From Our Library: Boosting the Immune System with Natural Remedies (Part 2)

Your immune system is made, not born. New research dispels the belief that the strength of the body’s defense system is genetically programmed . . . . In one of the most comprehensive analyses of immune function performed to date, researchers . . .measured immune cell populations and their chemical messengers – 204 parameters in all – before and after participants received a flu shot . . . . The findings . . . argue that life habits and experiences shape our body’s defenses more than the DNA passed down from our parents.

    ~ Scientific American, January 29, 2015 (citing Cell, Volume 160, Issues 1-2, 15 January 2015)

The human immune system, which plays a direct role in the development of infectious and autoimmune diseases and allergies, is a network that defends the body against attacks from viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi, and other foreign invaders. The body’s white blood cells, proteins, tissues, and organs (including the tonsils, lymph nodes, appendix, spleen, bone marrow, and thymus gland) protect it from a wide variety of infections and diseases. Part 1 (in the November issue) of this two-part article discussed: (1) factors that can undermine healthy immunity, (2) prescription drugs’ limited ability to ensure long-term wellness, and (3) healthy diet components and lifestyle choices, which can greatly increase the body’s ability to avoid and combat immune challenges. Part 1 also addressed eight natural remedies available to protect the immune system: astragalus; beta glucan; black elderberry (sambucus nigra); coneflower tincture (echinacea purpurea/angustifolia); curcumin from turmeric; oregano oil extract; probiotics; and thymus glandular extract. Discussion of nine additional immune-supporting remedies continues below.

Some Immune-Boosting Nutritional Supplements
Scientific literature and/or clinical experience substantiate the ability of the herbs, vitamins, minerals, and nutraceuticals addressed here to support the immune system.

1. Colloidal Silver. Colloidal silver is a safe suspension of a high content of ultra-fine, positively charged silver ions in water. No disease-causing single-cell pathogens (viral, fungal, or bacterial) can resist it due to the electromagnetic force it generates. The colloid attracts the one-celled pathogens, disables the enzyme they need for their oxygen metabolism, and suffocates them without harming human body chemistry or enzymes. The immune, lymphatic, and elimination systems then clear out the pathogens.

Dosing: (1) Nutritional Amount Safe for Extended Use = 1 tsp/day of 10 ppm colloidal silver = 50 mcg of silver; (2) Therapeutic Amount = any amount of 10ppm above 100 mcg/day, or two teaspoons. One company maintains that, even according to the EPA daily Oral Silver Reference Dose, seven (7) teaspoons/day of its 10ppm colloidal silver can be used safely for short-term immune support.

2. Garlic (With Allicin; Odor Free). Alliin is one of garlic’s active components. When garlic is crushed or chopped, it releases an enzyme called alliinase, which turns the alliin into allicin. Allicin then breaks down to form immune –boosting sulfur compounds. Research has shown that the medicinal value of a garlic supplement is thus best measured by its allicin content because it accounts for garlic’s anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-fungal (including anti-yeast/candida albicans), antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory effects.

3. Goldenseal (hydrastis canadensis). This herb is commonly recommended to stimulate the immune system, often with echinacea, though few scientific studies have assessed its efficacy. In a 2008 study of goldenseal and astragalus extracts, researchers found they are both able to stimulate the immune response and activation of macrophages (a type of white blood cell). They hypothesized that, by combating inflammation, both herbs’ activity indirectly limit clinical symptoms during infection.

4. Quercetin. Quercetin is a flavonoid found in numerous plants (e.g., apples, berries, Brassica vegetables, onions/shallots, tea, some honey, tomatoes, seeds, nuts, medicinal herbs). Studies have proven that it functions as an: anti-carcinogen; anti-inflammatory; antiviral; and agent for diminishing fat oxidation, platelet aggregation, and capillary permeability. Additional studies are needed to better characterize the mechanisms of action underlying quercetin’s anti-inflammatory and immunity-boosting effects.

5. Resveratrol. Resveratrol is a plant chemical found in various amounts in red wine, red grape skins, grape seeds, purple grape juice, the roots of Japanese knotweed, and peanuts. Plants make it to fight off bacteria, fungi, and other microbial attackers, or to withstand drought or lack of nutrients. In 2011, the published findings of the 2010 Resveratrol Conference in Denmark revealed the analysis of almost 3,700 published studies of resveratrol’s ability to prevent disease. The report’s experts identified 12 mechanisms by which resveratrol delays aging and combats heart disease, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes. More recent studies have clarified and amplified their conclusions.

