"Among the most exciting applications of herbal medicine lie in treating abnormalities of the immune system. Clinical studies have shown that various herbal products are effective in treating allergies, asthma, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. Herbal medicine also has a unique potential usefulness in balancing the immune system in cases of chronic infection, preventing the immune system from turning on the body and causing destruction."
~Phyllis A. Balch, CNC Prescription for Herbal Healing
A healthy, properly functioning immune system is absolutely vital to good health. It is the key to the healing process from the tiniest scratch - to the most complex virus. Even the aging process is intimately linked with the immune system.
Compromised immunity leaves us vulnerable to disease and impairs our ability to heal properly and age well.
SIGNS OF IMPAIRED IMMUNE FUNCTION
CANDIDIASIS/ YEAST INFECTIONS
SLOW WOUND HEALING
People who have more than 2 or 3 colds or infectious illnesses per year are likely suffering from weakened immunity
WHAT IS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM?
The immune system is a complex system of interactions involving many organs and glands as well as substances such as bone marrow, white blood cells, lymphatic vessels and serum factors in our blood. Our immunity dependson all these components functioning together.
HOW DOES OUR IMMUNITY BECOME IMPAIRED?
Unfortunately, modern life is full of things that tend to depress our immune systems.
CHEMICHALS IN HOUSEHOLD CLEANERS
OVERUSE OF ANTIBIOTICS
POOR LIVING HABITS
Also many disorders have been linked to improper immune function including thyroid deficiency, diabetes, rheumatic heart disease, reheumatoid arthritis, lupus and pernicious anemia.
For optimal immune function we need to address any disorders that may be inhibiting immune function. We also need to take steps to avoid exposure to toxins such as pesticides and chemicals we use around the house. Try wearing gloves when cleaning to avoid skin exposure and avoid inhaling fumes from things like bleach, oven cleaners, and the like. Make sure dishes and glassware are thouroughly rinsed of any residue from dishwashing liquids etc. Even though they're more expensive, consider buying nontoxic cleansers. Take steps to ensure that the soaps and shampoos you use are made from the most natural ingredients possible. (Aubrey Organics is a good option.) It's also important to get plenty of fresh air and to drink the purest water available.
HERBS THAT BENEFIT THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
ASTRAGALUS - A powerful antioxidant which protects the liver from toxins, boosts the immune system and generates anticancer cells in the body.
ECHINACEA - Enhances lymphatic function and boosts immune system.
GINKGO BILOBA - A powerful antioxidant which increases circulation to brain cells.
GOLDENSEAL - An antibacterial which strengthens the immune system and cleanses the blood. (Don't take internally for more than a week at a time or if pregnant.)
ST. JOHN'S WORT- A blood purifier useful in cases of Epstein - Barr virus and HIV.
OLIVE LEAF - Effective against numerous viruses, bacteria and fungi. It has been used in the treatment of people with viral illnesses such as Epstein-Barr disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Herpes and AIDS.
SPIRULINA - Aids in protecting the immune system and cleansing toxins from the body. Though technically a nutrient, not an herb, spirulina is a naturally digestible food that helps protect the immune system and aids in mineral absorption. It helps balance blood sugar levels and supplies nutrients that help the body cleanse and heal.
Other herbs that enhance the immune response are
BAYBERRY,FENUGREEK , HAWTHORN, HOREHOUND and RED CLOVER .
Herbs often work best when used in combination with other herbs. There are contraindications for certain herbs if you have an auto-immune disorder. Consult a good herbal book or work with an herbalist to create a blend appropriate for your needs.
~ CLEANSE THE LIVER ~
The liver is our primary detoxifying organ and must be functioning optimally for proper immunity.
Herbs which are useful in cleansing the liver include BLACK RADISH, DANDELION, and MILK THISTLE.
~Other Steps to Improved Immunity~
In addition to using herbs to strengthen and balance the immune system it is important to supply the body with adequate nutrients.
Vitamin A Vital to the body's defense system - known as the infection-fighting vitamin.
Vitamin C Probably the most important vitamin to the immune system. It has a direct effect on bacteria and viruses and is needed for forming adrenal hormones and lymphocytes.
Vitamin E Works synergystically with vitamins A & C as well the mineral selenium as a scavenger of toxic free-radicals.
Zinc Promotes healing of wounds and boosts immune response.
Germanium A trace element which benefits the immune system.
Get sufficient sleep.
Reduce Stress and Anxiety.
Stress triggers changes in biochemistry that suppress white blood cell activity and taxes the endocrine system in ways that ultimately result in lowered defense against infection and an impaired capacity for healing. Stress also depletes the body of nutrients. Addressing chronic stress is a very important element of bringing the immune system into balance.
About The Author
Cori Young is an herbalist living in the Pacific Northwest.