Enhancing Immunity with Natural Herbs

What are adaptogenic herbs?

If you are unsure what an adaptogenic herb is, or if you clicked on this page by mistake, start HERE for a quick overview on the three categories of herbal treatments to quickly find the solution you are looking for.

Enhancing Your Immune System

Herbs that enhance your bodies natural defenses against germs and stress are different from adaptogens in that these herbs will specifically boost immunity and related functions in a targeted way.

These herbs are used when you know you could be getting sick soon. Maybe you don’t feel the sinus pressure building up just yet, but you know there were a lot of sniffles and coughs at your last holiday party! There are countless plants and even fungi that enhance our innate immunity. The specific herbs covered in this article are;

Eleutherococcus (Siberian Ginseng)
Shiitake Mushroom
Maitake Mushroom

Elutherococcuss senticosus

ingredients-eleutheroBetter known as “Siberian Ginseng” this is one of the safest herbs to take long term. Elutherococcuss is actually not in the ginseng family at all, most literature now uses the  shortened name “Eleuthero”. This herb increases overall endurance in those prone to fatigue and weakness. Taking eluthero also increases mental performance.

The effect this herb has on the immune system is adaptogenic but because it specifically effects white blood cells and other immune response enzymes, by definition it is not an adaptogen. For those who work very hard and consequentially do not eat or sleep properly, eluthero should be high on your priority list for supplements. Along with a lighter diet and a better focus on making the sleep you can get quality sleep, eluthero will help you stave off colds and flus this winter

Schisandra chinensis

Schisandra fruit has a variety of uses in medicine and in food. It has many properties that make it a jack of all trades and an excellent herb to keep in the pantry. Similar to eluthero, schisandra has adaptogenic effects on specific systems of the body. Schisandra reduces winter time infections by supporting the immune system as a whole. This special herb also acts as a liver detoxifier and protector. It can replace Milk Thistle in your supplement stash this winter, especially if you plan on drinking alcohol and consuming excess sugars at any of your upcoming holiday celebrations. In addition, schisandra reduces menopause symptoms, reduces mild depression and improves cognitive speed and accuracy as well as mental endurance

Shiitake and Maitake Mushrooms

Mushrooms are often touted as being incredibly beneficial foods. Shiitake and Maitake are the most cultivated mushrooms in the world, yet many people eat fewer than one serving per week. Over fifty years of evidence shows that these mushrooms stimulate specific cells in our immune system; T-cells, macrophages, NK cells (natural killer) and neutrophils. Glucans, the substances that give mushrooms their fame, are also thought to slow the progression on cancerous cells. Studies have even seen mushrooms reduce the size of benign tumors, but this has not been studied in humans yet. Think of shiitake and maitake mushrooms as your immune systems multi-vitamin. Recommendations on supplemental dosing vary widely, but enjoying mushrooms in a meal, both cooked and raw where appropriate, is the safest way for you to get maximum benefits. 

Andrographis paniculata

This herb packs a double punch for your body and is best for people who need an immune boost – yesterday! Andrographis stimulates immune cells to work harder but also helps your overburdened immune system by killing viruses (but not bacteria or other live invaders). This dual purpose herb is very effective whether you usually get sick in the winter, or are already getting sick. Some research has seen the chances of respiratory infection drop by 50% when andrographis is taken for two months. Feel like you’ll get sick soon? If you start supplementing with andrographis by the second day of symptoms at the latest, you will get ahead of your infection and experience less severe symptoms and be healthier faster.

Studies conducted in 1995, 1999 and 2003 show this effect is amplified when used with the herb eluthero (see above). When taken preventatively, dose with about 500 mg. If taken within two days of infection symptoms appearing, take 1,000 to 2,000 mg of andrographis leaf spread over the day.

Astragalus membranaceus

astragalusThis woody root has several active ingredients that stimulate and enhance your overall immunity. Astragalus increases the levels of various immune cells within mucosal membranes – this makes blowing your nose and clearing your throat more effective at sweeping away unwanted pathogens. Astragalus acts as a first defense, it removes harmful virus and bacterial before they have a chance to attack the body.
In addition to supplements, astragalus is available in natural grocery stores as the whole root. The root can be prepared in several ways to suit your tastes. There are recipes around the web for making alcohol tinctures, but the easiest preparation is letting the root simmer in soup or tea to unlock the nutrients. (You do not eat the actual root!) If you choose a supplement, look for a 0.3% standard for the active ingredient “astragolide”. 

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