Elderberry and Covid-19 regarding Cytokine Production

Cytokine Response Syndrome and Use of Immune Stimulant Supplements

By: Julie Ostopchuk

There has been some concern regarding cytokine storm aka Cytokine Release Syndrome in Covid-19 patients that has led to specific concern in consuming elderberry and other immune stimulating supplements. In order to clearly understand this, I’m going to address the known scientific facts from studies in layman’s terms:

What are cytokines?

Cytokines are inflammatory immunologic proteins that are there to fight off infections and ward off cancers. When they are out of control, they make you very sick and may cause Cytokine Release Syndrome (CRS). Data from China has shown that many patients with Covid-19 are reported to have clinical and laboratory features of CRS.

What is the effect of elderberry with regard to cytokine levels? 

“Elderberry activates the healthy immune system by increasing inflammatory cytokine production. Sambucol might therefore be beneficial to the immune system activation and in the inflammatory process in healthy individuals or in patients with various diseases. Sambucol could also have an immunoprotective or immunostimulatory effect when administered to cancer or AIDS patients, in conjunction with chemotherapeutic or other treatments.” [1]

What are the underlying causes of CRS?

“Rheumatic diseases, such as juvenile arthritis and lupus, certain types of blood cancers, like leukemias and lymphomas, can cause cytokine release syndrome”, according to Randy Cron, M.D., Ph.D. “There are a whole slew of infections that can do this, including the herpes virus family (including the bug that causes mono and CMV),[2] Ebola, dengue — there are 80 to 100 bugs that have been associated with it in case reports.” Also reported, although less common, are cases of CRS in patients with rare metabolic disorders and in patients who go on heart-lung bypass machines such as ECMO.

What else can cause CRS?

CRS has arisen with use of some pharmaceuticals indicated for the following: [3] [4]

  • Intended to suppress or activate the immune system
  • Prevent rejection of organ transplants
  • Treat blood cancers 
  • Treat multiple sclerosis 
  • Treat auto-immune disorders, including T-cell therapies 

How can an immune response be harmful, and who is most likely to experience this? 

When large numbers of white blood cells are activated they release inflammatory cytokines. *Cytokine cells deficient in proteins called perforin release a flurry of cytokines, even though their lack of perforin made them incapable of destroying their target cell. One hypothesis is that these signals could spark the intense inflammatory response seen in CRS syndrome. 

Numerous Individuals with Macrophage activation syndrome (MARS), hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (rHLH) and systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis (SJIA) possess protein-altering mutations.[5]  Those mutations cause the lack of perforin in the cytokine cells. 

Is there a test for CRS? 

A simple test for CRS involves serum ferritin testing. When serum ferritin (blood iron) levels are very high, that is an indicator of CRS.

In conclusion, Individuals listed in the above mentioned conditions should avoid elderberry or any immune stimulant supplement unless under the advice of their medical practitioner. As mortality rates in H1N1 and novel Covid-19 were attributed to CRS, immune stimulants could cause potential problems.

  1. Barak V1, Halperin T, Kalickman I.,  Eur Cytokine Netw. 2001 Apr-Jun;12(2):290-6.The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines.
  2. Rezk SA, Zhao X, Weiss LM (June 2018). “Epstein – Barr virus – associated lymphoid proliferations, a 2018 update”. Human Pathology. 79: 18–41. doi:10.1016/j.humpath.2018.05.020. PMID 29885408.
  3. Lee DW, Gardner R, Porter DL, Louis CU, Ahmed N, Jensen M, Grupp SA, Mackall CL (July 2014). “Current concepts in the diagnosis and management of cytokine release syndrome”. Blood. 124 (2): 188–95. doi:10.1182/blood-2014-05-552729. PMC 4093680. PMID 24876563.
  4. Vidal JM, Kawabata TT, Thorpe R, Silva-Lima B, Cederbrant K, Poole S, Mueller-Berghaus J, Pallardy M, Van der Laan JW (August 2010). “In vitro cytokine release assays for predicting cytokine release syndrome: the current state-of-the-science. Report of a European Medicines Agency Workshop”. Cytokine. 51 (2): 213–5. 
  5. Grant S. Schulert,1 Mingce Zhang,3 Ndate Fall,1 Ammar Husami,2 Diane Kissell,2 Andrew Hanosh,4 Kejian Zhang,2 Kristina Davis,4 Jeffrey M. Jentzen,4 Lena Napolitano,5 Javed Siddiqui,4,7 Lauren B. Smith,4 Paul W. Harms,4,6,7 Alexei A. Grom,1 and Randy Q. Cron3 Whole-Exome Sequencing Reveals Mutations in Genes Linked to Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis and Macrophage Activation Syndrome in Fatal Cases of H1N1 Influenza J Infect Dis. 2016 Apr 1; 213(7): 1180–1188.Published online 2015 Nov 23. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiv550

Why Do Your Lips Always Feel Dry?

