About this Episode
In this episode of the Medicinal Herbs podcast, naturopath and medical herbalist Berris Burgoyne joins our host Sara Le Brun Blashka, MS, to talk about specific herbal approaches to bolstering immunity for the winter. This includes approaches for chronic immune depletion, prophylaxis, acute infection, recovery, and more.
The winter months are notorious for the sneezes, sniffles, and coughs that result from pathogens that circulate every year. Lifestyle habits and herbal medicine are a great place to start for supporting immunity in the winter (01:39). Supporting immunity includes both for recovering from existing infection and preventing future sickness.
Many lifestyle factors impact general, overall immune health. Getting enough sleep, managing stress levels, eating a healthy diet, being physically active, supporting mental health, and utilizing supplements to enhance health are all part of a healthy lifestyle that supports whole-body health – including the immune system. Berris also reminds about the importance of frequent handwashing, as well as sanitizing surfaces when there’s a known infection in the household (03:20).
When it comes to herbal supplements to support healthy immunity in her patients, Berris says she first assesses each patient’s individual immune status (05:20). Are they already sick? Or are they thinking proactively about supporting their baseline immunity throughout the winter season? There are a few herbs that Berris recommends for long-term support, in cases of chronic immune depletion, prophylaxis, and post-infection recovery:
Additionally, Berris may occasionally add cat’s claw and medicinal mushrooms to her repertoire for long-term immune support.
For the most part, Berris uses a different selection of herbs for acute infections. Andrographis is certainly a go-to choice, as well as holy basil. While medicinal herbs won’t necessarily prevent all infections or resolve the symptoms of an existing infection immediately, many have certain properties that help reduce the severity and duration of an infection as well as enhance recovery.
Berris also mentions a few herbs that are associated with antiviral activity (14:08), which is often relevant for winter immunity:
- John’s Wort
Additionally, several diaphoretic herbs and plants may help with regulating body temperature during infection (16:46), including some with volatile compounds:
Lastly, Berris’s ultimate recommendation for recovering from an infection: “Rug up and rest!” And as an herbalist, Berris describes how to know when the body needs more than rest and medicinal herbs to properly recover (22:04). She emphasizes the importance of recognizing cases that need elevating and referring patients to other healthcare practitioners when necessary.