A quick update on Ebola. Last week, the quarantine ended for the mother and children who were in close contact with Thomas Duncan, the Ebola patient who died in Dallas, as it did for several dozen other people who were in close contact with him. Even the nurses, other than the two who became infected because of shoddy protective equipment and deeply flawed hospital protocols, are now being cleared. In other words, even given all of the mistakes that were made, the one person who had Ebola infected only two other people, and the infection spread no further. So despite all the fear mongering and stupidity, this is the exact scenario that the CDC predicted might happen, and it's the exact scenario I told you was likely to occur back in August. Does this make me a brilliant prognosticator? Hardly. It just means that I've been fully aware of it, informed about it, tracking it, and writing about it well before this latest outbreak.
Is the danger over? Hardly. The epidemic is still out of control in West Africa, although Nigeria has managed to get its portion of the outbreak under control and is now Ebola free. And as long as the epidemic rages anywhere in the world, it creates a continuous stream of possible infection points. In fact, a new case has been reported in New York, brought home by a healthcare worker from Africa. But, as I have said repeatedly, the nature of Ebola transmission does not allow for an easy spread of the disease in any country with a reasonable healthcare system--even when every conceivable mistake under the sun is made--and with reasonable rule of law. The New York case is already in isolation. Again, you are thousands of times more likely to die of the flu than Ebola.
I will keep you updated as things progress, but for now, since the Ebola outbreak has made the issue front and center, and since medical care still has little to offer other than keeping you hydrated, let's continue our discussion of how natural immune boosters and anti-pathogens can help you survive deadly infection.
Anti-Pathogens VS Medical Care
As we've discussed previously (but never to this level of detail), the medical community's arsenal of anti-pathogens is somewhat limited--90% is comprised of antibiotics, with another 5% of antivirals, and 5% cytokine therapies. (In truth, there are actually very few effective medical antivirals.) The discovery and use of these drugs has represented one of the greatest achievements of medical science over the last hundred years. Unfortunately, thanks to arrogance and misuse, resistant strains of bacteria and viruses have proliferated like fear mongers in an Ebola epidemic. And in truth, this trend may be almost impossible to stop since it is the result of the simple rules of evolution.
Any population of organisms, bacteria included, naturally includes a handful of variants with unusual traits -- in this case, the ability to withstand a particular antibiotic's attack. When this antibiotic is used and kills the overwhelming majority of defenseless bacteria, it leaves behind those few bacteria that can resist it. These renegade variants, now the only bacteria left, are now free to multiply without constraint, increasing their numbers a million fold in a single day, instantly becoming the new dominant variant. In other words, the very act of using an antibiotic creates the opportunity for resistant strains to flourish and become dominant. That means that the next time you use the antibiotic, it will have little effect.
It's important to understand that antibiotics vary in the way they kill microbes. Penicillin, for example, kills bacteria by attaching to their cell walls and then breeching those walls, thus killing the bacteria. Erythromycin, tetracycline, and streptomycin, on the other hand, kill bacteria by attacking the structures inside the bacteria (ribosomes) that allow them to make proteins, thus also destroying the bacteria. Because each antibiotic is a single compound and one-dimensional in its approach, it's not that hard for microbes to "evolve" around such attacks. For example, microbes resistant to penicillin have developed cell walls that prevent the penicillin from binding. Similarly, other variants prevent antibiotics from binding to ribosomes, thus neutralizing the effect of those antibiotics. Using antibiotics with different attack modes in combination can help in the short term, but it also accelerates the breeding of superbugs, resistant to many types of drugs.
Where it gets really frightening, though, is that bacteria swap genes like Facebook members swap friends -- which brings us to vancomycin, until a few years ago, the antibiotic of last resort. When all other antibiotics failed, doctors knew they could count on vancomycin. But then vancomycin resistance was discovered in a common hospital microbe, enterococcus. By 1991, thirty-eight hospitals in the United States reported the variant. Just one year later, vancomycin-resistant staph bacteria were observed with the same gene. What this means is that not only are bacteria programmed to "evolve" defenses against antibiotics, but once they produce such a defense, they are also programmed to rapidly share that defense with other strains of bacteria, thus rapidly spreading the resistance through the entire bacterial world. That is truly scary!
Viruses evolve around antivirals in much the same way as bacteria evolve around antibiotics, but even more quickly since their DNA is much simpler -- more primitive, more malleable as it were. On the other hand, how medicine deals with viruses is actually quite different.
