Herbal Medicine Allies for Immunity
As a clinical herbalist specialising in cancer care, I understand the importance of supporting the immune system, especially during the winter months when viruses and infections are more prevalent. Nature provides us with a wide array of herbs that can boost our immune response and enhance overall well-being. In this blog post, I'll share my top three immune-enhancing herbs specifically beneficial for cancer patients and survivors. Let's explore the power of these herbs and learn how to incorporate them into your daily routine for optimal immune support.
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus):
Astragalus is an herb with a rich history in traditional medicine, known for its immune-boosting properties. In Chinese, it’s called “huang qi” which translates to “yellow life energy”. This is because the root is yellow, and it is considered to be one of the most influential herbs in traditional Chinese herbal medicine. Astragalus also has notoriety in western herbalism as an immune and cardio-tonic for the body. It contains potent compounds, including polysaccharides and flavonoids, that support immune function. Astragalus also exhibits adaptogenic properties, helping the body adapt to stress and promoting overall wellness. It’s no surprise that you’ll find this herb in most Chinese and Western herbal immune formulations. You can incorporate Astragalus into your routine by brewing it as a tea or including it as a broth into soups and stews.
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea):
Echinacea is a well-known herb revered for its immune-stimulating properties and a classic go to in Western herbal medicine. It’s part of the Asteraceae family and is often used as a whole plant extract. It contains a variety of active constituents, such as alkyl amides, vitamins, minerals and polysaccharides, which enhance the immune response and combat microbial invaders. With a slightly sweet and bitter quality, Echinacea also possesses anti-inflammatory properties, helping reduce symptoms associated with respiratory infections. It should be noted that use of Echinacea should monitored under a registered Herbalist or Naturopath to ensure safety and efficacy of the herb.
Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum):
Reishi mushroom, also known as the "mushroom of immortality," has been treasured for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine for its immune-enhancing effects. In Chinese the mushroom is called “ling zhi” and represents a combination of spiritual potency and an essence of immortality. In Western herbalism, it is known for its immune-modulating activity due to its beta-glucans and triterpenes, which stimulate the immune system and support overall vitality. Reishi also exhibits adaptogenic properties, helping the body cope with physical and emotional stress. Although Reishi is one of the more popular herbal tonics, all varieties of mushrooms contain vital medicinal value due to their own unique blend of beta-glucans and triterpenes that modulate different affects in the body. You can Incorporate Reishi into your routine by adding powdered reishi to smoothies, or incorporating it into nourishing soups and broths.
Here are some practical tips on how to incorporate these herbs as food as medicine into your routine:
- Herbal Teas: Brew a cup of herbal tea by steeping astragalus, echinacea, or reishi individually or in combination. Add lemon or ginger for flavour, and for some extra medicinal benefit. Enjoy your immune-boosting tea throughout the day.
- Culinary Uses: Incorporate these herbs into your meals by adding dried astragalus root to soups or stews, using echinacea leaves in herbal seasoning blends (works great with Thyme and Rosemary), or adding fresh, dried or powdered Reishi mushroom to broths, sauces and smoothies. Experiment with different recipes and discover delicious ways to boost your immune system.
If you are currently in treatment for cancer, or have recently finished treatment, it is vital to support your immune system for infection prevention and overall health and well-being. The power of nature lies in the immune-enhancing properties of herbs such as astragalus, echinacea, and reishi mushroom. By incorporating these herbs into your daily routine, whether through teas or culinary creations, you can strengthen your immune response and promote resilience during the winter months. Remember to consult with a clinical herbalist for personalised guidance and to ensure compatibility with any ongoing treatments.
Ready to explore the full potential of herbal support for your immune system? Book a consultation with our clinical naturopaths to receive personalised recommendations and guidance. Let's work together to nurture your immune health and optimise your well-being.
Disclaimer: This blog post is for educational purposes only and should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult with your healthcare provider before incorporating new herbs to your routine.