Good day to you, Ready Nutrition Readers! You’ve undoubtedly heard the latest reports about the newest Ebola virus patients. As a Certified Master Herbalist and a former Special Forces Medic, I wish to provide my extensive research on the topic to you and your family. We’ll cover viral basics, cytokine storms, herbal supplements you can use, and herbs/foods you should avoid. Ebola, the 1918 Spanish Flu, Avian Flu, and SARS are examples of Hemorrhagic Fever Viruses (HFV’s). The goal of this article is to help you make sound decisions; being aware is the first step to being prepared.
Viruses are pathogens with protein coatings containing nucleic acids and classified by physiologies. The host absorbs the virus (usually via respiration or ingestion); the virus then attaches itself to the cell wall of a host cell. Viral DNA is then injected into the cell where it synthesizes with cellular DNA and proteins, its process of reproduction. The viral unit is referred to as a phage. The cell’s own machinery is utilized to reproduce more phages. The cell becomes “packed” with phages and the cell wall lyses (or ruptures), releasing incredible numbers of new individual phages to (each) begin the cycle again.
Phages can have frequently mutating antigens – protein markers normally recognized by our body’s White Blood Cells (WBC’s). The WBC’s cannot recognize the new, mutated antigen as the problem. The immunoglobulins (antibodies) are confused by changes that prevent them from responding effectively against the newly mutated virus. Here are a few definitions for you:
Neuraminidase – an enzyme on the surface of influenza virus particles; enables the virus to separate from the cell.
Cytokine – One of more than 100 distinct proteins produced by WBC’s. Provide signals to stimulate specific immune response during inflammation/infection.
Incubation – The interval between exposure to infection and the appearance of the first symptom.
Ebola viruses use RNA rather than DNA to reproduce genetic information. The most lethal type is Ebola Zaire. For some really in-depth information on Ebola and HFV’s (in lucid detail), I strongly recommend the nonfiction work “The Hot Zone,” by Richard Preston, ISBN 0-385-47956-5. An infection carries severe symptoms: swelling, ruptured vessels, large-scale bleeding, and low blood pressure progressing to shock.
The problem with these HFV’s is the cytokine storm, a condition arising in the human body when cytokines are overproduced in an infection and actually harm the body. Cytokine storm is referred to medically as hypercytokinemia. There are two cytokines in particular that you must be aware of: TNF-a and IL-6. These are compounds produced by the immune system that travel to the site of infection. The problem here is that some herbs, such as Echinacea and Elderberry actually increase these cytokines and can further enable cytokine storms.
An Australian Biology teacher, Stephen Jones performed research that can be found in The Health Gazette, entitled “Natural Antivirals” with a comprehensive list of what herbs to use and which ones to avoid. Our focus here will be on the five I have personally found to be the most effective in terms of ease and economy. I am listing them here for you:
- Garlic (Allium sativum) – a superb, “broad-spectrum” antiviral that knocks out accompanying secondary infections; fresh is best, but you can pick up 100 softgels of 10 mg with equivalency to 1000 mg of fresh bulb; take 1-2 per day with a meal.
- Vitamin C – reduces both TNF-a and IL-6 while boosting immune system; a potent antiviral, it blocks neuraminidase (what the virus needs to reproduce); I buy Spring Valley brand, 250 tablets of 1000 mg. Preventative dosage is 1000 mg per day; if illness is suspected, take 5000 – 6000 per day.
- Green Tea (Camellia sinensis) – extremely effective antiviral; it lowers TNF-a and inhibits neuraminidase; green tea contains catechins: polyphenolic compounds that are the main, active ingredient in the tea. Catechins are directly viricidal; they suppress viral RNA synthesis, and alter viral membrane physical properties. The definitive work on Green Tea is a paper by Yonsei University, Department of Biotechnology, S. Korea, entitled “Antiviral Effect of Catechins in Green Tea on Influenza Virus,” downloadable at www.sciencedirect.com for free. You can make it cost-effective by buying it in the Dollar store: 100 tagless 1 g bags for a dollar. You’ll need to double the bags (2 per cup), and take this 2-3 times per day to build up the catechins in your system.
- St. John’s Wort (Hypericum Perforatum) is a potent antiviral that lowers IL-6, available in 150 capsules of 300 mg; take 1-2 per day with a meal.
- Vitamin E (usually about 50 IU in your multivitamin is sufficient; this is 167% of the RDA); Vitamin E is an immune-booster that lowers TNF-a; the effects are increased if it is taken with Vitamin C.
As mentioned earlier, this list is not exhaustive; however, these are the ones I have personally found to be the easiest to use and the most cost-effective. Although these herbs are effective with “regular” seasonal flu, here is a short list of what to avoid (also foods) if HFV’s are present/suspected, as all of these increase TNF-a and IL-6 production: Elderberry, Echinacea, Micro Algae (Chlorella and Spirulina). Foods are chocolate, honey, and Kim chi.
For those who wish to delve even deeper, I recommend the work “The Viral Storm: The Dawn of a New Pandemic Age,” by Dr. Nathan Wolfe, 2011, ISBN 978-0-8050-9194-6. Dr. Wolfe founded Global Viral Forecasters and he lectures in Stanford and San Francisco. The work is very comprehensive but a smooth read. Dr. Wolfe was the consulting virologist for producing the movie, “I Am Legend” with Wil Smith.
To summarize, there are many resources available to you to enable efficient and effective preparations for you and your family. Prior to taking any actions or using any of the information in this article, consult with your family physician for permission and to enable the doctor to find any possible contraindications or interactions with any current medications you are taking under prescription. Staying aware will help you be prepared. Have a great day!
Dr. Donald Venes, MD. Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, 19th Ed., ISBN: 0-8036-0656-7, p 1379.
 Ibid., p 506.
 Ibid., p 1036.
Safety Disclosure: Products, information, and descriptions presented here are for educational purposes of the traditional uses of herbs only and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information should not be used as a substitute for medical counseling with a health care professional. Individuals with serious illnesses should consult a qualified health care professional.