A virus is defined as an infectious "agent" that typically consists of a nucleic acid molecule in a protein coat, is too small to be seen by an optical microscope, and is able to multiply only within the living cells of a host. They can infect all types of life forms, from animals and plants to bacteria and archaea (single-celled microorganisms that are similar in size and shape to bacteria but possess different genes and incorporate different metabolic pathways). There is a major debate within the scientific community as to whether or not viruses are actually alive, with the community currently punting the issue by declaring that they exist in a "gray area."1 But in truth, the debate is more intellectual than practical because, whether they are alive or not, viruses behave as if they are living and have intent--and that intent is often harmful to us.
One of the primary medical tools for dealing with viruses is pharmaceutical antivirals. The major difference between antivirals and antibiotics is that unlike most antibiotics, antiviral drugs do not destroy their target; instead they merely inhibit their development. Nature too has an abundance of antivirals such as tea tree and eucalyptus oils,2 and in fact, most medical antivirals are derived from nature. Tamiflu, for example, was developed from a biochemical found in the Chinese star anise. (We'll talk more about Tamiflu in a bit.) However, alternative medicine gives us access to a second option that is unavailable to us in the world of pharmaceuticals: virucides. Natural virucides don't just "inhibit" viruses; they can actually destroy or deactivate them. That's a huge advantage when fighting a viral infection.
Viruses work by invading cells, making copies of themselves inside the cell, and in many cases, destroying the invaded cell in the process before they burst forth to then invade millions of additional cells--and on and on. Viruses can disrupt the functions of the invaded cell. They can also interact with the chromosomes in the invaded cell, which is how they can cause cancer. And some viruses--think HIV--specifically attack and invade the cells of the immune system, causing widespread loss of immune system function throughout the body.
Like the viruses themselves, antiviral drugs can also work in a number of ways. They can alter the structure of the invaded cell, or even its genetic material, so that the viruses can no longer use it to multiply. Other antivirals work by blocking enzyme activity in the invaded cells, thus inhibiting the ability of the virus to multiply. And yet other antivirals make use of interferon substances that were produced by virus-infected cells trying to defend themselves to protect other cells from being invaded.
The problem with all of these approaches is that, like antibiotics, they too are one dimensional, which gives viruses an easy work around. And as we mentioned earlier, because viral DNA is even simpler than bacterial DNA -- more primitive, more malleable as it were--viruses can "evolve" around antivirals with extraordinary speed. Whereas it may take bacteria several months or even two to three years to work around an antibiotic, viruses can pull the trick off when it comes to antivirals in a matter of weeks.3
How Pharmaceuticals Destroy Nature
If all that pharmaceutical antibiotics and antivirals did was negate themselves and breed superbugs over time, that would be bad enough. Unfortunately, their effect is far more damaging. Since many pharmaceutical drugs are drawn from nature, they also undermine nature. Let me give you an example.
The Chinese star anise plant has a long history as a healing herb -- for digestive problems, women's health, and for treating colds and flu. The Swiss pharmaceutical company, Roche, focused in on the cold and flu benefit and then "subtracted out" all of the "extraneous" biochemicals in the plant until they settled on one component, shikimic acid, that they said was responsible for the star anise plant's ability to inhibit colds and flu's. From shikimic acid, they synthesized oseltamivir (for patent purposes), and thus was born Tamiflu. This is a subtractive process. You eliminate everything "extraneous" and get down to one single active ingredient. Of course, there are major problems with this magic bullet approach -- and in the case of Tamiflu, two big ones:
- Tamiflu doesn't really work that well
- And for all the reasons that we just discussed above, flu viruses are easily able to mutate around the single magic bullet ingredient in Tamiflu.
So how does that undermine nature? To put it simply, Roche has managed to take a natural cold and flu remedy that viruses had not been able to evolve around since the dawn of man, and by reducing it to a single active component, breed multiple strains of resistant flu viruses in short order. Astoundingly, they have managed to negate one of nature's best antivirals in less than a decade -- truly an amazing achievement.
What Can Be Done?
When you think about how quickly pathogens evolve around pharmaceutical antibiotics (and even faster around antivirals), it's more than amazing that these same microbes have been unable to do so against most natural anti-pathogens. Garlic, olive leaf, and oil of oregano, for example, are still effective even given thousands of years for those pathogens to evolve around them (not counting those natural anti-pathogens such as star anise that have been nullified through the "unnatural" intervention of the pharmaceutical industry). How can that be? Actually, it's quite simple -- or more accurately, simply complex. While drugs, as we have discussed, are essentially one-dimensional in their mode of attack, which allows microbes an easier path to evolve around them, natural anti-pathogens often contain dozens of biochemicals. To be sure, not all of them are necessarily "active" when tested in isolation, but many of the so-called inactive components potentiate the active ones and offer therapeutic combinations numbering in the thousands, even within a single plant. This presents a complexity that makes it virtually impossible for microbes to work around.
