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Today’s post is about discovering the difference between herbs for short- and long-term immune system support and explore the topic of lymphatic herbs – a class of herbs that is often overlooked for supporting immunity!
Let’s get beyond echinacea and elderberry for a moment. Most herbalists know about these two plants, but there are a whole host of other plants that can be used to support the health of the immune system. Most of these herbs can be divided as either providing good short term support or long term immune support.
Short Term Immune Support
Herbs for short term immune system support are the ones we turn to when our bodies are showing signs of an acute imbalance and we want to support immunity for a few days or weeks. Herbs that have a traditional reputation for clearing heat- like echinacea, andrographis, sida, and bidens all fall into this category.
Long Term Immune Support
When is Herbal Immune Support Helpful?
- Supporting the immune system when it is easily triggered by seasonal or environmental challenges
Supporting everyday healthy immune function
- Many herbalists believe that herbs can also be valuable when used in a supportive role for someone undergoing treatment for cancer. Herbal Medicine, Healing, and Cancer by Arlene Valentine and Donald Yance (#affiliate) is one of the best resources I know of for anyone interested in learning more about this topic.
When Shouldn’t Herbs for Immune Support Be Used?
Here are some examples of when herbal support for the immune system is not a good idea:
- Instead of an epi-pen and emergency medical treatment for anaphylaxis
- After having an organ transplant or when there is a need for anti-rejection medications
- If an autoimmune disease has been diagnosed, herbs that stimulate the immune system may be contraindicated
- It is probably best not to combine herbs that stimulate the immune system with medications that suppress it.
Exploring Lymphatic Herbs
Our lymphatic system plays a big role in immunity, and I wish more people would turn to herbs like cleavers, calendula, and redroot to help support their immune system instead of automatically reaching for oregon grape or goldenseal out of a misunderstanding about the “antibacterial” nature of these two herbs.
You see, the berberine in both of these herbs is poorly absorbed by the blood stream, so although berberine may have an antibacterial action in a petri dish, it doesn’t work that way in the body! Echinacea (another very popular immune supportive plant) is actually a lymphatic herb, although I think having a few other lymphatic herbs at your disposal is also a great idea!
All the best,