The Immune System is our defense system: It protects us from invaders. Just like any defense system, the immune system needs to have support to keep it strong and to help build it up when it is time for battle. As an herbalist, I have learned a lot about using herbs and botanicals to aid in strengthening the immune system. Using herbs as foods is a simple and practical way to improve health and well being.
I am going to share some of my favorite home remedies that I have used over the years, which have been effective in allowing me to avoid all of the many cold, flu and stomach bugs that seem to be a regular occurrence in the population. If I do fall victim to a cold, these immune enhancing herbs have allowed me to shorten the duration and to not have to suffer for days or weeks on end.
Astragalus root: Astragalus membranaceus
This herbs antiviral properties help the body to build resistance to cold and flu. It is great when used weekly in soups or stews to keep the immune system strong in the winter. I use the root in soups and stews to keep my immune system strong. I add the root slices, usually 2-4 depending on the size, with the liquid and raw veggies to thoroughly cook and release all of the immune enhancing properties into whatever I am preparing.
Medicinal Mushrooms: Glorious fungi for our health.
I typically use Maitake (Grifola frondosa), Chaga (Inonotus obliquus), Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) and Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) mushrooms. Medicinal mushrooms have long been studied for their effectiveness in healing and for strengthening the immune system. I will make a mushroom infusion and add astragalus root for a healthy combination to add to soups and stocks. Simply chop up the mushrooms and add the astragalus and put them into a stock pot or crock pot and fill with fresh water. Bring the liquid up to a gentle simmer and let the mushrooms and herbs slowly cook for 2-4 hours, adding water if needed. Let it cool completely, sift out the mushrooms and herbs, pour the resulting liquid into glass bottles and refrigerate or freeze the stock for future use. I have found that this stock adds a meaty flavor to soups and stews as well as giving your immune system a wonderful boost to fight against invaders.
Stinging Nettles: Urtica urens
This herb contains more protein than any other native plant. When preserved properly this herb retains the proteins and trace minerals to help keep your immune system healthy. I typically add a handful of the dried herb to soups and stocks in the early stages, as it takes time for the nettles healthy minerals to infuse into the liquid. I think of nettles as the natural mineral supplement for my body. The high protein content in this herb is a wonderful property for those of us who choose not to eat meat protein.
Wicked Hot Fire Cider:
Now this is a remedy that has been around, in some form, for generations. Basically, it is a base of warming, energizing and pungent herbs bathed in Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar. I use horseradish root, ginger root, garlic, onions, & cayenne pepper, and when combined with the vinegar, produces a glorious tonic to help keep your immune system strong during the cold and flu season. I will also add black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, orange rind, turmeric and schizandra berries for even more immune strengthening and stimulating properties. I chop up the herbs and place them into a large glass jar, cover them, by about 2 inches, with Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar and let sit for at least 4 weeks, shaking daily. After I sift out the herbs, I then add some local honey to the infused cider, and use it throughout the cold and flu season. It can be taken as a daily shot, or used as a hot and healthy dressing or marinade for poultry, fish, vegetables or grains.
I also include my Elderberry Elixir (details in my November 2016 Blog) with these remedies, to further strengthen my immune system.
So, that is my winter arsenal of herbs to help keep my immune system strong and healthy. Along with drinking lots of water and getting proper sleep, fresh air and exercise, these remedies are a wonderful addition for your health and well being and for keeping the immune system strong and healthy.
In Health & Wellness,
Melissa Mustapha Herbalist/Manager at Maggie's Market