Boosting your immune system

In this strange and uncertain new world of Covid-19 one thing is certain: we are all going to have to be more self-reliant and look after our health and well-being for ourselves, especially when we might feel rather lonely and alone.

With that in mind, I thought it might be useful, as a starting point, to think about what we can do for our health. Let’s think about our immune systems.

There are, according to our herbalist friends, plenty of immune-boosting herbs.  Elderberry is the queen but the word on her has clearly got out and about because finding dried elderberries has suddenly become a bit tricky. Lots of online stores have run out, and that’s probably the case for local shops too.  But elderberry syrup, and various mixes with elderberry, are still out there and worth a try. If you do get hold of some elderberries try this:

  • 1 cup of dried elderberries (preferably organic)
  • 4 cups of water
  • Thumb-size piece of ginger, chopped or grated
  • 6 cloves – or half a teaspoon of powdered clove
  • I cup of raw honey (preferably organic)

Put all but the honey in a pan, bring to the boil, cover, simmer for up to an hour. The liquid should reduce to about half. Remove from the heat; squish the berries. Strain carefully. When cold, stir in the honey. Pour into sterilised bottles or jars and refrigerate. Take two dessert-spoonfuls daily.

You could add cinnamon if you like.

Other useful herbs include echinacea, the lesser known ones such as red clover, astragalus, blueberries, cat’s claw and – perhaps oddly – shiitake mushrooms*. And don’t forget the vitamins, C in particular, and garlic – try a clove a day in any way you can think of.

Ethno-botanist James Wong, in his book ‘Grow Your Own Drugs’ ** cites a traditional Chinese soup. 

But, herbs apart, you also need to eat well, avoiding the usuals such as too much sugar, starch and unhealthy fats. Go out for walks, get as much sun as you can (Spring is coming, yes, really!), and keep up your conversations, albeit online.  Your mental health will help maintain your physical well-being: the two are utterly intertwined.  You could even start visualising the strengths of your immune system.  How do you see it? Soldiers going into battle? Tanks on the lawn? Big muscle-y chaps fronting up to nasty looking aliens? However you see it, make sure in the extraordinary power of your imagination that your side wins! You never know: it might just help. And right now, we need all the help we can get.

Keep strong, keep healthy, keep talking.


*Herbs – The Essential 21st Century Guide pub Rodale International Ltd., 200.6 ISBN-13 978-1-4050-9554-9; ISBN-10 1-4050-9554-7

** Grow Your Own Drugs, James Wong pub Collins (Harper Collins Publishers Ltd) 2009. ISBN 978-0-00784-548-4