Immunity isn't found solely in vaccines or magic pills. It is found in the daily practice and caring or one's self.
Cultivate immunity with these tips!
Our immune system is not an organ. It is not found in one place in our body, but rather in every cell. Our first line of defence is our skin where the bacteria that thrives on every surface fights other bacteria and viruses that land there. The bacterial flora in our gut, the mucosal lining of membranes, the acid in our stomach and the state of our nervous system all play a part in our immunity!
Nutrition is the first thing to address, cutting out processed and stimulating foods and drink that run down our liver and nervous system are key. Cut back on the sugar, caffein, alcohol, canned and packaged foods. Add more fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, legumes and whole grains! The best advise I ever heard in regard to diet is this, eat any thing and everything you want, as long as you're making it from scratch.
The nervous system is the motherboard of our bodily systems. It determines whether we are safe enough to digest food properly, fight viruses and bacteria, sleep deeply and rest and general. Many of us are spun out from what our nervous system sees as an oncoming bear attack that we are unable to sleep deeply, let alone fight off infection. I love it when I can work late into the night and push for that deadline, that bear attack that keeps my nervous system pumping all the chemicals I need to complete the task at hand! But I also want to be sure that my body gets a chance to come down from that state, a chance to rest deeply and nourish itself.
We can engage that parasympathetic nervous system state by doing several things. Body oiling is probably my favourite and one I use regularly before bed. You can read a whole article about it here. Meditation is also key. This can be in the form of silent stillness or in the form of a forest walk, breath work, baking, drawing, yoga and more. My meditation style changes daily and according to my menstrual cycle and mood. We can also tone our nervous system with herbs! So let's dig into those.
Herbs for Immunity
Tulsi / Holy Basil
This amazing little herb is so wonderful and so fragrant, I just can't get enough. It works as both an adaptogen, which means it tones our nervous system to help us adapt to stress, but it is also an immune tonic! This means it gently tones our immune system without over stimulation, making it safe for those with auto-immune issues. I use Holy Basil Body Oil nearly daily while it's in stock.
This common shrub loves to grow near the river's edge, arching it delicate branches towards the sun. The flowers in June are a beautiful immune tonic and are lovely in cordials, teas and body oils. The berry tends to be more popular for immune health and is wonderfully effective. Elderberry has been found to reduce a flu to 48hrs when taken regularly at the first sign of illness. Elderberry Elixir is a staple in our home in the cold and flue months and all season round since 2020.
This is not an immune tonic necessarily but it does wonders by soothing the nervous system, improving sleep and reducing anxiety. Hops is wonderful in tea form, but I do like to combine it with other herbs like chamomile, lemon balm or rose. We combine sedating hops with valerian and few others in our Deep Sleep Elixir. Lack of sleep leads to inflammation, stress and a heightened state of fight or flight, so get your sleep in check!
A mushroom yes, and it's trendy for a reason! This powerfully immunomodulating herb is wonderful for keeping viruses at bay. Best made as a tea, you can simmer these dried mushrooms for several hours on low to best extract it's compounds. Drink with other herbs and spices like cinnamon or add to your favourite soup or stew!
This one can't be left out! It's gained such a reputation but it does need to be stated that it is an immune stimulant. This means we don't want to be taking it regularly like the other four herbs mentioned above, but rather taken acutely at the first sign of illness. Not recommended for those with moderate to severer auto-immune conditions.
Immunity can be found through many daily practices, but daily is the key. We can't eat like crap, work till midnight and get up under-slept day after day without impacting our immune system. In fact, many people find themselves in a state of nervous collapse, exhaustion and immune failure when they keep up those practices.
We're allowed to slow down. We're allowed to lay on the ground and bury our face in the grass until the soil smells sweet. We're allowed to turn off the computer and put down our phones and crawl into bed with a messy kitchen at 9pm. Let yourself. Treat yourself. And you will be greatly rewarded with a stronger immune system, less stress and quiet moments to breathe.