Arniston Spa Hotel

Natural Immune Support with Herbal Remedies and Stress Tips – written by Dr Arien Van Der Merwe

For now and throughout Winter, Nature’s Pharmacy has you covered…

The science is in: people with underlying conditions like heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes are more vulnerable to destructive viruses like COVID-19. The good news is that using the right herbal remedies and eating the right foods, while avoiding the wrong ones, have been proven to support our immune system and prevent disease. Our choices have a direct impact on our resistance to disease, viruses, chronic illness and mental health.

There are many natural remedies that will support our body’s natural inclination to return to health, while supporting our immune and respiratory systems when we do get sick. Following are a few well-known, proven and trusted ones, both to prevent and treat, infections and help you cope with stress.

Nature’s own pharmacy

Well researched plant medicine to prevent and treat symptoms, include herbs like Echinacea purpurea, Astragalus, Ashwaganda, garlic, chickweed, licorice root and golden seal are all excellent immune system boosters. Ginseng improves general immunity against infections and as an adaptogen, also supports the body during stressful times.

Double-blind placebo controlled studies suggest that Echinacea purpurea not only shortens the duration of infections, while making it less severe, it also actually stops a cold that is just starting.

Artemisia afra (African wormwood), is a South African indigenous healing plant. This wellknown, effective herbal remedy is currently being researched in Madagascar for efficacy against the Corona virus.

A good quality, concentrated extract infusion of Echinacea purpura or angustifolia (as part of our Immune Support Health Box) improves general immunity against infections and is effective against viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi.

Antibiotics are not effective against viruses at all!

Use spices like ginger, turmeric and cinnamon (pinch each dry, or 2ml fresh) with some raw honey to taste, to prepare your own hot toddy (taken 3-4 times a day) for inflammation, fever, thickened mucous, or sore muscles.

Ginger: anti-viral – treats symptoms of colds and flu, reduces inflammation, aids in digestion, improves blood flow, prevents nausea and strengthens the immune system.

Turmeric: anti-fungal, anti-viral, natural pain killer, blood sugar control, anti-inflammatory and immune booster.

Cinnamon: anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, eases flu symptoms, blood sugar control.

Put some Eucalyptus (bloekom-) or peppermint oil in boiling water in a bowl, put a towel over your head and inhale the steam. This will loosen the phlegm, hydrate the mucosal lining of the airways, while disinfecting the environment. Other aromatherapy oils to try are lavender, grapefruit, rosemary and tea tree oil (put a few drops in a burner, or in the bath, or use in a carrier oil for a soothing back and shoulder massage).

Wild cherry bark is often used to treat an irritating, persistent cough that keeps you awake at night. It is also good for people who suffer from chronic bronchitis and for whooping cough. One of its ingredients is prunacin, a light cough suppressant and antispasmodic.

Pineapple extract (containing the enzyme bromelain) is a potent anti-inflammatory with mucolytic (to break down mucous) and antibacterial properties. It also improves the efficacy of prescription antibiotics and reduces the infection of the sinuses and bronchial tubes.

Quercetin, one of the bioflavonoids, accelerates the recovery of the mucosa after infection. It also has an anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, decongestant and antiviral effect.

Try zinc lozenges to soothe a sore throat and zinc nasal spray for a runny nose. Make tea with fresh or dried sage leaves simmered in boiling water, with a teaspoon of honey, for a sore throat. You can also gargle with sage tea.

As mind-body holistic and functional, medical practitioner of many years, my advice to audiences at my recent talks, radio and TV inserts on Real Health and to patients:

  • Support your immune system with rainbow coloured fruit and vegetables; nuts, seeds, etc. Drink lots of fluids, drink filtered water, fresh fruit and vegetable juice or soup. Eat super foods from all the rainbow colours, nuts, seeds like pumpkin seeds, plenty of greens.

Take a daily probiotic with live cultures (e.g. yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, fermented food – easy to make your own)

Food as medicine: anti-inflammatory foods to support your immune system, include complex carbohydrates, whole, raw and super foods; unprocessed, organic, unrefined, fresh, plant based and high fiber foods.

