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At this time of the year, supporting the body with herbs and nutrients that strengthen the body’s immune system and increase overall resilience is important to stay healthy and avoid illness.

Herbs and nutrients that have been shown in research to do exactly that include:

  • astragalus
  • andrographis
  • olive leaf
  • shiitake
  • vitamin C
  •  zinc

Immune system support

These therapeutics enhance the body’s natural defence mechanisms, increasing macrophage activation, optimising T cell activation and differentiation, supporting healthy B cell activity and improving natural killer cell activation and proliferation.

Additionally, many can reduce inflammation, limit and repair damage from oxidative processes, and restore healthy cell differentiation.

Some of them also support the adrenal system and HPA axis. This is critical to not only increase general resilience against stress, but because the immune system is controlled by the HPA axis it is important that both systems are supported.

Stress and the immune system

The HPA axis and immune system are intricately linked, with each system necessary for the function and regulation of the other. In fact, glucocorticoids and components of the HPA axis directly modulate immune function.

This regulation may be useful to prevent the immune system from becoming overactive; however, when there is prolonged stress the ability of the HPA axis to maintain the immune system within very fine operating limits is compromised, resulting in potential immune suppression.


Environmental stressors

Seasonal changes, such as low temperatures seen in winter, also create stress by disturbing energy homoeostasis and creating greater demands on the body. These environmental changes are termed seasonal energetic stressors.

Like any stressor, they too can suppress the immune system, increase circulating glucocorticoid concentrations, and mobilise energy away from the immune system in an attempt to restore equilibrium.

Even though seasonal energetic stressors are more damaging in harsh climate conditions, it is expected that these stressors affect all individuals to some extent.

Therefore, along with immune modulating herbs and nutrients, it is worthwhile adding those with adaptogenic or stress supporting benefits into the treatment protocol to regulate the HPA axis, and inevitably the immune system, during the colder months of the year.

References available on request.

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