We are now at the end of the 3 Part Immunity Series and are on our last topic, which is Herbal Medicine. As a naturopath, there are many herbs that can be used to boost immunity, prevent colds and flus as well as be used for actual treatments. Read on below to see some of the many herbs for immune health.
This herb is used quite a bit in traditional Chinese medicine to support Lung qi, or the immune and respiratory system. As an immunomodulator, Astragalus boosts the immune system when in need (ex. to fight the cold or chronic infections) but can also regulate an immune system that is overactive (ex. allergies, auto-immune).
Reishi is used to tonify Lung qi as well as heart qi, making it a good herb for immune health but also anxiety. Other uses are as an anticancer treatment or preventative cancer agent and also for fatigue. Some refer to it as the “mushroom of immortality” since it is also known to promote longevity.
Both Astragalus and Reishi are better used to maintain immune health and as herbs to prevent infections, colds and flus.
The diterpenoid compounds (andrographolides) have strong antimicrobial actions that act as anti-parasitic, antifungal and antiviral making it a good choice for treating active infections (virus, upper respiratory tract infection, bacterial infections, influenza). It’s also helpful for gastrointestinal concerns such as ulcerative colitis and liver disease.
The berries and flowers are used for active infections such as viruses due to their phenolic compounds (flavonoids) that prevent viruses from adhering to and infecting human cells. They have been shown to be helpful for upper respiratory tract infections, colds, influenza and viruses. Being a diaphoretic also makes Elderberry a good treatment for a fever due to its ability to help the body sweat out its toxins. Just remember to cook the berries instead of eating them raw because they contain cyanogenic glycosides that can cause diarrhea and vomiting.
This herb has been used for many years and is a strong immune-boosting herb. Many think of Echinacea as being good for cold and flu treatment however research actually shows that it may be better taken prophylactically. Echinacea has been shown to reduce the incidence of common colds when taken as a preventative agent.
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1. Karsch-Volk et al (2015). Echinacea for preventing and treating common cold. JAMA
2. ND Assist (2017). Herbals. www.nhpassist.com