I’m excited for this one, so let’s jump right in!
This is an extremely broad topic and I could write forever of the things I’ve learned and how awed I am by how intricately God created us but I’m just going to brief over some of the topics. I want to start with the phrases self, non-self and Antigen.
Self: This is familiar to the body. Think of normal + healthy cells and body tissue.
Non-Self: This is not familiar to the body. Think of Pathonegenic invaders such as; bacteria, parasites + foreign compounds.
Antigen: These can come from pathogens or other substances like pollen & dust. Antigens are individualized and not everyone reacts in the same way.
When our immune response is compromised by non-self antigens there are two types of immune responses that can take place:
We were all born with innate immunity. This is your body’s go-to when exposed to non-self antigens. The immune system sends signals to various systems in the body to react in a physical + chemical way as a protective mechanism to fight off unwanted bacteria. Eg. Sweating, coughing, sneezing and even through crying. Did you know that our tears have specific enzymes that help counteract and expel unwanted pathogens in the body, SOOOO cool!
Acquired immunity is exactly that, acquired. This is an adaptive kind of immunity and it’s runner up if innate immunity fails. Acquired immunity allows the body to come into contact with infectious diseases. This helps to build your immune system so the next time your body encounters the same disease, your body remembers and is able to fight the infection off quicker.
Passive immunity is when antibodies are introduced from another organism. Eg. Vaccines. While you can potentially experience resistance when exposed to a certain pathogen, it doesn’t allow the bodies adaptive system to understand the pathogen and build it’s individual antibodies.
Along with our various immune responses we have cells and organs that all contribute to a healthy functioning immune system.
Granulocytes: Found in blood + tissue. They help fight pathogens.
Macrophages: They activate lymphocytes.
Lymphocytes: White bloods cells that activate during acquired response.
B-cells: They produce antibodies and use specific signaling to activate T-cells.
T-cells: They directly attack the pathogen. They also get broken down into different types. T-help + T-killer cells, memory T-cells and regulatory T-cells.
Immune related systems:
This is just scratching the surface of the vast intricacies of how God created us. If that doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what will. While we have an incredible Creator, we live in a fallen world and unfortunately that means occasionally getting sick. I’m a big believer that health encompasses more than just one aspect of your life, so I’m going to take you through some practical ways you can be supporting your immune system on a day to day basis, that way if you do come into contact with seasonal threats or illness you’ve already been taking practical steps to nurture your body through the healing process.
I know I sound like a broken record but food is medicine people!!! Truly. Everything starts in the gut microbiome and in order to have a flourishing + thriving immune system and body, you need to be feeding + fueling your body with w h o l e foods that are going to do wonders to your gut flora. You have the power to change your gut micro biome by feeding your body a variety of nourishing foods full of micro and macro nutrients. Let’s get back to our roots and simplify the food we consume. Avoid processed foods, refined sugars and hydrogenated oils. Eat more vegetables, fruits, eggs, meats, nuts and seeds.
This one gets compromised way too often and as human beings we need to be prioritizing sleep as it is vital if we want to function optimally. In this day and age 8 hours a night is extremely uncommon but after a busy day it’s SO important to be giving your body the rest it actually needs. That might mean not scrolling on your phone before bed or not watching that extra episode of your favourite tv show but those are the trivial sacrifices you might need to make in order for your body to fully rejuvenate.
Here are some super simple yoga poses you might want to incorporate into your night time routine to wind down before having a dreamy sleep.
ACUPRESSURE FOR THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
I’ve recently embarked on the journey of dabbling with acupressure. We all know I’m a lover of all things natural and I am alllllll for functional medicine, so when I read a referral from Kate Eskeri’s, the foundation blog, I couldn’t help but jump on it. While it might seem a little out there for some people, I genuinely believe we can be supporting our health and wellbeing through natural practices like this.
Acupressure is an ancient healing practice that uses the fingers to press down on certain parts of the body to stimulate pressure points and as a result release tension and promote blood flow.
