Pathogenic germs are here to stay. In spite of efforts that began with Louis Pasteur to eradicate them from the face of the planet, we still come in contact with and must fight off infections and illness. The good news is these “encounters” give our immune systems some exercise. The bad news is sometimes they get the better of us. If you lead a health-conscious lifestyle, you will be pleasantly surprised how little you notice your immune system hard at work. However, when you do start to feel a little run down, there are some very effective natural options to give your immune system a nutritional helping hand.
Garlic – Garlic is a powerful antimicrobial (it kills viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic pathogens). Incorporating raw garlic into our diets is the best way to benefit from its properties. Three great ways to eat raw garlic are in hummus, guacamole, and salad dressings. You can even use it like a throat lozenge or swallow it like a pill if you’re tough enough. However, if you can’t quite stand the thought (or smell!) of munching on a garlic clove, try one of these three alternatives:
- Kyolic is an odorless garlic extract that can be taken orally without the taste or after-taste of fresh garlic (the garlic can be tasted slightly when sitting in the mouth to be swallowed, but goes away once swallowed). Kyolic’s Immune Formula also contains Vitamin C, astragalus, and mushroom extracts, all proven beneficial and safe in boosting immune system response.
- The pores in the soles of the feet are large, meaning that in spite of the thick skin that covers the feet they have the ability to absorb remedies into the bloodstream quickly. The feet also have many nerve endings that are connected to all of the various parts of the body. Applying garlic directly to the soles of the feet can therefore be an effective way of getting its healing properties into the body without eating it. Try peeling and slightly smashing a clove of garlic and placing it between your toes (or use a bandage to keep it in place elsewhere on the foot) while you sleep. Be warned: your room may smell like a pizzeria and you may wake up with garlic breath! But you will have undoubtedly given your body an immune-boosting dose of garlic’s amazing antimicrobials.
- Infusing a good quality oil with garlic is a great option for those with sensitive skin (e.g., children). Placing garlic straight on the skin can be too strong for some. Covering minced garlic with oil for just a half hour and then straining produces a potent remedy that can also be applied to the feet (with socks). If you don’t need a remedy right away, make a stronger oil infusion by placing the oil covered garlic in an oven that has been warmed to 200 degrees and then shut off. Let it sit in the oven until it cools (about 3-4 hours). Let it sit, covered with cheesecloth, another 4-5 hours at room temperature. Strain through cheesecloth and squeeze to release any remaining juice/oil. Store in a dark glass bottle in the fridge for maximum shelf life. Use as indicated above.
Elderberries – In the early fall before the world at large falls sick around us, we start taking elderberry syrup to gently strengthen our immune systems. Sometimes referred to as nature’s flu fighter, elderberries offer a pleasant tasting herbal supply of vitamin C, antioxidants, and antiviral components. Pre-made syrups can be purchased, but for the most control over ingredients and freshness, I like to make my own.
- ½ cup dried elderberries
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ½ tsp whole cloves
- 1 TBSP grated fresh ginger
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup raw honey
- Simmer the first five ingredients in a saucepan for about 30 minutes.
- Strain through cheesecloth and squeeze the berries to release any remaining juice.
- When just warm, mix in the honey until dissolved.
- If too cool to melt the honey, rewarm slightly by placing the container with your mixture in a bowl of hot water (do not heat directly as that will kill the beneficial bacteria/enzymes in the raw honey).
- For prevention without symptoms, take 1 TBSP per day.
- If feeling symptoms of illness come on, take 1 TBSP 3 times per day.
- This syrup will last for 2-3 months if stored in the fridge.
- Simmer elderberries in water, covered, for about 30 minutes. (If using echinacea root, it should also be simmered with the elderberries. If using echinacea leaves, add with the other herbs in the next step).
- Remove from heat, add the other herbs (if you have them), cover, and let cool and steep for another couple of hours.
- When just warm, strain and add the honey.
- Drink ¼ to ½ cup every few hours until symptoms subside.
- If you prefer to drink the tea warm, leave the honey out until you have reheated the portion you are going to consume and add honey to taste (heating the honey will destroy its natural antimicrobial goodness).
Essential Oils – Essential oils have only recently seemed to hit mainstream, but they’ve been around since the days of early civilization. I had used essential oils in the past and never really gotten much but a pleasant aroma out of them. But when a friend introduced me to doTERRA, I was hooked. Used properly, essential oils can be a very effective part of a healthy lifestyle. doTERRA offers an impressive array of single oils as well as some very effective synergistic blends. If you’re wanting to easily support your immune system, try On Guard, an oil blend roughly based on the Vinegar of the Four Thieves.
Sleep – OK, so this isn’t rocket science, but I’m afraid it’s something we discount all too often. Giving our bodies the rest they need is even more crucial when we are weakened by infection/illness. A little extra sleep when starting to feel run down is much easier than an entire day or two in bed due to illness. So drink some immune-boosting tea, apply some immune-supporting essential oils, and smoosh some garlic between your toes, then go. to. sleep.