My 3 favourite immune system boosting herbs
There are dozens of herbs prescribed to strengthen the immune system and used in times of illness. In Chinese medicine, herbs are rarely if ever prescribed on their own, but rather as a synergistic formula with complimentary herbs to suit the patient's needs.
Chrysanthemum (Ju Hua / Chrysanthemum morifolium)
Chrysanthemum is one of the few herbs that can make a delicious brew on their own. These beautiful yellow and white flowers make a light and refreshing tea, either hot after a meal, or iced on a warm summer day. Ju Hua is traditionally used for relieving fever, headaches and dry red eyes.
This herb is high in the flavonoids quercetin & myricetin, both potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatories.
There is also promising research that suggests consumption of chrysanthemum tea promotes healthy gut bacteria such as lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. These probiotics have been shown to be associated with a reduced incidence of colds and flu.
Astragalus Root (Huang Qi / Astragalus membranaceus)
Astragalus rhizome is the woody root of a flowering legume native to the northern hemisphere. It’s often used in soups in winter months or brewed in teas for the common cold and in times of fatigue.
Traditionally used as a major tonic herb, boosting both Qi & Blood, it is considered to strengthen the ‘wei qi’ or ‘protective qi’.
Analysis of its chemical structure has shown that it’s high in a specific compounds called astragalus polysaccharides which are anti-inflammatory and antiviral.
Research has shown that these specific polysaccharides increase white blood cell production, as well as being antibacterial
Reishi Mushroom (Ling Zhi / Ganoderma Lucidum)
There are 6 types of reishi mushroom, varying in colour and each with slightly different properties. The red type is the most sought after and can be expensive. It’s a very woody structure so the body of the fungus can’t be consumed. Large hard varieties are brewed in simmering water for several hours to extract its health giving components, although softer varieties can be found and extracted for soup bases and teas. While traditionally used as a calmative and to ease anxiety, it has alsobeen used to strengthen the ‘protective qi’.
Research has shown that the polysaccharides and ganodernic acids obtains from reishi assists with regulating the gut microbiota, has anti-virus, anti-inflammation and anti-tumor effets. There is even exciting research on its ability to assist with weight management and reduce insulin resistance, in part by its gut microbiota modulating effects.
Remember to source your herbs from reputable sources, organic if possible, or at least certified tested for the absence of heavy metals and pesticides.