Botanical Medicines Update

Hello friends,

I hope you are all taking the time to nourish yourselves right now. Tuesday will be our second virtual gathering, Gardenside Chats with Dr. Blake Kovner, hosted by 18 Springs. I know some people didn’t go to the Eventbrite link so it is provided here! I hope that you will join us for a casual discussion about the immune system and natural health.

At this time in the coronavirus outbreak, we are still in the midst of a steep epidemiologic climb accompanied by a steep curve medical learning curve.  Clinical and Traditional use of medicinal herbs in the prevention and treatment of specific and well-documented microbes has come more sharply into question.  And lately, Elderberry/Elder (Sambucus niger; Sambucus americana) is being considered for its safety in use with COIVD-19.  In short, we just don’t know enough to say.

In the foothill regions of The Alps, there are ancient and modern herbalist traditions where the use of immediately available, local, wild as well as cultivated plant medicines are used for healing and wellness as well a culinary way of life.  In Northern Italy, a study on cancer patients uncovered that 73% of their participants reported use of medicinal herbs (PMID: 18705410).

Recently questions have been raised in the scientific community on the safety of use of Elderberry in coronavirus.  Some argue that Elderberry contributes to a condition called cytokine storm.  This is a life-threatening condition where an inflammatory storm blows through the body causing massive damage and even death.

That is because part of Elderberry’s mechanism of action is turning on the immune cells’ signaling system using an almost communicative stream of molecules called cytokines.  Within the broad family of cytokines is one type called IL-6 which effectively calls in all the inflammatory troops required for fighting off several known viruses (PMID: 21352539; PMID: 24433341).  Elderberry is known to elevate IL-6 and it is under these novel coronavirus circumstances that we cannot accurately understand at this moment in time if Elderberry is safe to use during coronavirus infection.  Odds are that it could be useful in prevention but there is no evidence for this opinion at this time and it could in fact be harmful.

Does Elderberry play a role in increasing coronavirus cytokine storm? The truth is that we just don’t know enough so for now I’d avoid it if you feel sick.

Dr. Blake Ashley Kovner ND, is a graduate of Salem College’s Fleer Program where she earned her B.S. in biology with a minor in chemistry with an emphasis in the crossroads of the two, biochemistry. She went to Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington where she was trained as a Primary Care Provider in Naturopathic Medicine. During her education, Dr. Kovner underwent specialized and extensive Naturopathic training in Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis and autoimmune disease management approaches. She also became a licensed massage practitioner at the same time. Her practice is comprised of roots-based, constitutional medicine that stems from Western Medical Herbalism, German Biologic Medicine and Ayurveda. As a Medical Herbalist, Dr. Kovner employs the art and science of individualized formulation where she makes botanical medicine for her patients, teaches them about the plants and how to grow them. While she is a specialist in nutraceuticals, Dr. Kovner believes strongly in the Hippocratic principle, “Let thy food be thy medicine.” With this in mind, she teaches her patients about the gut-brain axis, empowering them from the inside out. In a similar light, she excels in drug-free pain management for almost any chronic condition utilizing functional medicine and biofeedback. She worked in New Orleans at LSU as a research associate on an NIH-funded clinical trial on the safety and neuroprotective effects of a green tea extract on people with Multiple Sclerosis. There, she co-authored two peer-reviewed articles on MS that were published in scientific journals. The first is entitled, “Cognitive Impairment in multiple sclerosis” and the second one, “Polyphenon E, Non-futile at Neuroprotection in Multiple Sclerosis but Unpredictably Hepatotoxic: Phase I Single Group and Phase II Randomized Placebo-Controlled Studies”. She also participated in building an MRI database to see if brain atrophy is directly related to disease progression as measured by EDSS score and was trained as a Wheelchair Hatha Yoga Teacher and a Rasayana Yoga Teacher. Prior to practicing medicine, Dr. Kovner was a poet on the local SLAM poetry team and is the artist who created the iconic Trade Street figure called, Sax Man and had two gallery openings at AFAS's former UnLeashed Gallery.

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