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Everyone is thinking about SAFE Immune support right now, not just for our individual benefit but also for the broader good! Even individuals who are typically healthy can get a little unsure about what to do due to the constantly changing news and advice amid the current viral sickness outbreak. Finding safe herbs for autoimmune disease is more difficult for those who have previously had hypersensitive reactions or who have preexisting disorders like rheumatoid arthritis or type 1 diabetes.

The usage of elderberry and elderflower (Sambucus canadensis and S. nigra), and if these herbs could lead to complications during the flu or other viral infection, have been the subject of a lot of recent discussion. This is crucial for people looking for safe herbs that help the immune system when they have autoimmune diseases. For additional information regarding elderberry and immune-stimulation issues, see our article here.

Although it is vital to be aware of this discourse, it has eclipsed discussions on other herbs, as well as the variety of sensible habits and herbal remedies we can use at home.

Now that we are advised to take care at home whenever feasible, discussions regarding the safe and knowledgeable use of herbs are even more important. It is now more necessary than ever to address herbs that herbalists and herb learners may already have on hand and to broaden the scope of the conversation about herbs that support health.

Let's start by taking a look at a few groups of herbs that help the immune system.

A dish of holy basil powder on a table

Types of immune response

We categorize a herb's effects on the immune system using a variety of distinct terms. Take them into account, but don't just rely on the definitions you find in one source. Every plant has a wide range of components and functions. We use these phrases as a tool to compare the general effects of various herbs on the body. Because certain sources favor some terms over others, it is important to review a number of sources. It's also beneficial to get advice from those who have used a particular plant more frequently.

Immunostimulant: Often referred to as "immune stimulants" or "immunopotentiators," immunostimulants generally promote the immune system's normal functions.

Immunomodulator: Immunomodulators, commonly referred to as "immune modulators," can lower immunological activity linked to autoimmune reactions and hypersensitive reactions as well as raise vigilance against infections, especially in cases of immune hypofunction (Angelini, 2016).

Immunoadjuvant: When an antigen is present, immunoadjuvants help the body produce more antibodies (Hoffmann, 1993).

Immunostimulants and immunoadjuvants may not be the best herb classes for treating autoimmune disease according to the strictest criteria. This is due to the immune system's capacity to mistakenly identify beneficial proteins in foods as antigens, leading to inflammation or tissue damage.

On the other hand, immunomodulators take a more neutral stance. They do not, however, completely eliminate the possibility of exacerbating an autoimmune or hypersensitivity issue. As previously indicated, the fact that herbs don't cleanly fit into just one group further complicates matters. Also, different herbs may have varied effects on different people, especially when it comes to autoimmune issues.

White Horse Running Through Field With Immunostimulants

Immunostimulants are herbs that have a strong stimulating impact on the immune system. These herbs frequently promote an immediate, albeit transient, immunological response. For instance, isolated elements of echinacea (Echinacea spp.) have been demonstrated to boost cytokine activity (Thompson Healthcare, 2007), both of which are typically functional immune responses. Echinacea also promotes a non-specific immune response. There are alternative herbs for autoimmune disease, though, that may be a safer option for those with autoimmune difficulties as they are more susceptible to immune function dysregulation.

Other plants that fall within the category of immunostimulants include a number of others. When you see this term, be aware that certain herbs may also be harmful for people with autoimmune conditions and for people who have previously had hypersensitive reactions (Hoffmann, 2003).

Some sites will refer to all herbs with immune-related effects as "immunostimulants" or any other immune-related phrase. Yet, just because a herb is labeled as a "immunomodulant" doesn't necessarily indicate it has a greater stimulating effect on the immune system. Moreover, it does not imply that an immunomodulatory herb is less stimulating or safer.

Use the herbs you are most familiar with whenever possible (perhaps those that you have used before). Refer to at least two or three different sources when you are expanding your knowledge of diverse herbal sources to provide context. You can also get in touch with a dependable herbalist mentor who has firsthand knowledge of the plants you're considering. Consider speaking with a clinical herbalist or naturopathic physician if you are still undecided.

