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.

Unani Medicine

Meaning and Origin

Unani means medicines which are a symbol of life. The name is derived from the word ‘Ionian’ which originated in Greece. ‘Tibb’ means the knowledge of the states of the human body in health and decline of health, or in other words, medicine. ‘Tibb-E-Unani’, is hence an age old, time tested system of medicine dating back 5000 years to Greece.

Unani medicine, like any other form of medical science strives to find the best possible ways by which a person can lead a healthy life with the least or zero sickness. It prescribes drugs, diet, drinks and other regiments including codes of conduct which are conducive to the maintenance and promotion of positive health, as well as the prevention and cure of disease. The ultimate aim of these scientific prescriptions and prohibitions is the creation of a healthy society.

Traditional systems of medicine are no doubt prevalent in various countries of the world. But most of these are empirical. On the other hand, Unani and its allied branches have rational and scientific basic principles. It is distinct from other branches of medicine, as the drugs it uses are natural in their sources and forms. It emphasizes on retaining natural compounds which belong to the human body, and hence prescribes only natural remedies. Unani medicine believes that diseases can be kept at bay by the use of clean and fresh water, breathing clean air and consuming fresh food. Likewise, a balance should be maintained between the mind and the body so that the metabolic process can take place easily and the body waste evacuated. Unani medicine also believes that all life forms have originated from the sea.


There are eight specialized branches of Unani medicine –

• Internal medicine (Moalijat)

• Gynecology including Obstetrics and Pediatrics

• Diseases of the head and neck

• Toxicology

• Psychiatry

• Rejuvenation Therapy including Geriatrics

• Sexology

• Regimental Therapy

• Dietotherapy

• Hydrotherapy


According to the Unani discipline as it stands today, the human body is composed of 7 natural and basic components called ‘Umoor e Tabaiyah’ which is responsible for maintenance of health.

These are: –

• Arkan (Elements)

• Mizaj (Temperament)

• Akhlaat (Humours)

• Aaza (Organs)

• Arwah (Vital forces or Neuro)

• Quwa (Faculties)

• Afaal (Functions)

The loss of any one of these basic components or alteration in their physical state could lead to disease, or even death. It is highly essential to consider all these factors so as to reach the correct diagnosis and consequently the correct line of treatment.

The Unani physicians describe that there is a special ability hidden in every individual called the defensive mechanism of the body or in the language of Unani – ‘Tabiyat-e-Muddabare Badan’. The ‘Tabiyat’ may be defined as the sum total structural function and psychological character of the human being. The ‘Tabiyat’ or nature is the best physician, and maintains the equilibrium of the four humours or ‘Akhlat’.

Their quantity and quality should be as per the natural chemical composition of the body.

The UNANI System of addressing whole health considers illness as an event serving to clean, purify, and balance us on the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual planes.

Allah (The one God of All) says in the Quran “There may be a thing decreed for you that you do not like that are good for you; and things that you like that are not good for you.” Imam al-Ghazzali (r.a.) expressed this idea as follows: “Illness is one of the forms of experience by which humans arrive at a knowledge of God; as He says, ‘Illnesses are my servants which I attached to My chosen friends.'” Just because something feels “good” does not necessarily mean it is of ultimate benefit to us. And conversely, if we have a moment of pain, we cannot dismiss this experience as “bad” without understanding how and what the result of these sensations will be. A “Healing Crisis” is the natural function of the body eliminating toxins: Vomiting, Nosebleeds, Diarrhea, Fevers, Sweating, and Frequent Urination these are avenues to full health.

While admitting the existence of microbes, the UNANI Tibb system maintains that it is the original imbalance of temperament that provides an altered biotic environment in which the viruses and bacteria can thrive. Treatments of killing off microbes can provide a temporary “cure”, but without restoring the humor to its proper balance, the disease will recur. So, the UNANI Tibb System is one of seeking balance between the Humors of the body and the temperament, mainly through proper metabolism of the bodies’ nourishment.