We all want kissable moist lips, don’t we? I don’t think anyone loves the idea of having to always apply balm constantly, but we don’t want chapped, cracked kissers either. So, if you’re always applying balm, then why do your lips still always feel dry?  Notwithstanding medical conditions that can cause dry skin, your lip balm may be the culprit.

If you thought that the cosmetics industry was developing products for your benefit, you would be sadly mistaken.

I can prove it to you with scientific research done on various ingredients that are marketed to make your skin, hair, and lips smoother, when in all actuality, they are robbing your skin and hair of moisture! Sure, they feel smooth going on, that’s what they are intended to do; to give you the illusion that it is helping. So what do you do? You use more and more because your skin and hair is constantly being damaged… intentionally. Today, I’m addressing the men and women who feel addicted to their lip balm. The cosmetic industry is intentionally making you lip-balm junkies. Do your lips feel constantly dry and flaking? Do you feel like you need to constantly re-apply your balm? Our lips don’t have oil glands, so it’s most important to work with them naturally to seal in moisture. While some of the ingredients are admirable and beneficial, others are drying and have known irritant and allergy potential. Why would a company use ingredients known to dry your skin or cause irritation? Well, profit my dear, sheer profit. The more you use, the more they profit.

The ingredients listed in red may be the reason your lips always feel parched.

Chapstick: camphor, beeswax, menthol, petrolatum, phenol, vitamin E, aloe, and oxybenzone.

Softlips: Dimethicone 2% ozokerite, petrolatum, ethylhexyl palmitate, octyldodecanol, squalane, myristyl myristate, ricinus communis (castor) seed oil, myristyl lactate, cetyl alcohol, myristyl laurate, myristyl alcohol, BHT, flavor, menthol, tocopheryl acetate [vitamin E]

Burts Bees, a seemingly natural alternative has the following: beeswax, sunflower seed oil, coconut oil, lanolin, aroma (flavor), honey, tocopherol, rosemary leaf extract, soybean oil, canola oil, benzyl benzoate, coumarin.

If you want to know the specific reasons on why the ingredients in red are problematic, I’ve compiled the following information:

Benzyl Benzoate: Drug precautions: Keep benzyl benzoate away from the eyes and other mucous membranes, such as the inside of the nose, because it may cause irritation . Do not use benzyl benzoate on open wounds, such as cuts or sores on the skin or scalp. To do so may increase the amount of absorption, which may increase the chance of side effects.
Oxybenzone: side effects: Itching, Burning, Rash, Swelling
Tocopherol/ Vitamin E: A Dermatologic Surgery study found that 33 percent of patients developed contact dermatitis from applying topical vitamin E. The Contact Dermatitis Institute also lists vitamin E (dl-alpha-tocopherol) as one of the most prevalent allergens. They have an entire fact sheet on it. Vitamin E is usually derived from soy, so this is a disaster for people with soy allergies
Camphor: Camphor-containing products are LIKELY UNSAFE when applied to broken or injured skin. Camphor is easily absorbed through broken skin and can reach toxic levels in the body. Camphor is UNSAFE when taken by mouth by adults. Ingesting camphor can cause severe side effects, including death. The first symptoms of camphor toxicity occur quickly (within 5 to 90 minutes), and can include burning of the mouth and throat, nausea, and vomiting. Did you note that camphor is the 1st ingredient listed in Chapstick?!
Dimethicone: I’m going to be doing a complete article on just this ingredient and why it is so detrimental to our skin and hair health. The list is so long on why this is so detrimental, it deserves its own article. The biggest problem is that is in the MAJORITY of products marketed to moisturize. It actually REMOVES moisture and prevents our hair and skin from regenerating, so that we lose the ability to produce natural oils. Instead of sinking into your skin and nourishing it from the inside out, like healthy ingredients do, it forms a sort of plastic-like barrier on the outside of skin.
Octyldodecanol: a study published in Cosmetics and Toiletries in 1979 showed irritation occurred in tests of Octyldodecanol, even in low concentrations, and again in a study published in the Journal of Toxicology in 1985. A 2006 study found that it enhanced the irritation of other ingredients.
Cetyl Alcohol: Many medical experts believe that cetyl alcohol, and many other fatty alcohols, have the ability to altercate the lipid bilayer of the epidermis (protective barrier) and cause allergic dermal reactions in some. There are many studies supporting the potential irritation associated with this ingredient. Considering this information, it’s best that sensitive skin types perform a patch test with any product containing this ingredient, particularly anyone suffering from a skin condition such as Rosacea or Psoriasis.
Myristyl Alcohol: Myristyl Alcohol can be drying, as can most fatty-alcohols.
Menthol: Menthol is an alcohol, a compound family known for its drying properties in the skin. For some people menthol dehydrates the skin or lips and makes them feel chapped and irritated.

