Strengthen Your Immune System
c.2002 Susun S Weed
author of Breast Cancer?
Breast Health! The Wise Woman Way
Winter is when we are most likely to catch a cold or the flu. With
Susun Weed’s help, you can prepare yourself with herbs and home
remedies to avoid infection and to build a strong immune system.
Ms. Weed prefers safe antibacterial herbs such as echinacea,
usnea, or poke root, which not only kill infection, but also
help us keep our immune systems strong. These herbs have an extensive
history of countering resistant bacteria and strengthening the body's
natural defenses. She also recommends medicinal mushrooms, garlic,
and ginseng to help you during the winter season. And, she reminds
us that our thoughts affect our health too!
Echinacea root is the all-American immune system
strengthener. It triggers production of white blood cells, interferon,
leukocytes, T-cells, and B-lymphocytes, as well as directly inhibiting
the growth of most bacteria and viruses. Peter Holmes, author of Energetics
of Western Herbs, cites it as being effective against anthrax. Echinacea
tincture is my first choice for countering infection. (Capsules and
pills of Echinacea, if used for lengthy periods, may be counter-productive.)
A dose of the tincture is one drop for every pound of body weight.
I take this several times a week as a preventative; several times
daily when there is active infection.
Usnea, a common lichen, is especially rich in a powerful
antibacterial bitter called usnic acid (also usinic acid). I use the
tincture of Usnea barbata (a dose is 1-2 dropperfuls), but other lichens
show similar immune-enhancing and tonifying properties. There are
no side effects reported from use of even large amounts of usnea tincture.
Poke root tincture (Phytolacca americana) kicks the
immune system into gear incredibly fast. I’ve seen chronic infection
of many years’ standing resolve after only one dose, and acute
infection subside in a matter of hours. Poke’s effect seems
to be focused on the lymphatic and glandular tissues of the throat
and chest, making it the perfect counter to inhaled anthrax, which
attacks the lymph nodes around the lungs. Poke is a specific against
pneumonia and a protector of the lungs. It contains an antibacterial
alkaloid and a special antiviral protein. It magnifies the effects
of Echinacea and they work wonderfully well together.
Poke root is powerful medicine - in fact, a potential poison - and
the dose is very small. One drop of poke tincture may be taken daily
for no more than three months as a counter to possible infection.
Alkaloids in poke root tincture can accumulate in the kidneys, making
extended use risky. Caution: You can feel spacey and out
of your body when taking poke, especially at higher doses. The first
few times, take it after dinner and stay home so you can judge your
Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus) is widely considered
the single most effective immune tonic and adaptogen in the herbal
realm. Safe and inexpensive, it helps the immune system respond quickly
to infection and mitigates the effects of stress. Astragalus root
is also an excellent ally for building powerful immunity. Both, or
either, may be taken daily for extended periods with no ill effects.
I throw several pieces of these roots in every pot of soup I cook.
Ginseng root (Panax quinquefolius or Panax ginseng)
is another exceptional ally for the immune system, especially when
there is physical or emotional stress. In any form (tincture, tea,
extract) it nourishes production of interferon, phagocytes, antibodies,
and killer T-cells. So long as you need ginseng, there’s no
overdose; if you take it when you don’t need it however, it
may produce an unpleasant, jittery, speedy sensation.
Garlic has been used to prevent infection for thousands
of years; and it still works! No need to upset your stomach (and loved
ones) by eating it raw; cooked garlic retains its antibacterial powers,
so long as you eat enough of it. During plague times, healers in some
areas wore a "bird's beak:" a stiff cone was made of paper
or bark, stuffed with garlic and spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg),
and tied on over the nose to help prevent contagion. That's a little
cumbersome for modern times, but inhaling the aroma of a cup of spicy
tea (there are many blends available, or make your own) could help
you avoid catching contagious disease.
Medicinal mushrooms are not only immune system tonics,
they possess antibacterial properties which make them ideal for preventing
anthrax infection, according to expert Paul Stametes. A tincture or
strong infusion of any shelf fungus with pores can be used, he says.
If you prefer to buy your mushrooms, rather than hunt for them, look
for reishii (Ganoderma lucidum) or shiitake
(Lentinus edodes). Both are adaptogenic, revitalizing, regenerative,
and able to directly suppress infection. Side effects, even from large
doses, are rare.
