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Avoiding the The Cytokine Storm and Swine Flu Panic

Posted Apr 29 2009 10:25pm

First of all, don’t buy the media generated hysteria because all that adrenalin is just really bad for your immune system.

I’m totally not to going to write a full explanation of the Swine Flu virus because lord knows there’s plenty of that online already. Suffice to say the current fears result from a Swine Flu (there’s been lots of Swine flus) variation that contains genetic material from swine, avian and human strains of flu. It is now confirmed to be able to spread from human to human and it is a descendant of the dreaded 1918 pandemic flu (which, contrary to common belief, was so deadly not because of the flu itself but because of the strep infection that accompanied it as well as some of the very inappropriate treatments used at that time).

So far, I don’t see any reason to panic but I’ve had about a dozen requests for a flu post, so here you go. Below is a list of my first thoughts on preventing Swine Flu from Mexico or any other flu. My experience and observation tells me that flu prevention is much more about nourishing the body than ~fighting~ any virus, so my suggestions will focus on just that.

  • Avoid a hyperactive (or hypoactive) immune system (and theoretically, the cytokine storm ) with immunomodulators (rather than simple immune stimulators) like Elderberry. Elderberry is extra nice because it has also been shown to disarm flu viruses and prevent them from replicating in the body. Elder flower is a fine relaxant diaphoretic and lung tonic as well, and all around near perfect flu prevention and treatment remedy. I especially like my Elderberry Elixir recipe (scroll down til you see the recipe) to treat and prevent a variety of flu and cold bugs. Other herbs useful in the treatment of hyperimmune or autoimmune conditions include Peach, Cherry, Rose and Reishi.
  • Get your Vitamin D. Not actually a vitamin, this necessary steroid hormone is usually obtained through normal exposure to sunlight and diet, but supplementation is becoming increasingly necessary for those who live in Northern climes or spend much of their time indoors (that would be most of America, I suppose). Vitamin D (cholecalciferol) is important for a properly functioning immune system, especially in the respiratory tract. Up to 10,000 IU/per day is safe, and Paul Bergner says that “In order to rapidly raise se rum levels to ward normal, up to 40,000 IU/day might be safely given for a period of six weeks, followed by daily doses of 4000-10000 IU.”
  • And your Zinc. I like a dose between 10-20 mg for preventative purposes.
  • Bioflavanoids - Berries, greens and brightly colored vegetables - eat them in quantity. Nourishing herbal infusions (Rose, Elderberry, Nettle, Raspberry) tend to have large doses of bioflvanoids as well.
  • Essential Fatty Acids - Cod liver oil is a longstanding traditional preventive method for flu and cold prevention, and a very good idea year round. Sorry, plant based EFAs just won’t cut it, so go for the ones found in fatty fish and certain other wild and grassfed meats.
  • Reduce sugar and simple carbohydrate intake. Even the sugar contained in honey or fruit is perfectly capable of supressing your immune system.
  • Sleep. Lack of adequate rest and sleep is known to depress the immune system so get your Z’s and avoid longstanding sleep debt at all costs.
  • Support the body’s natural fever and elimination processes with diaphoretics rather than using NSAIDS to suppress the body’s healthy immune processes. The classic fever tea of Yarrow, Mint and Elderflower is time tested and very effective, although I prefer to use Monarda rather than Mint in many cases.


“Influenza Prevention” by Paul Bergner, from the Summer 2008 issue (Volume 15, Number 4) of Medical Herbalism.

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