Use coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, grapeseed oil, avocadoes for omega 6 and 9 fatty acids, and more omega 3 essential fatty acids from flaxseed, and fish like sardines, mackerel, pilchards, trout and wild salmon.

  • I prescribe specific herbal remedy combinations suitable for each patient’s symptoms as discussed above under nature’s pharmacy.
  • Top up with nutraceutical (nutri-=food; -ceutical = medicine) food supplements as top up to healthy eating: A daily comprehensive antioxidant in one combination of simple elegance and synergy (e.g. my Heart Brain Body Support formulation); calcium and magnesium (always together) in the correct ratio and in amino acid chelate form; Omega 3 in the form of fish oil to supply EPA (eisosapentanoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoic acid). Calcium helps blood vessels to dilate, thereby preventing the cold extremities associated with colds and flu. It also relieves allergy symptoms.
  • Stress is the cause of 95% of all illness and disease. A calm nervous system supports a strong immune system. Your body is resilient and has wonderful self-healing abilities.

I teach patients to manage their stress  levels  with daily  relaxation practice.  Deliberately detaching from fear, especially  worry and panic.  We can learn to stop or slow down highly contagious fear by reducing contact with our biggest enemy, our own thoughts. Anger, attack, worry: fear based emotions, have the worst effect on immune system health!

Work on inner calmness where Love and sanity abide (learn how to do it using the simple exercises on my Stress Solutions Relax and Unwind Relaxation USB)

Singing, dancing and laughter are the best immune system support! After all, your body’s natural state is to be healthy! One of the most beneficial supports for our immune systems is to be outside, grounding with bare feet in sand or grass. And be near trees and water.

Belly Breathing Breaks to get you started:

whenever you feel upsetting emotions such as panic, fear, anxiety or physically as e.g. hand clenching, heart palpitations, shallow or fast breathing, gut, discomfort, Sit down whenever you become aware of disquieting feelings or emotions. Center yourself in your abdominal and pelvic area and start to deliberately relax your big muscle groups. Alternately contract and release lower leg muscles, then upper legs, buttocks, tummy, lower arms, upper arms, shoulders, neck, face and head.

Say to yourself: just for now, I am calm in my mind, in my emotions and in my body. Then push out your belly as you breathe in deeply, hold for a few counts, and breathe out deeply, pulling your tummy tight in towards your spine. Hold. Start another cycle. Do this at least 10 times every time you feel upset, even if it’s all the time! It restores focused calm very quickly, puts you out of sympathetic stress mode (fear, panic, anxiety) into parasympathetic relaxation mode. Worth a try! You can pay it forward to family and friends.

Fear is insidious and more contagious than any virus. It also suppresses the immune system.

And finally: look after your heart now and in future!

Not only are heart healthy food choices, effective well researched herbal remedies and heart specific natural supplements, exercise and stress management beneficial for the heart, but also emotions of love, gratefulness and peace from deep relaxation.

Just behind the heart, lies the thymus gland, where T-cells (an important part of immune system health) mature.

Studies show that practicing heart focused meditation can lead to improved immunity, better sleep, more energy, and so on. Heart disease was already the world’s no 1 killer, and in the time of COVID-19, it’s become even more significant. With other chronic diseases of lifestyle, heart disease put patients at higher risk for viral infections

The good news is that there’s a lot you can do to keep your heart in good shape. As cardiologist, Dr Dean Ornish said, cardiovascular disease is a preventable and even reversible, condition!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to add more ease to your life anytime you want? You can do this by simply connecting with the qualities of your heart – loving kindness, forgiveness, compassion, peace and deep inner joy. You might need some practice, but it can be done!

I know there is, and have been, many challenges during lockdown, both mentally, emotionally and physically, with mood swings being par for the course right now.  However, there is much we can do, from deliberately learning to relax and destress, to using nature’s bountiful medicine, to support our health and wellbeing!