immune system is an incredibly complex interaction between
organs, glands, body systems, surfaces, cells and chemicals
in the body.
concert of processes requires proper nourishment in order to
function optimally. And in today's world, we want the
best possible immunity from the multitude of diseases we are
facing, many of which have been, until now, unknown.
The threat of bio-terrorism is now very real, and these
germs of warfare are particularly virulent.
Many herbs and other substances are used by cultures
around the world to nourish and support immunity and protect
us from a multitude of disease causing micro-organisms,
including bacteria such as Bacillus anthracis (anthrax), the
Herpes simplex virus, or fungal growths such as Candida.
I know a few of these protective and immune strengthening
herbs on an intimate level, and would like to introduce you
to some of them here. We'll cover astragalus, usnea,
sage, garlic, honey, shitake and reishi mushrooms, hyssop,
and St. John’s wort.
Astragalus has been growing in our gardens for over ten
years now. It is quite hardy, and withstands even the
coldest Maine winter. It grows into a large bush,
quite feathery, bright green and very pretty looking, with
dainty, fan-like yellow flowers in mid to late summer.
Oftentimes in nature you will find that the gifts of a
plant make themselves known to you in the manner in which
the plant grows, the conditions it requires, and its degree
of hardiness. When a plant thrives no matter what,
take a deeper look, and you may find that it will help you
to do the same. Astragalus strikes me as such a plant.
Rugged, resiliant, strong, powerful, long-lived, graceful,
Astragalus is a tonic and restorative food and a potent
medicine plant. The Chinese have been using this plant
to strengthen immunity for centuries. They say it
"strengthens the exterior", or protects against illness.
Known as Huang-qi, astragalus is written about in the 2,000
year old Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, and is still considered to
be one of the superior tonic roots in traditional Chinese
medicine. It's name literally means yellow, referring
to the inside of the root, and leader, referring to its
Mildly sweet, and slightly warm, astragalus invigorates
vital energy, is restorative, strengthens resistance,
restores damaged immunity, promotes tissue regeneration, is
cancer inhibiting, antiviral, adaptogenic, protects and
strengthens the heart and the liver, is tonic to the lungs
and enhances digestion.
Many scientific studies have verified its immune
enhancing action. Astragalus is a powerful "non-specific"
immune system stimulant. Instead of activating our
defense system against a specific disease organism,
astragalus nourishes immunity by increasing the numbers and
activity of roving white blood cells, the macrophages.
As an immunostimulant, astragalus engages and activates
every phase of of our immune system into heightened
activity. In one study, the activity of macrophages
was significantly enhanced within six hours of treatment
with astragalus, and remained so for the next seventy-two
In Chinese medicine astragalus roots are said to tonify
the Spleen, Blood, and Chi. They are used as a tonic for the
lungs, for those with pulmonary disease, frequent colds,
shortness of breath, and palpatations. Astragalus is
also prescribed for those who suffer from fatigue, from any
source, chronic nephritis, night sweats, uterine prolapse,
or prolapse of the rectum.
It's tissue regenerating and anti-inflammatory
abilities make astragalus an excellent ally to heal chronic
ulcerations and persistent external infections, as well as
to heal hard-to-heal sores and wounds, and to drain boils
and draw out pus. Astragalus processed in honey is a
specific against fatique, used to boost vital energy, to
nourish the blood, and also against incontinence, bloody
urine or diarrhea.
In a study conducted by the University of Texas Medical
Center, in Houston, researchers compared damaged immune
cells from cancer patients to healthy cells.
Astragalus extracts were found to completely restore the
function of the cancer patients' damaged immune cells, in
some cases surpassing the health and activity of the cells
from healthy individuals.
The extract of astragalus was also shown to
significantly inhibit the growth of tumor cells in mice,
especially when combined with lovage Ligustrum lucidum.
