Building an Herbal Medicine Cabinet For the Cold and Swine Flu Season

The headlines are blaring “swine flu.” We hear the horror stories about the at-risk groups, many people don’t want to get a flu shot or give it to their children. What are our choices? No one has talked about natural medicine alternatives much in this heated debate. Yet, my son just got over swine flu and I can tell you that it was not an easy experience. Was he very sick? No. Was he afraid and asking me if he was “going to die?” Yes. He ran a low-grade fever that spiked one day and he had some mild congestion. Otherwise, he slept soundly every night and recovered within a week. While he was sick, he was prescribed TamiFlu (the whole family took it). I also treated him before his illness because I knew it was coming, and I continued to treat him with herbal remedies during his illness to help the healing process along.

Like many other Americans, I have a chronic health condition (migraines), but I’m hyper-sensitive to drugs, so I don’t like to take prescription drugs unless I really need them. Over the last 25 years, I have created quite a library on herbs and natural medicine out of necessity. What I now have is an herbal medicine cabinet that I use frequently to help boost my immune system. I am not a physician, but rather a layperson who has found herbal remedies that work for me and my family. Here’s what I have learned and the products I use for cold and flu season.

Europeans and German Commission E
The Europeans are way ahead of us on the topic of herbal treatments where it’s commonplace to use herbs and traditional medicine in a integrated approach to treat illness. Germany had an herbal equivalent of the FDA called the German Commission E which made it mandatory for all conventional drugs, medicinal plants and phytomedicines (medicines derived from plants) to be reviewed by scientific committees. Over the course of two decades, scientists, physicians and specialists from their pharmacology industry authored 1,000 scientific publications and as of 1997, the German Commission E had listed over 800 substances (mostly herbs) recommending the use and dosage for each one. You can find much of the Commission E findings in a book written by an American botanist named James A. Duke, Ph.D, called The Green Pharmacy. Duke worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture for most of his career “mapping” herbs and is considered “the world’s leading authority on healing herbs.”

Brand Quality is Important
Here is what I have learned from The Green Pharmacy and the many other resources I have used over the years, including advice from both traditional and alternative medical professionals, extensive reading and research on the Internet. First and foremost, brand quality is important when buying herbs. One of the best herbal brands on the market is Enzymatic Therapy. Most of the products Enzymatic Therapy makes are combined-use herbal formulas (combining two or more herbs) for specific aliments. My favorite Enzymatic Therapy product is called Air Power, an expectorant that includes guaifenesin and fenugreek. Fenugreek is the key ingredient because it boosts the effect of the guaifenesin. This product thins and loosens mucus and clears the respiratory airways. It is hands-down the best product I have ever found for bronchitis and to clear up any type of chest congestion.

The other brand I use most often is Solaray because it is a great, high-quality brand that is inexpensive, yet works really well. I use the Solaray brand for most of my other herbs, including Golden Seal which is the next staple for any medicine cabinet.

Golden Seal root is an herb used for centuries before the discovery of antibiotics. Clinical research in Germany over many years showed that Golden Seal activates special white blood cells (macrophages) that are responsible for destroying bacteria, viruses, fungi and tumor cells. So you get a one-two punch with this herb because it fights bacterial infections while building up the immune system. If you combine Air Power and Golden Seal root with AirBorne, yes the same AirBorne created by a teacher to boost your immunities, you have an arsenal that can help to combat any respiratory illness.

I was always told that if you have a virus to let it runs its course because there is not much that you can do. Not true. I found that there are many anti-viral herbs that help your body fight viruses by boosting your immunities. The best non-prescription anti-viral I have found is called Blockade. It includes ViraBlock (Elderberry) that blocks viruses from entering human cells and keeps viruses from multiplying. It begins working as soon as it hits your tongue in lozenge form. I actually cured my elderly mother of an oncoming train wreck of an illness last winter after she refused to leave her cold apartment for three days after an ice storm!

Quieting a Cough
A study published a few years ago cited research proving that over-the-counter cough medicines did nothing for a child’s cough. Okay, tell us (mothers) something we did not already know. How many nights have you sat up with your sick child while they coughed until they were, well sicker? Here’s the solution – Frankincense & Myrrh Cold and Flu Prevention Rubbing Oil. Remember your mother rubbing Vick’s Vapor Rub on your chest and how miserable you were all night. This product is a rubbing oil that you massage into your child’s feet (you can use it too). It boosts immunity; it is antibacterial and antiviral and keeps those coughs at bay all night. Miracles do happen.

Flu Remedies
I haven’t had the flu since 1986. I order a homeopathic flu kit every year. You can buy these in several forms, but the one I get contains four vials and you take one single-use vial each week for four weeks and you are done. These kits are not available until mid-October because the companies are creating the formulas much the same way flu vaccines are made – with tiny traces of viruses so that your body will build up immunity to the virus and be able to fight it off. You can find these at I’m waiting on mine now as I sit and watch quietly while all the hysteria over the swine flu vaccine swirls around me.

