How to boost your immune system during the winter months?

December 04, 2019 4 min read

As we wake, sleep, interact with loved ones and hastily move from moment to     moment – We expend energy. It can be said our immune system and vitality reflect our cellular energy, and our wellbeing in how well we allocate said energy. Imagine our immune system as our cellular energy emanating as a protective and energetic force surrounding our body. The quality and strength of this vibrational protection is known in Chinese Medicine as our Wei Qi, or our defensive immune energy. Without explaining how our evolution has acquired an adaptive immune system, alongside our innate system, it is easier to view these systems in the fashion of eastern ideology, as the emanation of protective, radiant immune Wei Qi.

           We are a natural product of Gaia, Mother Earth; We are hard-wired to be in tune with the energy of the changing seasons and by working against, rather than with this somatic knowledge, we will find our Wei Qi to be deficient, experiencing symptoms such as restlessness, brain fog, and various illnesses. As the old Chinese adage goes, “Take a tonic in the winter, fight a tiger in the Spring.” Lay low, turn inward and keep warm when it’s cold, and go outside, live expressively and dance in the garden as the flowers turn. Amidst the stress of the holidays, adopting minimalistic proclivities and practicing self-reflective meditations are the two of the most proactive measures we may take in adapting to the silence of the approaching Winter Months. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Winter is the season of inward reflection, listening, silence and most closely associated with our Bones and Kidneys. Our kidneys govern our marrow, which gives rise to haematopoiesis (formation of RBC’s) and ultimately the cargo that delivers nutrition to feed our Wei Qi; Therefore, during the winter months, it is most important to nourish our most fundamental and basic fluid - Blood. B-Cells mature in the bone marrow and play a huge part in our adaptive immune response, as well as producing cytokines that increase Th1 and Th2 Helper T-Cell response. Bone Broths, slow cooked root vegetables, stewed meats and herbs rich in minerals will all increase the vitality of our blood as well as the functioning of our adaptive immunity. We may also incorporate minerals such as magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium and low dose copper to help ground, rejuvenate and recover. During these colder months, it is important to keep our Agni,or digestive fire ablaze by taking bitters to combat the cold, damp wind pathogens that take residence in our alimentary canal. Digestive bitters and other immune boosting bitter tonics such as Andrographis, Orange Peel, Shilajit and Fenugreek will help keep our Agni and immune system strong. We must also increase circulation and invigorate the blood by taking things like Ceylon cinnamon, capsicum, ginger and prickly ash capsules, this will keep our Wei-Qi energy just below the skins surface, where it is intended to function best. Calming Adaptogens such as Ashwagandha, Gynostemma and Holy Basil are great choices as night time herbal teas or tincture infused hot water to assist with both our immune and cortisol regulation. When we actually do get sick, damp heat clearing herbs that are antibacterial and alkaloidal can be administered to help kill and flush the pathogen. Andrographis, I have found, is the most effective and fast acting herb to boost both immune function and kill the pathogen. Here is a compendium of herbs I recommend, easiest taken by tincture, that are most effect in aiding our immune system during the colder months.

Herbs to consider when you are already sick: Andrographis, Boneset (contains Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids), Lomatium, Jade Windscreen Formula, Elder Flower, Yarrow, Honeysuckle Flower, Isatis, Oregon Grape Root and Baikal Skullcap.

           

Herbs that warm the Agni, increase circulation, absorption and boost immunity before illness strikes: Licorice, Astragalus, Turkey Tail and Reishi Mushrooms, Triphala, Cats Claw, Capsicum with ginger and cinnamon capsules, Elder berry/flower, Echinacea Angustifolia, Holy Basil, and Processed Rehmannia. Along with herbs, I like to utilize premade Chinese herbal tablets or capsules due to their convenience and ease of patient compliance.  Woman can take the timeless rehmannia six formula, used by woman to regulate kidney and liver yin energies throughout the colder months and as a tonic for blood support. Men can take Zuo gui Wan or You gui Wan. As Yin and Yang tonics, they are used to maintain vitality, boost Wei Qi, and increase circulation during the shortened days and colder months.

            Instead of viewing our immune system as something we wish to manipulate in order to combat illness, we should rather look at our humanness as a system, almost like a business. There are daily tasks to be completed every hour, as our body is on an organ clock. Energy or qi, move through the body’s meridians and organs in a 24-hour cycle. Every two hours the qi, or energy, is strongest within a particular organ and its functions within the body, carrying out deep cellular cleansing. Between 11 PM and 3 AM the Qi cycling in the Liver and Gallbladder are most active, which detoxify, balance hormones and process emotion – So shut eye between those times are most important! As CEO’s of the most miraculous and resilient corporation in business, we must treat our human vehicle as a 2019 Bently Mulsanne; Taking care by taking action, by maintaining nourishment and seeking ways to live more in-tune with the energy of the seasons we have evolved to personify.