We All Need Weeds:
Strengthening the Immune System
by Marie Summerwood
With the change of season many of us catch colds or the flu, or some other seasonal illnesses, or healing opportunities. Herbs and home remedies are important as strengtheners and restorers of our immune systems.
One or two well-placed regular herbal choices can help carry us through the season. But let me mention several and you might choose some from the list. Some are strict herbal remedies such as tinctures, others are herbs that work their way into the diet easily, such as herbal infusions and soups.
Simple and effective, inexpensive and impossible to measure since so much preventive care happens with herbs. But our bodies know, and we often hunger for the right herbs, if we know a few to choose from. I know when I get too stressed I want nettle leaf infusion everyday for days; then I feel restored and I keep drinking it. Buy organic if possible, it's not that much expensive.
Place 1 C dried nettle leaf in a quart jar. Fill to the brim with boiling water, stir, cover, and let sit on the counter overnight or for four hours. The deep dark liquid is a coilloidal suspension and both the liquid and the suspended food particles are exquisite sources of many mineral salts, including iron, calcium, zinc and more. Nettle leaf is also considered completely safe herb for restorative treatment for the kidneys and adrenals.
No article about this topic would be complete without reference to Echinacea root. The tincture works very well to nourish production of white blood cells and other immune system components that travel throughout the body fighting infection. The general dose is 1 drop of tincture per pound of body weight. It can be taken several times a week or several times a day, once per hour, when dealing with active infection. I carry a full tincture bottle around with me when I am sick.
Usnea barbata is a lichen that grows on trees in rain forests, both tropical and temperate. It contains usinic acid which enhances and tonifies the actions of our immune systems. No side effects are reported from even substantial long term use of this tincture although as with any new herb, take a very small dose to begin, in case it doesn¹t agree with you. Usnea has both antibacterial and antiviral effects and has been known to stop a flu in its tracks. No guarantees but I have seen it work many times. It can also be taken in small doses over time or in large doses when dealing with immediate illness.
Astragalus root is a wonderful crossover herb from Traditional Chinese Medicine. Its rich supply of starches nourish the immune system deeply, in the bone marrow. Astragalus can be used for long periods of time, as its action is nourishing. You can make an infusion of dried astragalus root, or add a handful to another infusion, as it doesn't have much taste of its own. As the herb is quite woody and inedible. you can fill an herb bag with dried astragalus root and cook it in a soup or in beans. Allowing the pot of soup to infuse overnight with the root will bring out even more of the herbs ability to build powerful immunity. Remove the bag of root before serving.
Medicinal mushrooms are great immune system tonics. For that matter, all wild mushrooms are very enhancing to the immune system. But a few are champions. These include Shiitake (Lentinus edodes) and Reishi, (Ganoderma lucidum and other species). As for the shiitake, eat them. they are delicious.
Dried or fresh, they are delicious medicine. As for Reishi, you can buy the tincture, or you can make tea from the dried mushroom. Chop up some of the very hard mushroom in a coffee grinder until it becomes beige fluff. Use a good handful of fluff per quart of water. simmer covered for one hour. You¹ll have a dark brown liquid that has a bitter taste and a mushroom taste. Some people drink it straight, others add milk and honey and drink it as a coffee alternative.
Many other herbs can be used to strengthen immune system. Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus) is widely held to be one of the best immune system tonics available in herbal medicine. It is safe, helps the immune system respond quickly. Use the tincture or again, cook a piece of dried root in your soup.
When strengthening the immune system, it is also important to identify any immune system suppressors or detractors that are in your life. Overuse of coffee, tobacco, alcohol, vitamin/mineral supplements can depress the immune system, as can almost all prescription drugs, For a healthier immune system, eat very well and drink nourishing herbal infusions such as nettles.
Regular exercise is a great way to tonify all the body¹s systems including the IS. Make sure you sleep in a completely dark room at night if you want to improve your immune system functioning. Even lighted alarm clocks can be too much light if they are close to your face. And get at least 15-20 minutes of light a day outside without your classes or contacts.
Food is an effective way to restore and strengthen ourselves daily. Eat seaweed of all kinds, and cooked dark leafy greens such as collards. Cook them (don¹t steam them) in water for at least 30 minutes to release many of the carotenes and mineral salts. Garlic is a wonderful food to improve immune system functioning. You can eat a little raw if you want but cooked garlic is still plenty supportive of our health in many ways. You just have to eat more. Garlic in soups, and in beans, make large pots and freeze meal portions for future use.
Daily attention in even small amounts makes a difference over time - months, years. The best way to restore and strengthen the immune system is slowly and regularly, with intention. Herbal allies offer support that makes a difference in our strength and our endurance. They are safe and effective at holding us as we wrangle with the rodeo ride of life.