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General characteristics

General characteristics

Immunity and the immune system describes the concept of our bodies defences against pathogens (disease causing organisms) and anything that isn't 'us' like foreign bodies or environmental elements. Conventional medicine tends to define the immune system as comprising the immune cells such as those that produce antibodies and chemical or physical attacks; and also the immune responses like fever, inflammation, cough reflex and increased mucous production. According to this theory, when the immune system is over-reacting then hypersensitive allergic responses are induced (such as in hayfever) and also autoimmune disorders when the body appears to attack itself in error. An under active immune system when defences are low is associated with frequent infections, allergies, tiredness etc. In reality both an under and over active immune response are just different sides of the same coin.

The concept of immunity and the immune 'system', I think, gives only part of the picture. For me the whole body is the immune system, including the mind. We live surrounded by potentially harmful substances like viruses, bacteria, environmental toxins and the like every second of every day and our bodies are also colonised by prolific bacteria and yeasts in our digestive system and on our skin. It is becoming common knowledge now that certain bacteria in the intestines are highly involved in maintaining healthful and balanced bacterial populations and that without them, the whole system suffers and conditions arise that encourage chronic disease processes to begin. The mind and emotions also play a very important role in our defences. Negative thoughts and feelings have a detrimental impact on health whereas positive emotions can boost vitality and overall health. This article from a 2003  New Scientist magazine mentions a small study. Most people will agree that they notice better health when they feel happy, optimistic, playful, forgiving or excited and worse health when feeling depressed, angry, grumpy, vengeful, stressed or fearful.

The power of the mind and positive emotions is also demonstrated in the 'placebo' effect. Placebos are given to people during a medicine trial as a control to see how well a remedy works. Many times people taking the placebo (non remedy) achieve very effective healing when no remedy of any kind has been taken. Placebos are becoming increasingly more effective at healing than drugs. Any new drug intended to come on to the market needs to out perform placebos in trials...many do not come close to the efficacy of the placebo.

Nutrition also plays a vital role in overall vitality and the health of the immune 'system'. A diet high in poor quality foods will eventually (after a myriad of warning signs like constipation, headaches, lethargy etc) lead to a backlog of toxic sludge like material in the tissues that slows and encumbers the bodies channels of elimination. This build up of waste products irritates and dirties the tissues and blood, reduces overall nutrition available to cells and hinders waste removal from cells also. Dirty cells and tissues are ones that won't function properly. The linings of the digestive system can be irritated by poor quality foods and end up in a state of permanent inflammation, leading to 'leaky gut' and the progression of immune disorders like rheumatism. Many so called auto-immune disorders can be corrected with good nutrition and a few gentle yet persistent cleanses and herbal tonics. Regular exercise, even gentle exercise like walking, helps to move the blood and lymph fluids which are involved in the movement of nutrition and waste.

In summary, to improve immunity you will need to improve diet, gently cleanse the channels of elimination and make sure they are working efficiently, add some beneficial bacteria to your digestive system and ensure the digestive system is working well, exercise regularly and, perhaps most importantly, feel more positive about yourself, your life and others.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Eat foods as close as possible to their natural state. Processing, synthetic preserviatives and refining serve to remove many valuable nutrients and to add many harmful additives that are deleterious to health.

Avoid refined sugars and carbohydrates as they create the sludge like material to build up over time, especially when eaten regularly.

Eat a good sized portion of leafy greens daily.

Berries and plants with bright colours contain high levels of bioflavonoids and anti-oxidants which appear to boost overall vitality.

Drink a few glasses of fresh water daily, hydrated cells are healthier and stronger then dehydrated ones.

Include plenty of organic fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and good quality unprocessed animal products if not vegetarian. Organic foods are far less polluted with toxic products (hormones, pesticides, antibiotics etc) which weaken the whole body.

Many people eat beetroot for its blood building qualities and high iron content.