According to the Conference report, resveratrol: (1) is an antioxidant; (2) suppresses inflammation; (3) protects cellular energy production; (4) suppresses fat cell formation and stimulates fat breakdown; (5) regulates cancer cell proliferation, apoptosis (programmed cancer cell death), metastasis (cancer spread to secondary sites), and angiogenesis (cancer-related blood vessel formation ); (6) protects DNA; (7) regulates the metabolism of foreign molecules and toxins; (8) regulates estrogenic and anti-estrogenic activity; and (9) stimulates bone formation.

6. Umcka® (pelargonium sidoides). Umcka is a South African geranium that has long been used in traditional African medicine. Although naturally derived from substances from plants, minerals, or animals, the FDA regulates homeopathic medicines as drugs. One manufacturer advises that its homeopathic umcka cold product is clinically proven to shorten the duration and reduce the severity of cough, congestion, cold, sore throat, and nasal and bronchial irritations.

7. Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid). Vitamin C is an important water-soluble nutrient that suppresses oxidative stress in order to protect proteins and fats from free radical damage. This process increases the life span of immune cells, reduces infection-related cellular damage, and may also help prevent the onset of infections. Vitamin C: (1) is essential for healthy teeth, gums and bones, (2) helps heal wounds, scar tissue, and fractures, (3) builds resistance to infection, (4) aids in the prevention and treatment of the common cold, (5) is a powerful antioxidant, and (6) prevents the conversion of nitrates (e.g., from tobacco smoke, smog, bacon, lunch meats) into cancer-causing substances. According to Dr. Linus Pauling, the foremost authority on Vitamin C, ascorbic acid will decrease the risk of getting certain cancers by 75%. The many factors that increase the body’s demand for ascorbic acid include: (1) aging; (2) poor lifestyle; (3) inadequate/artificially induced sleep; (4) trauma; (5) weak kidneys; (6) toxic environment; (7) prescription drugs; (8) season of the year (i.e. cold/flu or allergy season); (9) low absorption, loss, and inadequate intake of nutrients; and (9) overweight/obesity.

As for the relatively weak acidity of Vitamin C: (1) since ordinary chewables can etch the teeth, buffered chewable Vitamin C or tablets/capsules are recommended; (2) mega doses of Vitamin C (e.g., 1,000-3,000 mg every 20 minutes) can cause heartburn, and lower, excessive doses (beyond “bowel tolerance”) can cause loose stools or diarrhea; (3) those with sensitive digestive systems should use buffered ascorbate. Ester-C® calcium ascorbate (a patented, buffered/pH-neutral, fat-soluble form of Vitamin C) has been clinically shown to enter cells faster and retain its potency longer than other forms of Vitamin C, but may not work better than ordinary ascorbic acid.

8. Vitamin D-3. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased autoimmunity and an increased susceptibility to infection. Most are at risk of deficiency at serum 25(OH)D concentrations below 30 nmol/L, although some are potentially at risk for inadequacy at levels ranging from 30–50 nmol/L. Levels greater than or equal to 50 nmol/L is sufficient for 97.5% of the population, while serum concentrations over 125 nmol/L are associated with potential adverse effects. Harvard Medical School reports that “it takes massive overdosing to produce toxicity.”

9. Zinc. Zinc is essential for many cellular functions, including immunity, and has been successfully used as a therapeutic and preventive agent for many conditions. Zinc gluconate lozenges reduce the duration and severity of the common cold, ideally when used at symptom onset (or at least within 24 to 48 hours). A dose of 23mg/lozenge sucked every two waking hours (9 times/per day) shortens the common cold by about seven days, and can abort a cold by the end of the first day.

While acute and chronic health conditions can certainly call for physician intervention, the natural remedies discussed above are time-honored and well-studied approaches to boosting and maintaining the immune system.

The statements in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to take the place of a physician’s advice. The natural remedies discussed herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Submitted by Michael Dworkin, PD, CCN, a Registered Pharmacist and State Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CT Cert. No. 232), with J. Erika Dworkin, Certified Lifestyle Educator and Board Cert. Holistic Nutrition (Cand.). Co-owner of the Manchester Parkade Health Shoppe (860.646.8178, 378 Middle Turnpike West, Manchester, CT,, Pharmacist Dworkin has been guiding patients since 1956. Erika is available to speak to groups.

All statements in this article are research-based and references are available upon request.