Herbs for Immune Support

How to Use Herbs for Immune Support

There are two basic ways of using herbal remedies for the immune system. First is to use herbs as a preventive, so you reduce your chances of getting sick. Second is to use herbs therapeutically if you do get sick. There are also some basic nutrients to take on a daily basis to enhance your chances to prevent illness frequency and severity.

Don’t Have Time to Get Sick?

The first, easiest and most important way of using herbs is in the prevention of illness. It is the most important way if you’re interested in never getting sick at all. The herbs used in this case are called adaptogens, which are almost always immune tonics. These herbs can be used throughout the cold and flu season, four to twelve weeks at a time, to strengthen the non-specific immune response – meaning, the immune system is in a heightened state of function but is not in the emergency ‘fight a specific infection’ mode. These herbs include ‘Eleuthero’ (aka Siberian Ginseng), North American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum), and Astragalus root (Astragalus membranaceus). These immune tonics can be taken on their own or in combination with one another. As an option for those with specific chronic issues, other specific herbs can be added to address system weaknesses, like Licorice (contra-indicated in high blood pressure) for adrenal exhaustion and a dry, non-productive cough, or Gingko Biloba, for adrenal and (poor) circulation support and also to act as a bronchodilator. Other respiratory herbs such as Mullein, Horehound, or Thyme could give the respiratory system ongoing support in helping to keep the lungs clear of congestion, and to make the mucous elimination process more effective. The dose for these herbs largely depends on age and body weight. An average adult may take 3-5 droppersful of the tincture three times a day, or one to two capsules three times a day. Variations for dosing or herbs would also depend on individual conditions, inherent weaknesses, stress levels and drug history. (Consult a practitioner who can recommend herbs specific for your personal health profile)

Other preventive supplements include but are not limited to whole food Vitamin C, Vitamin D (World Health Organization states 10,000 IU as a safe upper limit for adults), Zinc, Probiotics, and Cod Liver Oil. You could also look at websites such www.drtenpenny.com if you ever think about whether to vaccinate or not.

Don’t Have Time to Stay Sick?

If after taking all the right nutrients, and herbs for immune support, you still manage to get sick, perhaps from lack of sleep or extreme stress, you will want to take herbal immune stimulants. These are the herbs that get your immune system into the fighting mood, and help the body to muster an offense against viral or bacterial pathogens.  These herbs include, but are not limited to; Garlic, Burdock root, Calendula flowers, Echinacea root, Elecampane root, Plantain herb, Elder flower/berry, Goldenrod herb, Dandelion root, and Ginger root.  These simulating herbs are generally taken in higher dose and higher frequency than tonics. This would depend on body weight and other variables. Dosing in acute conditions for mild issues (colds and flus) should not be needed past 10-14 days at the most, but more likely 2-5 days may be all that is needed if dosing starts early enough at the beginning of the acute illness.

Gord Cooper R.H. is a Registered Herbalist and Professional Member of the Ontario Herbalists Association and has a clinical herbal and Iridology practice.

Herbal Support for the Respiratory System

Herbal Help for the Respiratory System

Aside from chronic stress and poor digestion, one of the most prevalent health imbalances relate to respiratory ailments. Upper respiratory issues include sinus and tonsil inflammation, congestion, infection, and sore throat. Lower respiratory issues may include lung and bronchial mucous congestion, which can include either wet or dry coughs, bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, pleurisy and tuberculosis. Being the first line of defence for airborne particulate and micro-organisms, the respiratory system is an accurate indicator of our ability to resist bacterial, viral and fungal pathogens.

Lifestyle Factors to Breathe Easier

Two things we can control are indoor air quality and diet. An air purifier that filters out particulate and kills micro-organisms would be beneficial to one’s work and home environment to reduce the burden of the lungs’ role in trapping and filtering these particles out of the body. This system would include either a collector plate with a charcoal filter and an ultraviolet light chamber that kills microbes.

Second, the diet is virtually the biggest offender for congesting the respiratory system and the entire body. This relates to mucous-forming foods, like dairy (milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt and kefir). Small amounts of fermented dairy such as yogurt and kefir support friendly bacteria growth in the intestinal tract, but these still contribute to the total mucous load of the body. Then when you add grains into the diet: wheat, barley, oats, rice and potatoes etc.., the lungs then become congested with this excess mucous that can thicken and become hard to eliminate out of the body. Dramatically increasing vegetables and slightly increasing low glycemic index fruits and reducing or eliminating (even temporarily) dairy and grains will reduce the burden of food sourced mucous and thus allow the body to get eliminating its excess mucous load, whether in the lungs or sinuses.

Elder Flower – Respiratory Herb Extraordinaire

One herbal remedy that shines in its ability to help resolve various upper and lower respiratory problems is Black Elder Flower (Sambucus nigra flos). The flowers and berries are predominantly used today, with the flowers being the most versatile.

Elder flower has a broad range of constituents which stimulate immunity as well as healing the mucous membranes of the sinuses, bronchials and lungs. The flowers are high in bioflavonoids including rutin and quercetin, essential oils, fatty acids, phenols, polysaccharides, tannins and mucilage. These constituents aid in soothing the respiratory membranes, reduce inflammation and decongest the sinuses and lungs. Elder will also be beneficial in hot tea form in dispersing internal heat (diaphoretic) due to fever.  Whole plant extracts, with many constituents, allow a balancing of body tissues versus narrow drug-like actions with ever-present side effects.

Elder flower is best in tea or tincture form. Dose is based on body weight and symptomology. With no known contra-indications, Elder flower can be considered a safe and effective remedy for colds flus and fevers, with inflammation and mucous congestion affecting the lower and upper respiratory systems.

Gord Cooper R.H. is a Registered Herbalist and Professional Member of the Ontario Herbalists Association.