how herbs impact the immune system

How Herbs Impact the Immune System


How Herbs Impact the Immune System

In many countries throughout the world herbs are used as a primary healthcare tool.  Much of the therapeutic aspects of modern medicine were taken from the study of ancient herbal remedies. Unfortunately, medicine has manipulated these natural plant-based properties and synthetically altered them. This process has produced toxic and often lethal side effects.  The natural herbs themselves when used correctly are able to synergize with our natural systems to enhance function, coordination, and overall balance within the body.

Herbs are never meant to “treat” or “cure” an ailment. The critical philosophical understanding is that the body’s internal defense and ability to heal itself is strong enough to overcome any particular illness.

Sickness comes about when the body is out of balance with its environment and unable to successfully adapt.  Herbs are intended to clear up any sort of imbalances allowing the body to function optimally.  In this article, I go over how herbs impact the immune system.

The Structure of Our Immune System:

We have two major parts of our immune response.  These two major parts of the immune system are the TH-1 pathway, which produces an immediate response and the TH-2 pathway, which produces a delayed response.  The TH-1 response is marked by T cells while the TH-2 pathway is built on anti-body formation and identification.

The key to a strong immune system is balance and coordination. The TH -1 system is classified by Killer T cells, T helper cells, and T suppressor cells.  When we have too many T suppressor cells our immune system is too weak and we get colds/fevers/flu’s.

When the Killers are too many or the helpers and suppressors too little we end up with a poorly coordinated immune response that damages our own tissue.  This is commonly seen in autoimmune disorders.


The Consequences of TH2 Dominance:

When the TH-2 system is dominant the body tends to rely on it when it is threatened in anyway. A common example is allergies.  When we are exposed to the allergen the TH-2 system goes into overdrive causing a massive inflammatory response.  This is due to poor balance between the TH-1/TH-2 system and then a poorly coordinated TH-2 response that creates a systemic inflammatory reaction in response to a very minor threat.

Certain herbs are known to stimulate the TH-1 response while others stimulate the TH-2 pathway and a third group helps to balance and coordinate both pathways.  This explains how one individual can take Echinacea and feel terrible while others see an immediate boost in their immune function.  It explains why one individual can do great with coffee and green tea while others do awful with these TH-2 boosting stimulants.

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TH1 Balancing Herbs:

The select group of TH-1 pathway enhancing herbs includes Astragalus, Echinacea, Licorice root, Lemon balm, & pomegranate among others.  The TH-2 boosting herbs include pine bark, green tea, grape seed, and resveratrol.  Immune modulating herbs include turmeric, boswelia, and ginger that help to enhance immune coordination through the entire body.

To put this information into action you can access how you feel and what you notice after an immune pathway challenge.  To do this try taking a large dose of a TH-1 boosting herb.  If you feel wonderful and your immunity improves there is likelihood that you may have a pre-existing TH-2 dominance.

If you feel terrible and are massively inflamed there is a likelihood you are TH-1 dominant and that you over stimulated this pathway.  Try balancing with TH-2 boosting herbs and immune modulators.


Keep a Journal for Yourself:

Keep a journal and see what imbalances you may have. This will give you an advanced level of knowledge of your own individual tendencies and will allow you to stay healthy and balanced throughout your life.

Many people misuse herbs and think of them like medicinals that help to cover up the damage done by a poor lifestyle full of stress and bad living habits. But all the herbs in the world will not make up for the damage caused by poor lifestyle.  They are merely meant to help the body adapt to the increased stresses that certain seasons provide.

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One Response to How Herbs Impact the Immune System

  1. Linda September 3, 2014 at 8:18 am #

    Dr. Jockers,

    I wonder if you could clarify the role of curcumin in immune balancing? Everything else I have read so far, even the source links at the bottom of this article lists curcumin as a th2 stimulating compound. Yet in this article you list it as an immune modulator.

    Could you clarify? Do you have any sources for that claim that I could read?

    Thanks very much.

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