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Herbs with antibacterial, antiviral, and immunostimulatory effects.

Herbs with antibacterial, antiviral, and immunostimulatory effects.

Article by Don Goldberg

Botanical Medicine:
Herbs with antibacterial, antiviral, and immunostimulatory effects.

The following is an excerpt from the chapter, Immune System Support, in the new edition of The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, by Michael Murray, N.D. and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D. Atria Publishing, 2012.

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“Many herbs have been shown to have anti-bacterial, antiviral, and immunostimulatory  effects. A complete discussion is outside the scope of this chapter, though several immune-enhancing botanicals, such as Echinacea species, goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), and umka (Pelargonium sidoides), are discussed in the chapters on upper respiratory tract infections (common cold, bronchitis, sinusitis, and sore throat), as that context reflects their primary use. One herb that will be described in this chapter is the root of Astragalus membranaceus, a traditional Chinese medicine used for infections. Clinical studies in China have shown it to be effective when used as a preventive measure against the common cold.  It has also been shown to reduce the duration and severity of symptoms in acute treatment of the common cold as well as to raise WBe counts in people with chronic low levels of WBCs.

“Research on animals has shown that astragalus apparently works by stimulating several factors of the immune system, including enhancing the phagocytic activity of monocytes and macrophages, increasing interferon production and natural killer cell activity, improving T cell activity, and potentiating other antiviral mechanisms. Astragalus appears particularly useful in cases in which the immune system has been damaged by chemicals or radiation. In immunodepressed mice, astragalus has been found to reverse the T cell abnormalities caused by an immune-suppressing drug (cyclophosphamide), radiation, and aging.

“In terms of supporting immune function, extracts and preparations of baker's yeast and medicinal mushrooms such as maitake (Grifola frondosa), shiitake (Lentinus edodes), reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), and Cordqceps sinensis exert significant immune-enhancing effects. Much of this activity is due to the presence of molecules known as beta-glucans. Numerous experimental and clinical studies have shown that yeast and mushroom beta-glucans activate white blood cells by binding to receptors on the outer membranes of neutrophils, macrophages, natural killer (NK) cells, and cytotoxic T cells. Just like a key in a lock, the binding of the beta-glucan to cellular receptors flips white blood cells on and triggers a chain reaction leading to increased immune activity. In addition to increasing the ability of the neutrophils and macrophages to engulf and destroy microbes, cancer cells and other foreign cells, the binding stimulates the production of important signaling proteins of the immune system, snch as interleukin-l, interleukin-2, and lymphokines. These immune activators ramp up defenses by activating immune cells.”

Dr. Murray continues the discussion by describing research on one type of beta-glucan source,Wellmune WGP-a whole glucan particle composed of 1,3/1,6-beta-glucan derived from the cell walls of a highly purified, proprietary baker's yeast (Saccha- romyces cerevisiae). The evidence is impressive. As Dr. Murray points out, another source of these immune-modulating beta-glucans is mushroom extracts, and this is the reason we are such supporters of products like the Phtyto-Tech™ Mushroom Extract Complex. (see ad on page 90)

Again, this is an excerpt from Dr. Murray’s new 3rd edition, The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. Full references are provided in the book.