Take garlic. For a long time, many people thought there was only one active component in garlic, allicin (in fact, many supplement companies still promote that concept). However, researchers now know that allicin is rapidly oxidized, breaking down into more than 100 biologically active, sulfur-containing compounds. (While allicin still serves as a marker of garlic's potency, S-allylcysteine and other sulfur compounds are now recognized as the most therapeutically active ingredients.)
So how many possible pathogenic defense combinations can you get from garlic's 100 biologically active compounds? A whole bunch!! Thousands and thousands and thousands, in fact!
The formula for finding the number of combinations of k objects you can choose from a set of n objects is:
n_C_k = ----------
k!(n - k)!
With 100 objects/compounds to work with and possible combinations ranging from any 2 of them to any 99 of them, the complexity is just far, far, far too much for simple pathogens to evolve around.
And that's the secret. But it gets even better.
When you combine several natural substances/herbs--each with their own complement of bioactive compounds--in one formula, the combinations of compounds are beyond counting. Quite simply, microbes cannot evolve around them--unless assisted by the greed and incompetence of pharmaceutical companies.
The widespread use (and misuse) of pharmaceutical antibiotics and antivirals has led us to a world filled with growing numbers of drug-resistant "superbugs." Eventually, one of them will unleash a devastating worldwide plague that, by definition, will be resistant to all that medical science can throw at it. At that moment, natural anti-pathogens may offer the only viable defense.
The End of the Age of Antibiotics
When taken at face value, the end of antibiotics (and antivirals too) is a frightening prospect--even for those into alternative health. Although people who are health conscious try and avoid antibiotics and antivirals as much as possible, there are times you truly need them. And when you need them, you really, really need them to work. If they don't, the potential for death rates from infection climbing through the roof is a very real possibility. Antibiotic resistant infections, using the most conservative estimates possible, now kill about 23,000 people each and every year in the United States alone.4 But some less conservative estimates say the number is closer to 100,000, which would already make drug resistant bacteria and viruses the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.5 Then, once you eliminate the effectiveness of the remaining antibiotics and antivirals we still have in our arsenal over the next several years, you can easily see drug resistant infections occupying the number three spot, or even higher.
This is absolutely something to be concerned about. However…
How fast that day actually arrives is up to us. We've crossed the point of no return for existing drugs. Can't go back, and we will have to deal with the consequences moving forward. Can't change the obsolescence of those drugs no matter what we do. However, what we do in the near term does influence how soon we will have to face that day of reckoning and what happens after that--and that matters big time.
Given enough time and money, drug manufacturers can probably find one or two new antibiotics to help buy us some more time. But the big ace in the hole--and don't fall out of your seats--is genetic engineering. Despite what you might think about genetically modified foods, and not to mention the fact that genetically engineered plants and animals may have actually played a major role in directly promoting antibiotic resistance in the first place,6 genetic engineering is actually the future when it comes to fighting bacteria and viruses. (By the way, genetic engineering is already involved in manufacturing most of the vitamin B2, B12, E, and C that you find in health store supplements.) What genetic engineering is likely to produce in the post-antibiotic era promises to be far, far more effective than today's antibiotics, and far more targeted. Today's antibiotics are essentially a blunt weapon. Yes, they kill the bad guys, but they also kill the good bacteria in your body--bacteria that are essential for your health. The post-antibiotic age has the potential to be far healthier.
You need to understand that the use of genetic engineering when it comes to antibiotics is far from new. While most manufacturers now simply make their antibiotics in the lab, for several decades, a number of antibiotics were manufactured from genetically engineered bacteria. For example, manufacturers made erythromycin commercially through fermentation using the soil bacteria Saccharopolyspora erythraea and E. coli.7, 8 But our new-found ability to quickly unravel the genetic code of bacteria, has opened the door to an entirely new world of infection fighting. It seems that almost weekly now, the genetic code of yet another bacterium has been revealed.9
The future lies in using a particular bacterium's genetic code against it by locating its unique vulnerabilities and then modifying other bacteria to produce agents that target those particular vulnerabilities--and nothing else. This would mean that we could fight both bacterial and viral infections far more effectively and with virtually no side effects. It would also give us the ability to counter any workarounds the pathogens develop as fast as they develop them. One of the most interesting strategies involves directing specific counterattacks at the infectious agents' resistance weapons--as revealed through genetic decoding. Treatments could then be devised that combine an antibiotic that might currently be ineffective with a second drug that has little antibiotic effect but possesses the power to disarm a bacterial or viral defense molecule. Other hybrid treatments could be devised using compounds that impair the invading pathogen's ability to pump the antibiotic component out of the bacterial cell.
