Alternative Approaches: Boosting Your Immune System
Boosting Your Immune System
by Jennifer LB Leese
Herbalists from long ago knew their stuff. They may not have known what caused the symptoms you were experiencing, but they did know what herb or herb combination you could use to ease it or prevent it altogether.
If you get sick more often than you feel you should, then you may have a low immune system. The main function of our immune system is to protect the body against infections. Our immune system is an important component in determining our state of health. The main components of our immune system are bone marrow, antibodies, cells, lymph nodes, spleen, chemicals, thymus glands, and tonsils. There are many things that can interfere with the workings of the immune system.
I for one suffer from low immune system. I have listed below a few of herbs I personally recommend and some that I have researched for use in helping boost your natural defenses.
MotherNature.com believes that "The beauty of immune system herbs is that they do more than simply hand out temporary instructions for your body to follow-they can actually teach it how to operate better."
Echinacea is one of the most popular herbs for boosting your immune system. It is said that there are over 300 products out there worldwide today. Self-proclaimed doctor H.C.F. Meyer of Nebraska introduced this fantastic herb to American physicians in 1887. Meyer was looking for endorsement for his blood purifier where Echinacea was the primary ingredient). To prove his theory, he told offered to have a rattlesnake bite him the office of Eclectic pharmacist John Uri Lloyd, Ph.D. Dr. Lloyd refused, of course, but his feelings toward Echinacea grew strong when he began studying it himself. He quickly learned that it was good for fighting all sorts of disorders and it became one of the Eclectics' favorite remedies.
Since then, herbalists, pharmacists, and every people started taking the herb. It grew in popularity.
Licorice is another wonderful immunity enhancer. This herb is one of the top ones, strengthening the very first defense put up by an immune system under siege. Research has found that a tincture of licorice root is helpful against candida and several types of bacteria, including staph infections. "According to laboratory studies done in the 1970s and 1980s, a compound in licorice increases interferon production. Another compound impairs the ability of viruses-including herpes-to survive." (Wildlifelaw.org)
Bupleurum, a Chinese immune herb, along with licorice, Chinese skullcap and ginseng (a combination called shosaikoto), has shown that it stops the development of certain viruses and makes uninfected cells more resistant to invasion.
Ginseng or Siberian ginseng was proven in several 1990 studies to help the body adapt and strengthen the immunity and counter the effects of stress.
Ayurvedic, also known as Indian ginseng, is another herb known to give your immune system a boost. [Studies done by Dr. Wagner and his colleagues in Germany.]
Shizandra, another Chinese herb, was conducted in Dr. Wagner's study and was proven to be a possible adaptogen. Dr. Wagner reports that "To return the body to health naturally, the Germans use a treatment called Reizkorpertherapie. Preliminary scientific evidence shows that some of the herbs in this remedy, including calendula, chamomile, burdock, baptisia, red clover and marshmallow, have immune-enhancing properties similar to those of Echinacea. Yellow dock and yucca have similar properties."
Other herbs or herbal compounds that have pronounced effects on the immune system include garlic, shiitake mushrooms and gamma linoleic acid (GLA), which is found in evening primrose oil.
American herb researcher, Kenneth Cochran, Ph.D. of the University of Michigan, launched his own studies in 1960. He studied shiitake mushrooms and discovered that the shiitake has a strong antiviral compound called lentinan that stimulates the immune system as lentinan increases interferon activity.
"Italian researchers have found that thyme, lavender, bergamot and lemon stimulate immunity. After conducting numerous studies, researchers have added eucalyptus, tea tree, rosemary, black pepper, cardamom and ginger to this list. Other herbs historically used to inhibit tumor cells in the laboratory are gotu kola, kelp and dandelion. Depending on the herb, the active ingredient may be the essential oil or some other compound." (Wildlifelaw)
Olive leaf contains the active ingredient Calcium enolate, which works wonders in killing viruses and bacteria and preventing latent viruses from emerging. This herb is effective against microbial ailments such as pneumonia, gonorrhea, tuberculosis, influenza, viral encephalitis, viral meningitis, hepatitis b , shingles, herpes, and Epstein barr.