Obstacles in Unani medicine

Although a complete system of treatment, the Unani system, similar to other systems of medicine, has drawbacks in terms of application and effectiveness. The vast materia medica, from herbal and animal to mineral sources, as described in ancient Unani textbooks, is sometimes so vague that authenticity must be established by modern pharmacognostic assessments (by means of a basic, descriptive pharmacology) before medicines can be put to use. In addition, the use in Unani medicine of precious stones and minerals, the chief ingredients of many polyformulations (medicines containing multiple ingredients), is expensive. These items often are unavailable as well, thereby hindering effective treatment.

Alternative Medicine Has a Technical Value

Medicine was always located in drugs or in surgery. It was supported by a parallel system that was independent and complementary known as Alternative Medicine. However the two, till recently, were not destined to meet.

Medicine emerged from a system of clinical testing, of surveys, scans, medical records, experiments and data. These passed through rigorous tests of approval before licensed boards. The system bragged rights of methodology, license, discipline and efficacy. Alternative medicine, was located in systems of natural wellness, based on drug less, non-invasive technique. The mastery and skill of practise emerged from classical ancient texts, or new scientific discoveries with manual handling. Popular traditions of Acupuncture, Shiatsu, Ayurveda, Yoga, and Aromatherapy, homeopathy fell under this broad umbrella category of ancient practise and tradition.

Alternative medicine came under technical license and statute with World Health Organization that demystified the ancient systems and folklore. The standardization of acupuncture points in acupuncture practise amongst all countries, boards, colleges and practitioners became clear and uniform in technical description. There were energetic secret practises involved supplemented by martial healing arts as chi gong, tai-chi, ki aikido and others, which were not listed. The fact that the healing arts was essentially energetic, meant that acquired practitioner skills was relative to the development and cultivation of an energetic internal space.

World Health Organization addressed issues of nomenclature and technical description in some preferred ancient therapies based on scriptures. Indian Head Massage is an example of a popular science based on classification of marma points and ayurvedic massage techniques,arranged to an international qualification for practise. This science is well described by National Occupational Standards competency technical listings for applied use. Some other new systems have emerged based on public demand that are complementary practises to medicine. These include popular manual therapies as sports massage, lymphatic drainage massage, myofascial release, trigger point therapy, neuromuscular therapy, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, structural integration, amongst many more. Formalization of these sciences have taken place in clinical, and scientific practise. Competent Assessor and Regulatory boards across nations have sanctioned some of these disciplines as pure or integrated alternative medicine, and managed the industry to manifest in a parallel yet complementary field.

The formalization of Alternative medicine grew in significance as modern modalities and technologies were rooted in ancient systems. Light therapies and low level laser became an option for acupuncture where needles were not suitable. Full body bio-feedback machines as Medilab’s Beautytech, have been based on galvanic induction and acupoint bio modulation through acupuncture meridians and lymphatic pathways.

Innovation in alternative medicine, is based on the formal understanding of natural process that has benefited humans greatly for many centuries.

Low level laser was able to shift the acupuncture phenomenon to the next level with the discovery of the genetic potential of blood acupuncture with blood laser irradiation through the vein. Adjunct treatments with chlorophyll and light sensitizers supports the reversal of tissue death as in the case of malignancy. The advantage of modern scientific discovery in alternative medicine is that treatment protocols have complete controls and outcomes, and the mystical human energetic practise is apart from the therapy.

The UK Crown encouraged medical practitioners, to embrace the alternative medicine industry and to approve its practises for better wellness support. This was resisted at first, and suspicion continued between the two streams. However, medical practitioners have themselves absorbed medical acupuncture in their practise through sanctioned seminars of late, and grown in awareness of the therapeutic value of standardized systems.

As the Industry vectors grow in the ecosystems, sciences and preferences seem to merge. The disparities are less and disciplines meet with consensus. Prospects ahead seem promising and recovery is well in hand.