Use the culinary herbs liberally. Things like garlic, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, chilli, horseradish, black pepper, oregano, thyme, bay leaf, coriander, parsley, rosemary, sage, dill, cumin, cardamon etc have been used by us since we first started cooking and are all either valued for blood cleansing, digestion promoting or blood moving properties. All these culinary herbs have immune stimulating qualities in one way or another.

Local honey (made by bees from flowers, not white sugar water) is anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial and also contains many nutrients. It also makes a great addition to the more unpalatable herbal teas. Propolis is also great for increasing general immunity.

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

Many herbs are heralded as stimulating the immune system but as we see this is a lot to ask from a single herb to improve all the factors involved with immunity. Quite often these herbs are ones that stimulate a particular aspect of immunity such as an increase in white cells as in Echinacea. Echinacea increases the activity of our general immune cells and improves their chances of fighting an infection. You can be quite liberal with the dose, a teaspoon of strong tincture (at least 1:2) up to 5 times daily in the early stages of infection.
Other herbs are specifically anti-bacterial, anti-fungal or anti-viral and can be used when a specific problem such as fungus is encountered. Good examples include garlic, goldenseal, thuja, myrrh, thyme, chapparal, wild indigo, pau d'arco.
Cayenne/chilli has unique effects on the immunity and vitality. Add a pinch of powder to herbal teas and increase gradually over weeks to up to a teaspoon.
Herbs that improve the functioning and health of certain systems or organs are called tonics. The tonic herbs include vervain, nettle, gentian, barberry, yarrow, oatstraw and chamomile amongst many others will all benefit the whole system when taken regularly.
Herbs to cleanse the lymphatic system and help clear a backlog of waste and cattarrh/mucous could include fenugreek, alfalfa leaf, marigold flowers, cleavers, mullein flowers or leaves and red clover. Use in tea form in equal parts, a heaped teaspoon per cup, 3 cups daily.
Herbs known as blood cleansers also help to cleanse and clear wastes from the tissues and cells and also have a small but significant effect on the bowels. These include yellow dock, sarsaparilla, blue flag, echinacea, burdock and dandelion root which could be taken in tincture form, equal parts of each, a teaspoon 3 times daily. Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) tea is an excellent way to clean the blood and entire system of poisons and excessive mucous. Take a heaped teaspoon per cup up to 4 cups daily.
Reishi and other medicinal mushrooms, pau d'arco, siberian ginseng, ashwagandha, rhodiola, schisandra and astragalus are termed 'adaptogens' and all useful for their nutritional qualities and ability to reduce the negative impact of stress within the body. They effectively help the body to cope much better with the physical and emotional side effects of stress. You could use the powders in capsule form for ease of use.
The herbs used for colds and flu such as elderberry and flower, star anise, olive leaf, liquorice, thyme, sage, peppermint and lemon balm all have good immune enhancing properties. Elderberries are particularly useful in any viral infections. Use the above herbs together as a tea, tincture or syrup formula to increase their positive effects.
Essential oils are well known for their actions against infections and for increasing whole body immunity, thyme, eucalyptus, sage, oregano and similar are good choices for oil burners.
Hydrangea  (Dichroa febrifuga) is showing great promise as a treatment for autoimmune disorders such as inflammatory bowel diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and others, as shown here.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Laugh daily if you can. Hire a funny film or comedy DVD, chat with friends or even fake it to begin with. Deep belly laughter is the best medicine!
Exercise regularly to move fluids and blood and to encourage a greater sense of well being. Little and often is better then bigger and less often.
Avoid antibiotics. If you do take them, follow up with a dose of good probiotics to replace killed bacteria or use cider vinegar, live yoghurt, kefir and other fermented foods daily.
Blackstrap molasses can be taken daily to help improve the bacterial population in the bowels. Certain types of sugars present in blackstrap molasses pass through the upper digestive tract and are not digested, passing intact into the bowel and feeding and encouraging healthy bacterial growth.
Avoid exposure to toxic chemicals such as the cleaning products, personal hygiene products, air fresheners and gardening products in your house and shed, switch to more eco-friendly ones or use lemon juice, vinegar and sodium bicarbonate which pretty much clean anything.

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