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Bird Flu in the News
With disquieting news of the continuing spread of bird flu and more human victims, there is increasing concern that this illness, caused by the Avian Influenza virus H5N1, could spread even to parts of the world so far unaffected. Many people are already at risk and many more potentially vulnerable, so we focus here on bird flu and some natural prevention and treatment options.
What is a Virus?
A virus is a minute infectious agent consisting of a nucleic acid core with a protein shell (or capsid) which is often multilayered (covered) with fats. This capsid shell is an impenetrable obstacle for many herbs and drugs, including antibiotics, which are therefore no use against viral infections. Certain herbs can penetrate or break down the capsid and these are the herbs we refer to as anti-viral herbs.
The Effects of Viruses
Viruses vary greatly in their effect on the body. The common cold, for example, is an acute, short-lived viral infection which usually produces mucous in the throat and sinuses. To take an example at the other extreme, the polio virus can produce serious symptoms and can lead to paralysis.
Viral infections usually manifest symptoms like fever, generalized aches, chills, fatigue as well as typical symptoms for each specific virus. The particular strain of flu known as bird flu, avian flu or H5N1 has the symptoms mentioned above of high fever and fatigue, as well as specifically attacking the respiratory system and thus the lungs and the oxygenation of cells.
Of the hundreds of different viruses that may potentially affect humans, some have the ability to mutate. A specific anti-viral drug may be successful against a virus for a period of time but, once the virus it is treating mutates, the drug will no longer be effective.
For example, the flu virus mutates quite quickly, which explains why a flu shot will not necessarily provide any protection. It is made up of antibodies to the previous years flu virus strains - usually from 5 to 10 of the most common ones - and thus may not protect against the current years strains.
The Value of Natural Anti-Virals
Natural anti-virals are particularly valuable as they contain many constituents which make them effective over a broader range of viruses. Even leaving aside concerns over bird flu, it is a good idea to include some antiviral foods and herbs in your diet.
As well as breaking down the virus shell anti-viral herbs also have strongly protective effects on the body. They stimulate the immune system, specifically increasing macrophages which destroy foreign agents as they enter the body. Anti- viral herbs also protect the individual cells, strengthening the cell walls in an anti- oxidant manner thus preventing a virus from taking hold in the body.
Please remember that in the preparation of herbal medicines, oils, etc. the quality of the raw material as well as the extraction method used hugely affects the final product and its efficacy. Cheaper products may be made with inferior herbs and dubious manufacturing methods. It is a false economy to buy cheap herbal products.
Natural Products to Help in the Fight Against Viruses
Some readily available foods, specific herbs, homeopathics and essential oils can help protect you and your family against viruses in general and bird flu in particular. Andrographis, Astragalus, Echinacea, Garlic, Ginger, Olive Leaf and St. Johns Wort are all effective anti-viral herbs. Essential oils such as Cloves and Oregano have anti-viral properties as do foods such as apples, berries, chillies and seaweed. At my herbal dispensary we have put together a synergystic blend of ant-viral herbs that we call the Mullum Herbals Virus Protection Pack. See our website http:// www.mullumherbals.com for more information.
A Wake-up Call
We can, if we choose, use the threat of bird flu to alert us and inspire us towards a healthier life-style.
As the virus primarily attacks and breeds in the respiratory system, smokers would do well to give up their habit (and then try using the ayurvedic Nasya to help in eliminating harmful residues).
Coffee, sugar, carbonated soft drinks, and most processed foods harm our immune systems so we could help ourselves by removing them from our diet or at least reducing excessive intake.
A final word of warning - stress!! Avoid it whenever possible.
Jacinta McEwan is a practicing Naturopath & Herbalist. Find more natural antiviral protection techniques & details of the herbs used in the her Virus Protection Pack at http://www.mullumherbals.com/anti_viral_herbal_mix.html