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Instep Dance Magazine Articles

Reprints of monthly column as first appearing in Instep Dance Magazine.

November 1999

Natural Remedies - Part 3: Immune Enhancers

By Rick Allen, DC

"Better health leads to better dancing."

Rounding out this series of articles (Part One and Part Two), let's review several herbs have been show to enhance the function of the immune system. They help the body's own natural defenses fend off bacterial and viral attack. If I have been exposed to a cold or the flu virus, I reach for echinacea, goldenseal, and extra vitamin C, vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, and unsweetened zinc lozenges. I want to knock out the attack, rather than just reduce the symptoms of a runny nose, scratchy throat, etc.


Echinacea is a North American wildflower, commonly called purple coneflower, which is used medicinally to support the immune system. According to Lininger, et al, several constituents in echinacea team together to increase the production and activity of white blood cells, lymphocytes, and macrophages. Echinacea also increase production of interferon, an important part of the body's response to viral infections such as colds and flu.

Echinacea is best taken for a specific period of time to stimulate the immune system. At the onset of a cold, it can be taken three to four times per day for ten to fourteen days. To prevent a cold, many people take Echinacea tablets or capsules three times per day for six to eight weeks. A "rest" period is recommended after this, as echinacea's effects may diminish if used longer.


Goldenseal is also a plant native to North America with medicinal, immune enhancing properties. Goldenseal was used by the American Indians as a treatment for irritations and inflammations of the mucous membranes of the respiratory, digestive, and urinary tracts. Because of its antimicrobial activity, goldenseal has a long history of use for infectious diarrhea, upper respiratory tract infections, and vaginal infections. Goldenseal is often recommended in combination with echinacea for the treatment of colds and flu.

Like echinacea, goldenseal should be taken for a specific period of time to stimulate the immune system. Continuous use should not exceed three weeks, with a break of at least two weeks between use.


Herbal manufacturers often combine synergistic herbs and nutritional supplements into convenient capsule or tablet form. NF Formulas, for instance, produces EHB, which combines echinacea, vitamins, zinc, bioflavanoids, bromelain, and five important herbs: licorice, garlic, ginger, goldenseal and Oregon grape. Nutrilite combines echinacea with astragalus, bioflavanoids, and acerola cherry concentrate into a potent combination.

Resources: An herb specialist or naturopathic or chiropractic doctor will be good local sources of information. An excellent resource book is The Natural Pharmacy by well-known authorities Skye Lininger, D.C., Jonathan Wright, M.D., Steve Austin, N.D., Donald Brown, N.D., and Alan Gaby, M.D. This book is available from Prima Publishing, PO Box 1260BK, Rocklin, CA 95677; telephone (916) 632-4400.

Caution: While these herbs are easily available without a prescription, I suggest you check with a knowledgeable local health care provider about the appropriate use in your specific case. I have intentionally omitted doses in this overview article. Even natural herbs need to be used with appropriate caution.

Next article: Let me again ask you, my readers, for ideas. What topics would you like to see for December and next year?

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