A natural rapid response unit against viruses

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interferon antiviral
Interferon alpha - the best thing since sliced bread.
Interferon alpha is one of the body's scariest substances - well it is if you are a virus. When all goes wrong on the mucus membrane front and the body is under viral attack, out goes interferon alpha to the front line. It's the quick reaction force, the rapid response unit,  the true 'Sweeney'  of the immune system.
Everybody could see that it made perfect sense to try and harness its power and  in the early 1980's a drug company finally managed to manufacture enough interferon alpha to start clinical trials.  It was hailed as the next best thing to sliced bread. It was going to be 'the answer' to cancer, deadly viruses, auto-immune disease and every other illness where the immune system was malfunctioning.
So what went wrong?
Thirty years on the drug has not lived up to the hype and it is only licensed as a treatment for a few types of cancer and viral hepatitis - and the side effects are not negligible. So where did it all go wrong? Interferon alpha is the classic example of good things come in little packages.  The molecule manages to mobilise all of the troops of the immune system at extremely low concentrations in the body however the drug is used at many times the natural level.  It's a bit like dropping an atom bomb to destroy a couple of reds under the bed.
The micro route
In the late 1980's doctors in France and Belgium had the idea that Interferon was a natural for use in homeopathic doses. Dr Laurent Hervieux, Dr Maurice Jenaer and Dr Jerome Malzac all began to use interferon alpha in homeopathic doses combined with other immune modulators and some traditional homeopathic remedies.  The results were very promising and had none of the side effects that the conventional use was causing.  Soon a whole new therapy was born and treatments for herpes simplex, hepatitis, papillomavirus and the mononucleosis virus were being tried with good results.  Other doctors were trying out interferon alpha in 'micro' doses.  These extremely low non-homeopathic doses were used both as oral medication and as a topical cream.  A study in Singapore showed that low dose oral interferon could reduce the severity of measles in children.  Other studies showed that the low dose interferon reduced the fever yet increased antibody production during the vaccination process. Another study showed that low dose interferon alpha could prevent 'shipping fever' in racehorses.  The use of interferon alpha in homeopathic or low doses is now commonplace in many European countries.
The natural way
There are other natural ways to boost your antiviral forces too.  Many medicinal herbs boost immunity via interferon alpha production.  Astragalus is a Chinese herb that improves antibody production and the Native American Indian herb Boneset has been used for years as an antiviral to treat colds and flu.  Most of us have heard of good old Echinacea and its ability to boost the immune system and ward off infections.  Ginseng is another favourite and like Echinacea works through stimulating production of immune regulators.  There are endless ways to get your rapid response team out there, but do take care if you suffer from any autoimmune or inflammatory conditions because there are some parts of the immune system that you do not want to stimulate into over reacting even more than they already do.  That's a good reason to go and see a professional medical herbalist before you decide to send your immune troops into action.
For information on natural antivirals for flu, take a look at the flu treatment strategy  page on herbal medicine and phytotherapy. 


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