Jess says: These are my tried and tested top seven immune-boosting and healing herbs that help prevent infections and strengthen natural immunity.
This list is not of the most common herbs found in an online search, or even in medical papers or research. It’s compiled from my own extensive clinical experience of treating thousands of patients and is backed up by traditional herbal uses and real-life results that I have seen for myself.
The traditional Chinese herb, Huang Qi, or Astragalus membranaceous, is one of the most commonly used herbs. It is traditionally used as an immune tonic to heal the immune system and is good for patients who are weak after illness or medical treatments, burnt out or low in energy.
Evidence shows that astragalus can stimulate the immune system1 and improve its function after illness.2 It can also significantly improve gut health after the gut is damaged3 (its results are superior to L-glutamine). This may be one of the ways it strengthens immunity, as evidence supports that the immune system is heavily linked to our gut health. It’s also been shown to be beneficial in auto-immune diseases like lupus4 and myasthenia gravis.5
The root of the astragalus plant (which is part of the pea family) is dried and sliced to make the herb. It can be taken as a supplement, bought as a powder and added to smoothies or hot drinks, or taken as it is (it has a relatively pleasant flavour). Three or four slices can also be added to a slow-cooked bone broth or chicken soup for a delicious infusion into a meal.
Jess says: Astragalus is definitely one of my favourite herbs of all. I use it in a huge number of my herb prescriptions for patients. Its main superpower is its ability to strengthen both the patient and their immune system. It’s safe, gentle and effective, and is a beautiful adaptogen (it helps you cope with stress) that really lifts energy, as well as being a fantastic immune tonic….
- Brush J, Mendenhall E, Guggenheim A, Chan T, Connelly E, Soumyanath A, Buresh R, Barrett R, Zwickey H.The effect of Echinacea purpurea, Astragalus membranaceus and Glycyrrhiza glabra on CD69 expression and immune cell activation in humans Phytother Res. 2006 Aug;20(8):687-95. doi: 10.1002/ptr.1938. PMID: 16807880.
- Wu J, Wang YX, Su WL, Zhu WX, Lu JW, Li ZK. Effect of astragalus injection on serious abdominal traumatic patients’ cellular immunity Chin J Integr Med. 2006 Mar;12(1):29-31. doi: 10.1007/BF02857426. PMID: 16571280.
- Wang QZ, Chen XP, Huang JP, Jiang XW. [Effects of Couplet Medicines (Astragalus Membranaceus and Jiaozhen) on Intestinal Barrier in Postoperative Colorectal Cancer Patients] Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 2015 Nov;35(11):1307-12. Chinese. PMID: 26775475.
- Cai XY, Xu YL, Lin XJ. [Effects of radix Astragali injection on apoptosis of lymphocytes and immune function in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus] Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 2006 May;26(5):443-5. Chinese. PMID: 16883914.
- Niu GH, Sun X, Zhang CM. [Effect of compound astragalus recipe on lymphocyte subset, immunoglobulin and complements in patients with myasthenia gravia] Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 2009 Apr;29(4):305-8. Chinese. PMID: 19526753.