Take control of your health with herbal antivirals. As traditional medications become less effective against today’s potent and aggressive viruses, natural alternatives are proving capable of fighting off many common viral threats. Stephen Harrod Buhner offers in-depth instructions on how to prepare and use herbal formulations to prevent and treat infections such as SARS, influenza, and encephalitis. These natural remedies will fight off disease and strengthen your immune system, keeping your family healthy and happy.
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About the Author
Stephen Harrod Buhner is the author of Herbal Antivirals,Herbal Antibiotics, and 17 other works. He speaks internationally on herbal medicine, emerging diseases, complex interrelationships in ecosystems, Gaian dynamics, and musical/sound patterns in plant and ecosystem functioning. He is a tireless advocate for citizen scientists, amateur naturalists, and community herbalists everywhere. He lives in New Mexico.
Read an Excerpt
EMERGING VIRUSES: WHAT WE ARE FACING
It is naive to think we can win.
David Livermore, MD
Viral diseases, caused by pathogenic virus infections which have high morbidity and mortality rates, are still the leading cause of death in humans worldwide. ... Moreover, the emergence of viral resistance to drugs, as well as the serious adverse effects induced by antiviral drugs, has caused serious medical problems, particularly when [the drugs are] administered in combination over prolonged treatment periods. ... And these drugs are quite costly, thus limiting their use in developing countries, where infection is most prevalent.
Kaio Kitazato et al., "Viral Infectious Disease and Natural Products with Antiviral Activity"
For much of the twentieth century, infectious diseases in human populations of Western countries have been in retreat, as we learnt to sanitize our cities, cleanse our water supplies, improve domestic hygiene, use antibiotics, control vector organisms and vaccinate. As a result the developed world became rather complacent, naively welcoming the false dawn of a life mostly free of infectious disease. Since the 1980s things have looked much less secure, however, with the emergence of many previously unrecognized infectious diseases, and the reemergence of known infectious diseases that were thought to be under control. This trend has continued until the present time and many infectious pathogens, predominantly viruses, have been newly identified.
Thijs Kuiken et al., "Emerging Viral Infections in a Rapidly Changing World"
During the summer of 2006 a hitherto little-known viral disease swept across a large and diverse range of islands in the Indian Ocean. On the island of Réunion 265,000 people became critically ill — out of a population of 770,000. Very few of those infected were asymptomatic; the illness was, in nearly every case, severe. Health-care workers and the island's hospital system were overwhelmed. Even if they had not been, there was little they could do. So, they offered "supportive" care. In other words, they watched. They waited. Either the person's immune and bodily systems would fight it off, or they wouldn't. For many, they didn't.
The virus soon jumped to India, where an estimated 1.3 million people became ill. The culprit? A relatively little-known viral disease, chikungunya fever. The virus is known to medical science but not well; it's not a common disease. But it had mutated. Later analysis showed that the mutation had occurred sometime between the spring and fall of 2005. Within 6 months it had become pandemic in the region. By the end of 2006 over two million people had become infected.
The disease is attended by severe joint pain (somewhat like dengue fever). The ankles and wrists are the most impacted; conjunctivitis and a rash often occur. The pain in the joints can last for weeks ... or months, and it is debilitating. There is no treatment and there is no cure. The physicians recommended the use of acetominophen for the pain. The cause of death for many of those who died? Liver damage ... from the acetominophen.
People visiting the region who traveled back to their homes in the United States and Europe brought the disease with them. Over 1,000 in the United States were diagnosed with it; person-toperson transmission occurred in a number of instances, infecting new hosts. Then, luckily for most of us, the epidemic just ... faded away.
The disease is primarily spread by mosquitoes (similarly to most of the diseases discussed in this book), specifically Aedes albopictus. This is a mosquito that was once limited in its geographical range but has, in the past 50 years, spread to every continent on Earth.