According to a study reported in Phytotherapy Research,
astragalus appears to restore immunocompetence and is
potentially beneficial for cancer patients as well as those
suffering with AIDS. It increases the number of stem
cells present in the bone marrow and lymph tissue and
stimulates their differentiation into immune competent
cells, which are then released into the tissues, according
to one study reported in the Journal of Traditional Chinese
Astragalus also stimulates the production of
Interferon, increases its effectiveness in treating disease,
and was also found to increase the life span of human cells
Astragalus protects adrenal cortical function while
undergoing chemotherapy or radiation, and helps modify the
gastrointestinal toxicity in patients recieving these
therapies. Chinese doctors use astragalus against
chronic hepatitis, and many studies have demonstrated that
astragalus protects the liver against liver-toxic drugs and
anti-cancer compounds commonly used in chemotherapy, such as
stilbenemide. When used as an adjunct to conventional
cancer treatments, astragalus appears to increase survival
rates, to increase endurance, and to be strongly liver
Astragalus helps lower blood pressure, due to its
ability to dilate blood vessels, and protects the heart.
Scientists in the Soviet Union have shown that astragalus
protects the heart muscle from damage caused by oxygen
deprivation and heart attack.
According to reports in the Chinese Medical Journal,
doctors at the Shanghai Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases
found that astragalus showed significant activity against
Coxsackie B virus, which can cause an infection of the heart
called Coxsackie B viral myocarditis, and for which there is
no effective treatment. In a follow-up study, researchers
found that astragalus helped maintain regular heart rhythms,
and beating frequency, and that Coxsackie B patients showed
far less damage from the viral infection (as much as 85%).
In Chinese medicine, astragalus is often combined with
codonopsis. This compound is said to strengthen the
heart and increase the vital energy, while invigorating the
circulation of blood throughout the body. It is also
traditionally combined with ginseng, and used as a tonic
against fatique, chronic tiredness, lack of energy,
enthusiasm, or appetite, and to ease "spontaneous
perpiration" or hot flashes.
Japanese physicians use astragalus in combination with
other herbs in the treatment of cerebral vascular disease.
According to a research paper published by Zhang in 1990,
adolescent brain dysfunction improved more with a
Traditional Chinese Medicine formula containing astragalus
in combination with codonopsis, bupleurum chinense,
Scutellaria baicalensis, Ligustrum lucidum, Lophantherum and
ivory thread, than with Ritilin.
Integrating astragalus roots into your winter-time
diet, as the Asians have been doing for years, turns out to
be a very good idea. Scientists have demonstrated that
astragalus will not only prevent colds, but cut their
duration in half. Astragalus possesses strong
antiviral properties, and in one study regenerated the
bronchial cells of virus-infected mice.
Astragalus has been safely used throughout Asia for
thousands of years. The Chinese typically slice
astragalus roots and add them, along with other vegetables,
to chicken broth to create a nourishing and tonic soup.
Discard the root after cooking, and consume the broth.
No toxicity from the use of astragalus has ever been shown
in the millenia of its use in China.
The genus Astragalus is the largest group of flowering
plants, with over 2,000 different species, most of which are
found in the northern temperate regions. Plants in
this genus are amazingly diverse, some are nourishing and
medicinal, some useful as raw materials, and others, such as
the locoweeds, are toxic. Astragalus membranaceus
grows in the wild along the edges of woodlands, in thickets,
open woods and grasslands. It is native to the
Northeastern regions of China, but grows excellently in
Maine soils and temperatures, as do most Chinese medicinal
plants we've attempted to grow thus far. Astragalus
appreciates deep, well drained, somewhat alkaline soil.
easily gathered and when planted in the fall require no
prior soaking. They will germinate the following
spring as soon as conditions are right. The seeds have
a hard seed coat, and some people nick the covering with a
file, or soak the seed overnight to hasten germination. Give
each plant plenty of room, as much as a foot all around, and
harvest after the fourth or fifth year of growth. Use
whole or sliced, fresh or dried root for tinctures, honey,
infusions, syrup, or in soups.
St. John'swort contains numerous compounds that possess
documented biological actions, and are the focus of much
study. Those constituents that have generated the most
interest thus far, include the naphthodianthrones, hypericin
and pseudohypericin, a wide range of flavonoids, including
quercetin, quercitrin, amentoflavone and hyperin, and the
phloroglucinols, hyperforin and adhyperforin. Also of
interest to researchers are the essential oils, and
Wise herbalists have always used the whole herb, and
researchers agree, that it is an interaction between the
many constituents in St. John's wort, rather than any one
active ingredient, that is responsible for the wide range of
beneficial actions this healing herb offers.
All parts of the herb are used medicinally, with
hypericin content concentrated in the buds and flowers, and
also present in top and bottom leaves, as well as the stem,
though to a lesser degree.
