If you're slogging through cold and flu season with an endless cough, runny nose, or nasal congestion, if you seem to keep catching cold after cold, or even if you manage to stay well but everyone around you is constantly sick, it's important to treat the immune system with care and support it every way we know how.
Getting plenty of sleep, reducing or avoiding stress, eating a clean diet with bone broth and lots of vegetables all help to improve immunity, but what else? Well, herbal medicine offers up lots of options for boosting immunity. Let's take a look at which ones will help you to be a lot healthier this winter.
One of the best herbs in Chinese medicine for boosting the immune system, it's called Huang Qi and it's used in formulas for low immunity and allergies, as well as one for low energy and digestive upset.
Astragalus is anti-inflammatory, it can reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure, it's been shown to slow and prevent the growth of tumors, topically it heals wounds and can prevents scarring - oh, and it's an adaptogen, which is a group of herbs that help the body adapt to stress. So...basically it does almost everything!
I prescribe astragalus as a part of custom herbal formulas for several of my patients, and it's one of the herbs in my Immunity & Energy blend of Broth Boosting Herbs, but rarely use it on its own. Some patients may get headaches or digestive upset from taking it, but I've found that's quite rare.
These tasty little berries are a rich source of anthocyanidins, which have immuno-stimulant effects. They have been shown to reduce the duration of a cold or flu, reduce symptoms of sinus infections, and soothe allergies as well.
But that's not all! They can also lower blood sugar levels and the high levels of antioxidants and vitamin A they contain benefit healthy skin.
You can consume elderberries lots of different ways, but they are most often brewed as tea, syrups, tinctures, or cordials. It's best to infuse them in to a base then remove the berries, as the seeds can cause digestive upset when consumed.
My Elderberry Immune Elixir is made with organic elderberries to make a tasty and safe immune formula. It is low in sugar and alcohol-free, so it's safe for children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Reishi and other medicinal mushrooms
Mushrooms are prized in Chinese medicine for their immune boosting properties, not just for fighting colds, flus, viruses, and allergies, but also for defending against tumor growth and cancer. The contain vitamin D, anti-inflammatory compounds, and beta-glucans which is a natural cancer fighter.
Medicinal mushrooms, reishi included, are also used to balance blood pressure and blood sugar levels, reduce fatigue, improve fertility, calm anxiety, and reduce the symptoms of asthma.
Reishi is also one of the herbs in my Immunity and Energy blend of Broth Boosting Herbs, and I frequently use it with my patients. When I need a heavy duty immune tonic blend for one of my patients, I use a mix of several medicinal mushrooms - cordyceps, shiitake, maitake, chaga, lion's mane, and coriolus.