When it comes to immunity, I believe there are some foundational elements that need to be in place to maximize infection prevention. I address these core pillars of health with patients on a regular basis. The first one is a relational/proper thinking pillar. Our thoughts and subsequent words have tremendous bearing on our health and the direction of our lives. We must be careful with the thoughts we're dwelling on and the words that come out of our mouths. Additionally, we're created to be in relationship with people. Maximal health cannot exist in a vacuum so to speak where people are isolated from others. I enjoy being plugged into my church small group as one method of fostering relationships and doing life with others. Additionally, I will start my day in the Bible developing my relationship with Jesus, praying, praising and renewing my mind.
Another pillar is nutrient-based eating. We need to focus on anti-inflammatory foods to help ward off inflammation and thus autoimmune issues and other chronic diseases. I like to focus on plentiful vegetables, some fruits, healthy fats, certain grains like quinoa and wild rice in moderation, wild-caught salmon, grass-fed beef, organic chicken, etc.
Another pillar is exercise. Ideally this takes place daily for around 30 minutes to an hour. I think a combination of resistance training and cardiovascular training is ideal. But I will tell patients that starting anywhere, just getting some kind of motion, is a step in the right direction. Our bodies are designed to move and we will do ourselves a favor if we can exercise daily and get the joints moving.
Tied in with my nutrient-based eating pillar is proper supplementation. The focus of this article will be on certain immune-promoting supplements and herbs. This is so critical, especially with Covid right now, and with the fall/winter months approaching where common colds and the flu can surface to a greater extent.
Exercise is one of my pillars of optimal health - resistance and cardiovascular is ideal.
Astragalus and andrographis are two key immune-bolstering herbs that deserve recognition here. They help stimulate proper b and t cell synthesis as well as various leukocytes. These are all immune system key players to ward off infection. Astragalus is often touted as being a premier herb for dealing with chronic immune challenges, whereas andrographis shines well in helping those take care of acute immune burdens.
Echinacea deserves a rightful place on the list as well. There are a couple varieties or species of echinacea that I focus on with patients, and those are angustifolia and purpurea. Echinacea is one that most people think of when it comes to immune health and for valid reasons. I would like to offer a word of caution here however. This goes for all supplements as well, but quality cannot be overemphasized when it comes to herbals. Many national retailers selling herbs have been shown to have little or even in some cases none of the marketed ingredient within the supplement. Therefore the therapeutic benefit is minimal to non-existent. For echinacea specifically, a quality characteristic will be a tingling sensation on the tongue when you take it as a supplement. This is due to the alkylamides present in the echinacea. Noticing the tingling sensation is indicative of those bioactive compounds being present.
Next up are Siberian and Korean ginseng. These are actually known as adaptogenic herbs because they help our adrenal output of hormones and therefore help us adapt to everyday circumstances of life and to manage stress better. In addition they have powerful immune benefits allowing our bodies to maximize its fight against potential pathogens in the body.
The next immune boosters mentioned are a couple varieties of mushrooms. Mushrooms can have incredible medicinal qualities, can help eradicate GI infections and can cleanse the blood very well. Specifically shiitake and reishi mushrooms can exert those physiological effects and should be included in a immune-boosting protocol.
Nature's way of eradicating infection
These are some of the top immune-promoting herbs and mushrooms I wanted to focus on in this article. There are many others that have benefits on the immune system as well and deserve places in a different article. Some of those would be elderberry, turmeric, ginger and garlic. All of those possess tremendous immune up-regulation capabilities as well.
Whether you're operating from a preventative mindset or working through an active infection, these are going to be some of the top herbs to implement to reduce infection likelihood and elevate overall health.
Dr. Seamus Allen
CFMP, DACBN, DC