Herbal Allies to Strengthen Immunity

By Jeanine Endsley

NOTE: Please consult your doctor or care specialist before using any of these herbs if you are pregnant, nursing, or you may become pregnant. It is also always recommended to be aware of any possible drug interactions before consuming these herbs, so please talk with your care provider before consumption.

Plant medicine offers us a direct and unequivocal connection to the wisdom of our ancestors. The same “weeds” that break through cracks in the sidewalk are the very same revered plants that our ancestors applied to their wounds and consulted for healing remedies. Certain plants even contain constituents that appear to have no purpose in the function of the plant, but produce healing effects when combined with the specific constituents of the human body. Everywhere around us, there is medicine; plants came before us and have nourished humanity throughout the ages.

The new year is often a chaotic time and can leave us prone to illness if we let stress and tension get the best of us. How can we move through the season healthy when illness, viral infections and colds run rampant? Herbalism offers us a wide array of medicines that can be used both to prevent illness and as ‘go-to’ options in the face of compromised immunity.

Let’s focus on four special herbs that can support your immune health this season: Tulsi & Moringa (both appropriate for daily consumption as preventative medicines) and Elderberry & Astragalus (best used at the onset of illness). I will be providing you with a few amazing reasons why you need these plants in your cupboard, as well as four delicious recipes so that you can try them at home. It is my honor to equip you with the knowledge of these plants celebrated for their powerhouse capabilities to support the body’s immune function.

Tulsi, aka Holy Basil

Ocimum Tenuiflorum

The Hindu name for holy basil, Tulsi, means “the incomparable one.” This aromatic and rejuvenating sister to basil is known as the “Queen of Herbs” and is a must for your tea time and herbal collection this winter. Highly revered in India, Tulsi carries a multitude of benefits for the physical and spiritual self.

Not only is this plant loaded with antioxidants, Tulsi’s nature as an “adaptogen” helps the body process stress and accelerate recovery. Tulsi’s antiviral properties improve the body’s defense mechanism and can effectively help the body fight off viral diseases of all kinds. Tulsi is also antibacterial and antifungal; these properties support wellness by purifying the blood.

Tulsi is also a nervine, or an herb that specifically supports the nervous system. Its ability to nourish the mind and calm the body makes Tulsi a truly powerful herb for all seasons and reasons. Give Tulsi some one-on-one time this winter and your body will thank you. I recommend using Krishna Tulsi if possible, as it has a higher phenolic content and antioxidant capacity, and is the strongest Tulsi for immune support.

Elderberry

Sambucus

This beautiful super berry is a must for fighting off colds and flus. Not only is Elderberry antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic, this potent berry clears sinus infections, eases allergy symptoms and is loaded with antioxidants!

Elderberries are particularly rich in flavonoids, especially anthocyanins which are responsible for their deep purple (almost black) colouring. These powerful antioxidants work to keep the immune system strong and resilient. “Research has shown that the anthocyanins in elderberries boost the production of cytokines – proteins that act as messengers within the immune system – thereby enhancing the body’s immune response. Cytokines play a crucial role in the immune system’s response to disease.” (1)

Elderberry has been proven effective in shortening the length of a cold or flu, and there are few other herbs that enhance immune response as well as this amazing berry. Elderberry also contains anti-viral properties that work to deactivate viruses, making them unable to multiply on their own. Try it the next time you feel the onset of an illness.

Moringa

Moringa Oleifera

This ancient mineralizer, known as the “Miracle Tree” is really nothing short of a miracle. Known to be one of the most nutrient-dense botanicals on the planet, the leaves of this amazing tree are at least 25% protein by weight and provide all 9 essential amino acids, a rich supply of fiber, high sources of iron, vitamin A, K & E, and calcium. (2)

Moringa is also loaded with vitamin C, an essential for boosting immunity. Studies have shown that Moringa has 0.82mg/g of vitamin C — roughly 2-4 times as much as lemon. (4) With an ORAC value of 157,000, the multitude of antioxidants present in Moringa trumps the ORAC value present in acai, blueberries, garlic, and dark chocolate! (3)

This myriad of benefits supports overall health, strengthens immunity and offers the body a wide array of nutrients. I recommend taking Moringa daily for a preventative, all-around nourishing food, although its supportive effects on the immune system in times of compromised immunity are without question.

