I need an answer to a number of respiratory problems which regularly plague members of my family around Christmas and the New Year. They include bronchial asthma, tonsillitis, viral pharyngitis, chronic obstructive airways disease with constant wheezing, as well as very severe and persistent, never-ending bronchitis. Various family membesr seem to get these ills each and every winter- they can happen at the tail-end of a cold or flu, or they just come on their own. This applies even to my 18-month-old son. Their immune systems must be weak. We can't get any lasting help anywhere, it seems. Can you suggest anything, please?
Mr Ron B., by email
I can suggest plenty, Ron. Here's a r'esum'e of some of the natural medicinal aids that should prove helpful for all of your family's complaints. Thyme and cowslip (primrose) are effective asthma relievers that may be found growing in the garden. Studies of the oil in thyme (Thymus vulgaris) show that it can reduce swelling of the inner lining of the lungs, which is what is usually behind the increase in sticky mucus secretions, coughing and bronchial constriction (contraction of muscles in the airways). It's also strongly antimicrobial, attacking the bacteria and viruses that trigger coughs. In addition, its flavonoids can alleviate convulsive coughing, while terpenes make it easier to cough up phlegm. 1 Several clinical studies have shown that the mucus-dissolving activity of thyme is enhanced when given in combination with cowslip (Primulae radix) root. Taking a preparation that combines the two can significantly reduce symptoms of acute bronchitis as well
as its duration. 2 Just such a combination is commercially available as Bronchipret(R) (from Bionorica SE, Neumarkt, Germany). Cowslip (a kind of primrose) is a well-known early flowering plant.
Its contribution is that it ensures that 'stuck' phlegm is loosened so that it can then be more easily expelled from the lungs. It also contains saponins, which stimulate the formation of more
runny bronchial secretions that can then lubricate the airways. They also promote immune resistance and protect against infection. Suggested dosages: Three cups a day (always taken at evenly spaced out intervals throughout the day) of an infusion made with 1 heaped tsp of fresh organic thyme (preferably from a naturopath or medical herbalist) in 250 mL (8 oz) of boiling water, after
allowing it to draw for five minutes; Bronchipret: 3.2 mL ( 3/4 tsp) for children aged two to five years; 4.3 mL (1 tsp) for children aged six to 11 years; 5.4 mL (1 1/4 tsp) for children over 12 and adults, all three times a day iceland moss (eryngo-leaved liverwort; Cetraria islandica) is a lichen, not a moss, with a recorded use since the 1600s in Norway, Lapland and Iceland as an effective expectorant for cases of respiratory catarrh and bronchitis. 3 Suggested dosage: 2 g of dried lichen as a decoction or 1.5 mL as a tincture (1:5 in 40 per cent alcohol), three times daily
Beard lichen (Usnea) is a bushy lichen that usually grows hanging from tree branches. It can help clear up tonsillitis. 4 Suggested dosage: 4 mL of tincture taken in water three times daily
sage (Salvia officinalis), delivered through an aerosol spray, is well tolerated, and able to deal quickly and effectively (relief of symptoms within two hours) with acute viral or fungal pharyngitis (sore throat). 5 BronchoStop (available online) combines thyme and sage, so providing the curative effects of both herbs. (Caution: never get the spray into the nose or eyes.) More traditionally, you could infuse 1 heaped tsp of fresh sage leaves and allow it to draw for three minutes before straining and drinking.
Suggested dosage: Three cups daily By the way, sage also seems to have inhibitory activity against the herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1, which causes these infuriating cold sores. Just dab some S. officinalis extract directly onto the afflicted spot. Bastard agrimony (Aremonia agrimonoides) can make the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract more robust, counteract
inflammation, and inhibit secretions and bacterial growth and proliferation; it can relieve an itchy throat and may also have a mildly anaesthetic effect. 6 Suggested dosage: Douse 1 1/2 tsp of fresh herb in 150 mL (5 oz) of boiling water and allow it to draw for 15 minutes, then strain. When lukewarm, use it as a gargle for about one minute. english plantain or lamb's tongue
(Plantago lanceolata). This traditional Austrian medicine is called Spitzwegerich (and it's not the plantain banana) and is taken orally as a syrup or tea. Studies have confirmed that it's a
highly effective cough remedy. 7 Suggested dosage: Infuse 3 g of dried herb in 150 mL (5 oz) of boiling water for 10 minutes; drink three cups a day rock rose (Cistus incanus) is rich in
polyphenols which, as several studies have demonstrated, make it the perfect antiviral for patients with respiratory tract infections, especially the flu. 8 Viruses infect cells by successfully
camouflaging themselves to prevent being detected by the cells they intend to invade, whereas this botanical medicine inhibits viral cell invasion by altering viral surface structure,
rendering it identifiable by cells as an invader. 9 Of the inflammatory markers investigated in patients, C-reactive protein was the one most affected by C. incanus extract and resulted in significant decreases in symptoms compared with a placebo. 10 In the Austrian naturopathic tradition, C. incanus is often given with green tea. However, studies have shown that this combination was less effective in dealing with symptoms. 11 Suggested dosage: Douse 3 tsp of herb in 1 L (34 oz) of boiling water and allow to draw for three minutes; drink five cups a
day (again, evenly spaced out throughout the day) Hemp-agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum) strengthens the immune system: its flavonoids, volatile oils and non-toxic alkaloids promote
immunological, antibacterial and cell-growth-inhibiting activities.
The antimicrobial activity of the essential oil was also evaluated against eight Gram-positive and Gram- negative bacterial species, including Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus faecalis, Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhi, and showed significant activity against them all, particularly the Gram-positive species. The plant has also recently proved useful as an immune-system stimulant, helping to maintain the body's resistance to acute viral and other infections. 12 A successful homeopathic remedy has been made from its leaves, marketed under the name Contramutan (Klosterfrau Healthcare Group, Cologne, Germany). Suggested dosage: 15 mL (around 1 Tbsp) once a day at the first signs of respiratory infection Cape pelargonium (Pelargonium sidoides). This native of South Africa, mistakenly called a 'geranium', has been investigated in a pooled analysis of six randomized controlled trials published in the literature and was found effective, compared with a placebo, for patients with acute bronchitis. It is said to stimulate the body's defences against bacteria and viruses, to relieve symptoms such as phlegm,
and to be safe and suitable for the whole family (even one-year-olds). 14 An extract of the roots of P. sidoides is marketed as medicinal drops called Pelargonium-Ratiopharm(R) Bronchial
(Ratiopharm GmbH, Ulm, Germany) in three quantities: 20 mL, 50 mL and 100 mL.
Suggested dosages: 30 drops in water for adults and teenagers (from 12 years onwards); 20 drops in water for children aged six to 12 years; and 10 drops in water or pineapple juice for infants aged one to five years-all three times a day. Given the availability of such a wealth of natural remedies with scientifically proven effectiveness, I can only wonder why anyone would want to
bother with the not-quite-so-effective chemopharmaceuticals, with their attendant side-effects, now so widely available over the counter and even in supermarkets. Ron, all I ask is that you please let me know how your family gets on with these natural remedies.
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Harald Gaier, one of the UK's leading experts on alternative medicine and a registered naturopath, osteopath, acupuncturist, homeopath and herbalist, practises at The Allergy and Nutrition Clinic, 22 Harley Street, London. Visit his website at www.drgaier.com. If you have a question for our Medical Detective, write to us at the usual address or email: email@example.com