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Choosing the right herbs to support your immune system health

There are thousands of plants on this beautiful Earth and hundreds of recognized medicinal herbs. Because there are so many choices, it can be difficult to pick the best one for supporting your immune system at a given time. Today lets look at two of those herbs: Echinacea angustifolia and Astragalus purpurea.


Echinacea has been used by the First People of the Americas for hundreds of years. Learn more about Echinacea here.


© 2018 Steven Foster

Most Americans know of it as a cold & flu herb. It is specifically known for its anti-bacterial indications. Echinacea is more of a immunomodulator than a immunostimulant. That means that it modulates and supports your existing immune system rather than ratchet it up! It is best at supporting the body experiencing bronchial and airway infections. For example, someone who is fighting off a bacterial infection may have a lowered immune response. Echinacea can help support the lungs and airways and reduce the time of infection. The polysaccharides in Echinacea stimulate macrophage activity contributing to pathogen destruction and increased immune response (Hoffman, 2003, p. 545). Echinacea is warming and drying so it is not recommended for persons running a fever.


Astragalus is a major herb from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Learn more about Astragalus here.

It is also an immunomodulator, however it is best for stimulating the Qi (life force) in the body. It is known for supporting the body through acute infections. Astragalus also has wonderful hypoglycemic and anti-cancer indications, so it is often used along with cancer treatment therapies to help the body boost phagocytosis and interferon production (Hoffman, 2003). According to Braun & Cohen (2015), Astragalus is widely used for preventing and treating various viral infections. Astragalus is only slightly warming.

Echinacea and astragalus are both generally rated safe for use: Safety class 1 (Botanical Safety Handbook, 2nd ed., 2013), however, you should take caution if you are pregnant or nursing. If you are taking immune suppressants drugs such as cyclosporine or corticosteroids, be aware that Astragalus is rated Interaction class B (Botanical Safety Handbook, 2nd ed., 2013), which may cause some interactions with those drugs.

I would suggest that the client try a 3mL liquid extract (1:2) of E. angustifolia or E. purpurea three times per day. Another great option is to try both Echinacea and Astragalus together! I would suggest the client add 1mL tincture of Astragalus three times per day.

Braun, L. & Cohen M. (2015) Herbs & natural supplements, an evidence-based guide, 4th edition, vol 2. Australia:Elsevier.
Hoffman, D. (2003) Medical Herbalism. Rochester, ,VT:Healing Arts Press.
Gardner, Z. & McGuffin, M. (Eds.) (2013) American Herbal Product’s Association Botanical Safety Handbook (2nd ed.) Boca Raton FL: CRC Press.

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