By Dr John Douillard DC
Originally published in the November 2009 issue of Herb | Garden Magazine, Nature through Nurture
Use these herbs to build and maintain a strong immune system.
The pervasive impact of stress on the immune system has recently reared its ugly head with the panic over the Swine Flu “epidemic”. Asian flu, Lyme disease, West Nile virus and fear of Anthrax have left an indelible mark and are still major threats to a weakened immune system.
Stress, which is now recognized as the cause of 80% of diseases, is a formidable opponent to the immune system. So, we have to prepare; not with stress reduction techniques, because the very definition of “stress reduction” means that we must first incur the stress and then reduce it with reduction techniques like yoga, meditation, exercise and more. I would like to introduce to you a concept I call “Stress Prevention”, which means dealing with the stress by strengthening your immunity before the stress deals with you.
What causes disease?
The two major factors that influence our risk of infection and disease are exposure and susceptibility.
Exposure: While there are measures we can take to reduce our exposure to a virus, it is nearly impossible to completely eliminate getting exposed to infectious microbes like bacteria and viruses. Taking care to reduce exposure is important. But the biggest determining factor in regards to getting infehcted or not, is whether or not you are susceptible to the infection.
Susceptibility: A weak immune system is more susceptible to infection or disease. By boosting the integrity of your immune system, you will reduce your susceptibility, or the likelihood of getting infected. In one study, when 50 cows were exposed to anthrax, only half the cows succumbed to the disease. This means that half the cows were not susceptible to becoming infected because their immune systems were stronger.
Our Herbal Friends
In the 21st century, stress has become the overriding factor responsible for immune compromise, or weak immune system function. here, I would like to discuss three immune building herbs that are a “must-have” in every home. These herbs help strengthen the immune system and help prevent and protect from the compromising impact of stress.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic [that increases resistance to stress] herb that is well-documented for its immune building
properties. Ashwagandha helps us fight stress by balancing cortisol [a stress fighting hormone] levels. It helps prevent the depletion of vitamin C when under stress and is superior to ginseng as a stress fighting adaptogen. Most importantly, ashwagandha builds the body’s energy reserves. It can be taken before going to bed to support sleep and also the next morning to boost energy and vitality. This means that it is not a stimulant, [which will eventually deplete you], nor is it a sedative [which will dull you]. It is a true adaptogen that can boost immunity and with regular use, help rejuvenate the body from years of exhaustive stress.
Tulsi or Holy Basil
Tulsi, also called Holy Basil, is another powerful adaptogen that should be taken daily, either in raw form [as in a tea] or in capsules.While this herb has been documented in vedic medicinal and sacred texts dating back 5000 years, it was recently through the work of Dr. Narendra Singh that tulsi has emerged as one of the world’s most powerful adaptogenic, stress relieving and immune supportive herbs.
Dr. Singh’s research has documented many of the health benefits of tulsi. It reduces stress, strengthens the immune system, promotes calmness and clarity, minimizes cold and flu symptoms, balances metabolism, and builds stamina.
Tulsi is abundant in antioxidants. It is a natural immuno-modulator and boosts anti-viral activities in the body. It has been rightly named the “Queen of Herbs”, “The incomparable one” and “The mother medicine of nature”.
Known as “The one that cures all ailments and ills,” neem protects the body from both exposure and susceptibility. Neem helps prevent and fight infection through its natural anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
It builds immunity, helps purify the blood and supports healthy liver functions including detoxification. With regular use, neem helps to rejuvenate and nourish the skin, balance blood sugar levels, and boost the body’s anti-inflammatory response.
Neem has earned the title of “The village Pharmacy”, because it offers all the remedies found in a natural pharmacy.
I suggest a daily dose of organic* neem, ashwagandha and tulsi. These herbs will help your body fight stress, build immunity and act as your daily dose of prevention and protection against exposure, and the constant stress of our demanding lifestyles.
Combine them with a balanced lifestyle, and see for yourself how great you will feel everyday.
*I recommend using only organic herbs; as only then can you know that the herbs have not been sprayed or treated with pesticides or herbicides, or grown in soil treated with toxic chemicals.