Activity of Constituents:
Amentoflavone is antiinflammatory and antiulcer.
GABA is a sedative.
Hyperforin is an antibacterial agent active against
gram-positive bacteria, is wound healing, a potential
anticarcinogenic, and a neurotransmitter inhibitor.
Hypericin is strongly antiviral
Proanthocyanidins are antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiviral,
Pseudohypericin is antiviral and
Quercitrin is a MAO inhibitor, as are the Xanthones.
Xanthones are antidepressant, antimicrobial, antiviral,
diuretic, and cardiotonic.
St. John'swort is an excellent wound healer. It
possesses strong antimicrobial properties, is a significant
antifungal and antibacterial agent, and is especially
effective against gram-positive bacteria. It inactivates
Escherichia coli at dilutions of 1:400 or 1:200, and is also
active against Staphloccus aureus.
Two constituents of the herb, hyperforin and
adhyperforin possess antibiotic effects stronger than that
Burns heal rapidly with the application of St.
John'swort. In one study using St. Johns'wort oil,
first, second, and third degree burns healed at least three
times as rapidly than those treated with conventional
treatments, and scaring was minimal. Orally
administered St. John'swort tincture demonstrated a
remarkable healing of incisions, excision and dead space
wounds, and has also been shown to inhibit keloid formation.
Studies indicate St. John'swort may enhance coronary
blood flow as well as hawthorne, due to the activity of the
procyanidins. It significantly increases the
production of nocturnal melatonin, which means taking it
will help you sleep better, and feel better.
St. John's wort has also shown promise in the treatment
of chronic tension headaches, and also appears to be
liver-protective. It is a proven antidepressant, best
used by those who are mildly to moderately depressed. It is
also historically used to treat neurological conditions such
as anxiety, insomnia, restlessness, irritability, neuralgia,
trigeminal neuralgia. neuroses, migraines, fibrosis,
dyspepsia, and sciatica.
St. John’swort is an ally when dealing with any fungal
problem, such as candida (infusion as sitz bath), thrush
(infusion as mouth wash), or an infection on the skin or
nails(frequent soaks in infusion). Frequent
applications of St. John’swort oil will also help in healing
Use the oil to rub on to tired, sore, achey, painful,
overworked muscles. St. John’swort oil is legendary for
relieving the pain and inflammation of back-ache, stiff
neck, sore shoulders, bad knees, tennis elbow, and anything
else that hurts.
St. Johns'wort has shown to be of considerable benefit
to patients with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. (AIDS)
In one study, 16 out of 18 patients stabilized or
improved during a 40 month period during which they were
treated with St. John'swort. Only 2 of the 16 experienced an
opportunistic infection during the time they took the herb.
Many studies have proven that St. John'swort inhibits a
variety of viruses, including herpes simplex types 1 and 2,
and HIV-1 viruses associated with AIDS. Researchers
have concluded that both hypericin and pseudohypericin are
uncommonly effective antiviral agents.
St. John's wort is also active against murine
cytomegalovirus, para-influenza 3 virus, Sindbis virus,
vesicular stomatitis virus, and equine infectious anemia
The antiviral activity of St. John's wort appears to be
somewhat photodynamic, involving a photoactivation process
to become more intensely effective.
The ancients used aromatic sage to bring the virtues of
wisdom, strength and clear thinking. Modern day
researchers in Great Britain found that sage inhibits the
breakdown of acetylcholine, and so helps to preserve the
compound used to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s.
Sage is loaded with antioxidants, so is anti-aging, and
also offers lots of calcium, magnesium, the essential oil,
thujone, flavonoids and phytosterols. It is sedating and
soothing, and has a tonic effect on the nerves.
Sage is a potent broad spectrum antibiotic, and immune
stimulant. It possesses antibacterial, and antiseptic
properties and is active against Streptococcus pneumoniae,
Staphylococcus aureus, Haemophilus influenzae, Pseudomonas
aeruginosa. E. coli, Candida albicans, Klebsiella pneumoniae,
and Salmonella spp.
Some native tribes like the Mohican, commonly chewed
the leaves of sage as a strengthening tonic, and people all
over the world use sage to build strength and enhance
Expectorant and diaphoretic, sage is especially
effective against sore throat and upper respiratory illness,
and infections where there is an excess of mucous.
