Our immune systems have taken on whole new importance since the pandemic and herbs to boost immunity are now the most common question I get asked. It’s a good time to make sure your defences are still in tip-top condition particularly as we move away from covid testing and into more personal responsibility.

After any major challenge, your body needs time to recover. We have all been through, indeed are still going through very challenging times. So, we need to pay attention to what our bodies need right now.

Firstly, let’s think about what actively works against our immune function. Stress and poor diet are highest in terms of their influence because both negatively impact our immunity and stamina. Taking time to recuperate is vital, extra rest, good sleep, and a healthy diet will go a long way to ensuring recovery are as seamless as possible.

The worst culprit in the diet for reducing immunity is sugar. But before you go sugar-free be aware that many of the sugar alternatives are even worse for you. So, try to retrain your palate to crave sugar less and opt for healthier alternatives like honey or stevia. Herbs that can help include cinnamon which balances blood sugar levels and makes you less likely to crave sugar and make poor food choices.

Make sure you feed your body what it needs including a rainbow of fresh fruit and vegetables daily. We all need a good source of vitamin C at the moment as it can be very helpful to boost immunity so if you can’t get it from fresh food, consider supplementing.

Zinc is also a key mineral that supports immunity so make sure you either supplement or eat plenty of food sources like cashews, almonds, baked beans, and also meat if you eat it.

We’re looking at immunity this week – and once the basics are looked after, then we can turn to some key herbs that can support us.

Surely everyone has heard of this super-herb by now? The secret herbalists know is that it was originally snake bite medicine and originates from North America. This means that it is very good at helping the body at the onset of infection because it raises the white blood cell count and it’s your white blood cells that fight infection for you. It’s a great herbal ally for the moment you feel that tickle in your throat and can either help you avoid getting a cold or reduce the severity of symptoms and the amount of time you have them. I also use it when symptoms are lingering or when a person is getting one infection after another without much of a break in between. Best taken in tincture form to get a strong enough dose. My favourite over-the-counter product is A. Vogel’s Echinaforce.

In the first year of the pandemic, stocks of elderberry syrup ran out so last year people made sure they got theirs early!  Elderberry is packed with vitamin C which supports immunity and it also has an anti-viral action. It has long been used as a traditional remedy for coughs, colds, and even flu. It is usually taken as a syrup and there are two available to buy that I recommend – Pukka’s Elderberry Syrup which also has warming ingredients like cinnamon in it. Sambucol also makes syrup for children which is very useful to keep them from coming down with every bug they come across at school.

Sometimes the simplest kitchen remedies are just what you need to reach for and the best thing is, you can grow them yourself or have them to hand. Thyme has a high level of antimicrobial essential oil in it, meaning that it is very helpful to take at the onset of a cold or sore throat, and taking it regularly may help to stop any invaders from getting past your first-line defences. Simply pick a couple of fresh sprigs from the garden and add to a mug of boiled water, infuse for at least 5 minutes and drink 2-3 cups a day. You can add honey for some extra immune support and help soothe your throat too. If you only have dried to hand, put half a teaspoon in a teaball per mug and use it in the same way. If there’s any left at the bottom of the mug, gargle it when it is cool for some extra, topical assistance.

Simple steps can make sure your body has all that it needs both to recover and to see off any new pathogens coming your way. With good rest, a healthy diet, supplements, and herbs where they are needed – and your body will thank you for it.