an anthrax infection, especially one initiated by a fellow human's deliberate malice, isn't a pretty thing. For many of us it'll be only slightly comforting to hear that our chances of exposure are remote. A good antidote for terror, though, is taking action.
None of us is powerless in the face of anthrax. In that spirit, here are some ideas for minimizing your attractiveness to infectious microbes of any kind, as well as a few things to keep in your cupboard just in case. Remember, if you believe there is a real chance you have been infected, do not self-treat. Call a doctor.
Regular sleep and meditation will help keep you calm and your immunity strong. Cold researchers have found that people with stronger social ties get sick less often. If you've been procrastinating on seeing that relationship counsellor, now would be a good time to do it. Also on the feelings front, traditional Chinese medical theory holds that unresolved grief and depression harm the lungs. If you've ever come down with a chest cold after a breakup, you've experienced this dynamic in action.
Body-wise, keep your water intake up and avoid super-dry air if you can. Dehydration of the mucus membranes in your breathing passages makes you more vulnerable to inhaled pathogens. Dehydration can also cause breaks in your skin, a potential entry route for anthrax. Sugar, alcohol, tobacco smoke and land-animal fats will depress your immunity, while unprocessed whole foods, flaxseed oil and plenty of onions and garlic will keep your resistance up. Finally you can try a combo of flower and other essences said to strengthen immune cells, the Perelandra Immune System Balancing Solution available at Wonderworks on Harbord.
Then there are remedies you can use in addition to conventional treatment with antibiotics, not as a substitute. Homeopaths may use Anthracinum 30C to treat anthrax infection. If you feel you are at risk you can use it preventatively. One dose every three weeks is recommended as a preventative under a qualified homeopath or naturopath's supervision.
Expensive but effective against anthrax in the test tube is oil of wild oregano. Oil of oregano has beaten out antibiotic competitors when tested against penicillin-resistant staph infections in lab animals. Unfortunately, no one's gotten around to testing it on animal anthrax infections.
The oil's boosters say it might help you survive respiratory anthrax (a disease with an 85-per-cent fatality rate), but you have to take massive amounts -- a base dose of 40 to 80 drops daily in juice or water, plus a few drops under the tongue every few minutes. Oil of oregano is helpful for flu, too.
"Microbes are very opportunistic. If faced with a well-functioning system, they will just skip over it. Microbes like anthrax will not commit suicide."
MACHAELLE SMALL WRIGHT Flower essence researcher
"I'd recommend Siberian ginseng -- it boosts the immune system. I'd recommend about 800 milligrams of standardized extract twice daily, six weeks on and one week off. Echinacea is very effective for boosting the immune system. Extracts of shiitake or reishi mushroom also boost immunity."
ALEXANDER HALL, naturopath
"A blend of wild oregano oils known as oreganol has the ability to kill any bacteria. Make sure you take a lactobacillus supplement. If I had to choose a one-two punch, I'd get a bottle of oreganol and oregacyn. It will protect you until you get to your doctor."
CASS INGRAM, doctor of osteopathic medicine, author of Life Saving Cures
"We have quite a few references on homeopathy being successful in the treatment of anthrax. We give those who are at grave risk a homeopathic dilution of anthrax at 200C, twice a day for two to three days.'
FERNANDO ANIA, president, Homeopathic College of Canada
"A person who has symptoms of anthrax should see a physician. Taking it into your own hands is foolhardy. As for homeopathic and herbal agents, I'd be careful with "proven to be effective in the test tube.' These agents have never been studied in an animal model. You don't know about exposure until four days after the event, and at that time things like this would not be useful."
DONALD LOW, MD, chief of Toronto Medical Laboratories at Mt. Sinai Hospital