Sage dries up secretions. Sage is also traditionally used,
and effective against, dysentery. Its astringent
tannins make it an ally for healing mouth sores, canker
sores, bleeding gums, and gingivitis, when used as a mouth
rinse. A study done in Germany showed that drinking sage
infusion on an empty stomach, reduced the blood sugar levels
in diabetic patients.
Garlic is not only antibacterial, but antiviral,
antiseptic, antiparasitic, immune-stimulating,
antispasmodic, hypotensive, diaphoretic, antiprotozoan,
antifungal, anthelmintic, and cholagogue.
You can rely on the regular use of this spice to keep
your body toned and functioning optimally. It will
help keep that all-important and vital organ, the heart
toned, help keep blood pressure down, as well as help lower
cholesterol. Repeated studies have shown that garlic has a
beneficial effect on the heart and circulatory system.
Chop some into your salad, throw it, simmered in olive oil,
over noodles and sprinkle with parsley.
Garlic is rich in antibiotic powers and strengthens the
immune system. It is active against both gram positive
and gram negative bacteria, including Shigella dysenteriae,
Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Candida
albicans, Escherichia coli, Streptococcus spp., Salmonella
spp., Camphylobacter spp., Proteus mirablis, and Bacillius
anthraxis. Garlic is also active against herpes
simplex, influenza B, HIV and many other serious illnesses.
Note that it is active against the food-borne pathogens so
often found in commercial foods, Shigella, E. coli, and
Salmonella. Garlic kills bacteria in the
gastrointestinal tract immediately on contact. To
treat an active intestinal bacterial infection, consume lots
of raw or cooked garlic, or take garlic capsules.
Garlic in the diet has also been shown to have a
beneficial effect on those dealing with cancer, stress, and
fatigue. Garlic stimulates the isles of langerhans,
increases insulin production, and lowers blood sugar levels,
thus aids diabetics in the control of this debilitating
Garlic also helps increase the senovial fluids, and so
is an ally for those dealing with arthritis. The
sulfur in garlic helps break up the crystallization of uric
acid in the joints, and so aids in the relief of gout.
Garlic stimulates the brain and has a positive effect on
brain functioning, helping to keep us alert and energized.
Scientists have found that garlic’s anti-aging properties
not only slowed the destruction of brain cells, but also
caused new brain neurons to branch out. An old
Ukranian recipe to keep the mind sharp includes one pound of
garlic, ground and added to a jar with the juice of 24
lemons. Leave covered for one moon cycle, then take
one teaspoon each night.
Honey is, an ancient Islamic saying goes, the food of
foods, the drink of drinks, and the remedy of remedies.
The ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians all kept honeybees,
and extolled the virtues of honey. Some call honey a
sweet medicine of heaven, others, elixir of long life.
I use honey everyday and you probably should too. Here’s
Honey is a rejuvenating, revitalizing, invigorating,
natural antibiotic substance created by those magical
insects, bees. Bees have been called messengers of the
gods, and were associated with Great Goddess since the most
ancient times. Many legends hint that bees, and their
special creation, honey, played a very important role in our
human development. It is said that the gifts of honey
are long life, good health, and reverence for spirit.
Honey has an ancient reputation as a life force increasing,
immune strengthening, potency promoting, aphrodisiac elixir.
Honey consists of invert sugar (fructose,
dextroglucose) and other sugars (irreduced raw sugar,
maltose). It also contains a complex assortment of
enzymes, antibiotic and antimicrobial compounds, organic
acids, minerals such as iron, copper, phosphorus, sulfur,
potassium, manganese, magnesium, sodium, silicon, calcium,
iodine, chlorine, zinc, formic acid, and high concentrations
of hydrogen peroxide. Honey also contains varying
degrees (it depends on what flowers and herbs the bees are
taking their nectar from) of vitamin C, the entire B
complex, vitamins D, E, and K, pantothenic acid, niacin, and
folic acid, amino acids, hormones, alcohols, and essential
Honey can, and should be, thought of as a super food.
It is a live food, stores its vitamins and minerals
indefinitely, and is very easily digested by the body. Honey
is an all around health and vitality enhancing substance.
Wildflower honey, the concentrated nectar of wildflowers,
the essence of all the combined medicinal qualities of all
the diverse and abundant wild herbs, is thought to be the
most medicinal. All natural, unheated honey is
antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory,
anticarcinogenic, expectorant, antiallergenic, laxative,
antianemic, tonic, immune stimulating, and cell
Bees gather the nectar from flowers and store it in
their stomach while transporting it back to the hive.