This is coming. The only question is time. Do we get to roll relatively seamlessly from antibiotics of diminishing effectiveness into targeted, genetically engineered, infection-fighting drugs, or do we have an extended gap in which deadly bacteria and viruses have free reign and kill millions of people before we plug that gap?
Unfortunately, two things stand in the way of quickly plugging the hole:
- Getting new antibiotics and antivirals into the pipeline is not going to be easy. Pharmaceutical companies have little incentive to develop such drugs because they're not very profitable. Most people only need antibiotics and antivirals for just a few times in their lives--and then only for a few weeks until they get better. Compare that to a new statin drug that requires people to stay on them every day for the rest of their lives. For this reason, there has been a 75% decline in the development of new antibiotics since 1983. And the development process is lengthy. If a pharmaceutical company decided today to develop a new antibiotic or antiviral, it would be ten years and hundreds of millions of dollars before that drug would be available to patients. And then, thanks to the ability of pathogens to quickly evolve around them, they only remain effective for a couple years, months, or weeks, as the case might be. Unless governments decide to subsidize their development, we're unlikely to see many stop gap antibiotics and antivirals. In other words, we're pretty much stuck with what we have unless governments totally transform their mindsets--which is another way of saying we're stuck with what we have.
- The time we have left for using the drugs now in place is likely to get exponentially shorter. If physicians stopped prescribing unnecessary antibiotics, if patients actually finished their course of antibiotics instead of stopping the moment they felt better, and most important of all, if large commercial farms abandoned all use of antibiotics in the raising of their beef, pork, poultry, and farmed fish, then the whole process would slow down, and we would have more time before new methods for fighting infection would need to be in place. But nothing in modern human history says that even one of those things is likely to happen--at least in time to make any difference.
In the meantime, with medicine having an ever decreasing supply of infection fighting options at this moment in time, it's up to you to take care of yourself. So:
- Keep your immune system optimized so that you don't get sick in the first place.
- Keep a supply of natural pathogen destroyers on hand to give yourself a fighting chance against any infection you might get. And be sure and start using the anti-pathogen formula all out the moment there is any indication that you have come down with something. Remember, it is far easier to defeat an infection during its incubation phase then after it has taken hold.
- And no matter what advances science brings, there will always be a role for natural antipathogens, which tend to be broad spectrum and capable of working against all pathogens--known and unknown-- as opposed to targeted pharmaceutical drugs which would have to be retargeted every time a new pathogen appears.
At the moment, vaccines are probably the most successful method available to the medical community for dealing with viruses. They work by "pre-building memory" into our immune systems -- memories of significant diseases we have never had such as measles, mumps, polio, diphtheria, and smallpox. Vaccines contain a weakened, sterilized version of microorganisms (or proteins from those microorganisms) that is capable of producing an immune response in the body without inducing a full-blown onset of the disease itself. Although vaccines have played a significant role in helping reduce the number of deaths from these diseases, this benefit has not come without cost. The truth about vaccines is that:
- They are not as effective as the medical community and the media promote.
- Nor are they as safe as promised.
- On the other hand, they are not as ineffective as many in the alternative health community believe.
- Nor are they quite as dangerous.
One other thing to understand about vaccines is the concept of "herd immunity." The concept is simple. When a high enough percentage of a community is immunized against a contagious disease, then everyone in that community is protected against the disease because there is little opportunity for an outbreak to take hold. Even those who are not immunized are largely protected because the overall immunization of the community means that the spread of contagious disease is contained. In other words, people within the community are free to opt out of vaccination and still not come down with the disease--at least until, the critical level of non-immunization is breached and the disease is free to spread. The principle of community/herd immunity has been used to control a variety of contagious diseases, including influenza, measles, mumps, rotavirus, and pneumococcal disease.
So, does vaccination work? To some degree, yes, but the effectiveness varies from vaccine to vaccine--and it always comes at a cost. Most people probably believe it's worth it. But if you or one of yours happens to have a severe reaction to the vaccination and have to pay "the price," then probably not so much.
For more about the pros and cons of vaccines, check out: http://jonbarron.org/article/anatomy-and-physiology-immune-system-part-3.
Pathogen destroyers represent an alternative, complementary route to assisting your immune system. They don't build immune function as the immune boosters that we discussed in our last newsletter do. Instead, they "free up" immune function by directly destroying pathogens in the body that would otherwise occupy the attention of your immune system. They function as natural antibiotics, antivirals, and virucides.
