An Herbalist’s View on West Nile Virus

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Let’s begin with the possibility that the West Nile Virus may not exist. It’s described as a close relative of dengue and yellow fever, arriving in the United States in 1999. We read that most people who get it  are asymptomatic, they’ll never know they have WNV. Only 20% show symptoms which may easily be mistaken for common ailments and only 1% of those wind up with a serious brain inflammation, encephalitis.

There are some tantalizing clues that something else, perhaps an environmental toxin, may be the real culprit instead of a virus. John Rappoport  recently reported that the actual West Nile virus hasn’t been found.

He writes,

“Researchers claim the West Nile virus is 0.04 micrometers. At the same time, they admit that the original fishing expedition for the virus employed filters that were 0.22 micrometers. The obvious conclusion? The filter was too porous. It was nearly six times larger than the virus.

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=117258&page=4

In fact, Robert McLean, director of the National Wildlife Center of the US Geological Survey, told ABC’s Nick Regush, “We don’t have a purified form of the [West Nile] virus.”

You can read the rest of his article here.

And yet, medical herbalist, Paul Bergner, who has extensive experience treating WNV, is of the opinion that it’s a viral disease and its under-reported. I highly recommend reading his reports here and here. On the second link you’ll find his herbal protocol.

Now then, if we don’t have a purified form of the WNV, how do doctors test for it and confirm that patients have it? According to Lab  Tests Online,

“Testing involves the measurement of WNV antibodies, or WNV nucleic acid, genetic material from the virus itself….IgM WNV antibody testing is the primary test performed on the blood or cerebrospinal fluid of symptomatic people. The WNV tests available may be positive both with WNV and with any related flaviviruses (viruses in the same family, such as the St. Louis Encephalitis virus and Japanese Encephalitis virus). For this reason, most positive WNV IgM tests must be confirmed by another method before a diagnosis is established and officially reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”

If you aren’t already familiar with the symptoms of WNV, especially of the severe form, called neuroinvasive disease, see this Guardian article which also covers the current outbreak and treatment options offered by conventional medicine.

WNV also affects animals like cats, dogs, birds and horses.

A disturbing trend is the spraying of insecticides to control mosquitoes. This has damaging consequences to the environment and health of people since these sprays can harm the liver, kidney and endocrine systems, especially the thyroid. I’ll refer you to this page for more information, including alternatives to insecticides. Click here.

An Herbalist’s View

Now, let’s move to the traditional herbal viewpoint which doesn’t overly concern itself with viruses. Our strength rests in the ability of plants to modulate the immune system, clear out toxins, and activate the body’s own healing resources. So, no matter whether it turns out to be a real virus, or an environmental toxin, we can support recovery. It goes without saying that a patient with the severe forms of the disease will be under medical care, possibly hospital care. However, so far, modern medicine has nothing other than palliative measures to assist patients.

It turns out that an effective formula for WNV looks virtually the same as a formula for influenza. What this means is that when symptoms present that could be the beginning stages of influenza (muscle aches, headache, fatigue, low grade fever), OR the symptoms of WNV, we can begin treatment right away.

What kinds of herbs do we want in our formula? Antivirals; immune supporting herbs; relaxants and anti-inflammatories for headache and muscle aches; for fever we’ll select diaphoretics based on the nature of the fever (the presenting energetics); it’s important to keep internal and external tissues moist so we’ll use demulcents and ensure adequate fluid intake (which may include therapeutic baths); lymphatics to help clean out toxic waste material; and during recovery we’ll add appropriate trophorestorative tonics. The patient must also rest.

Herbalists may choose from herbs they’re already familiar with like elder flower, yarrow, boneset, chamomile, peppermint, lavender, skullcap, thyme, garlic, cleavers.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the antiviral herbs that have been recommended specifically for WNV.

Antiviral Herbs

Initially we might be thinking if a virus is the cause, use an antiviral herb to destroy the virus. But herbs don’t work that way. They aren’t directly virucidal (killing viruses outright). Many are virucidal in vitro and kill certain families of viruses but not others. There’s no evidence that this happens once we take an herbal product internally. Instead, these herbs have what could be described as “antiviral activity”. They are inducing changes in the immune system itself to rid the body of the virus.

Some of the antiviral herbs that could be considered for a formula would be Turmeric, Lomatium, Echinacea angustifolia, Garlic, Siberian Ginseng, Boneset and St. John’s Wort.  See Paul Bergner’s discussion on herbal antivirals here .

Note that while Lomatium is highly effective and was responsible for both prevention and cures of dengue and yellow fever in the past, it’s endangered so save it for when nothing else is working.

One article on Treating West Nile Virus with High Quality St. John’s Wort suggests that SJW could be directly active against WNV.(Although this could be limited to petri dishes). One must locate a source of stabilized SJW since the active ingredients are very short lived.

As for Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), most of the products sold in this country don’t follow the Russian manufacturing protocols and aren’t very effective. One company that makes an extract using the Russian method is HerbPharm.

Boneset is highly regarded, inexpensive and on record for successfully treating dengue (break-bone fever). Of the antiviral herbs for your formula, this is the one I’d recommend. Read up on it here especially the cautions.

In addition to the immune support you’ll get from some of the above herbs like Siberian Ginseng and Echinacea, add medicinal mushrooms.

Other Natural Healing Support

A substance called Active Hexose Correlated Compound is extracted from Shitake mushrooms. Clinical studies indicate it has a very beneficial influence on the innate immune system. Animal research suggests it may prevent influenza and West Nile Virus.

TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) treats encephalitis symptoms with three groups of herbs: “those that: clear heat (to reduce fever); calm internal wind (to reduce tremors, convulsions, stiffness, and muscle weakness); and open the orifices (to prevent or treat stupor, disorientation, and coma.” One of the plants used is Polygonum Cuspidatum or Japanese Knotweed (also used for Lyme disease). MDidea Extracts Professional, has used Polygonum to develop a product known as Transresverarol. Read the research on their page.

A successful approach used by a naturopath in Manitoba, Dr. Paul Conyette, used ozone therapy and intravenous injections of vitamins and “biological compounds from Germany” to treat a seriously ill patient’s depleted immune system. The patient recovered. A full account can be found here.

Homeopathy is another important tool in preventing and treating WNV. The Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine provides a detailed summary of not only homeopathic treatments but several other options including allopathic.

Intravenous injection of high doses of vitamin C has brought recovery to patients. One doctor tells us about his experience treating 25,000 patients orally and 2,000 patients intravenously. He has a protocol you can read about here.

If any of this sounds new, if you’d like to learn more about herbal medicine, we encourage you to join us by enrolling in our courses at the Herbal Coaching Community – School of Herbal Medicine

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4 thoughts on “An Herbalist’s View on West Nile Virus

  1. Pingback: An Herbalist’s View on West Nile Virus « Granny Woman Ozark Herbs

  2. I really enjoyed reading this article, very informative and well done. I learned a great deal about WNV. I found the preventive measure, using Garlic Concentrate sprayed over the ground very helpful, and something I have never heard before.

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