Mother Earth Living

Build Immunity: Suppressing SARS

By K.C. Compton
September/October 2003
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A previously unrecognized coronavirus causes SARS.
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Can building immunity slap SARS silly? Maybe, according to James Duke, Ph.D., a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and one of the world’s foremost authorities on herbal medicine. Herbs haven’t been shown to kill the bug responsible for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, but using herbs regularly may well give our own bodies the oomph they need to fend off this and many other diseases, Duke says.

“Our public health people recommend seeing your physician or health-care professional if you suspect you might have SARS,” he says. “But they confess there isn’t much they can do but provide supportive treatment. They all say contagious diseases are more likely to gain a foothold in, infect and even kill those with compromised immune systems.

“It simply stands to reason that the corollary is that a strong immune system renders the acquisition of most contagious diseases — among them anthrax, SARS, smallpox and West Nile virus — less likely. Strengthening the immune system can be preventive.”

Duke suggests lifestyle changes to boost the immune system, including:

• A good diet featuring lots of fresh fruits and vegetables (nine servings a day)
• A daily multivitamin
• Relax and reduce stress
• Think positive
• Exercise, but don’t overdo it. Take in some fresh air every day — walk in the garden, stroll around your neighborhood, sit on a park bench — just make sure you breathe deeply.
• Take herbs reported to boost immunity when contagious diseases are going around.

Garlic leads the list of herbs Duke recommends, because it contains at least 15 immune-boosting chemicals, 10 antiviral agents and at least 24 antibacterial compounds. It has been proven synergistic with many of the pharmaceutical antibiotics, which are losing their punch due to multiple drug resistance.

Try the whole garlic, not the “deodorized” version, he says. “The more it stinks, the better its success as an antiseptic, immune booster and mosquito repellant.” (Mosquitoes carry the West Nile virus.)

Green tea also is high on the list of herbs Duke recommends.

“Experiments show that immune system blood cells of tea drinkers responded five times more rapidly to germs than did the blood cells of coffee drinkers,” he says. “The process by which the liver breaks down tea prompts the secretion of interferon, an important part of the body’s chemical defense against infection.”

Concerned about contagion? Here’s Duke’s advice: “I’d prop up my feet on a foot stool and drink green tea with cinnamon, ginger and vanilla, while avoiding the depressing TV news that might counteract the immune-boosting propensities of my herbal concoction,” he says.

Even if the echinacea and garlic you take as preventives enhance your immune system by only 1 or 10 percent, Duke says, that at least improves your chances of resisting disease.

“I’ll take that chance over doing nothing, or passively hoping my qualified health-care professional can see me in time and has the silver bullet that will make me well,” he says. ­

K.C. Compton is editor in chief of The Herb Companion.

Click here for the original article, Boost Your Immunity.

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