IMMUNE HEALTH – 24/7, 365
by Mark J. Kaylor
Every autumn and winter we see article after article on various immune health related topics. It’s as if this was the only time we either get sick or need to pay attention to our immune system. This couldn’t be further from the truth. A wide variety of variables including our modern lifestyle, diet, stress levels, and environment, all come together to place our immune system in dire straits. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest that our immune system is under greater duress today than at any other time in human history. Not only does our daily lifestyle tax our immunity, but numerous chemical compounds that our immune system has never seen before are being introduced into our environment and food supply. We also have the potential crisis of a growing number of pathogens becoming resistant to all currently known treatments. For these reasons and more, sustaining and maximizing care of our immune system is ever so important.
The Three Musketeers
There are three natural remedies that can lay the groundwork for our immune system optimizing medicine chest. These “three musketeers” in particular are synergistic, support-ing and building off of one another’s healing activities while working in numerous ways and through a diverse array of pathways and actions, shepherding our cells and bodies to a stronger, more resilient and vital immune system.
The ﬁrst “immune musketeer” has the primary role of increasing the number of “troops” your body has to defend itself, as well as improving overall function of those trooper immune cells. The best ally for this is the Maitake mushroom; especially a well-researched unique beta-glucan from the Maitake called D-Fraction. Several comparative studies have demonstrated that Maitake D is the most effective remedy for such a task. Maitake has been shown to increase the numbers of several types of immune cells, as well as increase the activity of those cells. It may also improve overall immune system function and communication. Other research on Maitake suggests promise for chronic fatigue syndrome, hepatitis and neuro-protection. And for those of us with canine family members, there are a couple of clinical studies using it for dogs and cancer treatment.
Maitake’s anti-cancer action was originally thought to be only indirect by boosting and enhancing immune activity. Recent research on Maitake D-Fraction has shown that its anti-cancer actions may also be more direct. Cell culture studies have now demonstrated that it may induce what are called pro-apoptotic gene changes in several different strains of cancer, including breast.
Next up is a traditional remedy said to build the Wei Qi, the protective energy of the body, Astragalus. It has been shown to boost a number of aspects of our immune response including acting as an immuno-modulator, improving resistance to disease, enhancing NK cells, improving T-cell activity, potentiating anti-viral mechanisms, activating macrophage phagocytic activity, and raising white blood cell counts in people with chronic low levels. Clinical studies have demonstrated its effectiveness for preventing the common cold and may also reduce its duration and the severity of symptoms. It does all this while also protecting our cells, strengthening our heart, liver, spleen, kidneys, and increasing vital energy (Qi).
As mentioned in the opening paragraph, our immune systems are now being called upon to defend themselves against various drug resistant pathogens. Nature’s most valuable and diversely effective anti-microbial is Propolis. While it does support immune function, its most researched actions are for its anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal activities including several studies that even conﬁrm its effectiveness against a number of drug resistant pathogens. Clinical research demonstrates it may prevent and shorten the duration of colds, especially with children. Its adjunct immune supporting actions include free radical ﬁghting, reducing inﬂammation and protecting the liver and brain.
It’s Cold & Flu Time
While all three of the previously mentioned immune Musketeers may be beneﬁcial for both the prevention and treatment of upper respiratory tract infections, there are three other herbal allies that are particularly effective and called for when it comes to ﬁghting the common cold and ﬂu.
An obvious ﬁrst choice has to be Echinacea, the most well known immune beneﬁting herb in the West, which exhibits a variety of immune enhancing activities. One of its primary actions is the activation and activity-increasing of macrophage, the Pac-Man of our immune system. It also enhances NK cell activity and increases numbers of neutrophils. Echinacea is suitable for infections anywhere in the body and is effective for all bacterial and viral infections, particularly acute ones. Upper respiratory tract infections are where Echinacea is particularly useful. It can be utilized for prevention and treatment of the common cold or ﬂu and may be useful with tonsillitis, laryngitis and sinus infections.
Both Baptisia (aka Wild Indigo) and Boneset are synergistic healing remedies with Echinacea. Baptisia stimulates our immune responses and is speciﬁc for infections or mucus in the ears, nose and throat areas. It is also particularly useful with enlarged and inﬂamed lymph nodes. Boneset is a traditional medicine used by early European settlers for what they called “bone – break fever.” This remedy is speciﬁc for symptoms associated with the ﬂu, including aches, pains and fever. It also helps clear mucus from the upper respiratory tract and, of course, stimulates our immune response.
Long Term Deep Support
When it comes to immune health, the simple reality is that our immune system is not only important during cold and ﬂu season, it is absolutely essential to health 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Our immune system is involved and interconnected with the health of virtually every other major system and organ in the body. Our cardiovascular system’s health is dependent upon it; as is brain health. Endocrine, digestive, liver and respiratory health and function are involved as well. So, when working to support one’s immune health in today’s world, with all the stresses and strains, it is of critical importance to enhance the health and vitality of the body overall so that our immune system has the backing and energy it needs.
One long-used, highly prized traditional remedy stands out in this area, Cordyceps. While Cordyceps does have potent immune beneﬁts — boosting immune activity in immuno-deﬁcient individuals and increasing interleukin 12, interferon and NK cells — its ability to optimize health, vitality, life force, and energy (particularly as we age), is its true gift. As an adaptogen, it strengthens our endocrine system and supports nervous system health. As a leading tonic, it supports our lungs, heart, kidneys and adrenals. In traditional medicine, it is said to boost and build our Qi, while strengthening the organs and tissues of the body. This ally is all about restoring, revitalizing and rejuvenating our immunity and our whole body.
Fundamentally, immune health requires holistic health. Not one season a year, but every day of every year. What this means is that you need to be getting enough sleep, eating a healthy, whole food, plant-based diet, moving and exercising regularly and managing your stress levels. If you really want the above herbal allies to be most effective at supporting you, then you need to make sure that you are also nourishing your body, mind and spirit — so that they can be effective partners, enriching your immunity and overall health and vitality.
Mark J Kaylor
Mark J. Kaylor has been exploring holistic health and healing for close to four decades. He is the founder and director of the not-for-proﬁt Radiant Health Project. Mark welcomes your comments and questions and can be contacted at his website: www.RadiantHealthProject.com or on facebook at www.facebook.com/RadiantHealthProject