Garlic has been used as medicine for over 5,000 years. Garlic is rich in antioxidants and vitamins and minerals. It has antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. The sulfur compounds found in garlic are the basis for its immune-enhancing capabilities. Sulfur has super antioxidant properties and enhances the activity of natural killer cells - boosting the immune system's ability to fight cancer and it protects the liver and brain cells from free radical damage.
(Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning any new recipe or exercise program.)
1/2 teaspoon each tinctures of Echinacea root, pau d'arco bark, Siberian ginseng root, licorice root, astragalus root, and bupleurum root
Combine ingredients. Take 1 dropper full of formula twice a day for a few weeks at a time to build up your immune system, or 4 to 6 times a day during an active infection or other immune-related problem.
1/2 teaspoon each tinctures of mullein leaves, Echinacea root, prickly ash bark, red clover flowers, and cleavers leaves
Combine ingredients. Take half a dropper full 4 to 8 times daily during an active infection.
Drink three cups a day during cold or flu
2 parts Echinacea root
1 part Hyssop
1 part Peppermint leaf
1 part Thyme
Steep 2 tablespoons in 1 cup of boiling hot water.
Ginger Garlic Tonic
Try a spoonful of this tonic at the first sign or a cold or flu or take daily as a preventative.
2 cups honey
1/2 cup garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1/2 cup grated fresh ginger root
Warm the honey over very low heat. Do not boil. Place the garlic and ginger in a side mouthed jar with rubber seal and pour warm honey over them. Mix well and cap tightly.
Store this mixture in a warm sunny windowsill and stir daily for three days, then refrigerate.
Be sure to use within 6 weeks
You can also make a fine tea with a spoonful of this tonic in warm water or add to a cup of green tea, also full of healthy antioxidants.
Boost your immune system with this garlic recipe. Steeping garlic in wine allows the antibiotic, anti-viral properties of the garlic to leach out into the wine. The alcohol acts to preserve the nutritional properties.
Peel 5 cloves of fresh garlic and crush with garlic press. Add to a .5 liter bottle of red wine. Let this sit for 48 hours. Strain the garlic out and return the wine to its bottle. Add 20 to 30 drops to an 8-ounce glass of water and drink at first sign of cold. Repeat twice a day as needed.
1 cup boiling water
Squeeze in the juice of 2 lemons
Honey to taste
2 dashes of cayenne pepper
Drink several times a day until your cold is gone. Ginger tea can also be used to clear sinuses and treat any respiratory complaint.
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Peel a two-inch piece of ginger and slice into thing strips. Once water is boiling add ginger. Reduce heat to simmer for 20 minutes. Strain ginger from the liquid and drink. Strain the tea. Add honey and lemon to taste.
Simmer these herbs together in a quart of water for about 30 minutes:
3 TBS dandelion root
2 TBS fresh, grated ginger root
1 TBS cinnamon
1 TBS Licorice root
15 drops Astragalus Extract
Turn off the heat and let the mixture set for another 30 minutes. Strain and then drink one to two cups per day. If you are unable to find the dried version of these herbs, purchase extracts and mix 15 drops of each into a cup of hot water to make a tea. Add honey to taste.
Green Tea with Honey and Lemon
Green tea offers many health benefits. Lace it with honey and lemon for vitamin C, anti-viral and anti-bacterial qualities.
Consumerlab.com is building a database of natural remedy brands that it tests and rates. Not all are yet available.
Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration has a program called MEDWATCH for people to report adverse reactions to untested substances, such as herbal remedies and vitamins (800-332-1088).
A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions.
Sources: Wildlifelaw.org, Wikipedia, MotherNature.com, Herbs to Boost Immunity: Herbal Tonics to Keep You Healthy and Strong Including Echinacea, Siberian Ginseng, Astragalus, and More (Keats Good Herb Guide Series) by Gail Ulrich, Natural-Holistic-Health.com