2007-09-28 / Columnists

Health & Harmony

Commentary By Dr. Nancy Gahles

DR. NANCY GAHLES DR. NANCY GAHLES As the amount of hours of daylight begins to wane, our immune systems respond. Generally, there is a dip in immune activity as adjustments in the pituitary gland take place. People may notice this as an increase in sensitivity to the environment. Perhaps this is expressed in allergic reactions such as runny nose, watery eyes or scratchy throats. Irritability in any format is an expression of the mind/body being out of synch.

Enhancing immune function during periods of transition can be accomplished in many ways. Foods and particularly herbs can work nicely. One of my favorite herbs to use at this time of year is elderberry.

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra), not to be confused with the after-dinner drink Sambuca, is an herb that enhances immune function and increases antibodies.

Elderberry is used at this time of year when one feels congestion, chill, feverish or any of the prodromal signs of a cold or flu. Often we are unsure whether what we are experiencing is an allergy or a cold. The symptoms are similar.

Elderberry is most effective in prevention and treatment of colds, flus, fevers, coughs and some mild forms of bronchitis. It provides relief from congestion of the sinuses, sore throats and upper respiratory inflammation. In fact, elderberry's effect on mucous membranes makes it a good choice for use in gastrointestinal catarrh (congestion) as well as some skin conditions.

This herb has been clinically studied and the product that was clinically tested was Sambucol, made by Nature's Way. This is European elderberry juice and raspberry extract in a syrup base.

The primary treatment tested was for influenza. Results of this double-blind study showed improvement in the symptoms, including fever, in 93 percent of the cases within a six-day time period.

One of elderberry's properties is that it increases perspiration so as to facilitate fever reduction and clear out mucous congestion.

Be aware that elderberries can also be mildly laxative in effect and may cause nausea in large doses. It is best to follow the directions on the label and to consult with your healthcare practitioner when you decide to introduce a new substance into your healthcare regimen.

Sambucol is available in most health food stores and in Belle Harbor Chemists on Beach 129 Street.

I like it for prevention at this time of year and particularly for small children just starting school who are exposed to the coughing and sneezing of others and who hold hands on lining up and walking through the halls.

Adults may take this herb as well, in this form, or as a tea.

Remember that increasing immune function is a complex issue with many variables. Your individual uniqueness will determine what sensitivities present themselves for evaluation and treatment. Be conscious of these by tuning in to your inner self on a daily basis.

Take a moment upon waking to see how you feel in the morning.

As the day progresses, check in from time to time to see how you are feeling and at the end of the day, do a body scan mentally to see where you are after a whole day of events. When you can make the connection between the expressions of your physical body and the mental/ emotional scenes that trigger symptoms, you are well on your way to healing!

May The Blessings Be!

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