Everybody is concerned about the possibility of catching the swine flu (H1N1), a form of influenza that has recently emerged. I have been asked what can be done to prevent infection by the swine flu using herbal supplements.
Volumes have been written on the subject of immune-boosting supplements. Since the question seems to be of vital concern, especially if you've been listening to the news lately, I will cover what I consider, only the best ways to boost your immune system with Traditional Chinese Medicine.
I must diverge for a moment, if you are serious about building a strong immune system as a few lifestyle issues must also be implemented. Otherwise, no matter what supplements you take, long term benefits will elude you. I will only list the absolute essential practices you need in your daily life to keep your immune system in balance or homeostasis.
Getting enough sleep is essential. Drink water and exercise everyday. (At the very least fit some walking into your day.) Exercise is also a great way to reduce stress, which is next on this list. Eat a healthy diet, think variety and consume as little sugar as possible. If you are not incorporating these practices into your everyday life, you are weakening your immune system and any variety of infections will find you a welcome host.
That being said, boosting your immune system with Chinese herbs can and will help you prevent infections, but herbal supplements are not an overnight quick fix. Chinese herbal formulas should be taken for at least one month for a powerful, long lasting effect. Adaptogenic herbs such as ginseng, shiitake mushrooms, ganoderma, (also known as reishi mushrooms), astragalus, cordyceps and eleuthero are all herbs at the top of the "boost the immune system" list. Adaptogenic herbs do exactly what their name implies, they assist the body in "adapting" to its environment. Keep in mind Chinese herbs are best taken within a formula, rather than individually, to enhance synergistic actions between herbs.
Scientific studies have shown these herbs all support and enhance the body's immune functions. These adaptogenic herbs have compounds such as polysaccharides which increase the body's natural killer cells, also known as lymphocytes. Extensive studies also support the claims that these herbs promote the activity of antibodies, improve the body's resistance to stress and infections, help balances stress, reduces allergies, improve energy and promote healthy liver functions, just to name a few. A side note, if you are taking immuno-suppresant drugs these herbs are not recommended as they have potent immune enhancing effects which can increase the risk of rejection of the
drugs and thus may severely compromise a person's health.
Most importantly, if you are looking to purchase any medicinal herbs please buy from a reliable source that you can trust. There are many companies who do not start with high quality crude herbs. Quality herbs, testing for contaminants, proper storage and preparation are all vital to ensuring a herbal products potency. I can't stress enough, the importance of knowing your buying from a reputable source.
I wish you good health and a strong and healthy immune system.
Cathy Margolin is a Licensed Acupuncturist in CA and has been certified as a Diplomat in Oriental Medicine from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. She has specialized in Chinese Herbs and her company PACHerbs.com caries high potency herbal products sold in individual packets for freshness. She has visited herb manufacturers in both China and Taiwan and has extensively researched Chinese herb processing. You have full permission to reprint this article provided this box is kept unchanged.