The interrelationship of our immune system and simple practices and herbs to support it
This article is intended to demonstrate the inter-relational aspect of the immune system.
As well as the complex hormonal and chemical production that is triggered when a foreign cell enters the body there are many layers of defence connected to our living being that precede the necessity of stimulating these functions.
This is not an indepth article but one that is aimed to help you consider all aspects of the immune system and how you might support them.
At this time where fear and anxiety is high it is tempting to reach for a quick fix or focus primarily on herbs or supplements that stimulate the immune system but this may not be the most effective approach.
In fact unless you are showing signs of being run down or have any signs of throat irritation, cough, temperature or feeling tired it is best to nourish, exercise and hydrate more than stimulate. Then if you do start to feel these symptoms you can stimulate with herbs such as echinacea, elderberry, olive leaf, astragalus, thyme, licorice until these symptoms subside. If you then go on to develop any further signs of infection, increase in temperature, aches and pains etc you need to seek medical advice from a herbalist as there are some herbs you want to stop taking in this acute phase.
Obviously, if you show any signs of contracting the corona virus you need to report this and follow national guidelines.
But this article is really more about prevention and how to be in our best health than how to support your health once you have contracted coronavirus.
Think about the immune system working in layers.
Energetic force field/spiritual health – support with meditation, spiritual practices, recitations and prayer. Also emotional presence, healthy relationships with others and ourselves, finding well being, acceptance, peace in ourselves, happiness, gratitude, connecting to our emotions – even the difficult ones.
Skin – body brushing, massage, rubbing in oil or cream, magnesium baths, essential oil baths, get out in the sun and get as much as Vitamin D as you can.
Skin and nervous system are made from the same cells in the embryo. Calming and massaging the skin, physical contact, placing hands where we feel emotion, wrapping ourselves with a shawl can all calm and sooth the nervous system bringing us into our parasympathetic nervous system and out of fight or flight, survival mode.
Wash with water and soap regularly and apply a cream with lavender afterwards, avoid using hand sanitizer too much as it will strip the microbiome of the skin which can protect us too.
Lungs – take an immune strengthening lung tonic to strengthen the lungs, go for walks or run, breathing exercises, do some aerobic exercise, essential oils such as eucalyptus and thyme and rosemary will all open the lungs.
Herbs for the lungs
There are different types of herbs for the lungs. There are ones that soothe and moisten a dry cough called demulcents and ones that help to bring up mucus called expectorants and ones that are more antiinfective. The corona virus is a hot condition and causes a dry cough so in this case we would want to keep the lungs moist and not use herbs that are too drying. If you do contract any kind of cough please seek medical assistance.
- Garlic – warming, drying, anti-infective
- Thyme, – warming/cooling, anti-infective
- Licorice – cooling, demulcent
- Eucalyptus – cooling – helps to open lungs and dry up phlegm
- Elecampagne – nourishing and soothing.
- Mullein – demulcent, expectorant
- White Horehound – demulcent, antininfective.
- Ginger – warming, anti-infective
Throat herbs – sage, propolis (take on any sign of irritation).
Gut health – increase probiotic and prebiotic intake, fermented foods, eat whole foods, lots of fruit and veg, heal the gut lining with slippery elm or psylium husk, increase fibre, take time to sit and pass a stool each day, cut out sugar, reduce dairy as this increases phlegm and can put a strain on the respiratory system, fried and processed foods and alcohol.
Bone Broth simmer organic chicken bones for as long as you can up to 10-24 hours. The longer the more collagen and goodness you receive – very healing for the gut and immunity.
Onions and raw garlic (take with food as irritating on the stomach) half – 1 clove day if you are showing signs of infection.
Blood tonic foods: Beetroots, green leafy veg, spinach, nettles, kale etc,
Nervous system/emotional health
At this time of high anxiety and fear it is important to note that these emotions can have a knock on effect on our hormonal, endocrine and immune systems so try to do things that alleviate these such as meditation, relaxing activities, turning off the news, tuning into our emotions, being present with ourselves, taking breaks, going for walks, exercise, connect to nature in any way you can. If you can’t get out then connect with the herbs and plants and even the fruit and vegetables you have at home.
Herbs that work on the gut and the nervous system to relax and sooth.
- Marshmallow root
- Lemon Balm
Amidst the voices and others stories coming at us in the news and media it is important to tune into the gut (and heart of course) and our own truth, what is our gut telling us?
Liver support – The liver processes all metabolic waste and so supporting the liver will support the body to detox and reduce any problems associated with excessive inflammation.
Herbs and foods such as kelp, spirulina, dandelion root, milk thistle, bitter foods, lettuce, rocket, celery, apples, ginger, rosemary.
Endocrine system – immune and nervous system are interlinked and one supports the other.
Some herbs have an adaptogenic action which support and often stimulate the production of white blood cells. Although it is natural to want to strengthen the immune system the timing of this is important. Only do this when you feel run down so that the immune system is activated when it is needed.
Also each person will need a slightly different mixture of herbs depending on their overall health, what symptoms are showing up, temperament and also whether they are already prone to heat in the system. If you do feel unwell or would like to consider which would be the best herbs for you it is better to seek more detailed advice from a medical herbalist.
Herbs to support the immune system
- Olive leaf
- Reishi mushrooms and cordyceps (all mushrooms).
As a general tonic to take at the moment I advise to take some herbs that soothe the nervous system, nourish and help to keep the gut and liver and other eliminatory systems functioning to their best ability as described in the rest of the article and also soothe and regulate any excessive inflammation.
A nice nervous/immune system support tea from some of these herbs:
- Lemon balm
- Dandelion leaf
At this time of the year there are lots of nettles and cleavers springing up. You can infuse these in water or make nettle soup. See my Facebook page with more details
Drink plenty of water. The virus is very dehydrating so it is best to keep as hydrated as possible with at least three cups of water a day/1 litre a day and warming herbal teas to supplement. Although these are diuretic so make sure you drink plain, filtered or bottled water too.
You can add lemon juice too.
Vitamin C, 500 – 1000mg (please use one gentl on the stomach or it may cause irritation or diarrhoea)
Vitamin D – 1000iu – 2,000 iu per day especially if you are not able to get outside
Zinc and selenium – Bio care do a mineral complex which is good.
Lot of kiwis, berries, lemon juice, colourful veg etc.
Finally love as an antidote to fear. Our heart health is possibly the most important thing here so do things that soothe the heart, spend time with loved ones, read a book, meditate, pray, give space to your emotions and all the things we have talked about here. Go on a journey with this and see what it wants to show you.