This is an example of just how fast a new viral pathogen can spread in the global village. It began with an African virus entering an Asian mosquito that traveled with people by plane and boat to the Indian Ocean and India. And from there, it went everywhere. This same dynamic is now playing out everyplace on Earth. The chikungunya outbreak is not an uncommon event. West Nile encephalitis virus emerged in the United States in a large outbreak in 1999. It soon spread throughout the world and is now endemic in Europe and Asia. In the fall of 2002, SARS emerged in China and quickly spread throughout the pan-Asian region. The epidemiologists who studied the SARS outbreak discovered that it had initially emerged in a small region in China. The physician who attended the ill then visited Hong Kong, where he infected 16 people. Some of them traveled and in doing so spread the disease worldwide in a matter of weeks.
Then came swine flu and headlines like these:
Doctors shocked by spread of swine flu — and its severity
Jeremy Lawrence, The Independent, December 22, 2010
460 flu victims fighting for life as experts admit 24 deaths from swine strain may be only a fraction of the true number
Sophie Borland, Mail Online, December 24, 2010
Flu crisis hits cancer surgery: Hospitals struggle to cope as deaths rise and Britain teeters on the brink of an epidemic
Sophie Borland, Mail Online, December 27, 2010
And only a year later, in the fall of 2011, a worldwide epidemic of dengue fever began in northern Africa. It soon spread to the Philippines and Puerto Rico, crossing the ocean in both directions. Finally it hit Brazil. By April of 2012 over 50,000 people had been admitted to hospitals in Brazil. Five hundred newly infected people were being admitted each week.
Viral diseases such as these are emerging in new and potent forms everyplace on Earth. There are few medical treatments for them if a reliable vaccine does not exist. And for most of them it does not.
Welcome to the twenty-first century.
But We Won ... Didn't We?
When the first antibiotic, penicillin, came into common use in 1946 it was heralded as the beginning of the end for infectious diseases. And as each new antibiotic was discovered, and ever more diseases conquered, the voices proclaiming the end of infectious diseases grew louder. The success of antibiotics stimulated concerted medical assaults on epidemic viral diseases, primarily through the development and use of vaccines. The first widespread success was the polio vaccine.
Though it is not widely known, nearly everyone in a given region, when the polio virus spread to that area, became infected. It was, in fact, a very common virus with very few symptoms for most people. For over 90 percent there were no symptoms at all. Only about 8 percent or so had mild to moderate symptoms, generally a self-limited flu-like condition (which nearly every virus causes). But for about 1 percent of the population, the virus entered the nervous system and those people developed what most people think of as polio. It caused shrunken limbs or paralysis or even, for some, the loss of the capacity to breathe on their own. For those, the rest of life was lived encased in a shell that raised and lowered the chest mechanically.
Oddly enough, given the memories that some people still have of the disease — and the fear it engendered prior to the late twentieth century — it was relatively uncommon. Polio epidemics, as such, were unknown throughout most of human history. But by 1910 major epidemics of the disease began to sweep the world. It became the scourge of the industrialized nations.
The success of antibiotics after World War II combined with the deep public fear of the disease drove a powerful medical movement in the search for a cure. And as with most viral diseases, the focus was on a vaccine. It didn't take long. The Salk vaccine was discovered in 1955 and, after trials, in 1962 it was licensed for widespread use. Worldwide epidemics soon faded from memory, and infections declined from the millions to the hundreds of thousands, and by 2007 to a mere 1,652, almost all in Asia and Africa. It was a powerful success story and the belief that medical science could defeat all infectious diseases spread.
A 1963 comment by the Australian physician Sir F. Macfarlane Burnet, a Nobel laureate, is typical. By the end of the twentieth century, he said, humanity would see the "virtual elimination of infectious disease as a significant factor in societal life." Seven years later, Surgeon General William Stewart testified to Congress that "it was time to close the book on infectious diseases." And for a while, it seemed they might be right, for the next viral disease they attacked was smallpox.
Though they rarely get credit for it, it was Russian physicians in 1958 who began to press for a worldwide program to permanently eradicate smallpox. By 1967 the program was in full swing with some 250 million vaccinations occurring throughout the world each year. Within a decade, mostly due to the efforts of an American physician and epidemiologist, Donald Henderson, the last regions still endemic for the disease were cleared. And the world celebrated. For the first time a major human disease pathogen had been eradicated from the planet. (Though to be fair to the virus, both the Russians and the Americans kept just a little around, in case they needed it later — you know, for the kids.)
