As we endure another year with the Covid-19 pandemic still looming, we can take this time to pause, reflect and focus on the more important things in life; friends, family and good health. I hope that these 15 recommendations to boost immunity will provide some comfort and guidance during these times when it is all too easy to be overcome by fear and isolation. All of these recommendations are simple ways to prevent illness, be it Covid-19, influenza, or just the common cold.
I recently sent a note to my family with the following suggestions and an offer to make up care packages for them if they wished. Of course, no one can do all of these things, but read through them, see which ones you can incorporate easily into your life, and do a little more research on your own. I’ve provided some great links where you can go for more information and decide what is best for you and your family. Remember, stay safe, keep healthy and remain calm and positive.
15 Recommendations for Building Your Immune System
1. Be in Good Spirits
I believe keeping our spirits high and our hands and minds busy is another way to build immunity. In fact, science has proven this to be true, but I knew it to be true even before science agreed with me—it just made sense.1Barak Y. (2006). The immune system and happiness. Autoimmunity reviews, 5(8), 523–527. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.autrev.2006.02.010 For more inspiration, visit my blog post on how to lighten your spirit.
2. Daily Probiotics
Daily servings of probiotics in any of your favorite forms: sauerkraut and other fermented foods, yogurt, kefir, miso, etc. If you’ve not made your own sauerkraut, this is the time! It’s so fun and easy, and a great food to be eating right now.
3. Fire Cider
I knew there was a reason Fire Cider took center stage in the herbal community: it was meant for these times. It is rich with immune and respiratory supporting herbs: Garlic, Onion, Ginger, Horseradish, Lemon, Turmeric, Cayenne. Add a big handful of fresh Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano and Sage to your batches and you have a super tonic for the times. You can purchase all of these herbs fresh in the produce departments of most natural food and grocery stores. Find my favorite Fire Cider recipe here.
Garlic, Garlic, Garlic. 3-4 raw cloves a day, chopped finely or mashed. Can one get too much Garlic? Yes, some people don’t tolerate it well, so go easy on it until you find your dose level. Chop and mash fresh Garlic and let it sit for a few minutes before ingesting as this allows the Garlic to oxidize and activates the antiviral compounds.
Always take raw Garlic with food or it can upset your stomach. It’s great mashed, mixed with plain yogurt and served on rice. This was one of my Mother’s favorite foods, an Armenian specialty. When my mother was living with me, we would eat it almost daily for breakfast. Yum! Remember, in the olden days people would wear cloves of garlic around their neck to keep the plagues at bay. Great for ‘social distancing’ as well.
5. Culinary Herbs
Don’t forget, some of our most medicinal herbs are in the kitchen cupboard: Clove, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Oregano. (See Suggested Herbal Supports for Influenza/Influenza Like Illness in the Event of a Pandemic by Lora Krall, R.N. and this blog post by Helen Ward, Director of the Science & Art of Herbalism.) Well-known herbalist and educator 7Song created this handout that contains good information on other herbs to consider.
Eat seaweed daily. Aside from the fact that it’s unbelievably nourishing (seaweed contains more minerals and trace minerals than any land vegetable!), seaweed is very immuno-protective and a great aid in building and protecting our immune system. I recommend seaweed from Ryan Drum and Larch Hanson.
7. Up Your Vitamin C and A Intake.
High doses of vitamin C, 1-2,000 mg twice a day as a preventative. Use buffered vitamin C for ease on the stomach, or liposomal C which is more easily absorbed. Take 25,000 IU of vitamin A daily. We aren’t hearing much about supplementing with vitamin A these days, but it was always a favorite supplement I used when people had attacks of asthma, allergies and severe respiratory issues as it helps strengthen and rebuild the cilia or tiny hairs lining the lungs. According to everything I’ve read, COVID-19 attacks the cilia, so this might be a good measure to add as a preventative.
Elderberry, in syrup, capsules or tincture. Especially useful for young children and the elderly (and anyone in between) because they’ll love the flavor. My very favorite is made by our own Helen Ward at Three Springs Farm of Vermont. Or you can make your own! Visit our Elderberry Syrup post for great recipes.
Astragalus (Astragalus propinquus) has been shown to be effective against the H1N1 influenza and is used by herbalists worldwide to support overall immune health. Great to add powdered Astragalus to smoothie and blender drinks, nut butter balls and adaptogen candy, and the herb to soups and stews.
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea or E. angustifolia): take this old friend each time you leave the house and each time you return. It is one of our most renowned immune enhancers and has been known to be effective against various types of influenza. If you can get the whole plant Echinacea (root, flower, stem, and seeds), even better.
12. Sweet Annie
Sweet Annie (Artemisia Annua): There are some remarkable studies about the effectiveness of Sweet Annie as an effective agent against Coronavirus. I think this is an important herb to have on hand. Read more here.
13. Japanese Knotweed
We’re not hearing much about Japanese Knotweed yet, but it’s a very powerful antiviral and could be incredibly useful in this situation. Tincture available from Marge Keough.
14. Essential Oils
Essential oils are potent and contain many antiviral properties. I’ve been keeping a small bottle of Clove oil in my pocket; I dilute it with a little veggie oil and put a drop or two on the tip of my tongue if I’m going out in the world and when I return home. Also, consider essential oils of Eucalyptus (has been shown to be effective against influenza viruses).2Price, Shirley, Price, Len. Aromatherapy for Health Professionals. 3rd ed. 2007. Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier. Lemon, Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary, and Peppermint all of which have antiviral properties.
15. Reach Out to Your Community
Reach out to our herbal community for support and information. Visit these sites for more great information (and there are so many more great resources out there):
- Nicole Telkes and her team at Wild Flower School compiled some great information and recommendations for responding holistically to Covid-19.
- Self Heal School provides excellent information on which herbs to focus on as well as practical information on how to avoid getting the virus.
- Thomas Easley wrote a great article on how to prevent spreading Covid-19.
- The People’s Pharmacy provides a free newsletter I enjoy getting; I appreciate its short informative updates about coronavirus as well as other health topics.
- BotanicWise created an excellent resource with input from Guido Masé, Charis Lindrooth, Deb Soule, and Tammi Sweet. As the title suggests, ‘herbalists we can trust with information important to know.’
- Visit the American Herbalists Guild for an ever evolving list of additional resources.
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down. And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch. Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
~ Lynn Ungar