Dosage is especially important with herbs and here is where you, the consumer have to do your homework. Remember, herbs are extremely mild when compared to over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription drugs. Through many years of research I found the dosage that works for me – which is three capsules three times a day instead of the directed one to three tablets per day on most labeling. If you don’t take enough the herb won’t work, so ask a healthcare provider and do some research. For every other mixed-formula remedy such as the Air Power, I follow the labeling instructions because mixed-used formulas are higher in potency than single herbs. The most toxic herbs are not on the market and never have been, even in Europe. If you are taking multiple prescription medications, you must ask your doctor about any possible herb-to-drug interactions.

Are Herbs Safe?
I am frequently asked if herbs are safe. I’ll let the expert, Dr. James Duke, Ph.D. speak to that with a direct quote from his book, “To benefit from using herbs, you need to have some basic background information…. This is no different from conventional medicine…First of all get the right stuff. Unless you are absolutely sure of an herb’s identity, don’t take it. This applies mainly to people picking herbs in the wild, of course.” He goes on to say, “Most Americans assume that the pharmaceuticals their doctors prescribe are unquestionably better than herbal medicines… I’ve been a botanist specializing in medicinal plants for most of my 30-year career, and I’ve personally seen medicinal herbs successfully treat conditions that high-tech pharmaceuticals could not touch.”

Why I Use Herbs
People frequently ask me “How do you know all this stuff?” I have two answers; the first is that I have always been a curious sort, and the second is because I have a chronic illness (as I mentioned earlier) I am like a dog with a bone. I searched for years for a solution and along the way I learned a lot about everything related to natural medicine. I still have the occasional migraine, but I have been able to live a much healthier life by using herbs.

And just in case you did not know, Americans spent a whopping $15 billion on herbs and supplements in 2007 (the latest statistics) but that only includes products tracked through health food stores, if you add non-traditional avenues such as grocery store and drug stores, etc., it’s estimated that the herbal market is growing by a whopping 79.5 percent per year! On that note, one more piece of advice is essential – never buy your herbals product from a grocery store or drug store – the brand quality is terrible and you will waste your money.

Ayurvedic Herbal Treatment of Bullous Pemphigoid

Bullous Pemphigoid (BP) is a chronic, autoimmune disease with blisters in the sub-epidermal part of the skin as its predominant manifestation. This condition may persist for months or years, with a tendency to spontaneous remissions and exacerbations.

Since it may be confused with another similar sounding disease, Pemphigus vulgaris (PV), which also targets the skin, the distinguishing characteristics of each are highlighted here. PV is comparatively more common, is limited to the upper epidermis, almost always involves the mucous membrane, features blisters which rupture easily, and has a higher fatality rate. On the other hand, BP is located between the dermis and epidermis, the tense blisters do not break easily, mucous membrane involvement is much lesser, and it is more amenable to treatment, though it too can be fatal in the elderly or debilitated people. Both diseases can be diagnosed using skin biopsy for Direct Immunoflourescence test (DIF) and Indirect Immunoflourescence test (IDIF) using serum. While autoantibodies desmoglein 1 and 3 denote PV disease, the presence of anti-BPA 1 and 2 confirm a diagnosis of BP.

The standard treatment of BP aims to reduce and heal blisters and erosions and prevent recurrence with continued use of the minimum possible dosage of medicines. Treatment includes anti-inflammatory drugs like corticosteroids, tetracycline and dapsone; and immune suppressant drugs like azathioprine, methotrexate, mycophenolate mofetil and cyclophosphamide. Doxycycline can be used as a steroid sparing drug, since it has been found to be more effective and with lesser adverse effects as compared to prednisone. Treatment of about 6-60 months is required to bring about long term remission in most patients.

The long term use of drugs for treatment is a major contributor to the morbidity associated with this disease. Steroids can cause and also aggravate hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, peptic ulcer, and bone thinning; these comorbidities are already present in most elderly people, and it is this population which is most susceptible to BP. In order to avoid the side effects of oral steroid therapy, potent topical corticosteroid ointments along with anti-inflammatory medicines can be used, especially when there is limited and localized skin involvement. Biological treatment with Rituximab may benefit patients who do not respond satisfactorily to standard treatment.

Since modern treatment may contribute to morbidity from BP, Ayurvedic herbal treatment can be used as an alternative since it is safe for long term use, and can effectively provide prolonged or permanent remission from the disease. It is pertinent to note here that Ayurvedic treatment guidelines and protocol for both BP and PV are similar, since there is no different treatment approach based upon the different layers of affected skin.