Of mention: Honey and Lanolin can cause allergic reactions in some people, though I am a huge fan of these products for those without sensitivities.

Now you know WHY your lips constantly feel dry. You’re putting known irritants on them. In the cosmetics industry, repeat business is what they seek, so if your lips are constantly dry, you’d never even think that your balm is the reason.

Acne Is Primarily a Western Skin Disease

Our skin reflects the state of health of the individual

When your body is in balance, your skin reflects this. When you are out of balance, it often shows.  A poor diet WILL show up on your skin. The photo here is of Heidi Klum without makeup or retouching. We all want glowing skin, and with proper care, we can have it. As I stated in my prior article, people who earn a living from their beauty simply don’t eat in the way most Americans eat.

How our Food Became Toxic

Many of us simply eat in the manner of how our parents ate. Seldom was there a question about how healthy the food was that our parents fed us, but just because we grew up eating Doritos, margarine, canned foods, Velveeta, Hamburg Helper, sloppy Joe’s, and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, doesn’t mean it was a good choice. The prior foods listed have no health value at all, and are detrimental to your health. I know the FDA allows these foods, and to understand this, we need to look back to the 1950s.  This is when the fast food marketing began. Marketed to housewives on the TV, appealing to them to make their lives easier. When corporations began making prepackaged and fast foods, we all lost.  Marketing became big business by the 1960s, and also began targeting kids. Seeing a commercial or advertisement for McDonald’s with friendly-looking creatures helped more children demand fast food from their parents. Catchy jingles, flashy colors, and clever slogans began a sort of food mind-control. So corporations like the Kraft Foods and Tyson and General Mills drew us all in with additives like high sugar, salt and MSG because without it, their food would taste like the crap that it truly is. They have to use preservatives to increase their profits by having a longer shelf life. They choose to add harmful fillers for the very same reason, because chemicals don’t spoil as easily as real food does. With the increase in chemicals in our foods, the following is what happened to our bodies:

Pretty sad, huh? The good new here is that the projection of a continued rise in obesity is wrong. In 2014, the rate finally began to fall. Why? Because we started getting smarter. Schools stopped allowing junk food and a healthy lifestyle became more popular than acting on impulses to buy junk food. With so many endocrine disorders like diabetes, and thyroid disease skyrocketing, with so many celiac and gluten intolerances being diagnosed, people started realizing that something was seriously wrong about the foods the FDA says is safe.


Dermatologists can no longer dismiss the association between diet and acne.

Fast forward to 2017. Dermatologists now know that their prior assumption that diet had nothing to do with acne was wrong. New research and studies began proving otherwise. That happens a lot. We follow a train of thought, only to realize that it was wrong all along. With the internet at our disposal, we can also find so much information, not all of course is good information, but those with specific reactions to foods with additives could suddenly connect, and then, suddenly, we realize there’s a ton of people out there who have really serious and bad reactions to these chemicals in our food that the FDA told us was safe. Why? Well, honestly, I believe it’s because we’ve allowed the food corporations to be involved with the FDA, so I will say it: corruption.

Compelling evidence exists that high glycemic load diets may exacerbate acne.  Go figure! Processed foods are among the highest glycemic foods. Soda, chips, white bread, candy and the like are all very high glycemic foods. Historically, the relationship between diet and acne has been highly controversial. Before the 1960s, certain foods were thought to exacerbate acne. However, subsequent studies dispelled these associations as myth for almost half a century. Several studies during the last decade have prompted dermatologists to revisit the potential link between diet and acne. Don’t just trust me, read the articles cited below. **


What Foods Should I Eat?