The triumph over smallpox was the apex of the success of the medical assault on microbial disease pathogens — though few knew it at the time. It was thought to be the beginning of the end for every disease pathogen on Earth. The hubris level, already immense by 1963, grew larger. If humans could defeat smallpox, they could defeat every virus on Earth. The word spread; the newspapers were filled with optimistic scenarios of a future without disease. Researchers were quoted extensively (as they still are) as saying that, soon, in just a few years, none of us would die from infectious diseases. Most people in the industrialized world accepted this at face value ... as they still do. It is, regrettably, part of the utopian future-myth of science (especially medical science) that many people take for granted. But it never has, and never has had, much to do with reality. As physician and researcher Frank Ryan comments, "Perhaps it reflected, in part, a regrettable separation of clinicians from basic scientists."
In fact those people whose living depended upon a study of microbes, of their potential and durability, were never deluded. A prescient few, such as René Dubos, warned us openly that the optimism was unjustified. But on the whole people were not inclined to listen. Most doctors, never mind members of the public, were infected with the prevailing overconfidence, hardly perceiving the growing threat of social changes to the "global village." They seemed unable to grasp the new potential afforded to a very ancient peril arising from world travel. ... Today, as one after another of the dismissed plagues returns to haunt us, as new plagues every bit as deadly as anything seen in previous history threatens our species, it is obvious that the postwar years were an age of delusion. It was comforting, a very understandable delusion, but a delusion nonetheless.
As it happens, the scientific and medical beliefs about the Earth and its interrelated life forms, including bacteria and viruses, that have been widely spread are not very accurate. Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan, in their book What Is Life?, note that once "the germ theory of contagion finally caught on, it did so with a vengeance. Different types of bacteria were implicated in anthrax, gonorrhea, typhoid, and leprosy. Microbes, once amusing little anomalies, became demonized. ... [They] became a virulent 'other' to be destroyed." But there are many problems with this belief about microbes. Two stand out for me. The first comes from the particular medical paradigm in use in the West and the second from a very inaccurate, outmoded nineteenth-/early-twentieth-century view of nature.
The medical paradigm problem is simple enough, though it's rarely recognized for the problem it is. Specifically: Most physicians and medical researchers commonly speak of the "cause of death" when speaking of mortality. The assumption, deeply embedded within that communication, is that the bacteria or virus (or heart disease or stroke) caused the death. Even deeper is the communication that if all "causes" of death were defeated, then there would be no more death. As Harvard researcher and zoologist Richard Lewontin puts it, "The claims made by medicine imply this possibility without explicitly stating it. Medical scientists speak of 'preventing' deaths by curing disease, but the evidence is that death cannot be prevented, only postponed at best. Moreover, the postponement has not been as effective as is sometimes claimed during the last fifty years of great progress in physiology, cell biology, and medicine. ... [The truth is] that although the proximate causes of death can be dealt with, death itself cannot. So, there must be a cause of death as a phenomenon, as distinct from the individual cases." In other words, if every "cause" of death were removed, in spite of what physicians (and news reports) say, there would still be death. Death is inherent in this place. The unstated and deeply buried assertion that microbes "cause" death is not only false, it stimulates people to view microbes as enemies, as participants in a war against us — and this is very far from the truth.
Bacteria and viruses are not a "virulent other." They are, instead, intimately interwoven into the underpinnings of life on this planet. They cannot be killed off without killing off every form of life on Earth. This is the great error of the nineteenth/early-twentieth-century view of nature that continues to plague us. Or, as Lynn Margulis once put it, "The more balanced view of microbe as colleague and ancestor remains almost unexpressed. Our culture ignores the hard-won fact that these disease 'agents,' these 'germs,' also germinated all life." We are, counterintuitively and most upsettingly, only a form of bacteria ourselves — in extremely elegant, symbiogenic, innovative shapes. Bacteria are the foundation of every life form on this planet. Had bacteria not developed resistance to antibiotics all life on this planet would have already become extinct simply from the millions of tons of antibiotics now present in the environment.
