This article covers some advice from our in-store Naturopaths Tanya and Emma on how to best take care of your health and wellbeing, to support your immune system naturally so you avoid catching various seasonal illnesses.
Nutrient deficiency is one of the most common causes of a decreased immune system, so making sure you are consuming lots of fresh fruits and vegetables also warming herbs and spices. Ginger, turmeric and garlic are a great start. Some important nutrients for immune health are vitamin D, zinc, vitamin C, vitamin A, B vitamins, iron and betacarotene.
Other general measures to improve immunity are sleep, adequate fresh air, sunshine and drinking plenty of fluids such as clean water and herbal teas and broths.
Herbal medicines can also have antibacterial, antiviral and immune enhancing effects, and herbs such as Echinacea, Andrographis, Licorice, Ginger, Elderberry and medicinal mushrooms can all play a key role in boosting your immune system naturally.
A most extraordinary feature of herbs are their incredible versatility. Herbal medicine may be utilised for such a wide range of ailments. One way that herbs are categorised is by the major systems of the body where they are most effective. In relation to the immune system there is a class of herbs called immune enhancers. Immune enhancers have the ability to literally enhance the function of our immune system.
The main immune enhancers utilised in the western herbal pharmacopeia are:
- Echinacea augustifolia/purpurea: Echinacea root stands out on its own when it comes to helping the immune system. It has potent immunostimulatory activity. It may be utilised for infection prevention, chronic infection and acute infection – viral, bacterial or parasitic.
- Sambucus nigra: Elderberry, as well as being an immune enhancer, is a potent antiviral herb and is particularly useful in treatment for influenza, common cold and other acute viral infections.
- Andrographis paniculate: Andrographis may be prescribed for all infections – infection prevention, acute and chronic infections. Andrographis is also an hepatoprotective agent. This means it is a substance that protects the liver cells against toxic damage.
- Astragalus membranaceus: Astragalus, while best avoided in acute infections, is especially beneficial for infection prevention in ‘depleted’ patients and those with poor immunity or chronic immune deficiency. This ability would also be enhanced by its adaptogenic action. Adaptogens increases the body’s resistance to stress and promote normal physiological function.
- Uncaria tomentose: Cat’s Claw is also anti-inflammatory and antioxidant in its actions thereby reducing inflammation and protecting against oxidation and free radical damage in the body. Cat’s Claw is indicated for poor immunity, tendency to infections, convalescence, debility and chronic immune deficiency.
- Baptisia: Baptisia tinctorial, is used for acute and chronic infections especially respiratory. It is also antipyretic, reducing and preventing fevers.
While not being classified as literal immune enhancers there are numerous other herbs that are effective for the enhancement and treatment of the immune system including thyme, myrrh, licorice, Korean ginseng, Siberan ginseng, pelagonium, withania and reishi, shiitake, and coryceps mushrooms.
Our in-store Naturopaths can make you up an individualised herbal immune tonic, or prescribe any of the above nutrients or teas to support you during these challenging times.