So, now you know what happened to our food and how it became crap, what do you do? Below is the best guideline to follow on what to look for and what to avoid:

It’s grown without pesticides and chemical fertilizers (organic foods fit this description, but so do some non-organic foods)
It’s not genetically engineered
It contains no added growth hormones, antibiotics, or other drugs
It does not contain artificial anything, nor any preservatives
It is fresh (if you have to choose between wilted organic produce or fresh conventional produce, the latter may still be the better option as freshness is important for optimal nutrient content)
It was not grown in a factory farm
It is grown with the laws of nature in mind (meaning animals are fed their native diets, not a mix of grains and animal byproducts, and have free-range access to the outdoors)
It is grown in a sustainable way (using minimal amounts of water, protecting the soil from burnout, and turning animal wastes into natural fertilizers instead of environmental pollutants)

Things to NEVER Eat

Artificial sweeteners
Table salt
Canned Tomatoes
Processed meats
Artificial Food Dye
Soy Protein Isolate and Other Unfermented Soy Products


Now we know that acne is a disease that primarily affects Western Civilization.* Other civilizations also have some acne, but scientifically, it is proven to be primarily a Western disease. What many developing nations who don’t have acne do not share with Western civilization is processed foods and pollution.

I want all of you to try this for 30 days, and I want to hear from you. Change your diet, change your health and cure your skin! Don’t forget to take your supplements below that I outlined in the first acne article. They will help you immensely. Garlic helps destroy many harmful organisms in your body and probiotics help balance your gut, which is needed for healthy skin.

Love and Peace,


Culturelle Digestive Health Probiotic – 2 boxes

Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract™ Candida Cleanse and Digestion Formula102 — 200 Vegetarian Capsules

External Sources:




Acne Treatment Begins Here

We all know how painful it is to live with acne. Our face is the first thing the world notices. The internet is filled with all sorts of advice and promotion of products. How do you know what to choose? How do you know what advice to listen to? While I understand that Western culture has grown to want to take a pill for an ailment to be done with it, the answer is not a quick magic pill. There is no such thing. If you think there is, stop reading, and move on. Here, I will provide links to studies and real evidence for what can help you. I will present the information in several future blog posts, as there is a lot of information from diet and internal factors, to external factors.

Today, let’s begin with healing your acne from the inside out.

Did you know that in Western societies, acne afflicts 79% to 95% of the adolescent population? It’s certainly not just adolescents who suffer. I experienced acne well beyond that until I found what worked.

Did you know that there are places in the world that don’t have any acne at all? To understand why, researchers studied the stark contrast between their diets and the Western diets*. Anyone who tells you that food choices have nothing to do with acne really doesn’t comprehend immune response beginning in the gut. Yep, our gut. That’s where it begins. The cause of acne has multiple factors, including hormonal, microbiological and immunological mechanisms. Today, we’re talking about the immunological and microbiological. I’m not going to go into a lot of technical jargon. I’ll provide citations at the bottom if you want that. Today, I’m telling you to change your diet. This is where it needs to start. This is where you begin the healing process, because for many, the acne eruption on their face is a direct result of the crap they are putting in their body, and the body is responding by saying; ” What they hell have you done? I need to eliminate these toxins somehow.”

Let’s look at a nation that has NO acne at all; Kitava. Now, the Kitavans have no special genetic makeup. What does set them aside from Westerners though is their diet. It is rich in fresh fruits, root vegetables, and fish. They don’t consume coffee, tea, alcohol, or dairy. It’s called a “low GI diet”, which means it’s low on the Glycemic index (low sugar.) These foods prevent glucose spikes and insulin levels. Those glycemic levels also can sharply increase the hormone “androgen” so now, we’re kind of  getting into the other known cause of acne, HORMONES, because our bodies are these wonderful interconnected vessels and one thing really can seriously impact another. This is why holistic medicine is so awesome. I’m telling you about the root causes of your problem, and where it really begins. Did you know that milk can also give you unwanted additional hormones? So, I’m going to lay out the plan of action to see the quickest results and you need to begin TODAY.

Follow THIS Pyramid

Wait, does this look like it may be too hard?