With bacteria the paradigm problem is bad enough, but when viruses enter the picture, the complexity rises by orders of magnitude. Viruses are not and never have been parasites, though they may act as or seem to be parasites when we fall sick with one. They, in fact, perform highly elegant ecosystem functions — as everything on this planet does. Viruses, as Frank Ryan comments, "weave in and out of the genomes of every form of life on earth. As a result, terrestrial life [has] become a dense web of genetic interactions."
DNA is not, and never has been, a computer program (and neither is RNA). It is, as Nobel Prize winner Barbara McClintock once noted, a living organ of the cell. DNA and RNA are both similar structures and they are deeply interactive with the world around them. DNA is a double-stranded molecule, RNA is single-stranded, but both of them are intimately involved in the structural formation of life forms. DNA contains information about the genetic development of living organisms. RNA is a messenger molecule used to carry genetic information that directs, in part, the synthesis of proteins, proteins that are needed for the structural formation of organisms. But again, these nucleic acids are not fixed in form. They change. We live in the midst of constant genetic rearrangements. And these gene rearrangements occur not only in response to impulses within the organism but also, as Barbara McClintock observed, to communications from the environment around it.
There is, in fact, no discrete inside and outside, no "us" and "them," even though it seems (within our nineteenth-century paradigm) that there is. The life forms on this planet are living organisms and that means they possess soft boundaries, very soft boundaries. There is a constant exchange (of energy, for example) between the inside and outside in all living systems. But to be more direct there is a constant inflow and outflow of life through those soft boundaries. The nature of the ecological reality of this world demands it.
As Richard Lewontin observes,
Even virus particles, which do not metabolize energy, can reproduce only when they become integrated into the metabolic apparatus of the cells they infect. At the time of viral replication, there is a complete abolition of the previously existing boundary between the virus and its cellular environment. ... Organisms do not find already existent ecological niches to which they adapt, but are in the constant process of defining and remaking their environments. At every moment natural selection is operating to change the genetic composition of populations in response to the momentary environment, but as that composition changes it forces a concomitant change in the environment itself. Thus organism and environment are both causes and effects in a coevolutionary process. ... Small changes in environment lead to small changes in the organism which, in turn, lead to small changes in the environment. ... In general the organism and the environment must track each other continuously or life would long ago have become extinct.
Excerpted from "Herbal Antivirals"
Copyright © 2013 Stephen Buhner.
Excerpted by permission of Storey Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Why This Book Exists
1. Emerging Viruses: What We Are Facing
2. Viral Respiratory Infections and Their Treatment
3. Viral Encephalitis Infections and Their Treatment
4. A Brief Look at Some Other Viruses: From Cytomegalovirus and Dengue to Shingles and Their Treatment Protocols
5. Herbal Antivirals: The Materia Medica
6. Strengthening the Immune System
Epilogue: What the Future Holds
Appendix A: A Brief Look at Herbal Medicine Making
Appendix B: Sources of Supply
What People are Saying About This
“Herbal Antivirals is a practical, accessible, urgently valuable guide to using herbs as remedies for viral infections. Buhner has done his research - this book is thoroughly annotated - and his writing is fluent and entertaining. I've been eager for Buhner to write a book on herbal antivirals ever since reading the newest edition of Herbal Antibiotics. I'm absolutely thrilled with the result.”
"Provides an alternative — and life-saving — solution."
"Elegant, articulate and brilliantly researched, this book could not have arrived any sooner given the critical nature of our ecological fragility. A must for every practitioner's library."
"This book is a must for every herbalist and every health-care worker’s office —full of plants and ideas that can make a difference!"
"In one book after another,Stephen Harrod Buhner has demonstrated new ways of thinking that address the increasing medical dogmatism and uncertainty of our times.We need a wise interpreter and he has proven himself worthy of the title."
"Buy this book now. Be prepared. Stephen on viruses (and ways to cohabit lovingly with them) is, as always, fascinating, scary, practical, fun, detailed, thorough, clear, and thought provoking."
"Medicinal plants address not only the virus itself, but the ecosystems that are our bodies. Stephen does a great service for us all by exploring their potential."