Before we talk about specific anti-pathogens, we need to talk about the optimum time to use them: the incubation phase. This is the period of time between exposure to a pathogenic organism and when the classic full-blown symptoms and signs of the disease first become apparent. For the flu, this period can run from one to three days. For the common cold, two to five days. For Ebola, two to 21 days. And for mononucleosis, it can take as long as 42 days. Everyone knows the symptoms for the common diseases. When you have a full blown cold or flu, you know it. That's when most people take action. Unfortunately, that's too late. At that point, all you can hope to do by using anti-pathogens is to shorten the duration of your illness a few days. After all, your immune system is already on the job.
But if know you've been exposed to a virus, or you can recognize the early symptoms of an illness that manifest during the incubation phase, you can kill the invaders before they get established, and before your immune system even breaks a sweat. And in truth, we all know those symptoms; we just rationalize them away while they're happening. We're talking about the scratchy throat that precedes a sore throat, the sniffles that precede a runny nose, and the dull body ache that precedes a full blown fever. These are the symptoms that you rationalize as:
- I'm really tired; I need to catch some extra sleep.
- I shouldn't have eaten that extra ice cream; I can feel it in my throat.
- My allergies are kicking in; my nose is starting to plug up.
- I think a strained myself cleaning the house today; my body aches.
- The kids drove me crazy; I have a dull headache.
But it's important not to ignore these early symptoms. Stopping the flu, for example, in the incubation phase is much, much, much easier than getting rid of it once it has established itself. If you hit it hard during incubation, you can be almost 100% effective in stopping it cold (all puns intended). If you allow it to incubate and fully manifest, it will take you several days to beat it back. It's true that you can significantly cut the time of your sickness, but you will still be sick for several days, and you will need to keep taking the anti-pathogenic formulas for four to five days after you feel better to make sure you clear the virus from your body and it doesn't reassert itself. Definitely, it's better to shut it down during incubation. And what's the worst that happens if you read it wrong and you're not actually infected -- you end up having some garlic and olive leaf extract a couple of times because the kids really did drive you crazy. Is that too high a price to pay for almost never getting sick?
One other thing to keep in mind is that sometimes you're in situations where you don't even have to wait for any symptoms to appear to take prophylactic measures. For example, whenever I take a trip that involves traveling on an airplane, or that puts me in contact with large numbers of people during cold and flu season, I automatically use anti-pathogens before bed and upon rising every day of the trip -- one capsule each of olive leaf extract, oil of oregano, and one capsule of AHCC to keep my immune system primed. Then as soon as I get home, I'll down an entire bottle of my own garlic based liquid formula just to make sure. (I tend not to bring the garlic formula on trips in case it breaks in the suitcase.) I have not gotten sick once while traveling when following this routine.
We talked about cytokine storms in the last newsletter, but let's revisit them for a moment since they are directly connected to the importance of pathogen destroyers.
In a cytokine storm, the immune system sees a virus that it has never seen before, and it goes nuts, whipping itself into a frenzy in response to the invading virus. A biochemical cascade of immune cells and immune system bio-chemicals such as interferon, interleukin, and monokines -- collectively known as cytokines -- literally pours into the lungs. The subsequent damage to the lung tissue caused by these cells and bio-chemicals leads to a condition called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) that literally chews up a person's lung tissue, which causes fluid to pour into the lungs, ultimately causing the victim to suffocate as a result of their own disease-fighting chemistry.
Most common flu's and colds do not produce cytokine storms. Most flu's kill people who have weak immune systems by eventually opening the door for pneumonia, which is what actually kills them. That's why health authorities specify that the very old and very young and those with weak immune systems are prime candidates for annual flu vaccines (even though they don't work very well--especially in the very old and very young). And for that matter, Ebola does not produce cytokine storms. Ebola kills by breaking down the clotting factor in your blood so that you bleed to death internally. But swine flu, avian flu, and most notably, the great flu pandemic of 1918 are different animals. They don't kill through pneumonia. They don't cause internal bleeding. They kill you by unleashing a cytokine storm, which means that it is your own immune system that kills you. And this means that the most vulnerable are not the very old and the very young but healthy adults and pregnant women, people who have very strong immune systems. In other words, the stronger your immune system, the greater the danger -- the exact opposite of standard flu strains.
Does that mean that you should weaken your immune system to protect against the flu? Not at all! That would be silly. Strong immune systems are good for many, many reasons. However, it does mean that you want natural anti-pathogens on hand in your medicine cabinet to use at the first sign of a cold or flu. It will protect you against standard flu, and if you perchance catch a rogue strain of avian or swine flu, the anti-pathogens will kill enough of the virus to take your viral load down to the point that your immune system can do its job with no risk of being forced into a cytokine storm. You get the best of all possible worlds.
