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Protecting our immune system

What an experience we are living right now!

I received few days ago a document written by our teacher Isla Burgess (Herbal medicine) highly reputed in her field. I have the chance to have been one of her student this year.

I will paste her document that might be helpful for anyone interested in building up their immune system for this winter and due to this big sanitary outbreak.

If we get to catch any virus, it is always better to have a strong and resilient body that will quicker develop some immune response in case of foreign attack.

At the end of the document, I will add few more notes and her website.

Staying Well in a Changing World

Isla Burgess

Viriditas Centre for Herbal Resources and Viriditas Publishing.

(This a general handout and sorry but I won’t be replying to your questions).

I have put together some thoughts gleaned from all that I have been listening to over these last weeks and some of my own.

Firstly I think we need to stop thinking about what is going to kill the Covid 19 virus and more about what we can do for ourselves both to increase resilience and prepare for some emergency treatments.


Infections seldom take over a well rested, well nourished body’.

1. Get plenty of sleep.

2. Taking care to nourish yourselves wholistically

What does that mean?

There have been questions to the specialist virologists such as;

**Will Vitamin C stop me getting the virus?

There is no evidence that taking extra Vit C will prevent you from getting this virus BUT as Vit C is essential for immune function then having enough Vit C is important. There is some evidence that adequate levels will likely reduce the impact and shorten recovery time. For me this is not about going and buying supplements but eating wholefoods that have a balance of nutrients. You might want to increase your intake of ‘Kiwifruit’ or Citrus, black, blue and red fruits. Daily.

Also having enough of all Vitamins and Minerals to sustain wellbeing is important.

**Does Zinc improve immune function?

There does appear to be some differences of opinion here but one I trust Dr Souxsie Wiles says there is some evidence to support its use. If you have a compromised immune function, or are vegan/vegetarian then you might want to check on your zinc intake. Other minerals such as Selenium are important also. I prefer to use seaweed (1 teasp of Kelp granules) daily for a dose of all minerals.

**What about antioxidant use?

Vit A, C, E, Zinc, Selenium as well as phytonutrients (plant chemicals) are all anti-oxidants.

Most people have growing or have access to any or all of Rosemary, Sage, Thyme and Marjoram, dried and powdered and added to any savoury food, daily. This range of nutrients are powerful antioxidants. Add some garlic and Parsley for extra nourishment.

So these antioxidants are also anti-inflammatory and this virus triggers inflammation.

**What about Vitamin D?

At this time of year some sunbathing is fine – 30-60 mins.

**Optimum gut function is also important although it isn’t something that is being discussed. About 70% of our immune function is triggered in the gut. Yes pro-biotics are important such as regular intake of a organic yoghurt is beneficial BUT it is the pre-biotics that are more important. The pectin in cooked apples and quince and the algin in seaweed are important pre-biotics. This is easy for most of us. I like to make a vinegar from Inulin containing plants such as Burdock, Elecampane (also a lung tonic) and Dandelion root.

3. Build resilience (that includes the above)

a. Strengthen tissues.

Aim for 6-8 vegetables and 3 fruits daily. This is easier that you think.

Make up a big pot of 2-3 onions, a few cloves of garlic and cook in a little olive oil. Add chopped tomatoes (even canned ones), a bunch of parsley, a tbsp of the Rosemary, Sage and Thyme mix and you have 5 vegetables. You can cook anything or add any vegetable in this.

In Herbal Medicine we look to silica, that is harder from the diet generally due to a lack of bioavailability. It is found in many foods in small amounts and the absorption rates are low. Beer actually came out as having the best absorption rate and whole grain oats- reasonable. An old approach is to make Chicken Bone soup – great as a restorer generally.

b. Build immune function.

Making sure you are well nourished and well rested, attending to optimal gut health are all important as said above.

I have noticed some Shiitaki mushrooms in our local supermarket – they will help.

Your local Herbalist may be able to assist with more.

c. Reduce the impact of stress . Most health food shops have dried Chamomile, to make into infusions. 1-2 teaspoons per cup, pour over near boiling water and cover for 5-10 mins. Strain and drink.

4. Specific treatments- Kitchen Herbal Medicine

a. Throat infections

At the first sign of a sore throat. Make a strong infusion (as for Chamomile) but double the herb. We have a number of easily accessed and grown plants - Thyme/Sage and or Kanuka or Manuka.

Gargle every 10-15mins

b. Lung congestion

Fenugreek decoctions- see below.

I have heard from research in China that although the cough is often not productive

this virus may also be causing congestion in the lungs. Aniseed seeds that you might use in cooking do loosen mucous and make it easier to cough up. That could also contribute to a lesser chance of infection. Make as for Chamomile.

For Protection generally include garlic in food daily – better not cooked for general anti-microbial action. Salad dressings are a good way to have this or the Garlic honey below.

c. Generally

Lemon Drink - Per cup

To the juice of a lemon and 1 tbsp grated rind, add 1tsp of finely chopped ginger, 1-2 cloves of chopped garlic, 1tbsp honey, pinch of cayenne pepper or more. Fill to the top with hot water, stir and drink or eat all. A great before bed drink if you are not feeling well.


Peel and roughly chop several garlic cloves.

Cover with honey. Leave overnight. Take in tsp doses.

Fenugreek decoction (To reduce mucous)

To 1tbsp fenugreek seeds add I cup of water and soak for 15-20mins.

Bring very slowly to simmer, drink hot.

Stay well this winter.

I would also add that fear is a stressing factor and will impact your immune system. Mindfulness exercises like yoga, meditation, relaxation, self-hypnosis, or even workout are very important as you will bring your focus and awareness to something positive instead of letting you invaded by negative thoughts. More you calm down your mind, the better it is for your body-mind system to find its own balance. When your body is balanced, not only you feel relax, but all your organs, cells, hormones are functioning in harmony.

Stay inside, safe and warm!


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