See, what we’ve got here is a hole in the skin up top, bad guys getting in, the first line of defense trying to contain them, and notifying the rest of the immune cells to the problem. This is a super simple, easy way to see what your immune system is doing against invaders.
Much of the time, when it comes to herbs and the immune system, you’ll hear people talk about “immune stimulants” that really get this process moving in overtime. ZoomZoom the defense cells arrive and Kapow! They knock out the baddies, regroup, and speed off to the next Bat Call. It’s a good visual.
But I like to question everything, like the assumption that we even have enough good guys to go around in the first place, and what happens if we don’t.
(In addition, this kind of Rapid Response team only functions on the say-so of your Stress Levels. Too much stress will actually shut down your immune system- when you’re trying to outrun the Sabre Toothed Squirrel your body doesn’t want to waste resources on a paltry cut finger. And it expects to quit running soon, either because you got away or you didn’t, so we’re not made for the constant high-stress environment we live in today and don’t have a mechanism to keep immune function under chronic stress.)
So here’s another story.
Imagine you’re cooking pasta and the water level gets a bit low. The water gets thick, sort of gloppy, the noodles aren’t circulating as much as they should to cook evenly. What do you do? You wouldn’t turn up the heat under the pot to get the noodles to cook as much as possible in the remaining water, would you? No! You’d add water to the pot so the system works as it’s supposed to.
The same is true of the immune system. Before turning up the heat and stimulating function, we’ve got to make sure we have plenty of immune cells to go around in the first place- fill up the system, if you will (bonus points for actually adding water, those cells float!)
“But hoooow?” I hear some of you wail. “I want my immune cells nooooow!” OK, Veruca, we’re coming.
If you wade into the crazy world of the internet you’ll find LOTS of head-scratching references to remedies you’ve not only never heard of, but ones that I’ve never heard of either. It’s just not helpful to tell people to find True Indigo Root, or patented TCM formulas, or dozens of other specialized and NOT local-to-whereever-you-are plants.
Instead, let’s focus on what we CAN do because these are things people have ALWAYS done. These are all age-old techniques for building the robustness and vitality of your entire self, including your immune system.
- Food medicine
- Bone broth- buy it, make it. Use your Google and find out how
- Spice It Like You Mean It- be heavy-handed with all your culinary herbs, because they are also medicinal herbs! And they're all anti-microbial. Thyme, Oregano, Basil, Rosemary, Pepper, Turmeric, Paprika, go for it
- Onions and Garlic- stinky BECAUSE they’re effective. I had a group of Israeli pilates clients who told me they put half an onion in their kid’s bedrooms with the door shut overnight to get rid of respiratory yucks, and their kids were never sick
- Soups are basically pre-digested so you can use all the nourishment in them very easily
- The simplest soup I know is a package of ground beef browned in a pot, add rice, carrots, and celery, cover with water. Cook till the rice is done, taste it and add salt till you’re happy
- I usually add a handful of dried nettles, some kind of seaweed, and serve it with miso
- All the grounding, nourishing vegetables- squashes, dark greens, mushrooms especially the Asian ones like Shiitake
- All the spicy, warming foods like Ginger, Horseradish, Wasabi, peppers
- All the colorful fruits and vegetables= eat the rainbow
- btw Sugar shuts down your immune system so no ice cream, OJ, or alcohol 😞
- No joke, this is non-negotiable. We are not Ikea furniture, we’re not machines, we’re not cars. Sleep-time is when we repair, when we empty the brain of toxins, when we rebuild things like immune cells. And get more hours before midnight in, the difference in how you feel will blow your mind
- Supplements- So yes, these are newer. But our food also has less nutrition in it than is used to!
- Vitamins A, C, D
- Zinc, Selenium
- Medicinal Mushrooms- check your health food store
- Probiotics- the kind you get in capsules, the kind you get in fermented foods (yogurt, kefir, raw sauerkraut and pickles, like that), AND the kind you get in nature. Get in the dirt. Walk around barefoot outside. Plant something. Plus it’s enjoyable so that lowers your stress.
Take a deep breath, we'll get through this together