What You're Really Looking for from an Anti-pathogen Formula
Anti-pathogens both kill and inhibit viruses and bacteria. If used during the incubation phase, yes, they have the potential to totally eliminate most invading microbes. If used after the pathogen takes hold, that result is unlikely. Once an invader has established itself, the goal in using an anti-pathogen changes. You're now looking for the anti-pathogen to inhibit and kill enough of the invaders to allow your immune system to do its job more easily. For example, when it comes to Ebola, everyone focuses on the 70% mortality rate. I, on the other hand, prefer to focus on the 30% survivor rate. What that tells me is that the immune systems of 30% of the people who are now getting Ebola, with no medical help other than rehydration, are not succumbing to the virus, but rather, are defeating it. With a virus like Ebola, the key is time. Do you survive long enough for your immune system to win out, or do you die before that happens? Now imagine how much higher the number of survivors would be if you could take the viral load down by 20% to 30%, or more and gain the extra time your immune system needs to win out.
One thing to keep in mind is that you probably want to keep a supply of natural anti-pathogens in your medicine cabinet because there is likely to be a run on them at the first hint of a viral pandemic. We saw just such a run on Tamiflu during the avian and swine flu scares -- even though it provided little protection. And we saw a similar run on iodine tablets after the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan. And it's not like your supply of natural anti-pathogen will go to waste, as you will use it regularly for preventing and shortening the duration of everyday colds and flus too.
Now let's take a look at some of the natural anti-pathogens at your disposal. We'll start by looking at those that I use in my own anti-pathogen formula.
Ingredients in an Anti-pathogen Formula
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the active ingredients in ginger are the volatile oils and pungent phenol compounds such as gingerols10 and shogaols.11 Although ginger is commonly thought of as an anti-inflammatory, COX-2 inhibitor and anti-nausea treatment, it is also a strong multi-bacterial anti-pathogen--especially against multi-drug resistant bacteria.12 In addition, studies have shown that it has strong, dose dependent virucidal activity against a number of viruses,13 probably as a result of interfering with the viral envelope.14 Other pathogens that it's been proven effective against include: S. mutans, C. albicans, and E. faecalis.15
Garlic and onions
Although the other pathogen destroyers in this formula are extremely potent, garlic (Allium sativum) is my favorite -- for the simple reason that it is the "kindest" to the beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract. In addition, as we discussed earlier, garlic is one of the best infection fighters available for both bacterial and viral infections.16, 17, 18 Garlic also possesses the ability to stimulate the activity of macrophages to engulf foreign organisms, such as viruses, bacteria, and yeast. Furthermore, garlic increases the activity of the helper T-cells.19 Garlic may be particularly effective in treating upper respiratory viral infections, due to its immune-enhancing properties and its ability to clear mucus from the lungs. It is also effective against streptococcus and staphylococcus bacteria -- and even bacillus anthracis, which produces the poison anthrax.20
The question that everyone asks is whether or not taking garlic can prevent or cure the common cold--and the flu. And, in fact, according to the Cochrane Database, the answer is that out of 146 test subjects, those taking an allicin-standardized garlic supplement for 12 weeks reported 111 days of illness as the result of getting the common cold versus 356 for the placebo group--a 300% difference.21 (Note: as we discussed earlier, S-allylcysteine and other sulfur compounds are now recognized as the most therapeutically active ingredients as opposed to allicin.22 How much more effective would the study have been with a complete garlic supplement rather than one that was allicin based?) So why didn't you hear about this study? Well, the Cochrane Database summarized the results of the study by saying, "A single trial suggested that garlic may prevent occurrences of the common cold but more studies are needed to validate this finding."23 In fact, there are other studies that validate the findings.24
Note: everything that's been said about garlic goes for onions too. Onions and garlic share many of the same powerful sulfur-bearing compounds that work so effectively as antiviral and antibacterial agents.