This is a photo from a book I’ve recently purchased to give you an accurate indication of where you need to be pressing to receive the full benefits of this practice. I generally rub each pressure point in a small circular motion for a few minutes on and off. Note: Area may be a little tender and sore as you are putting pressure on more sensitive areas.
Sea of energy (CV 6) – Strengthens the immune system + internal organs. Relieves abdominal pain, constipation, muscle pain and gas.
Three mile point (St 36) – Strengthens the whole body, in particular the immune system, aids digestion and receives fatigue.
Elegant mansion (K 27) – Strengthens the immune system. Relieves chest congestion, coughing, depression and anxiety.
Bigger Rushing (Lv 3) – Boosts immune system and helps relieve head aches.
Sea of tranquility (CV 17) – Regulates the thymus gland, boosts immune system, receives anxiety + depression.
HERBS TO SUPPORT THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
I love the fact that we have access to such beautiful and natural resources to help support our bodies and our individual needs. Herbs are a powerful tool to use for healing ailments in the body in a gentle way.
These herbs help enhance and rebalance the bodies natural defenses.
Astragalus – Astragalus membranaceus (fabaceae) – Root. This beautiful herb is nourishing + sweet and can be used in soups and broths during those cooler months to prevent sickness. It has been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine. It acts as an adaptogen, antioxidant, antiviral and hypotensive. It’s energetics are slightly warming + moistening.
Shiitake – Lentinufa edodes (marasmiaceae) – Mushroom. Shiitake is native to Japan and can help stimulate immune function, more specifically, T-cell activity. It is full of antiviral properties and has a neutral to warming + slightly moistening effect on the body.
Reishi – Ganoderma lucidum (ganodermataceae) – Mushroom. Reishi is known to boost the immune system and bring balance. It is an adaptogen, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory antiviral and nervine. It has a dry to neutral and warming effect on the body.
These herbs help to increase the immune response and are generally encouraged to be taken at the beginning of illness.
Echinacea – Echinacea spp. (asteraceae) – Root + Aerial parts. Echinacea increases the amount of T-cells. It’s alternative, antimicrobial and lymphatic. It’s energetics are cooling.
*Short time use at the beginning of illness.
Elder – Sambucus canadensis and S. nigra (viburnaceae) – Berry, flower. While elder is amazing for the immune system, it’s important when harvesting you ensure you are picking responsibly. Look for purple, black and blue. Anything red or green can be toxic. Elderberry has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiviral properties and is cooling to the body. Elderflower is alternative, anticatarrhal, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and nervine. It is cooling and drying to the body.
Garlic – Allium Sativum (amaryllidaceae) – Bulb. Garlic may act directly against pathogens located in the gut. It can activate volatile oils and in turn can exit the body through the skin. It is anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, diaphoretic, diuretic and expectorant. It’s energetics are warming.
Elderberry + Echinacea Tincture Recipe
When creating herbal tinctures I love using the folk method. This means there is no specific quantity of ingredients used.
Echinacea root – dry
Elderberries – dry
100% Vinegar or Apple Cidar Vinegar. I enjoy working with vinegars as my solvents oppose to alcohols.
*When using vinegars as a solvent, the shelf life isn’t as long. It’s about 6 months.
Fill the jar about 3/4 with herbs
Top the rest with vinegar or solvent of choice
Place wax paper over glass jar before screwing lid on tightly
Give the glass jar a shake to ensure all herbs are completely covered
Place the jar in a cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks to ensure all plant constituents are drawn out into the vinegar
Once 4-6 weeks is up, strain the tincture, place in a new glass jar and keep for 6 months.
I hope this post gave you a little more insight on ways you can be protecting + boosting your immune system from a more holistic approach. It’s so important to be taking daily steps to strengthen our bodies and honour God by ensuring we are taking care of ourselves.
Please ensure you check with your health care professional before consuming any of the herbs listed above and before making any major lifestyle changes. This information is for education purposes and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
R e f e r e n c e s :
I am absolutely loving my course and a bunch of the information in this post is stuff I have learned through Herbal Academy.