Afraid of Anthrax? Strengthen Your Immune System!
by Susun S. Weed
Anthrax. Smallpox. Plague. Diseases that
can kill. Diseases that are now in the hands of terrorists.
What if these diseases were released in your hometown, or the place
where you work? What could you do if vaccines and treatments were in
short supply or unavailable? Is there anything you can do now to prepare
yourself and improve your chances of survival?
Herbalist Susun Weed recognizes the possibility of biological warfare
and she is ready to cope with it. With her help, you too can be prepared
with herbs and home remedies that you can use now to help avoid infection
and to build a strong immune system. You can feel safer in these troubling
times by learning about herbs that are effective against antibiotic-resistant
bacteria, and that can be used in conjunction with, or in place of (should
there be a lack), modern antibiotics.
Anthrax bacteria (Bacillus anthracis) enter the body through
breaks in the skin or through the nose and lungs. Early symptoms (which
may take up to a week to occur) include reddish-black sores on the skin
or in the lymph nodes around the lungs. Hemorrhagic fever and death
follows. Treated early, anthrax succumbs to antibiotics and most people
(75-80 percent) recover completely.
Even without treatment, according to some sources, more than half of
those infected survive. (Genetically-engineered varieties may kill up
to 90 percent of untreated victims.) The inhaled variety is more lethal
because the early symptoms of infection are easily ignored, delaying
treatment past the point of most effect, and because pneumonia infections
frequently complicate the recovery. Anthrax is not contagious; that
is, it is not passed from person to person.
The antibiotic Cipro is the treatment of choice for those definitely
exposed to anthrax, but neither it nor any other antibiotic can prevent
infection. It is dangerous to take antibiotics "just in case"
for then they may not work when actually needed. Instead, try these
Salt is lethal to bacteria. The simplest home remedy for those
worried about exposure to anthrax is to rinse your nose with salt (any
kind will do) mixed into water. Taste your mixture to be certain it
is very salty. Getting this up your nose can be accomplished by putting
your nose into the salt solution and snorting it in, or you may wish
to buy a "neti pot," a device from India used to rinse the
nasal passages. Afterwards, blow your nose and spit out any residue
that runs into the mouth.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) has been scientifically
shown to kill all gram positive and gram negative bacteria. A small
spray bottle of the tincture of the flowering tops can be used to spray
the inside of the nose, killing any bacteria lurking there. Spraying
tincture in your nose does sting a little and makes the eyes water,
but don't dilute it, the alcohol is antibacterial too.
Garlic has been used to prevent infection for thousands of years;
and it still works! No need to upset your stomach (and loved ones) by
eating it raw; cooked garlic retains its antibacterial powers, so long
as you eat enough of it. During plague times, healers in some areas
wore a "bird's beak:" a stiff cone was made of paper or bark,
stuffed with garlic and spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg), and tied
on over the nose to help prevent contagion. That's a little cumbersome
for modern times, but inhaling the aroma of a cup of spicy tea (there
are many blends available, or make your own) could help forestall anthrax.
Medicinal mushrooms are not only immune system tonics, they possess
antibacterial properties which make them ideal for preventing anthrax
infection, according to expert Paul Stametes. A tincture or strong infusion
of any shelf fungus with pores can be used, he says. If you prefer to
buy your mushrooms, rather than hunt for them, look for reishii
(Ganoderma lucidum) or shiitake (Lentinus edodes).
Both are adaptogenic, revitalizing, regenerative, and able to directly
suppress infection. Side effects, even from large doses, are rare.
Essential oils are antibacterial, and some sources suggest rubbing
them inside the nose or spraying the air with these extremely concentrated
oils to counter anthrax infections. I don't. Essential oils are likely
to cause a variety of side effects (such as damage to the mucus surfaces
of the nose and lungs, and stress to the lymphatic system) that could,
paradoxically, make infection more likely and more virulent.
Cayenne and golden seal are antibacterial, but too strong to
be used as preventatives. Snuffing hot pepper up your nose would kill
anthrax, but at the risk of irritating your nose and respiratory passages,
damaging their protective mucus surfaces, and stressing your immune
system. I rarely use golden seal, not only because it can cause severe
side effects, but also because it is approaching extinction in the wild.
I prefer safer antibacterial herbs such as
echinacea, usnea, or poke root, which not only kill infection,
but also help us keep our immune systems strong. That, of course, is
the desired result from immunization: to strengthen the immune system
and alert it to the possibility of anthrax infection. Anthrax vaccines
currently available for animals are not suitable for humans, and one
prepared for people is in short supply (and only 93 percent effective).
To achieve full immunity, one must have immunization shots every two
weeks for six weeks, then again at 6, 12, and 18 months. Given that,
herbs seem a superb alternative: They have an extensive history of countering
resistant bacteria and strengthening the body's natural defenses.
Echinacea root is the all-American immune system strengthener.
It triggers production of white blood cells, interferon, leukocytes,
T-cells, and B-lymphocytes, as well as directly inhibiting the growth
of most bacteria and viruses. Peter Holmes, author of Energetics of
Western Herbs, cites it as being effective against anthrax. Echinacea
tincture is my first choice for countering infection. (Capsules and
pills of echinacea, if used for lengthy periods, may be counterproductive.)
A dose of the tincture is one drop for every pound of body weight. I
take this several times a week as a preventative, several times daily
when there is active infection. If I were exposed to anthrax, I would
take a dose every hour for at least ten days.
Usnea, a common lichen, is especially rich in a powerful antibacterial
bitter called usnic acid (also usinic acid). I use the tincture of Usnea
barbata (a dose is 1-2 dropperfuls), but other lichens show similar
immune-enhancing and tonifying properties. There are no side effects
reported from use of even large amounts of usnea tincture.