Herbal medicines which have a direct action on skin, subcutaneous tissue, capillaries, blood, and blood vessels are quite useful in BP treatment. Since this is an autoimmune disorder, the common principles of treatment for all autoimmune disorders apply here too; these include managing inflammation, allergy, chronic infection, detoxification, strengthening and rejuvenation of faulty or dysfunctional tissue, and gradual modulation of immunity. For the remission phase, treatment involves generalized rejuvenation of the full body, also known as Rasayan therapy; for this purpose, herbomineral formulations are used which not only activate healthy body metabolism, but also simultaneously provide control for inflammation, allergy, and help gradually build up true body immunity.

Patients who are refractory to standard Ayurvedic herbal treatment are subjected to systematic detoxification plans known in Ayurveda as Panchkarma, which may be given singly or in combination. These procedures include induced emesis, induced purgation, blood-letting, nasal medication, and medicated enemas. Since BP is mainly found in the elderly population, caution needs to be exercised while doing such detoxification procedures. For recurrent, localized skin involvement, simple blood-letting from a vein near the affected parts, or leech application in several sittings may provide dramatic results at almost no risk.

Simplified treatment which may provide benefit to most patients affected with BP includes the local application of herbal ointments along with a few oral herbs. Ayurvedic herbal treatment for about 6-8 months is usually sufficient in providing long term remission to most patients with mild to moderate symptoms. However, severe autoimmune involvement may require aggressive treatment for nearly 18- 24 months. The presence of comorbidities in the elderly population may additionally prolong treatment. In spite of this, most people affected with BP usually get significant relief and lasting remission with Ayurvedic herbal treatment.

MDR and XDR Tuberculosis – Ayurvedic Herbal Treatment

Multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is defined as tuberculosis infection that is resistant to Isoniazid and Rifampicin, the two most powerful first-line anti-TB drugs. MDR-TB usually results from missed doses, inappropriate therapy or incomplete TB treatment. Such patients need to be treated with at least five anti-TB drugs for at least 18-24 months. This second-line treatment is much costlier and has more side-effects. Extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) is defined as tuberculosis infection that is resistant to the two main first-line anti-TB drugs and also to a few second-line drugs. This condition also arises due to inappropriate management of tuberculosis, and is treated on the same lines as MDR-TB.

Since the treatment of MDR and XDR – TB is very costly and toxic, the treatment options for such patients narrow down drastically and increase the mortality rate. This is especially true for patients residing in poor and developing countries. Ayurvedic medicines can be used as an additional therapy both to improve the therapeutic effect as well as to reduce the potential toxicity of modern medicines. In addition, Ayurvedic medicines can also boost the immune status in such patients so that the body is in a better position to fight and control the infection.

Medicines like Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum), Guggulu (Commiphora mukul), Haridra (Curcuma longa), Daru-Haridra (Berberis aristata), Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), Pippali (Piper longum), Kantakari (Solanum xanthocarpum), Bruhat-Kantakari (Solanum indicum), Pushkarmool (Inula racemosa), Kushtha (Saussurea lappa), Yashtimadhuk (Glycerrhiza glabra), Arjun (Terminalia arjuna), Abhrak-Bhasma, Shrung-Bhasma, Ras-Sindur, Malla-Sindur, Sameer-Pannag-Ras, Laghu-Malini-Vasant, Madhu-Malini-Vasant, Suvarna-Malini-Vasant and Heerak-Bhasma can be used to treat and control the tuberculosis infection.

Medicines like Arogya-Vardhini, Sutshekhar-Ras, Suvarna-Sutshekhar-Ras, Vishwa (Zinziber officinalis), Laghu-Sutshekhar-Ras, Praval-Panchamrut-Ras, Punarnavadi-Qadha, Shankh-Vati, Kutki (Picrorrhiza kurroa), Kalmegh (Andrographis paniculata), Punarnava (Boerhaavia diffusa), Deodar (Cedrus deodara), Amalaki, Chirayta (Swertia chirata), Sharpunkha (Tephrosea purpura) and Tamra-Bhasma can be used to reduce or prevent drug toxicity arising from the use of modern medicines. These Ayurvedic medicines prevent or reduce drug induced organ damage to the liver, kidneys, eyes,ears and the nervous system.

Medicines like Suvarna-Malini-Vasant, Suvarna-Parpati, Heerak-Bhasma, Siddha-Makar-Dhwaj-Ras, Shwas-Kas-Chintamani-Ras, Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Shatavari (Asperagus racemosus), Bala (Sida cordifolia), Nag-Bala (Grewia hirsuta), Pippali, Yashtimadhuk and Tulsi can be used to improve the immune system of the body in affected individuals.

A judicious combination of Ayurvedic medicines can thus successfully treat patients affected with MDR and XDR- TB and considerably reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with these conditions.