Nature’s Defense Boosters

With the cold-weather settling in, it is important to keep the immune system in optimal shape. The immune system is a versatile and complex network of cells, tissues and organs that work together to counteract the effects of foreign invaders. However, immune function may decline with age, inadequate nutrition and stress. During the cold and flu season natural alternatives for immune system support help target unwanted invaders.

Olive leaf extract is used to enhance the immune system, and has antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. The active component in olive leaf extract is called oleuropein. Present throughout the olive tree (wood, fruit, leaves, roots and bark), this compound protects the tree form insect and bacterial predators and imparts numerous benefits when taken in supplement form.1,2

For over 2,500 years black elderberry has treated influenza, coughs, and colds.3 Elderberry juice is said to “activate the body's powers of resistance”,4 enabling the body to keep and restore good health. Elderberry extract is supported by scientific studies in its effects against influenza through a heightened immune system response.5

Goldenseal is a Native American medicinal plant introduced to early settlers by Cherokee Indians who used it as a wash for skin diseases, wounds, and for sore, inflamed eyes. Goldenseal has acquired a considerable reputation as a natural antibiotic and as a remedy for various gastric and genitourinary concerns. The alkaloids hydrastine, berberine, canadine, and canadaline are the principle active constituents in goldenseal. The berberine constituent is most noted for its antimicrobial effects.6

Tea tree oil extracted from the Melaleuca alternifolia tree native to Australia has been used by Australian aborigines for several centuries. Topically, tea tree oil is commonly used for skin and skin surface infections such as acne, athlete's foot, and ringworm.

Pau d'arco has been used since the time of the Incas as a healing plant. The component of pau d'arco that seems to have the most significance is a naphthoquinone derivative known as lapachol, shown in studies to have activity against bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.7

Garlic is rich in a variety of sulfur-containing compounds including allicin and ajoene. While these compounds are responsible for garlic's pungent odor, they are also the source of many of its health-promoting effects. In addition to antifungal benefits, garlic is also reported to have antibacterial, anthelmintic, and antiviral effects.8

A combination of herbs described by Chinese herbalists as having “metal-enhancing” properties includes indigo, bupleurum, scute, and Thlaspi arvense. These herbs create a favorable environment for microbial balance and overall health, support detoxification and promote a healthy respiratory tract.

1. Walker, M. Olive Leaf Extract. New York, NY: Kensington Publishing Corp. 1997.
2. Pasquale, A.D.; Monforte, M.T.; Calabro, M.L. “HPLC Analysis of Oleuropein and some Flavonoids in Leaf and Bud of Olea Europaea L.“ IIFarmaco 1991: 46(6):803-815.
3. Mumcuoglu, M. Sambuco; Black Elderberry Extract, a break through in the treatment of influenza. Skokie, IL:RSS Publishing, Inc. 1995.
4. Dahlow, M. Healing Plants. Hong Kong:Barron’s Educational Series 1993.
5. Zakay-Rones, Z.; Varsano, N.; Zlotnik, M.; Manor, O.; Regev, L.; Schlesinger, M.; Mumcuoglu, M. “Inhibition of several strains of Influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of Influenza B Panama.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 1995;1(4):361-369.
6. Amin AH, Subbaiah TV, Abbasi KM. Berberine sulfate: antimicrobial activity, bioassay, and mode of action. Can J Microbiol 1969;15:1067-76.
7. Foster S, Tyler VE. Tyler's Honest Herbal, 4th ed., Binghamton, NY: Haworth Herbal Press, 1999.
8. Ankri S, Mirelman D. Antimicrobial properties of allicin from garlic. Microbes Infect 1999;1:125-9.