The Immune system is designed to protect our bodies from foreign bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites as well as cells in our body that mutate abnormally. It is a very complex intelligence that affects and mobilises every organ in the body.
Antibodies, white blood cells, phagocytes, macrophages, stem cells, B cells, T cells, plasma cells, memory cells, and interferon make up the Immune system. The lymphatic system is the most affected as it is the system of the body that takes toxins out and nutrients to the blood. The liver and many other body systems are also affected.
*White blood cells, (or WBCs) consist of neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, lymphocytes, and monocytes; each function specificically.
- The INNATE or NON-SPECIFIC immune actions provide defense against any invader (pathogen, irritant or antigen) that may pose a threat. The epithelial cells of the skin form a tight barrier, and their shedding provides a first line of defense. The bacteria on the skin and the mucous membranes is also protective. Sweat, tears, saliva, mucus have enzymes that render pathogens harmless and act to flush them out. Phagocytes are the ARMY. They go around looking for pathogen associated molecular patterns (PAMPS). Once located, they engulf the pathogen and release potent poisons that kill and dissolve it. The Macrophages kill pathogens that live inside host cells. Polymorphs, or Neutrophils are smaller and they fight bacteria that form pus (Pyogenic bacteria). Cytotoxic cells that evolve to kill virally infected cells are called NK (Natural killer) cells.
Adaptive or SPECIFIC immune action provides defense against a pathogen that it recognizes from the past. Antibodies are Immunogobulin molecules created by B cells from exposure to germs, or from immunizations, antibodies from breast milk, etc. Antibodies are antigen specific.
Organizing antibodies and other cells, evolving to adapt to destroy harmful pathogens, the Adaptive Immune system (B lymphocytes) retains a memory of such pathogens it might have encountered in the past.
T lymphocytes destroy cell that hide inside the cells of the body where the antibodies cannot reach them. T cells have the ability to identify these cells and kill them or inhibit the virus from replicating or stimulate other immune factors such as cytokenes which act as messengers to warn other cells. Interleukin (stimulates or suppresses B and T cell activity) and Interferon (antiviral) and TNF (tumor necrosis factor) are cytokenes.
A healthy lifestyle: good nutrition and elimination, restful sleep, positive emotional outlook and favorable living conditions (you know, clean air, poison free foods, noise and other kinds of toxicity free environments!) all greatly benefit our immune systems, while the opposite conditions do not.
There are many herbs that benefit the Immune system. Here is a list of some of my favorites:
Andrographis: Immuno modulating, alterative, antithelmintic, febrifuge, antitumor, hepato protective and digestive. This plant has been used for centuries in India to treat a variety of diseases, including malaria, convalescence after fevers, liver disorders and cancer.
Astragalus: Root, is blood building, nourishing debilitated conditions, activates stem cells in the lymph and bone marrow and interferon to fight antigens. It has antitumor properties and is beneficial especially to the lungs.
Echinacea: An excellent lymph tonic. Anti viral, anti bacterial, antiviral, anti inflammatory, febrifuge, and vulnerary.
Elder Berry (Black): Antioxydant, antiviral, alterative, demulcent, as well as a febrifuge . It contains Viburnic acid which is valuable to treat bronchitis and other respiratory issues . It tastes great and can be made into jams, syrups and wines.
Garlic: Anti bacterial, antifungal, anti viral, Garlic helps prevent blood clots, reduces blood pressure, nourishes the liver and tastes great too!
Lemon balm: Delicious, antiviral, and nourishing to the nervous system. Excellent for new mothers, as it alleviates post partum depression and encourages breast milk production, provides the young babies with protection against viruses. and much relief to sufferers of chronic viruses.
Paud’arco: Anti inflammatory, anti bacterial, anti fungal, antioxidant, anti tumor and depurative. Excellent for the reproductive system as well as the digestive system. It cleanses the lymph and blood and is also highly effective as a vaginal douche or when used externally on the skin as a wash.
Olive leaf: Anti viral, and antifungal, cardiotonic, reduces blood pressure, choalogogue, inhibits blood clots.
Reishi Mushroom (other mushrooms such as Shitake, Maitaki etc) Mushrooms are highly beneficial to the immune system. They are Adaptogens, nourishing the body and fortifying it in the cases of prolonged stress or illness. Anti aging, they are said to rejuvinate the immune system as well as being tonics to the cardiovascular, respiratory, and digestive systems. They have liver protective properties against degeneration and hepatitis. Generally beneficial to any one who suffers from degenerative illnesses. I would simply include them in my diet.
Spilanthes: Altertive, antibacterial, anti malarial, anti fungal and antiviral. It is a strong medicine that proves to be valuable in cases of acute infections such as Malaria as well as Lyme Disease.
St. Joan’s Wort: Antiviral and antidepressant, an excellent nervous system tonic. As a vulnerary, it is used for nerve pain, such as Siatica, burns (including burns from radiation) and wounds topically as well as internally.
Lata Chettri Kennedy, 2001