Adaptogens and their three qualifications

It’s always useful to start with supporting the body both physically and emotionally when considering immune care which is why adaptogenic herbs are a ‘must’ for enhancing our ability to resist infection. The category of adaptogenic herbs can help you adapt more quickly to whatever is new or invasive to your surroundings. Be it emotional, physical or environmental which will affect your immune capacity. They can even help to strengthen and change some hereditary weakness. When the common cold virus came to Greenland from America, many Inuit died. The virus was so alien to them that their cells couldn’t cope. Their adaptability was overwhelmed, for there were no immune-cell memories of the virus. The next generation fared better, something common to all diseases throughout history. This is an extreme example of a situation in which adaptogenic herbs would be useful.

What Must an Adaptogenic Herb Possess

• It must increase the body’s immune function using a wide range of actions, rather than just one specific action.
• It must restore and maintain balance in all body systems at no expense or aggravation to them.
• And it should not produce side effects.

In general terms, adaptogens are described by herbalist Professor Christopher Hobbs as “working by supporting adrenal function, thus counteracting the debilitating effects of stress; increasing the concentration of enzymes that help produce energy in the body’s cells; helping cells to eliminate the waste by-products of the metabolic process; and providing an anabolic effect that helps build muscle and tissue. Helping the body use oxygen more efficiently and enhancing the regulation of biorhythms”. Some famous adaptogens are Siberian ginseng root, schisandra berry, reishi mushroom, pfaffia root and rhodiola herb.

The Russians have probably done the most research into adaptogens. They have concluded that there also secondary adaptogens, herbs that are not quite as strong, but nevertheless useful. These secondary adaptogens help to balance and normalise the immune system, nervous system and hormone system. Those most recently studied include gotu kola, wild oats, astragalus and burdock.
Adaptogenic herbs can be used daily as food, in herbal teas, as tinctures, or in capsules. They are ideally suited to being combined with other plants as they mix well and remain balanced and supportive.

The beautiful Siberian ginseng or eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is a herb of our time and, if used on a more widespread basis, could help balance against environmental pollutants and other similar immune stressors. This plant does many things, for instance, it helps to regulate blood sugar levels and influences and nourishes the pituitary gland and adrenal system. It protects the liver and helps eliminate drug residues from the body. Taken on a daily basis, Siberian ginseng increases our ability to resist infection; it has also been shown to enhance phagocytosis and the production of leukocytes thus directly affecting the immune system. It is a good long-term tonic that should be used by those suffering from many conditions.

Echinacea pupurea and angustifolia Species

If you look at my February Newsletter, we blend the two above species (of root only) thus giving the stronger of the two species (angustifolia) but also the weaker one too (purpurea) thus combining strength with the slow release mechanism of ‘purpurea’ which is useful for the immune system overall.

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)

The root of the herb goldenseal is a wonderful immune herb for really chronic situations and can be a real lifesaver. For instance, I use it for M.R.S.A with good results. Sadly it has been overused and often inappropriately so and it became over-harvested in the wild eventually becoming endangered. It was put on the protective C.I. T.I.E.S list and is now carefully harvested, with only 1 crop existing a year; and the price is high. Over 40 years ago, my teacher Dr.Christopher taught me its myriad uses for conditions ranging from eye problems to typhus, tooth infections to serious gut infections.

Barberry root (Berberis vulgaris)

You may have this flowering in your garden at present (or soon) and the picture above may help you identify it. The American herbalist Professor Christopher Hobbs reported that barberry’s antimicrobial effects are useful against a wide range of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa- Salmonella typhi, Candida albicans, Neisseria meningitides, Chlamydia and at least 15 more microbes. In fact, its action is much stronger than that of many commonly used antibiotics. One of its fascinating qualities is that it releases compounds that trigger an immune response caused by increased blood supply to the spleen. It also activates macrophages. Barberry’s tonic activity on the gallbladder and liver is supremely effective. Skin diseases are often alleviated, mainly thanks to this effectiveness on the liver. It makes an excellent tonic for the delicate, the weak, and children.

Garlic bulb (Allium sativum)

Garlic is the immune systems greatest friend and it can be used daily to keep immune levels balanced. Fresh garlic, which is a stronger antifungal than nystatin, has been proved to destroy viral infections such as measles, mumps, chickenpox, herpes simplex 1 and 2, herpes zoster, viral hepatitis, scarlet fever and rabies. It also defeats many types of bacterial illness including streptococcus, staphylococcus, typhoid fever, diphtheria, cholera, bacterial dysentery (traveller’s diarrhoea’), tuberculosis and tetanus. In 2017 research talked about its use with pneumonia, bone infections and more, detailing that compounds in the garlic stopped molecules inside the bacteria from working by interfering with their communication signals. In fact, in August 2018 research results from Cardiff University UK showed that the team had recreated the garlic compound ‘ajoene’ in the lab for the very first time, spurred by the threat of drug-resistant superbugs. With the intent to use it to fight antibiotic-resistant situations cheaply and in enormous quantities.

Olive (Olea europaea)

Olive leaf is a very effective all-around herb, not least for being of great assistance to the immune system. It was used in 1927 to eradicate malaria in some areas. One of its chemical constituents, calcium enolate, seems to have particularly interested plant chemists who feel that it is largely responsible for fighting viruses and killing fungi, parasites and bacteria. In the case of viruses, it is able to interfere with a number of key processes, thus inhibiting their spread, replication and nutrition.

And Many More

As I have said already, there are literally hundreds of immune herbs. Eucalyptus leaf, juniper berries, pine needles, pau d’arco inner bark and thyme leaves are a small selection, capable of tackling a wide range of microbes, bacteria and viruses.

Essential oils are natural antibiotics of course. About 1910 it was discovered through a scientific experiment that the volatile oils from various plants were as strong as, if not stronger than, phenol, a much-used chemical antiseptic. These oils include garlic, angelica, citrus lime fruit, lemon and fennel. Lavender, oregano, rosemary, eucalyptus and thyme are not as strong are also potent. Some Australian surgeons use diluted eucalyptus oil wherever a European surgeon would use a manufactured antiseptic, for instance, to swab out surgical cavities. (Research has shown that tea tree essential oil is supremely effective against the scourge of antiseptic-resistant bacteria including Staphylococcus aureus).

There is No One Magic Bullet

They’re all fantastic and fortunately, there are so many choices worldwide that we’ll never run out of options. For optimum results, we all need to give ourselves the best nutritional support as possible alongside these herbs. And crucially we must ensure we empty our ‘body dustbins’ (the bowel) to keep any toxins ‘dead or alive’ moved as speedily as possible out of the body. Add to all this as much exercise as we are able to achieve, however little.

By Jill Davies of Herbs Hands Healing