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Herbal Medicine

Frequently Asked Questions HOL-emblem1-web.GIF (3556 bytes)

21. Which natural remedies can boost the immune system?

According to Jo Serrentino, author of "How Natural Remedies Work," many vitamins, as well as some plant extracts, act as immune stimulants. Such immune stimulants include the antioxidants zinc, vitamins A, E, and C, and the trace mineral selenium, the nutrient glutathione, and the coenzyme Q10.

The principal action of an immune booster is to stimulate the activity of T-cells. These cells attack foreign cells by producing antibodies. T-cells are directed by the thymus gland, and so a good immune booster will also encourage proper thymus gland functioning. Research has shown that the aforementioned nutrients stimulate T-cell activity and function.

Studies have shown that vitamin C stimulates effector cells, which are a type of protective cell, and that it also protects effector cells from their free radical by-products.

Pantotheine, the coenzyme form of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), also stimulates T-cell activity.

Beta carotene deactivates free radicals.

Echinacea extract stimulates the formation of antibodies, inhibits hyaluronidase, responsible for spreading a virus throughout the body, and increases the production of interferon, involved in immunity.

Astragalus, often packaged as the Chinese herb Qiang gan ruanjian tang, is known to stimulate the immune system. It activates T-cells, helps to produce interferon, and has been found to destroy viruses.

Garlic and onion contain many tumor-inhibiting substances, but it is the selenium within these allium vegetables that gives them anti-oxidant properties.

The tropical plant known as mathake (Terminalia spp) is considered an immune enhancer.

White willow enhances the immune system by inhibiting the immune suppressant immunoglobulin PGE2. Certain mushrooms are gaining recognition as immune stimulants. Studies indicate that injection of reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) mushroom extract enhances the immune system. The shiitake mushroom contains lentinan, an ingredient that has been shown to kill viruses, to stimulate interferon, and to stimulate T-cell and other killer cell activity, as well as to prevent tumors. Lentinan has been used for years to treat cancer in Japan. Whether the consumption of fresh, reconstituted, or dehydrated mushrooms, or even the extract of these mushrooms, is beneficial is not yet known, since research was done with injections of specially prepared solutions.

Finally, experiments in Japan reveal the immune-enhancing effects of chlorella, which also has antiviral and antitumor effects and greatly stimulates the production of interferon.

Antioxidants are being identified every day, and there are many other immune stimulants. When you are reading about potential immune stimulants, it is important to look for conclusive research and not to rely on hearsay.

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