Preventing illness tends to rise to the surface our our minds about once a year, when the kids go back to school. Right? Maybe we’ll touch on it around the close of the year, as we move into the New Year’s Resoluton phase of the year, but even then it’s usually not so much about building our immunity so we don’t get sick. The thing is…Building Immunity is a Daily Affair, if we want to actually do it right.
What does it mean to Build Immunity?
In the new era, building our immunity is all about adding a few simple techniques and tools to our daily self-care to help us evade and fight off viruses of all sorts, COVID-19 included. When herbalists talk about building the immune system, we usually mention herbs like Elder that help to strengthen the body’s natural defenses and herbs like Tulsi that help the body move out of stress-mode and into relax-and-rebuild mode. Together, herbs that focus on those two actions go a long way toward supporting the health and readiness of our immune systems should we encounter any unfriendlies in our environment.
Why Daily? Can’t I just take an herb if I’m exposed to something nasty?
If you want to try to fight off an attack with no significant resources to back you, you can take the crisis-medicine approach of dealing with symptoms as they arise and popping antibiotics or immune-stimulating herbs at the last minute and hope. That’s definitely an approach, but it’s not an easy one. Nor is it a particularly effective one.
The better approach is to do a little bit each day to build your immune system’s resources. When we break it down into little pieces of work like that, we give our immune systems and our bodies a much greater foundation and treasure chest of resources to work with should we encounter a virus or other illness. Plus, the work of building that foundation and treasure chest becomes a little, easy change to our habits, one that pays off in the long run whether we encounter the crud or not.
I’m Sold. How do I Build My Immunity Daily?
There are two prime enemies to the immune system: Stress and Digestive Disruption. You can focus on one or the other, but I like to aim to cover both daily. When your body-mind are in a state of stress, your immune system is held in a ready-to-fight pattern. When there’s no one for those immune cells to fight, they get worn down by the constant strain. If you reduce stress, you allow your immune system to relax and replenish or fortify your body, which is essential but…if your digestion is disrupted you cannot absorb the nutriments and clean water you need to support immune system health. That’s why I like to tackle both at once.
Action Item: Build Your Own Daily Immune Tonic Formula
- Choose one or more herbs from each category: Stress-Relievers and Digestive Supporters.
- Take those herbs in a form that makes them easy to take daily. Choose one or more ways to include your blend into your life…or pick just one and work with that for a few weeks.
- Tasty blends, like herbal honeys or jellies, are a total treat to take daily.
- Tinctures are easy for on-the-go folks.
- Teas are Divine when you know you need to make yourself slow down for at least ten minutes each day.
- Vinegars are super easy to add to your daily meal, as are herbal oils.
Take Herbs to Reduce Stress and Build Immunity Daily
Daily use of digestive supporting and stress-reducing herbs As you’re creating your Daily Immune Tonic Herb Formula, consider including one or more of the following.
- Tulsi – Adaptogen Herb that helps bring balance to your nervous system and supports your Immune System.
- Roseroot – Adaptogen Herb that boosts energy. Terrific for shorter-periods, like a few months, while you resolve the stressful situation.
- Reishi – Adaptogen Herb that promotes longevity by energizing the whole body.
- Ginger– Digestive Herb that helps build digestive fire
- Cinnamon – Digestive Herb that helps build digestive fire and balance blood sugars
- Fennel – Digestive Herb that helps the gut move food along, supporting proper absorption and elimination of wastes
- Chamomile – Digestive Herb that supports stomach and small intestine health and soothes nerves in the gut
- Elderberry – Immune Support Herb that helps the body build stronger cells
- Astragulas – Immune Support Herb that helps stimulate healthy immune response
- Garlic – Digestive Herb that stimulates and supports healthy immune response
How do I take my Daily Immune Support Herbs?
The powerful part of building your immune system daily is that you don’t have to do it the same way every single day. I like to make a daily tincture blend, which I keep ready and aim to take each morning when I brush my teeth or with my morning tea, but that’s not the only way I take my herbs. I also make herbal vinegars and oils with immune support herbs to add to the day’s salads or other dishes, and I often add one or more of the herbs from my formula into my daily tea blends. That makes it pretty easy for me to ensure I’ll get at least three small doses of my blend through out the day.
For my hubby, I make an herbal honey or syrup he can easily add to his daily coffee. I keep that right next to the espresso machine so that he doesn’t forget to use it. He loves toast and jam, so I also keep a honey spread or a jelly….or both for his afternoon toast snack. I aim to create his formula to match my own as much as I can so that when I’m adding my herbs to our daily meals he’s getting a dose, too. And, I keep a tincture blend by his bedside so that he can take a quick dose before bed.
The ideas is simple, really. Find ways to get your herbs in daily in whatever form best suits you. Play with the different forms they can take. Make spice blends and herbal vinegars and honeys and tinctures and teas, etc. Vary them as the weeks pass as makes sense to you. Find the ones that feel like a treat or that are just plain easy and make those your mainstay. Then, sprinkle the others in here and there to shake it up a bit so taking your daily herbs doesn’t feel boring or excessively medicinal. Daily Immune Building isn’t meant to be a chore. Rather, it ought to be a healthy habit you can carry on for the rest of your life quite happily!
Bonus Tip for Recognizing Where You Most Need Balance
Stress throws us off balance often. I like to check in with my body each day to see how far off I am and get a clue about what I can do through out my day to shift my body back into balance. I use a simple Yoga Breathing technique called Alternative Nostril Breathing. Here is a terrific video that demonstrates the technique, or you can watch the video for this article.
When I’m doing the technique, I focus on how easily my breath flows through each nostril. When I feel the left side not flowing easily, I know my energy is sluggish and not moving freely so I may need a bit of exercise or activity to get things moving. When I feel air not flowing through my right side easily, I know I need to rest or make space for some quiet time. The left side of the body, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, represents the Yang and the right side represents the Yin. I look at how my breath flows through each nostril as a reflection of how the energy is moving through the Yang and Yin of my body.
As you work with this technique, you may begin to observe the quality of your breath and recognize how that translates to how you feel through the day. For instance, when emotional stress has been high, I often notice more dampness in my nostrils. I’ve even had to stop to blow my nose at times because the dampness has become a drippy nose. For me, it takes only a minute or two of practicing alternate nostril breathing to get a good guage for what my body needs, and I’ve found those couple of minutes often get my body moving in the right direction, kind of like priming the pump. With the feedback from my body, I can make good choices on which herbs to particularly emphasize through out my day.
Recipes and Ideas to Try
- Elderberry Syrup by Sue Sierralupe
- Elderberry Electuaries
- Immune Builder Mouthwash by Sue Sierralupe
- Immune Boost Supplement Blend
- Four Theives Vinegar by Sue Sierralupe
- Fire Cider
Search the Recipes section at The Practical Herbalist for more ideas and recipes for terrific Immune Support, Digestive Support, and Stress Relief.