During their transport, the dew-laden nectars become
concentrated by evaporation. The nectars also combine,
in some as yet unexplained way, with the bees’ digestive
enzymes, producing entirely unique compounds.
Scientists have measured over 75 different compounds in
honey, some of them so complex they have yet to be
identified. One thing we can identify however, is the
fact that when used as a consistent additive to food and
drink, honey increases vitality, energy, immunity, libido,
and life force.
Honey is proven more effective than any pharmaceutical
antibiotic in the treatment of stomach ulceration, gangrene,
surgical wound infections, and speedy healing of surgical
incisions. Honey is unsurpassed for the protection of
skin grafts, corneas, blood vessels, and bones during
storage and transport. In fact, honey is such an
excellent preservative of living tissue that it was commonly
used to keep dead bodies from decomposing while being
transported back to their homeland for burial. After
his death in a foreign land, Napoleon was sent home in a
huge vat of honey.
The fact that fist size ulcers and third degree burns
heal beautifully with frequent applications of pure raw
honey is clinically proven, and something I can personally
attest to. A few years ago, I got a large third degree
burn on my heel during a misstep on a motorcycle tailpipe.
It was a deep wound and definitely hampered my ability to
get around all that summer. I soaked my burned foot
morning and night in lavender and rose salts and after each
soaking applied a bandage liberally smeared with pure honey
directly over the burn. I kept a thick layer of honey
over that burn for a couple of months, and tried as much as
possible not to walk on it. Today there is barely a
trace of that huge burn hole on the heel of my foot.
Since that time, honey is my first treatment of choice for
any burn, first, second or third degree, any wounds, no
matter how deep, skin ulcers, impetigo, and infections.
I just keep whatever it is covered with a thick layer of
pure honey. And keep eating it by the spoonful, or
drinking it in water, or as mead, depending on what you are
trying to nourish and heal.
Honey is active against staph Staphylococcus aureus,
strep Streptococcus spp., and Helicobacter pylori,
responsible for stomach ulcers, and enterococcus. Honey is
also one of my top choices for treating any respiratory
condition, whether a cold, flu, or respiratory infection.
Honey will be your ally against bronchitis, chronic
bronchial and asthmatic problems, rhinitis and sinusitis.
Those dealing with chronic fatigue, any wasting disease, a
depressed immune system, will all feel the benefits of
integrating this sweet medicine of the bees into their daily
Usnea, or old man's beard as it is commonly called, is
a common lichen found hanging from trees around the world.
It possesses strong antibacterial and antifungal agents and
is a potent immune stimulant.
Usnea has been shown to be more effective than
penicillin against some bacterial strains. It
completely inhibits the growth of staphylococcus aureus,
streptococcus spp., and pneumonococcus organisms.
Usnea is effective against tuberculosis, triconomas, candida
spp., enterococcus, and various fungal strains, and has also
been reported active against Salmonella typhimurium and
Usnea is actually two plants in one. The inner
plant looks like a thin white stretchy thread or rubber
band, especially when wet. The outer plant gives usnea
its color and grows around the inner plant. The inner
part is a potent immune stimulant, the outer part strongly
Among the known constituents of usnea are usnic acid,
protolichesterinic acid, and oreinol derivatives.
Usnea is traditionally used around the world against skin
infections, upper respiratory and lung infections, and
It can be dusted as a powder, drank as tea or infusion,
used as a wash, bath, soak, douche, or spray. Usnea is
also effective in tincture form, 30-60 drops, 4 times daily
to boost immunity, 6 times daily to treat an active
infection. Drink 2-4 cups of infusion for acute
illness. Use 10 drops in an ounce of water and use as
a nasal spray to treat sinus infections.
Usnea can sometimes be irritating to delicate mucous
membranes of the mouth, nose, and throat, so the tincture
should always be diluted in water before using. We
walk way out into the woods to a big old spruce tree
beautifully decorated with long strands of this unique and
potent lichen which we gather to make our medicine.
Usnea easily absorbs heavy toxic metals and can be
potentially toxic, so gather in a clean place.