Young Elderberries on a Bush

This is a list of herbs that may cause autoimmune diseases or hypersensitivity reactions, many of which you may have recently heard a lot about. When selecting herbs, pay attention to any hypersensitivity reactions or autoimmune conditions you may be experiencing. If at all possible, look for information about people's experiences using these herbs to treat specific autoimmune disorders. The knowledge could help you make more informed decisions and be more tailored to you! Be not disheartened. Even if some herbs and supportive foods and practices may be problematic due to immune activation, there are still plenty of other options available.

Herbs commonly used to support immunity that could be troublesome for those with autoimmune or hypersensitive conditions include:

(Uncaria tomentosa) Cat's Claw (theoretical concern, as recognized by Brinker, 2010)

Echinacea is a family of plants (Brinker, 2010)

Sambucus spp. elderberry (Andrew Weil Center, n.d.)

Allium sativum, garlic (Johns Hopkins, 2020)

Acmella oleracea's Spilanthes (theoretical concern, due to similarity to echinacea)

Planta spilanthes

Noting that each person and situation are distinct, it should be noted that this is not an entire list and people with autoimmune or hypersensitivity disorders may have quite customized responses to herbs. However, keep in mind that not everyone with these illnesses will experience problems with the aforementioned plants. Under the guidance of a medical expert who is very informed and experienced with the herb and disease, any one of these may occasionally be helpful for someone.


Herbs known as immunomodulators aid in controlling an immune response. They may achieve this via activating macrophages and natural killer cells, or by increasing the production of antibodies (Lull et al., 2005). Many of these herbs are rich in saponins and/or polysaccharides. These herbs may aid in boosting and strengthening the immune system, hence boosting the body's defenses against illness.

Reishi (Ganoderma spp.), cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris, Ophiocordyceps sinensis), turkey tail (Trametes versicolor), and shiitake are a few examples of the mushrooms that belong under this group (Lentinula edodes). Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), codonopsis (Codonopsis pilosula), licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), and tulsi are among the plants that have immune-boosting properties (Ocimum tenuiflorum).

Biologically Active Mushrooms

The presence and abundance of immunomodulating complex polysaccharides is the defining characteristic of the vast majority of mushrooms used in herbal medicine. Some of these components, like beta-glucans, appear to boost immune surveillance for viral and bacterial proteins while suppressing the activity of particular cytokines (specialized proteins generated by immune cells), which can result in autoimmune reactions and allergies (Angelini, 2016). There are a few mushrooms in this category of immunomodulating mushrooms that you may already be familiar with and be able to find in your local grocery shop. They might even be in your possession already! We've highlighted a few mushrooms that are known to be immunity boosters below.

Ganoderma spp. fruiting body of reishi

On-tree reishi mushroom growth

The term "reishi" (Ganoderma spp.) refers to a number of closely related fungus species, most frequently G. lucidum, G. tsugae, or G. applanatum. Both historically and today, these reishi species have a reputation for promoting healthy responsiveness of the respiratory and immunological systems. For support during allergy season, you could discover that someone with hay fever or allergic rhinitis keeps a reishi treatment on hand. Reishi is usually thought to be immunomodulating and anti-inflammatory with a predilection for the respiratory tract, while different sources may offer different conclusions regarding this fungus with regard to autoimmune problems — and every person may respond to any given herb differently. Consider the following passage from an article by Dr. Eugene Zampieron, ND, and Ellen Kamhi, RN, PhD, a Registered Herbalist (AHG-RH) and a nationally board certified holistic nurse (AHN-BC), published in the Journal of Restorative Medicine:

Depending on the situation, the "amphoteric" herb reishi mushroom can either up or down regulate the immune system. The steroidal saponin glycosides, immune-modulating proteins, and polysaccharides found in reishi mushrooms have an impact on the feedback loop between the adrenal, hypothalamus, and pituitary glands that controls inflammation (Zampieron & Kamhi, 2012, pg. 41).

Usually regarded as tonic herbs, reishi and the other mushrooms listed below can be used daily or over a period of time for the most support. Reishi can be prepared as a decoction, powder, capsule, tincture with two extracts, and glycerite.

Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor) fungus on log, fruiting body

One of the mushroom species, turkey tail (Trametes versicolor), is well known for its immunomodulatory polysaccharides. These polysaccharides have been identified and are frequently used in Japan as an adjuvant with chemotherapy to strengthen the immune system. Recent research has also shown that turkey tail compounds have prebiotic activity (Pallav et al., 2014), which can help the human microbiota stay healthy. Furthermore, promoting the microbiome has advantages for the immune system as well as the digestive system, as healthy gut flora do!

Turkey tail is a supplement used in Chinese medicine to thin mucus and strengthen the respiratory system. Also, it's used as a qi tonic for people with chronic illnesses (Hobbs, 1995). Turkey tail has a neutral flavor and is simple to include in a decoction, nutritious broth, or flavorful soup. A dual-extract tincture, pills, and powder versions are also offered.

Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) fruiting bodies growing on log

Look for shiitake (Lentinula edodes), which has potent immunomodulating characteristics, in the fresh or dry mushroom area of your local grocery shop. It may be simpler to locate than the aforementioned mushrooms. It has been demonstrated that one of the polysaccharides in shiitake has both immune-potentiating and antiviral effects (Kuhn & Winston, 2008). Shiitake mushrooms can provide some protection from both viral and secondary bacterial infections, which can both occur as a result of numerous respiratory ailments (Stamets, 2005).

Shiitake is a delectable gourmet mushroom that may be used in a variety of dishes, including soups, stews, stir-fries, and more. Shiitake capsules and powder are sold commercially, and it can also be made as a decoction or dual-extract tincture.

Safe Antiviral Herbs for Autoimmune Disease | Herbal Academy | Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris, Ophiocordyceps sinensis) Fruiting Body The individual or practitioner needs to take extra precautions and conduct additional study while looking for immune-supportive, antiviral herbs for autoimmune disease.

One other higher-octane, immune-supportive mushroom has some intriguing applications and has previously been used in clinical settings in connection with a previous new flu outbreak.

Chinese medicine treats dry ailments including dry coughs and asthma using cordyceps, a mushroom that grows on caterpillar bodies (Cordyceps militaris, Ophiocordyceps sinensis). Cordyceps is hepatoprotective, possesses adaptogenic qualities that aid the body in coping with both physical and emotional stress, and has been demonstrated to enhance kidney function (Kuhn & Winston, 2008). Cordyceps has showed synergistic immune- and cytokine-regulating activities as well as an overall anti-inflammatory effect in relation to the immune system (Sun et al., 2010). It is known that cordyceps has a special affinity for the lungs and is recommended for exhaustion in particular.

The Pharmacopeia of the Chinese Ministry of Health provides evidence on cordyceps' capacity to assist people during the SARS outbreak in 2002–2003. (Zeng et al., 2019). As comparison to using pharmaceutical medication alone, a research on individuals with moderate to severe persistent asthma found that using cordyceps along with pharmaceutical asthma treatment significantly improved lung function and increased the number of symptom-free days (Wang et al., 2016). Michael Tierra, a herbalist, claims that cordyceps is particularly effective for persistent coughs and can be used for a very long time (Tierra, 1998).

Be aware that lead contamination of cordyceps goods to enhance the weight of the product has resulted in incidents of lead poisoning from intake (Gardner & McGuffin, 2013). Look for capsules, dual-extract tinctures, and powder manufactured from cordyceps mycelium or cultured cordyceps due to this contamination problem and the constrained distribution of wild cordyceps mushrooms (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) (Cordyceps militaris).

We'd like to extend an invitation to you to enroll in our course, The Mushroom Course, if you're interested in learning more about using mushrooms for wellbeing.

Herbs that Modulate Immunity

Root of astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) in a bowl

Chinese medicine frequently employs the immunomodulating herb astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) root. Although we couldn't possibly cover all of its advantages here, some of its most popular applications include boosting lungs' strength and warding against colds and other contagious ailments (Kuhn & Winston, 2008). The immune system can be built up and strengthened by astragalus both before and after illness. It can aid in coping with physical and emotional stress, which improves the body's capacity to fight against disease.

