Prevention of common ailments is the best medicine. Nobody likes to get sick, and while not feeling well is a bummer, it’s also costing the economy at large. Loss of productivity in the workplace due to the common cold costs about 25 billion dollars. As an herbalist and healthcare provider, I see daily that staying healthy starts with immunity boosts. We can help the immune system with “friends” that allow it to more effectively do its job.
A little biology review: our immunity is an interaction of higher organisms via resistance, or counteraction of pathogenic microorganisms. The immune response is typically a temporary inflammatory response to stimuli mounted in the body. The adaptive immunity in the body is by white blood cells, lymphocytes, and either B cells or T cells. Immunity is boosted by balanced sleep and exercise, stress reduction, and eating antioxidant-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables; while decreasing sugars, dairy, and alcohol.
Physical barriers, such as hand-washing and the Ayurvedic practice of nasaya, or nasal-oiling, aid in prevention. To nasaya, place one to three drops of an organic oil, for instance coconut or sesame, into each nostril while leaning the head back, then take a gentle inhale. This practice lubricates the nasal mucosa and protects the sinus cavity from pathogens. It’s wonderful to do in any dry environment (i.e. airplanes, deserts, high altitudes, etc.) and during colder seasons.
There are also ways to internally support immunity. One of my specialties is providing herbal medicines to patients. Personally, I don’t leave home without some (often many) forms of herbal or vitamin support, especially when traveling to places where access to medicine may be limited or variant quality. When the diagnosis or condition gets complicated, it’s a good idea to consult with your herbalist, acupuncturist, or Ayurveda practitioner for specific supplements. However, when working with herbs to stay healthy or boost the body’s function, we can feel empowered to take health into our own hands.
Culturally, there are ways that herbal medicine is already a part of our day-to-day life. Whether you realize it or not, you most likely practice some form of herbal medicine for self-care; taking an herbal cough drop for a tickly throat or sipping on chamomile tea before bed. Recently, we have seen a rise in herbalism in dietary recommendations. For instance, turmeric is an ancient herb and strong anti-inflammatory that’s gained popularity and now commonly found in healthy foods and smoothies.
Each herb has a physiological impact on the body, and the combination of herbs often enhances their best properties. For this reason, many traditions including Ayurvedic, Tibetan, Chinese, and Western herbalism, combine herbs to maximize impact and improve function.
To make sure your immunity is equipped for cold and flu season, here are some of my “friends” – go-to herbs I call on to support health and immunity. I call them “friends” because each acts like a specific best friend to call upon as needed:
If we keep the body healthy, we can have more time for being of service to others, which is a noble effort and reason enough.