Easy ways to support your immune health - tips from Chinese medicine
Supporting a healthy immune system is more important now than ever. Chinese medicine offers helpful herbs that can assist in supporting your immunity, relieve common cold and flu symptoms and aid recovery after illness, based on their traditional use.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been around for thousands of years, and uses herbal medicines to promote good health, including the health of the immune system. Here’s an easy four-phase approach to follow that integrates traditional approaches from both Chinese and Western herbal medicine to support immune system health.
1. Support your resistance
Strengthen your body’s resistance against minor infections with immunity supporting Chinese herbs. Astragalus is one of the most important immune herbs in TCM, where it’s traditionally used to reduce the frequency of colds and flu. It also supports resistance to minor infections.
Siberian ginseng is another herb to consider as it also aids resistance against minor infections. Siberian ginseng also relieves fatigue and supports the body’s natural stress resistance.
2. Relieve cold and flu symptoms
If a common cold or flu hits, a combination of Western and Chinese herbal medicines may help relieve symptoms, based on their traditional use. In Chinese medicine Japanese catnip is traditionally used to help fight mild upper respiratory infections and alongside the herb forsythia where it’s traditionally used to reduce mild fever .
Balloonflower is another Chinese herb; it’s traditionally utilised in TCM to reduce congestion of the respiratory tract and relieve mild bronchial cough.
3. Address cough and support healthy lung function
If your cold turns into a cough, the herbs elecampane and white horehound may be beneficial; they’re traditionally used in Western herbal medicine to help relieve coughs including those of mild bronchitis.
Consider supplementing these with stemona and Chinese licorice, which are traditionally used to relieve coughs and support healthy lung function in TCM. Pinellia is another herb to consider; in TCM it’s traditionally used to clear phlegm (mucus).
4. Support recovery
Once the acute phase of a respiratory infection is over, resume taking resistance-supporting herbs such as astragalus and Siberian ginseng especially if you're prone to frequent mild respiratory infections.
Other easy ways to support your immune system:
- According to TCM, spicy, warming and pungent foods are helpful for supporting the immune system, so make liberal use of garlic, onions, radishes, cinnamon, pepper, ginger and chilli
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet including fruit and vegetables, and healthy sources of protein, fat and carbohydrates
- Keep out of the wind – in TCM it’s believed that the immune system is impacted by exposure to windy weather, so stay inside on windy days or keep yourself warm with appropriate clothing if you’re going out
- Manage your stress! From the perspective of TCM, regular activity is absolutely vital, and qigong or tai chi are good choices, as well as meditation or yoga. Talk to a friend or a counsellor if you need support, too
- Get plenty of rest and a good night’s sleep
- Wash your hands regularly to prevent the spread of minor infections and don’t touch your face for the same reason
- Keep your distance from others if you have a mild respiratory tract infection and sneeze into your elbow to prevent the spread of infectious droplets
Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, worsen or change unexpectedly, talk to your healthcare professional.