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Herbs to Support Our Innate Immunity Through a Pandemic


According to Ed Yong in his best-selling book, I contain multitudes: ‘All of us are constantly seeding the world with our microbes every time we touch an object, we leave a microbial imprint upon it. Every time we walk, talk, scratch, shuffle, or sneeze, we cast a personalised cloud of microbes into space. Every person aerosolises around 37 million bacteria per hour.’

Yet we survive. And it is due to our awesome immune system!

I find it quite astonishing that in all the talk and advice concerning the viral pandemic, virtually nothing has been said about our innate immunity. I wonder why?

Setting aside any conspiracy theories, let’s concentrate on the practical issue of boosting immunity. Normally I would give advice during the autumnal part of the year but these are not times of normality so we need to prepare right now. There are threats of a second wave and fear is in the air and therefore there is every reason to build our defences. Whilst we respect the law on masks, one fact is clear, the colossal amount of bacteria aerosolised per hour needs to be expelled and not re-breathed. Also, masks lower oxygen intake and raise stress hormones which lower immunity. As with so much in life, there is a trade-off between benefit and risk and we hope the ‘powers that be’ will act in our best interests.

So what can we do to strengthen our natural defences? With a healthy lifestyle in place, certain supplements are paramount. Vitamin C and the hormone-vitamin D are foundational even in these summer months. Herbal remedies occupy a unique niche in a defence strategy. How is this? Plants create chemical complexes known as phytonutrients — plant nutrients — which have specific benefits or actions. Phytonutrients differ from other supplements such as minerals and vitamins.

Echinacea is my favourite herb that up-regulates immunity. It is safe and effective and well tolerated across the entire age range. From drop doses for young children to a maintenance dose for adults, echinacea has a very wide spectrum of action but it is essential to use a top quality product. A liquid blend of the two species: Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea purpurea has been found to be most effective. Please call the shop/clinic for this proprietary blend.

Over recent years, Elderberry has gained a reputation as a potent antiviral — thanks to the work of world-renowned Israeli virologist Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu. Elderberry is available as a liquid extract suitable for children and adults and a glycerin, alcohol-free extract for the very young. Elderberry lozenges, ‘Sambucol’, are valuable too, especially when travelling.

However, resistance to pathogens extends beyond a direct boosting of the immune system — overall body system health is vital. Dr Robert Lustig Professor emeritus at the University of California, advises: ‘protect the liver and feed the gut’ as foundational for health. Milk Thistle seed extract has a profound influence on the liver in its major role as our prime organ of detoxification. Studies also show that milk thistle benefits the entire digestive system including the microbiome.

Let us rise above immune-lowering anxiety and attend to our awesome innate immune system and have every faith that it will protect us during these difficult times.

Brian Lamb, Medical Herbalist

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