Immune activating fungi have been used as allies
against disease for millenia. Mysterious mushrooms and
fungi are classed in a kingdom all their own. They
cannot be called plants, as they are much more primitive,
nor are they animal. Fungi actually possess some
characteristics of both plant and animal.
There are many common medicinal mushrooms with immune
enhancing properties, including maitake, the abundant birch
polypores, turkey tails, honey mushrooms, and hens of the
The polypores are commonly given to chemotherapy and
radiation patients in Japan, and have been shown to increase
survival rates. The body receives deep nourishment
from medicinal fungi, as the nutrients and medicinal
properties of mushrooms penetrates deep into the bone
marrow. So much so, that some have referred to using
medicinal mushrooms as herbal bone marrow transplants!
We'll take a deeper look at two of the most widely used
medicinal mushrooms, shiitake and reishi.
Shiitake mushrooms have been used in China for
thousands of years to mobilize the immune system to fight
off disease. An immunostimulant, shitake increases the
activity of the human immune system against any invading
Antiviral, antitumor shitake has been effectively used
to treat viral infections, parasites, and cancer. One
of its most important consituents, lintinan, has been shown
to stimulate immune competent cells, stimulate T-cell
production, and increase macrophage activity.
In one study of 23 people with low killer cell
activity, and associated fever and fatique for over 6
months, all responded well to taking lintinan, despite not
having responded to conventional therapies, including
antibiotics and antipyretics.
Studies have shown shitake to be active against viral
encephalitis. It also possesses potent anti-tumor
activities, and has been shown to prevent metastisis of
cancer to the lungs.
Shitake mushrooms are usually added to soups and stews,
cooked for about two hours, and then allowed to sit for an
additional two hours. Remove the mushrooms before consuming
Called reishi in Japan, and Ling zhe in China, all the
Ganodermas are powerfully immune enhancing, and adaptogens
with potent anti cancer properties.
Both sweet and bitter, the ganodermas are powerful free
radical scavengers, eliminating these highly reactive
chemicals from the blood stream before they can damage the
DNA of healthy cells. Ganodermas are strongly cancer
protective, and have been shown to actually help break down
and dissolve tumors.
Ganodermas are an excellent addition to the diet of any
one who is run down, has been suffering from long term
stress, and has low immune function. Either of the
ganodermas effectively increases leukocyte production,
promotes lymphatic health, promotes phagocytosis, stimulates
T-cells, induces the generation of immunoglobulins, and
promotes the multiplication of antibodies.
Scientists from the Tokyo Medical and Dental University
demonstrated that the ganoderic acid in these fungi could
reduce the cholesterol production in the liver by as much as
The Ganodermas are heart warming, heart opening,
promote serenity, and are said to enhance spiritual powers.
Reishi and artists conk are hard and woody, and are
often referred to as shelf mushrooms. They grow on the
side of either dead or living trees, and are often found on
birch and other hardwoods, or hemlock. Sometimes you
will find them growing on the fresh stump of a recently cut
or fallen tree, and sometimes on an old stump.
Slice pieces off the mushroom while it is fresh and dry
the slices on screens or shallow baskets. Put several
pieces into any soups and stews you make, remembering to
remove the mushroom pieces before eating the soup.
Alcohol destroys the active ingredients in the
medicinal mushrooms, according to Christopher Hobbs.
He recommends cooking the mushrooms in water for a day or
two to make a concentrate, then adding 1/4 the volume in 190
proof alcohol to preserve it.
You might try making a syrup instead, substituting
honey for the alcohol. Try 1 whole reishi, or artists conk,
in two gallons of water, adding one half the volumn of
honey, after boiling, as a preservative. Drink 1/4 cup
of this liquid morning and night.
Hyssop has been around a long time. It's written
about in the Bible as a cleanser and protector, and it was
widely used by the ancients to clear away "evil spirits".
What the ancients referred to as "evil spirits", today we
call infectious bacteria, virus, fungi, and bad vibes.
Hyssop will come to your aid when dealing with any of these.
