Are you wondering how to naturally support your immune system through cold and flu season and beyond?
Traditional natural remedies like the 5 herbs we’ll go over have been used for generations with great success 🙂
In this post, we’ll go over these herbs and important information including:
- Herb classifications
- Individual herbs and their uses
- Possible contraindications
- Tips and cautions to consider
If you’re ready, let’s get started!
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Immune Stimulators, Modulators, and Tonics
If you’ve never heard of the words immunostimulants, immunomodulators, and immune tonics, let me explain.
These are herbs known to inhibit germs, stimulate white blood cells and phagocytosis, and help immune cell communication.
Each herb in this classification works a little differently, but immune stimulants are usually taken more often during illness but for a shorter duration.
Immune stimulating herbs are not meant for long-term use.
Examples of immune stimulants would be:
These herbs are very helpful when illness strikes or if you have been exposed to someone that is not feeling well.
*Caution should be given if you have an autoimmune condition. There is the possibility that immunostimulants could cause a flare-up.
I thought I would quickly mention immune-stimulating herbs because they are so helpful during times of sickness or if you’re exposed to illness, but today we are going to really focus on strengthening and balancing the immune system with immunomodulators and tonics 🙂
Immune modulators (also known as immunomodulators) are herbs that are considered deep-acting and slow.
These herbs can be taken on a regular basis and many are even considered to be adaptogens, meaning they help balance the body.
When the body is balanced, the systems work in harmony, and the immune system is regulated as well as strengthened.
In addition to the herbs listed below, here are a few other examples of immunomodulators:
Immune tonics are very similar to immunomodulators, and most tonics are considered immunomodulators. The difference is that there may not be as many scientific studies related to tonics.
That doesn’t change the fact that these herbs are strengthening and balancing for the immune system. After all, much wisdom has been gained from hundreds (or thousands!) of years of use 😉
Common immune tonics, in addition to those below, include:
Now that we’ve had a quick overview of herbs, let’s talk about how to strengthen and balance the immune system!
5 Herbs To Strengthen and Balance The Immune System
We’ve gone over the different classifications of these herbs, so let’s get to which ones are going to help us stay well!
Astragalus is considered an immune modulator and tonic. It also falls into the adaptogen category. This means that it helps to build immune strength by both stimulating and regulating immune cells.
Consider using Astragalus on a regular basis because full benefits may not be noticed for a few weeks.
It is also important to note that tinctures are not the best way to take Astragalus. The alcohol in tinctures does not do a good job of extracting the immune-boosting properties. It is much better to use this herb in soups, teas, capsules, or decoctions.
*Please use caution if you are taking immunosuppressive drugs. Astragalus enhances the immune system and has been shown in animal studies to interfere with these drugs and their actions.
Ashwagandha is an incredibly helpful herb!
It is commonly known for helping to reduce stress and anxiety, but it is also an immunomodulator.
This interesting herb has been shown to increase the activity of immune cells to help fight infection and reduce inflammation.
*Ashwagandha is a wonderful addition to a natural medicine cabinet but please use caution if you are allergic to nightshades, as Ashwagandha is considered a nightshade. Also, this herb may not be appropriate for you if you take diabetes medication, are going to have surgery, or are pregnant or nursing.
Chaga is a medicinal mushroom that has been extensively studied and found to be a potent antioxidant and free radical scavenger. It is also known for strengthening and balancing the immune system.
Chaga is most frequently used in powder form, tea, or capsules.
*Chaga is usually tolerated well by most people but like any other food, herb, or medication, it may not be appropriate for everyone. Since Chaga can lower blood sugar, this herb should not be used by people taking medication to lower blood sugar.
Reishi is an immunomodulator, tonic, and adaptogen that strengthens the immune system. It is especially helpful for people that experience respiratory issues.
In addition to the immune system benefits, Reishi also helps people with fatigue, can improve sleep, and lessen stress.
This herb (fungus), is an overall strengthener!
This remedy should be used in tea or slow-simmered in broths. Tinctures are not recommended because alcohol damages some of the healing properties.
*If you are taking blood thinners or have mushroom allergies, this product may not be suitable for you.
I mentioned elderberry in a previous post but had to include it here too.
This is my personal favorite immunomodulator and tonic.
Not only does this herb help strengthen and balance the immune system, but it has also been found to have antiviral properties.
In addition to all of that amazing-ness, Elderberry has also been found to shorten the duration of flu symptoms by 3-4 days!!
Just for comparison- the flu vaccine typically contains only 3-4 strains of the influenza virus. And Tamiflu, a popular antiviral medication only shortens the duration of the flu by one day.
Elderberry can be taken in syrup form, capsules, gummies, or tincture.
Buying tip: If you are buying a product be sure to look at the label. Many contain quite a bit of sugar and should be avoided as sugar suppresses the immune system.
*Elderberry is well tolerated by most people. Do not eat raw berries though!! Eating these can cause serious nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea! 🙁 Also, if you have an autoimmune disease there is a chance that this remedy is not appropriate for you. Some seem to do just fine taking it and others do not.
A Few Last Thoughts About Herbs For A Healthy Immune System
These 5 herbs for a healthy immune system are all great choices for strengthening and supporting you through the dreaded cold and flu season!
Add healthy food and lifestyle choices along with proper handwashing techniques to these herbal immune system supporters and you’ve got a great chance of having a healthy, happy winter ahead 🙂
A Few Words Of Caution And A Disclaimer
If you find yourself experiencing signs of allergy, intolerance, digestive upset, or another side effect with any herbs, please discontinue!!
Also, as wonderful and natural as these herbs are, just like anything else, you can overdo it. Please do not take more than the recommended amounts.
Taking more is not necessarily better and in some cases can lead to bad side effects or overdose.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor do I play one on my blog. I am unable to give medical advice, and this info should not be construed as such. If you have any questions regarding a specific health issue or dosage recommendation please contact a qualified health practitioner.