Olive Leaf Extract
The olive tree (Olea europaea) is native to the Mediterranean region. Olive leaf extract has a long history of use against illnesses in which microorganisms play a major role. In more recent years, studies of olive leaf extracts (containing oleuropein, calcium elenolate, and/or hydroxytyrosol) were effective in eliminating a very broad range of organisms, including bacteria, viruses, parasites, yeast, mold, and fungi.25, 26 In addition, Olive leaf has demonstrated antiviral activity against both HIV infection and replication,27 primarily by blocking the entry of the virus into host cells in the body's immune system.28
Studies have also shown that oleuropein exhibits a significant antiviral activity against respiratory syncytial virus and para-influenza type 3 virus.29 In addition, it has been found to be effective against viral hemorrhagic septicemia rhabdovirus, a highly deadly and infectious virus that afflicts over 50 species of both freshwater and marine water fish. 30 There are studies that demonstrate that olive leaf extracts augment the activity of the HIV-RT inhibitor 3TC. In fact, cell-to-cell transmission of HIV was inhibited in a dose-dependent manner, and replication was inhibited in an in vitro experiment.31 One of the suspected targets for olive leaf extract action is the HIV-1 gp41 (surface glycoprotein subunit), which is responsible for HIV entry into normal cells. In order to establish HIV protein targets of olive leaf extract and its inhibitory action at the molecular level, researchers reported a joint theoretical and experimental effort has been carried out to help achieve this goal.32
Habanero and horseradish
Habanero (Capsicum chinense Jacquin) and horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) are stimulants that quicken and excite the body. They energize the body, stimulating its defenses against invading viruses, and help to carry blood to all parts of the body. They are also diaphoretics and thus help raise the temperature of the body, which increases the activity of the body's immune system. They are both often used in herbal formulas to complement and potentiate the activity of other ingredients. In fact, studies have shown they can even potentiate the activity of pharmaceutical antibiotics,33 which effectively validates their use in herbal formulas for the same purpose.
But make no mistake, in addition to potentiating other anti-pathogenic ingredients in this formula, both capsicum and horseradish have powerful anti-pathogenic properties in their own right. Horseradish in particular contains volatile oils that are similar to those found in mustard: glucosinolates (mustard oil glycosides), gluconasturtiin, and sinigrin. In test tubes studies, the volatile oils in horseradish have shown antibiotic properties, which may account for its effectiveness in treating throat and upper respiratory tract infections. At levels attainable in human urine after consuming the volatile oil of horseradish, the oil has been shown to kill bacteria that can cause urinary tract infections--with one early trial finding that horseradish extract may be a useful treatment for people with urinary tract infections.34 And yet another study found the volatile oils were effective against pathogens such as H. influenzae, M. catarrhalis E. coli, P aeruginosa, MSSA, MRSA, and S. pyogenes.35, 36
Like colloidal silver, liquid ionic zinc is antibacterial and antiviral, but without the potential toxicity issues associated with silver. The mineral zinc is found in all body fluids, including the moisture in the eyes, lungs, nose, urine, and saliva. Proper zinc levels offer a defense against the entrance of pathogens. In the 1800s, surgeons used zinc as an antiseptic/antibiotic after surgery, and they noted its amazing healing properties: wounds would heal, at times, as quickly as twenty-four hours after an operation, without swelling, and scarring was barely noticeable after a short period of time.39 Because zinc moves through all the fluids in the body, it creates a defense against infection-causing bacteria and viruses trying to enter the body and stops bacterial and viral replication. In other words, to be effective, it must be in a liquid form. If you take zinc tablets, your body must convert them. If you take your zinc in a liquid, it's already in the form your body needs. The exception, of course, is when zinc is used externally as in zinc ointment, which is used to treat everything from diaper rash to HSV1/HSV2 cold sores.40
In addition, as noted by the CDC, a study in Bangladesh showed that zinc supplementation significantly reduced the duration and severity of diarrhea in children suffering from cholera--recovering in as few as two or three days.41 And human zinc-finger antiviral protein (produced in your body if you have enough zinc in your diet) specifically inhibits the replication of many viruses such as Moloney murine leukemia virus and Sindbis virus by preventing the accumulation of viral mRNA in the cytoplasm.42
Oil of Wild Mountain Oregano
Oregano (Origanum vulgare) is a perennial herb native to Europe, the Mediterranean, and central Asia. Oil of wild mountain oregano is antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiparasitic. It also has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. The key component appears to be an isomeric phenol known as carvacrol, which is also the key anti-pathogen in several other plant-derived essential oils and has proven effective against at least 11 multi-resistant pathogenic bacteria including Klebsiella pneumoniae, E. coli, Salmonella, and MRSA43--not to mention Legionnaires' disease.44 It's also been proven effective against norovirus,45 hepatitis A,46 and acyclovir-resistant herpes simplex virus.47 However, as is typical with natural products, the whole oil is more effective than its isolated parts.48 In dilutions as low as 1 to 50,000, it can destroy a wide range of pathogens, including Candida albicans, aspergillus mold, staphylococcus, Campylobacter, Klebsiella, E. coli, giardia, pseudomonas, and proteus.49, 50 Another phenol constituent of oregano, thymol, helps boost the immune system.51 In fact, the combination of thymol and carvacrol has been shown to inactivate herpes simplex by some 90% in as little as one hour.52
Apple Cider Vinegar
ACV (Apple-Cider Vinegar) is anathema to all kinds of germs that attack the throat.53 In effect, it acts like a sponge and draws out throat germs and toxins from the surrounding tissue. Also, because of its acetic acid content, it stimulates a condition called acetolysis in which toxic wastes that are harmful to the body are broken down and rendered harmless.54
There are a number of essential oils--such as clove, cinnamon, and thyme--that have proven anti-pathogenic properties. They were not included as part of the formula for one of two reasons.