Astragalus, Huáng Qi

Astragalus Propinquus & Membranaceus

Our final plant ally for this season is the beloved Astragalus root. Borne of the legume family, Astragalus is a highly revered plant native to Mongolia and Korea. The root is used frequently in Chinese Medicine as a tonic that “invigorates chi” in the body and awakens the body’s defenses.  

By acting as an immunostimulant, Astragalus encourages immune cell activity, function, and production. This potent root has been studied and known to raise the count of white blood cells in the body, encourage the production of antibodies and increase resistance to viruses and bacteria.

In addition to its incredible abilities to strengthen the immune system, Astragalus works powerfully as an adaptogen often used in cases of adrenal fatigue. It is also aplenty with heart benefits and has been shown to reverse some effects of aging. This root has been around since ancient times and is a top herbal ally for you this winter.

I hope by now you have learned some new things about these incredible immune-boosting herbal allies! As I mentioned above, Tulsi and Moringa work best as preventative herbs; their benefits, when consumed daily, are extremely effective. Elderberry and Astragalus are your go-to’s during the onset of illness; these two act as catalysts, harnessing and activating the power of your body’s own defense mechanisms.

Now I bring you a few very simple, tried and true recipes that will transform your life by bringing you back to the roots of healing with plant medicine. It is my hope that these recipes will provide you with nourishment and vitality this winter season and well into the New Year.

Tulsi Tonic

This potent tonic will deliver the supportive benefits Tulsi while improving the body’s response to stress. For healing benefits, drink at least 3 cups of this tonic a day when a boost is needed. This tonic can also be enjoyed daily. This recipe also features nettle, another herb replete with nutrients and healing qualities. To prepare this tonic you will need a liter sized jar with a lid that seals.

Servings: 4

Preparation Time: 5 minutes now, 5 later

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbs. dried (or fresh) Tulsi, Krishna Tulsi if possible
  • 2 tbs. dried Nettle
  • 1 liter Pure Spring Water

Directions:

  1. Bring the spring water to a boil.
  2. Place the herbs in a liter sized mason jar. When the water comes to a boil, pour slowly over herbs. Stir with a spoon for 30 seconds.
  3. Put the lid tightly on the jar. Let the herbs sit (preferably in a sunlit window) for at least 4 hours. You can infuse the herbs for up to 24 hours. The longer they steep, the more potent the brew.
  4. When you’re ready to enjoy this tonic, strain well, ensuring you’ve gotten every delicious drop! Refrigerate after infusing and enjoy a cup every 4 hours.

After refrigerating, you can heat this tonic gently on the stovetop if you’d like to enjoy it warm. This recipe should yield at least 4 cups; drink throughout the day for maximum benefits.

Elderberry Cider

This delicious beverage boosts the immune system, wards off viruses, soothes sore throats and loads you up with antioxidants. Enjoy warm or cold. Share with your family and friends!

Servings: 2-4

Preparation Time: 10 minutes now, 5 later

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups organic Apple Cider
  • 1 ½ tbs. dried Elderberries
  • ½ tsp. Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. Nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. Cloves

Directions:

  1. Heat the apple cider slowly on the stove.
  2. Once hot and steaming, add the elderberries, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Stir gently and cover. Turn the stove off and let the recipe infuse for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Strain the liquid, making sure to squeeze all the juice out of the elderberries!
  4. Reheat slowly to desired temperature and enjoy.

Note: This elixir will turn a very rich, dark purple color (almost black.) This is a good indication of how potent the elderberry is. Steep longer for more potency.