Poke root tincture (Phytolacca americana) kicks the immune
system into gear incredibly fast. Ive seen chronic infection of
many years standing resolve after only one dose, and acute infection
subside in a matter of hours. Pokes effect seems to be focused
on the lymphatic and glandular tissues of the throat and chest, making
it the perfect counter to inhaled anthrax, which attacks the lymph nodes
around the lungs. Poke is a specific against pneumonia and a protector
of the lungs. It contains an antibacterial alkaloid and a special antiviral
protein. It is magnifies the effects of echinacea and they work wonderfully
Poke root is powerful medicine, in fact, a potential poison, and the
dose is very small. One drop of poke tincture may be taken daily for
no more than three months as a counter to possible infection. Those
with a positive diagnosis could use a single drop as frequently as six
times a day. Alkaloids in poke root tincture can accumulate in the kidneys,
making extended use risky, though some people have taken doses of 15
drops a day for a year or more without apparent harm. Caution: You can
feel spacy and out of your body when taking poke, especially at higher
doses. The first few times, take it after dinner and stay home so you
can judge your reaction.
To be assured of a supply of poke tincture, you may need to make it
yourself, as it is rarely found for sale. Poke is a common garden and
roadside weed of northeastern North America, tall (5-7 feet) with conspicuous
dark purple berries and magenta-hued stalks. Dig roots after hard frost,
when tops are dead and yellowed, and tincture, fresh, for six weeks
in 100 proof vodka
Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus) is widely considered
the single most effective immune tonic and adaptogen in the herbal realm.
Safe and inexpensive, it helps the immune system respond quickly to
infection and mitigates the effects of stress. Astragalus root is also
an excellent ally for building powerful immunity. Both, or either, may
be taken daily for extended periods with no ill effects. I throw several
pieces of these roots in every pot of soup I cook. Tincture is less
effective as a tonic; and I avoid capsules completely.
Ginseng root (Panax quinquefolius or Panax ginseng)
is another exceptional ally for the immune system, especially when there
is physical or emotional stress. In any form (tincture, tea, extract)
it nourishes production of interferon, phagocytes, antibodies, and killer
T-cells. So long as you need ginseng, theres no overdose; if you
take it when you dont need it however, it may produce an unpleasant,
jittery, speedy sensation.
But herbs alone are not enough. What we think, and what we consume,
are also important parts of building strong immunity. Candace Pert,
visiting professor of neuroscience at Rutgers University, has proven
that every cell of the body participates in the immune system through
an integrated network of chemical, electrical, and hormonal signals.
The immune system is a network, she says, which resonates with the vibrations
that surround it. It is as affected by emotions as by bacteria, as impacted
by thoughts as by drugs.
Long-standing low-level depression, smoldering anger that is never expressed,
bitterness and vengeance projected into the future are all known to
depress immune functioning. Prayer, affirmations, positive thinking
-- no matter what you call it, talking lovingly to yourself builds powerful
immunity. One of the fiercest old women I know, healer Margo Geiger,
taught me to not only think good thoughts but also to unthink immune
system stressing phrases like: This is killing me, or Im
dying to . . . (Lets live for it! shed
Specialized cells which eliminate bacterial and viral infections are
made as needed by the immune system. Richly supply your immune system
with nutrients, and it easily counters infection, building healthy white
blood cells to kill anthrax and other germs. Starve your immune system
and it will falter, leaving your lymph nodes and other tissues open
to infection and destruction.
My favorite foods for nourishing the immune system include beets,
carrots, garlic, medicinal mushrooms, seaweeds, and dark leafy greens
(including nettle infusion). For rapid results, try miso soup with seaweed
and wild mushrooms. Try Immune
A Go Go Soup from Susun Weed's book Breast
Cancer? Breast Health!
Carotenes strengthen and activate all parts of the immune system,
especially the thymus (the "master gland of immunity"). A
half-cup of dandelion greens, two cups of nettle infusion, a small baked
sweet potato, or two large cooked carrots or beets is a "dose;"
but ten times that much can be consumed safely. Repeated doses provide
a cumulative effect starting about a week after you begin.
Selenium is a trace mineral with special abilities for building
a healthy immune system. Best sources are organic garlic, medicinal
mushrooms, and astragalus. Zinc helps build energetic white blood cells
(which eliminate bacterial infections). Best sources are echinacea,
nettles, and seaweed.
The B-vitamin complex, especially B6 (pyridoxine), is critical
to immune system health. Best sources are potato skins, broccoli, prunes,
Virtually all drugs depress the immune system. This includes
caffeine and nicotine, alcohol, prescribed drugs, "recreational"
drugs, and vitamin/mineral supplements. For a healthy immune system,
eat nourishing food and forgo the pills.
Both light and dark are necessary for a strong immune system.
For optimum immune system strength, sleep in a totally dark room at
night, and spend at least 15 minutes a day outside without glasses or
contacts. Full spectrum sunlight is needed to trigger the production
of important immune system components.
Exercise is an excellent way to tonify the immune system. A number
of clinical trials have shown regular exercise to be strongly linked
to heightened immunity. The emphasis is on regular. It is better to
walk one mile four times a week for a month than to jog 16 miles once
In Summary, strengthen you immune system with a good diet, adequate
sleep, regular physical activity, emotional well-being, and a few of
the recommended herbal allies of your choice. Always remember to use
herbs and herbal preparations simply and safely. Avoid immune compromising
substances such as coffee, tobacco and medications. With a strengthened
immune system you will not only enjoy better health, but you will be
less likely to be susceptible to infection and possible death from bacterial
and/or viral invasions. Faith in your body's ability to protect itself
will continue to bolster and reinforce the immune system as your mental
well-being improves. Enjoy the upward spiral of health as you follow
the path of the Wise Woman Way.
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