Alright, now back to the nitty gritty.....
I’m sure you’ve noticed the posts circling, the news anchors chatting, and your mother calling about not using Advil for the Coronavirus or elderberry, but instead to use Tylenol.
When I see things like this, I revert to what I know best, science and research. I immediately think of how the body functions and what pathways are affected. The yin and the yang. Before I start talking about what may be foreign words to most, I’m going to break a couple things down.
The goal in Th1/Th2 dominance is to balance them. You do this by stimulating the non-dominant side. It's easier said than done! But, that's why I'm here.
Cytokine Storm (hypercytokinemia): The systemic expression of a healthy and vigorous immune system resulting in the release of more than 150 known inflammatory mediators. This isn’t a good thing.
Okay, let me break this down:
Coronavirus, when it’s severe, gets into the lungs and becomes a respiratory problem- an immense one at that- especially in the elderly and the immunocompromised. The elderly and immunocompromised typically have lower glutathione levels, lower stomach acid, and redox imbalance.
Elderberry stimulates Th1 cytokines, which some are inflammatory (TNF-α, IL-6, IL-1, IL-8). The increased inflammatory response is vital for the initial stage of our immune system killing pathogens. Hence, why it can be potentially helpful against the Coronavirus. It summons the many components of the immune system to the infection to kill the bug. In some people, taking this may be helpful.
Elderberry is also an adaptogenic – increasing cytokines in some situations and decreasing them in others. There’s research showing it is anti-viral, by blocking viral uptake. So much research on this that there’s a meta-analysis.
But as the study circulating suggested, the potential danger is the increased IL-6 production. If you increase IL-6 in a patient, who has high TGFb (transforming growth factor beta) you will increase and activate the amount of Th9 cells. Th9 cells produce enormous amounts of IL-9. What does this mean? Massive mucus production. In a respiratory illness, increasing mucus production is not what you want.
But IL-6 alone will not raise the Th9 levels and activity. You also need elevated TGFb. When TGFb is high, it’s made from MDSCs (myeloid derived suppressor cells). MDSC’s rise when the immune system is being inefficient and having trouble clearing infections, resulting in chronic elevated inflammatory levels- commonly seen in autoimmune disease.
The thought is, if you have a Th1 polarized disease, elderberry could induce a “cytokine storm” inside your body. However, on the flip side, elderberry has never been shown to increase cytokine storm. It’s a hard row to hoe to actually trigger a cytokine storm. In fact, the scientific literature suggests that herbs (including Echinacea) decrease cytokine storms. PMID: 28279802
Elderberry supplementation, in an otherwise healthy individual, is not harmful. During respiratory distress, if you have an autoimmune disorder, elderberry may not be the best choice.
Now let’s discuss the push to use Tylenol (Acetaminophen) instead- YIKES!
If you’re wondering where the ‘yikes’ comes from, read this.
So, let's talk prevention and/or recovery!
First and foremost, when it comes to preventing upper respiratory infections, you want to increase Defensins (Vitamin D). Why? So that any virus landing on the skin or in the mouth are killed on contact.
You want a diet high in antioxidants- Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and Vitamin C are VITAL! Hell, even if your diet is high in these, added supplementation is still a great idea. If you live where the air hurts your face; you MUST supplement Vitamin D.
Wash your hands, get adequate sleep, take your supplements, get adjusted, reduce your stress, drink water, eat whole foods, support your body.
There are a multitude of upper respiratory support herbs, GI tract support (probiotics are hugely important), overall immune support, etc.- SO MANY OTHER OPTIONS THAT ARE SUPERIOR TO TYLENOL!
I hope this eased some minds, clarified some others, and most of all- educated. I’m always here to help!
Dr. Taryn Stittleburg, DC, CFMP, PSc.D