Green Goddess Latte

This frothy green latte is a decadent and wholesome way to start your day. Plus, it’s a great morning alternative to caffeinated beverages and can be enjoyed whenever you need an extra dose of nutrients or the full benefits of Moringa. Also delicious as an afternoon pick-me-up or in the evening for a healthy, warming alternative to sweet treats.

Servings: 1-2

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ tbs. Moringa Powder
  • 2 cups Milk (Almond, Coconut, Hemp, Cashew)
  • 2 tbs. Pure Spring Water
  • ½ tsp. Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. Cardamom
  • ½ tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 ½  tbs. Honey or Maple Syrup (to taste)

Directions:

  1. Begin by making a paste with the moringa. Place the moringa powder in a bowl and simply add hot water to the powder until it dissolves, not exceeding more than a few tablespoons of water.
  2. In a medium saucepan, warm up the milk slowly on low heat.
  3. When the milk has reached desired temperature, add the moringa paste. Whisk vigorously for 30-60 seconds. Add the cinnamon, cardamom and vanilla to the milk and whisk again to combine.
  4. Pour mixture back into your mug and add your desired sweetener of choice. Stir together while giving gratitude for the warm nourishment you’ve created. Enjoy!

Immuni-tea Healing Soup

This savory soup is the definition of healing in a bowl. This is the perfect remedy in times of illness and also a delicious, nutrifying meal any day of the week. Loaded with yumminess and immune boosting allies like astragalus, shiitake, nori, ginger and garlic, this soup will satisfy your taste buds while filling your body up with the nutrients you need to keep thriving all winter long.

Servings: 5-7

Preparation Time: 30-45 minutes now, 5 later

Ingredients:

  • 10 cups Pure Spring Water
  • 9-11 slices of dried Astragalus Root, sliced
  • 20 Shiitake Mushrooms
  • ¾ cup organic White Miso Paste, Chickpea Miso if possible
  • 3 tbs. Garlic, diced
  • 1.5 tbs. Ginger, shredded
  • 1 tsp. Horseradish, shredded
  • ½ head organic Cabbage, shredded (about 1.5-2 cups)
  • 1.5 cups Green Onion, chopped
  • 1.5 cups organic Carrots, sliced
  • 5 tbs. organic Lemon Juice
  • ½ tsp. fresh cracked Black Pepper
  • ¼ tsp. Salt, more can be added later if desired
  • ¼ tsp. Cayenne Pepper
  • 4 Nori sheets, cut into long thin slices
  • 1 bundle of your favorite Dark Leafy Greens, cut into thin strips
  • 10 tbs. organic Coconut Aminos, or 1 tbs. for every cup of soup
  • 3 tbs. organic Cilantro, to garnish

Directions:

  1. Begin by decocting the astragalus. Fill a medium sized pot with all 10 cups of water and bring to a gentle boil. When the water is just boiling, add astragalus and let simmer lightly for at least 15-20 minutes.
  2. Fill a large soup pot or crockpot with the decocted astragalus root & water. Slowly add the mushrooms, miso paste, ginger, garlic, and horseradish. Stir until the miso paste has dissolved and the roots have been fully submerged in water.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the nori, dark leafy greens, coconut aminos and cilantro.
  4. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 3-4 hours. Stir occasionally. (It is best to find a setting where the soup stays lightly simmering. A rapid boil may cause the soup to burn on the sides of the pot.)
  5. When veggies are cooked to desired tenderness, remove the astragalus roots.
  6. Upon serving, add the nori strips, coconut aminos and dark leafy greens. Stir and let marinate in hot soup for 7-10 minutes. Stir again, garnish with fresh cilantro and enjoy!

Jeanine Endsley

Jeanine grew up along the fresh waters of Lake Michigan where she discovered her passion for writing and nature as a young girl. Jeanine studied Massage Therapy and Holistic Healing at the Institute of Natural Therapies and is now an active practitioner.

Her passion for intuitive, nature-based healing also led her to study Herbalism at the Florida School of Holistic Living, and she is so excited to bring her love of herbalism, wholistic living and the Divine Feminine into the Shakti Journal and the raising of her first child.

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