Astragalus, according to some herbalists, has both immune-stimulating and immunomodulating characteristics. As a result, if anyone has any concerns, they should speak with their doctor. Although astragalus is occasionally contraindicated when there is a fever, some herbalists use it throughout an illness, especially in weak or delicate patients. We don't have as much experience to draw on when dealing with a novel pathogen. Astragalus is currently employed in several Chinese medicine procedures for active viral infection, as is well known.

The mild-tasting astragalus root can be used in soups and stocks, made into a decoction, tincture, glycerite, or syrup, or powdered and dissolved in hot water.

A demulcent, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory plant is licorice. Traditional symptoms include dry cough and wheezing (Winston & Maimes, 2007). This is due in part to the moistening and calming effects of the tea, which are noticeable practically immediately after drinking it. When it comes to helping people with autoimmune or hypersensitivity issues maintain a healthy immune system, licorice root is a fantastic alternative. It has been demonstrated to improve immune function in persons with cancer and chronic fatigue immune deficiency syndrome, making it appear to be a true immune amphoteric (balancer) (Winston & Maimes, 2007). Also, it lessens the overactive immune response in those with allergies, such as allergic asthma, as well as autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and scleroderma (Winston & Maimes, 2007). These elements work together to make licorice a plant that is typically safe for autoimmune diseases.

Due to potential interactions, licorice should be avoided by people with high blood pressure or even those who have a tendency toward high blood pressure as well as those who use potassium-depleting diuretics, digoxin, or monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) (Winston & Maimes, 2007).

An element in many boxed tea mixes is licorice root infusion or decoction, which produces a pleasingly sweet and somewhat bitter tea that pairs nicely with other herbs. Moreover, licorice root can be made into a tincture.

Aerial portions of tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)

In India and the neighboring countries, tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum), often known as holy basil or sacred basil, is regarded as a food or culinary tea with health advantages. It is a key herb in the materia medica of Ayurveda. It is now widely used and is available both on its own and in numerous boxed tea mixes throughout the United States and the rest of the world.

Tulsi has been used for centuries to treat bronchitis, asthma, colds, and the flu (Winston & Kuhn, 2008). Tulsi has amphoteric/immunomodulating activities that reduce overactive immunological reactions including allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma while promoting immune competence (Winston & Kuhn, 2008). In a blind study with healthy volunteers who ingested an alcohol extract of tulsi leaf included in a 300 mg capsule, clinical research has demonstrated potential for tulsi to alter multiple indicators of immunological health (Mondal et al., 2011). Tulsi has also improved survival rates and lessened cognitive impairment in individuals with viral encephalitis, as well as decreased airway reactivity in bronchitis patients during human trials (Williamson, 2002).

Tulsi has immunomodulating qualities in addition to expectorant and antiviral effects. In Indian folk medicine, a decoction has been used to treat bronchitis and excessive bronchial mucus as well as fevers brought on by malaria (Winston & Maimes, 2007). Tulsi has been used in Thailand to treat colds, the flu, headaches, coughs, sinusitis, and to bring down fevers (Winston & Maimes, 2007). Beyond a few culinary uses or infrequently modest doses, tulsi should be avoided throughout pregnancy.

Tulsi makes a delicious tea or syrup and has a sweet and sour flavor.

The lesson here is that if you know just one or two of these herbs work for you, you don't need to have them all for immune support. One herb at a time, start out slowly, and watch how your body reacts to each one. Consider using immunomodulatory herbs rather than immunostimulatory ones. Compare what many sources have to say about a specific herb and why. When in doubt, favor the plants you are familiar with and have experience using.

Do not be concerned if the herbs you have discovered to be effective for you are not included on this brief list because there are many more we could have highlighted

in relation to immunomodulation! If you have a complicated medical history, start with gentle herbs in modest doses while you are well. Even better, seek the one-on-one informed advice of a clinical herbalist, naturopathic physician, or other qualified health care provider if you have questions regarding herbs. You'll eventually discover the techniques that help you personally the most, including safe and efficient autoimmune disease herbs.

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