Hyssop is a blood nourisher, an immune system
strenghtener, and possesses potent antiviral, antifungal,
and antibacterial activity. Cornell/NCI researchers
think that hyssop may be useful in the treatment of patients
Several years ago, a young woman was admitted to a
hospital with severe AIDS symptoms. She was not
expected to live. Her story, interwoven with that of
hyssop follows: She had "disseminated Kaposi's sarcoma, was
partially blind from disseminated CMV, and suffered from
extensive oral and vaginal candidiasis, oral herpes
infection, and chronic draining ulcers on her lower
extremities." Her blood was found to have MAI
(Mycobacterium avium intracellularae) and her urine tested
positive for CMV. Doctors expected that she would soon
die so they sent her home. However, follow-up of the
patient 6 months later showed that her lesions had "improved
significantly," her blood tests were negative for MAI, she
could walk and move around more, and in general, she felt
much better. Upon questioning, the patient's mother
revealed that "for the previous month, the patient had been
given an old Jamaican herbal remedy which was prepared in
the form of a tea by boiling a mixture of leaves from hyssop
officinalis, blessed thistle, and cassia augustifolia."
Researchers tested the herbs and found that crude
extracts of Cassia augustifolia had minimal or no anti-HIV
activity, blessed thistle extracts had only "minimal"
antiviral effects, but crude extracts of hyssop inhibited
HIV replication by 77 to 100%. Further analysis
revealed that one of the antiviral compounds in hyssop was
caffeic acid, a compound that showed strong antiviral
Treatment of HIV-infected cells with caffeic acid
resulted in reduced levels of p24 and p17 antigens, reduced
the formation of giant clumps of infected cells, and
impaired the activity of the essential retroviral enzyme RT
(reverse transcriptase). Caffeic acid was previously
shown to have anti-herpes activity in laboratory tests.
When caffeic acid reacts with oxygen and becomes oxidized,
several beneficial products may form. Resarchers think
that the action between oxygen and other compounds found in
hyssop may also play a role in this plant's strong
Hyssop contains a number of camphor-like constituents
that help to loosen phlegm. Another constituent,
marrubium, is a powerful expectorant. Hyssop has
traditionally been used as a remedy against colds, flu,
coughs, bronchial congestion, pulmonary distress, asthma,
sinus congestion, and sore throats. A syrup made from
the flowering tops of hyssop is especially soothing.
Wise ones the world over, knowledgeable in the use of
medicine plants, including American Indians, used hyssop in
Hyssop is well known as a digestive tonic, stomach
soother, and an aid to alleviate gas. It also has a
long history of use as a nervous system nourisher, possesses
mild sedative properties, and can be taken regularly as a
nerve-strengthening tonic. Use hyssop to calm and steady
your nerves and help balance the emotional swings so common
during the mid-life transition.
All above ground parts of hyssop offer an essential oil
that has a clearing effect on the mind, helps rid you of
confusion, and imparts a feeling of alertness and focus.
Keep some fresh, or dried, in a chest pocket where you can
smell it the next time you have to give a presentation or
take a test.
According to some texts, long-term use of hyssop is
associated with reports of toxicity, while according to
others there is no toxicity whatsoever. There is also
no association of toxicity with hyssop in the empirical
evidence passed down through the ages. This
discrepancy may be a result of the way in which the herb is
prepared. Some think that the compound responsible for any
toxicity resides in lipid molecules in the leaves of hyssop.
So, using hyssop as a strong tea, or preferably an infusion,
or as a syrup, honey, tincture, or vinegar, should all be
fine. But to be on the safe side, don't extract it
into a fat base like oil, or butter. It may be possible that
the combination of herbs in the Jamaican recipe moderated
any possible toxic effects of the herb.
Other herbs that contain specific HIV inhibitors include
burdock, Coptis chinensis, prunella vulgaris, and viola
yedoensis. Other herbs containing viricides (antiviral
properties) include lemon balm, rose, cinnamon, dong gui/angelica,
Time Atlas Of The Body, Rand McNally and Company, N.Y., 1980
A Report on Herbs for Immunity, Longevity, and AIDS, Herb
Research Foundation, Rob McCaleb
On the Treatment of AIDS with Chinese Herbal Medicines, R.S.
Herbal Emissaries, Steven Foster and Yue Chongxi, Healing
Arts Press, Rochester, Vt., 1992
Herbal Antibiotics, Stephen Harrod Buhner, Storey
Publications, Vt. 1998
Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs, Gail Faith
Edwards, Ash Tree Publishing 2000
Traversing the Wild Terrain of Menopause, Gail Faith
Edwards, Bertha Canterbury Press, 2003
2001 Gail Faith Edwards
Do not copy without author's permission