But herbs and medicinal foods alone are not enough. What we think,
and what we consume, are also important parts of building strong immunity.
Candace Pert, visiting professor of neuroscience at Rutgers University,
has proven that every cell of the body participates in the immune
system through an integrated network of chemical, electrical, and
hormonal signals. The immune system is a network, she says, which
resonates with the vibrations that surround it. It is as affected
by emotions as by bacteria, as impacted by thoughts as by drugs.
Long-standing low-level depression, smoldering anger that is never
expressed, bitterness and vengeance projected into the future are
all known to depress immune functioning. Prayer, affirmations, positive
thinking - no matter what you call it, talking lovingly to yourself
builds powerful immunity. One of the fiercest old women I know, healer
Margo Geiger, taught me to not only think good thoughts but also to
unthink immune system stressing phrases like: "This is killing
me," or "I’m dying to . . ." ("Let’s
live for it!" she’d say.)
Specialized cells which eliminate bacterial and viral infections are
made as needed by the immune system. Richly supply your immune system
with nutrients, and it easily counters infection, building healthy
white blood cells to kill anthrax and other germs. Starve your immune
system and it will falter, leaving your lymph nodes and other tissues
open to infection and destruction.
My favorite foods for nourishing the immune system include
beets, carrots, garlic, medicinal mushrooms, seaweeds, and dark leafy
greens (including nettle infusion). For rapid results, try
miso soup with seaweed and wild mushrooms. Try Immune A Go Go Soup
from Susun Weed's book Breast Cancer? Breast Health!
Carotenes strengthen and activate all parts of the
immune system, especially the thymus (the "master gland of immunity").
A half-cup of dandelion greens, two cups of nettle infusion, a small
baked sweet potato, or two large cooked carrots or beets is a "dose;"
but ten times that much can be consumed safely. Repeated doses provide
a cumulative effect starting about a week after you begin.
Selenium is a trace mineral with special abilities
for building a healthy immune system. Best sources are organic garlic,
medicinal mushrooms, and astragalus. Zinc helps build energetic white
blood cells (which eliminate bacterial infections). Best sources are
Echinacea, nettles, and seaweed.
The B-vitamin complex, especially B6 (pyridoxine),
is critical to immune system health. Best sources are potato skins,
broccoli, prunes, and lentils.
Virtually all drugs depress the immune system. This
includes caffeine and nicotine, alcohol, prescribed drugs, "recreational"
drugs, and vitamin/mineral supplements. For a healthy immune system,
eat nourishing food and forgo the pills.
Both light and dark are necessary for a strong immune system.
For optimum immune system strength, sleep in a totally dark room at
night, and spend at least 15 minutes a day outside without glasses
or contacts. Full spectrum sunlight is needed to trigger the production
of important immune system components.
Exercise is an excellent way to tonify the immune
system. A number of clinical trials have shown regular exercise to
be strongly linked to heightened immunity. The emphasis is on regular.
It is better to walk one mile four times a week for a month than to
jog 16 miles once a month.
In Summary: Strengthen your immune system with a good
diet, adequate sleep, regular physical activity, emotional well-being,
and a few of the recommended herbal allies of your choice. Always
remember to use herbs and herbal preparations simply and safely. Avoid
immune compromising substances such as coffee, tobacco and medications.
With a strengthened immune system you will not only enjoy better health,
but you will be less likely to be susceptible to infection and possible
death from bacterial and/or viral invasions. Faith in your body's
ability to protect itself will continue to bolster and reinforce the
immune system as your mental well-being improves. Enjoy the upward
spiral of health as you follow the path of the Wise Woman Way.
Legal Disclaimer: This content is not intended to replace
conventional western medical treatment. Any suggestions made and all
herbs listed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent
any disease, condition or symptom. Personal directions and use should
be provided by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare
practitioner with a specific formula for you. All material contained
herein is provided for general information purposes only and should
not be considered medical advice or consultation. Always check with
your personal physician when you have a question pertaining to your
health and healthcare.
Susun Weed is a contributor to the Routledge International Encyclopedia
of Women's Studies and the author of four highly acclaimed herbal
medicine handbooks. She has been at the forefront of the herbal renaissance
for 35 years.
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Cancer? Breast Health the Wise Woman Way
by Susun S. Weed
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