IDEA 9: Boost your immune system

Today, I'm handing over to my friend, the fantastically knowledgeable and generous Medical Herbalist, Lynda Jones, who has devoted her life to helping people find natural means to support their health and happiness. You are welcome!

LYNDA JONES Medical Herbalist

In response to the current situation I’ve been watching developments to see how and what the experts say herbal medicine may have to offer those affected. It’s an interesting one for me, as a Consulting Medical Herbalist I believe in treating the individual; improving and balancing the body’s internal systems to put people in the best place to tackle disease process and prevent infection from virus and bacteria. Time and time again in my busy practice I hear variations of these comments said from my patients…

‘I thought I was coming down with something, then the next day I woke up feeling fine
‘the rest of the family got ill, but I managed to avoid it
‘…it didn’t seem to hit me like it normally would

At times like this though, I as much as the next person want to know which herbs may have direct action. However, because the virus we currently face has unprecedented ramifications many ideas have been coming forward from the research-based herbalists; scientific data and comparisons are being made with previous similarly structured virus strains. Copious amounts of information is emerging, some of it is accurate, some of it not, it’s a challenge for even a health professional to decipher, never mind the layperson.

What I do think is helpful at this time is to share what I think you can do to help yourself, using things reasonably easy to source to optimise the function of your immune system. It’s my belief that how significantly you will be affected if infected, is largely down to how well your immune system functions. This is why the elderly and those with compromised immunity are most at risk.

Follow the guidelines about hand washing. I’d also suggest you use a decent moisturising hand or barrier cream several times a day too. Constant hand washing, and exposure to topical alcohol can make your hands dry and in those with sensitive skin cause cracking. I use a cream with marigold, chickweed and zinc but there are plenty of healing and moisturising hand creams on the market. You could try adding a chickweed and/or marigold infusion to any base cream you have around. Don’t be scared by this, just add it slowly a little bit at a time to monitor the consistency. Adding a little lavender essential oil will also help act as a preservative and keeping it in the fridge will help it last longer.

Make sure you keep hydrated and eat well, plenty of fruit and vegetables of different colours. Fresh is best but if you’re not able to source this frozen will do. Red berries are particularly helpful. You should be aiming for an absolute minimum of five different types, mostly made up of vegetables with one or two portions of the fruit. Lean protein such as lentils, beans, pulses, tofu, tempeh, eggs, fish and some meat if you like. These days we can get pasta that’s made with protein too! Healthy fats are important, and keep you feeling full – oily fish, seeds and nuts, flaxseed or hemp oil and avocado are all sources of good fats. Fermented foods help gut health which is important for the immune system so, if you like them, make sure you include things like kombucha, tempeh, miso, tamari, sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir.

There are those more qualified to suggest vitamins and minerals than I but those I’m choosing to use currently are vitamin D3 which helps regulate immune response, zinc and vitamin C that both support immunity.

Get outdoors if you can for a walk. Moderate exercise will help maintain good circulation.

Minimise stress, it’s a testing time for us all and the circumstances are unprecedented causing many to panic. Whilst it is important to keep abreast of current guidelines try to monitor and manage the time you spend on social media and news sites. Find more positive things to occupy your time – crafts, art projects, music, comedy films and TV shows, conversations not related to the corona virus with those you love, and time with pets if you have them. Meditation, yoga, tai qi, qi gong and other similar activities help ground and centre you easing the effects of stress. Stress has a depleting effect on your adrenal glands and as they are important for immune function the more you can nurture them the better.

And now to the herbs. I’m not usually one for promoting specific herbs for specific conditions as its limited in effect and assumes the premise that herbs work like pharmaceuticals and largely, they don’t. Individuals often need different herbs to treat the same disease. That being said there is a place for this for those for whom viruses are likely to be self-limiting; there are a number of herbs I think will be helpful right now that can be easily incorporated into daily life.


Think of a non-alcoholic mulled wine. Use vitamin C rich dark grape juice as a base and warm it through with some spices – any or all – ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, black peppercorns, star anise, dried orange peel. Stick the herbs/peel in a small piece of muslin/thin cotton tied up with string and steep for half hour or so in the simmering juice. If you can get hold of some rosehips then add those too and simmer gently, they are another amazing source of vitamin C. You can add honey too if you like it.

During the prevention stage echinacea and astragalus are reasonably easy to find. Echinacea is sold in most health shops – just take according to the instructions on the packet. Astragalus you might get in some international supermarkets, dried in strips / pieces to add to soups! I’d stop both these if a virus takes hold and then concentrate on different herbs to help with fever such as elderflowers, linden blossom, yarrow, catmint, peppermint and boneset.

Eat plenty of garlic. Wild garlic in particular has been highlighted as a possible aid to those suffering with this year’s virus. It’s the right time of year to be looking for this too, its delicious added to salads/soups or made into pesto.

Nettle has been identified as a possible help, nettle tea is widely available and fresh young nettles would combine nicely with wild garlic in pesto or added to soups.

Lemon balm is one of my favourite anti-viral herbs. Many of us have it in our gardens and, like wild garlic, is just beginning to sprout after the winter. It makes a delicious herbal tea, infuse for 4 minutes in hot water but keep covered if possible, so as not to lose the delicious lemony taste of the anti-viral oil.

I remain open for business with the recommended safety precautions and all of my current patients have switched to ‘virtual’ consultations. If you think I might be able to help please do not hesitate to contact me on 07878165440.

Lynda Jones BSc(Hons) is a Community Medical Herbalist with a busy practise in Folkestone, Kent. She is a member of the Association of Master Herbalists and The National Institute of Medical Herbalists and is trained to prescribe safely alongside conventional medicine.