What I’m laying out here is also the diet that Gisele Bundchen and her husband Tom Brady follow. Now, I’m not promising you’ll get supermodel or super-athlete looks, physique and form, I’m just telling you that people who make a living from their looks and performance DON’T eat like most Westerners. I’ve been eating this way for many years and I can attest to having consistent energy, clear skin, and rarely get sick.

Eliminate These

Dairy, coffee, soda, white flour, high fructose corn syrup, alcohol, canned foods, table salt, and generally anything that is processed or has added sugar and salt. There will never be Doritos, corn chips, Ring Dings, Devil Dogs, Munchos, or anything of the like on any food pyramid.  You know you want to look and feel better, and you know what you need to begin doing today. Try it for one full month, and tell me what you notice in 30 days. One word of caution; the first week WILL be difficult. Your body will go through a detoxification period, but by day 7, you will begin to notice something beautiful taking place.

Add These

To ease the transition, I highly recommend adding the following supplements. These will assist your body in cleansing and balancing your gut. You can find them on the shopping page.

Culturelle Probiotic

Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract™ Candida Cleanse and Digestion Formula102

Next time

I will post about the toxic food additives in processed foods,  and why they are destroying more than just your skin. Begin with this new eating plan and supplements today because success always begins with one small step. I care. I’m here to help with any questions. I want to see you succeed because when you succeed, when you look and feel better, I have done my job.

Love and peace,


PS, don’t forget to follow us on FB and IG!

External sources: Cordain, Lindberg Hurtado et al.: Acne Vilgaris _ A Disease of Western Civilization; Vol. 138 No. 12, December 2002: Archive of Dermatology

Kim, J. “Review of the Innate Immune Response in Acne Vulgaris: Activation of Toll-like Receptor 2 in Acne Triggers Inflammatory Cytokine Responses.” Dermatology (Basel, Switzerland)., U.S. National Library of Medicine,


The Amazing Benefits of Seaweed

Most people know that a trip to the ocean immediately improves their sense of well-being. Our bodies are amazing vessels containing such intelligence to know when to repair cells to heal. Perhaps the reason for this sense of well-being is in an innate knowledge that there are so many healing compounds found at the ocean. Subjecting a wound to the ocean water produces healing results. Our world is comprised mainly of oceans; a vast ecosystem that sustains so much life. Is it really any wonder that many cures are found there? Ocean greens have also been used for centuries by seaside cultures as a ‘cure all’ for healing wounds, reducing bruising and relieving skin conditions such as eczema and sunburn. Pisces Naturals harnesses the extracts of seaweed in their anti-ageing properties and ability to protect the skin from sun damage, repair cells and damage, and provide essential antioxidants and minerals to your skin. The benefits are well documented. Welcome to true healing at:

7 Powerful Health Benefits Of Seaweed For The Whole Body – Inside & Out!

Best natural ingredients to repel ticks and biting insects

There are variety of herbs that help repel ticks, mosquitoes, and other biting insects.  I have tested many natural bug repellents to only be dissatisfied by getting bit alive by mosquitoes, no see ums, and gnats. Many people are skeptical of natural repellents for this very reason. There’s a lot of information on the internet suggesting recipes for bug repellents, but that doesn’t mean it’s factual or that they even work. Additionally, a product that fares pretty well in the backyard, may not work well at all in the deep woods.

Lemon eucalyptus or PMD is our main active ingredient.  When it was tested on humans in Tanzania, PMD gave complete protection from biting for between six and 7.75 hours. Compared to DEET, there was no significant difference in efficacy and duration of protection when used against the Anopheles mosquito, the chief malaria vector in Africa. Other studies have also demonstrated its protection against the biting midge, deer tick and the stable fly.

Our ingredient list; soybean oil, lemon eucalyptus, cedarwood and peppermint oils, work by masking our body odors that attract ticks, mosquitoes and biting insects. These ingredients have also proven toxic to biting insects while safe for humans. Because the repellent oils are volatile, they evaporate quickly. Most on the market today are mixed with water and or alcohol. That surely doesn’t help with evaporation! In addition, when placed in plastic bottles, the plastic absorbs the oils.  Our product is superior because the active ingredients are mixed in the soybean carrier oil to allow for less evaporation and longer effectiveness, and packaged in environmentally friendly amber glass bottles to protect every ounce of ingredient.