of the virus in the body and helping protect mucous membranes from damage.
Moderate to severe infection: There are three main formulations: (1) antiviral, (2) ginger juice tea and (3) immune complex. When combined, these formulations are most effective.
Anti-viral tincture formulation
Equal parts of Chinese skullcap, isatis, licorice, houttuynia, lomatium, red root, yerba santa elephant tree, osha and either inmortal or pleurisy root. In 80 – 100 proof vodka. It does not say this in the book, but because you have so many herbs in the formulation, I would use about half of the herbs to half of the vodka.
For moderate infections use 60 drops or 3 ml (a little over a half teaspoon) every hour
For severe infections use 1-2 teaspoons every hour
Juice 1-2 pounds of fresh ginger root (dried will NOT work). Take 3-4 ounces, and add the juice of 1/4 of a lime, a large tablespoon of honey and 1/8 tsp of cayenne to 6 ounces of hot water. Drink 2-6 cups daily.
Immune Complex tincture formulation
Equal parts of astragalus, cordyceps and rhodiola. Same protocol as the anti-viral tincture formula.
- For moderate infections use ½ tsp 3x daily
- For severe infections use 1-2 teaspoons 6x daily
Cough syrup recipe
Any or as many of the herbs below as you like:
- 3 oz horehound
- 2 oz cherry bark
- 2 oz elderberry
- 2 oz elcampane
- 2 oz licorice
- 2 oz mallow (or marshmallow)
- 1 oz Russian or slippery elm bark
- 1 oz vervain
- 1 oz lomatium (or osha)
- 7 pints water
- 3 oz glycerin
- Wildflower honey
- 2 oz mullein tincture
- 1 oz yerba santa tincture
Combine the horehound, cherry bark, elderberries elcampane, licorice, mallow, elm bark, vervain and half the lomatium (or osha) in 7 pints of water in a large pot. Bring to boil, stirring frequently as it heats to prevent sticking. Once it boils, reduce heat and let simmer, stirring constantly until liquid is reduced by half. Remove from heat and let it cool. Strain the liquid, mashing the plant matter to remove as much of the liquid as you can.
Warm the liquid again, just enough to dissolve the honey (to taste) and glycerin. Grind the remaining lomatium (or osha) to a fine powder and add it to the liquid, then add the mullein and yerba santa tinctures.
Store in the refrigerator. This should keep for one year easily.
Take as needed.
There is MUCH more to this book than just the information I have summarized – pages and pages on influenza alone – not even counting other respiratory infections, encephalitis, cytomegalovirus, dengue, shingles, etc.
I highly recommend you add both this book and Herbal Antibiotics (both by the same author) to your survival library.
Prizes for this round in our non fiction writing contest include…
- First place winner will receive – A $150 gift certificate for Hornady Ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner, a Wonder Junior Deluxe grain mill courtesy of Kitchen Neads, a one year subscription to the Personal VPN service courtesy of unspyable and 1 Case of Survival Cave Food Chicken with 12 14.5 oz. Cans courtesy of LPC Survival.
- Second place winner will receive – $100 off of your next order of Fish Antibiotics courtesy of Campingsurvival.com, a Survival Puck courtesy of SurvivalPuck.com and a SurvivalistBlog.net Coffee Mug courtesy of Horton Design.
- Third place winner will receive – a copy of my book ”31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness“ and “Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat” courtesy of TheSurvivalistBlog.net and a copy of “The Survival Medicine Handbook” courtesy ofwww.doomandbloom.net.
Be sure to read the rules before entering… This contest will end on March 17 2014