- Their bioactives are essentially the same as one of the herbs already used in the formula. For example, the primary active biochemical in clove oil and thyme oil are carvacrol and thymol, but they are present at even higher levels in oil of wild mountain oregano.
- The oil may have anti-pathogenic properties, but they are not that strong.
Colloidal silver is a suspension of submicroscopic metallic silver particles in a colloidal base. Although colloidal silver can be an effective anti-pathogen, I have several concerns. Concentrations can vary wildly in supplemental forms, and in many products, the silver particles are too big and not a true colloidal suspension, meaning that, over time, they drop out of suspension and the concentration in the liquid lessens. When it is at sufficient strength to be effective, colloidal silver is indiscriminate -- that is, it kills the good intestinal bacteria as well the bad. And it can, if taken in sufficient quantity, cause argyria, a "potentially" irreversible blue/gray discoloration of the skin. Although rare as the result of using colloidal silver, it has nevertheless been documented. Then again, although all out argyria is rare, milder versions where the skin merely picks up a very slight gray cast that is so mild that it is essentially unnoticeable, but nevertheless makes you look perpetually tired and worn, are far more common--but undocumented.
It should be noted that new versions of silver products, such as Silver Sol, claim to have eliminated the potential for argyria, but that claim has not been tested over time. So, in the end, my bottom line recommendation (and I know this will anger many colloidal silver advocates) is to restrict colloidal silver to external use except for special occasions. Using it for a few days if you come down with the flu or a bacterial infection is not going to be a problem. Drinking a glass every day as a prophylactic measure is probably less advisable. And be sure to follow any internal use with a good probiotic supplement. Again, silver is a full spectrum antibiotics. It tends to kill all bacteria -- both good and bad.
As I said in the last issue of the newsletter, I like colloidal silver as an antibacterial agent especially for topical use, and studies support its effectiveness in this regard. However, studies do not consistently support its effectiveness against viruses.55 If you come down with Ebola, it certainly wouldn't hurt to take colloidal silver; it just may not perform as promised. That said, for anything other than very occasional use, I prefer ionic zinc, which has similar efficacy without the risk of skin discoloration issues.
Note: while writing this, and I kid you not, Kristen and I went out for Sunday brunch--and who should we see sitting 20 feet from us but a woman with pronounced argyria! Her skin tone matched the picture above--maybe a half tone less intense, but still strongly blue-gray. What are the odds? Or perhaps, with some voices in alternative health recommending heavy dosing with colloidal silver, it's no longer quite as rare as it once was.
Anti-pathogens should not be used on a daily basis. To do so puts both your microbiome and beneficial viruses at risk.
We have discussed the microbiome before. Within the human body (both inside and on the surface of your skin), it is estimated that there are 10 times as many microbial cells as human cells, and the vast majority of them are actually beneficial and "support" our biological functions. These symbiotic microbial partners perform a number of metabolic reactions that are not encoded in (and therefore not handled by) the human genome but are nevertheless necessary for human health. And it's not just bacteria. A number of viruses actually play a beneficial role in your health.
Some viruses, for example, can help build immunity to related but more dangerous viruses. For example, exposure to cowpox, a fairly mild, non-contagious virus, made people immune to smallpox, which was highly contagious and a very deadly. The smallpox vaccination was developed from cowpox. Viruses can also play a role in evolution by transferring genomes through a mechanism called horizontal gene transfer, by which an organism can incorporate genetic material from another organism to which it is not directly related. Horizontal gene transfer can be thought of as natural genetic engineering--that happens either by chance, or by the hand of God.56 The bottom line, though, when it comes to viruses is that we're just beginning to understand them. Keep in mind that until just a few years ago, the medical community had no understanding of the importance of the 100 trillion bacteria in our microbiome. They saw no problem in drinking chlorinated water, using antibiotics indiscriminately, and washing with antibiotic soap. Now they know differently. Perhaps in the next couple of decades we will learn more about the as yet undiscovered benefits of some viral infections--or not.
The bottom line is that constantly supplementing with anti-pathogens or using them whenever you bathe or wash your hands puts all those benefits--and your health--at risk. Anti-pathogens should only be used on an "as needed' basis. But you will want to keep a supply on hand in your medicine cabinet so that you can use them when needed--particularly in the incubation phase of an illness.
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