We are currently at the height of flu season. If you're skeptical about the flu shot, or are leery about taking too many medications during this "sick season," it may comfort you to know that supportive herbs for your immune system can help.
Just a few years ago, the H1N1 virus from 2009 came back in widespread circulation. In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the problem with this strain was that it targeted younger to middle-age adults — the exact population that was least likely to get vaccinated.
In fact, roughly 61 percent of the people hospitalized for flu in 2014 were 18–64 years old. CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden explained, “Younger people may feel that influenza is not a threat to them, but this season underscores that flu can be a serious disease for anyone.” Dr. Frieden recommended vaccination and antiviral drug therapy, like Tamiflu.
This year, the outlook for flu season is still pretty bleak. H1N1 is among one of the many ever-changing viruses that the CDC advises us to vaccinate against. The 2016-17 flu vaccine, which is only recommended as an injectable shot, may protect against three to four of the most common flu viruses.1 But even the CDC concedes that there is no way to predict what flu season will look like each year.
Herbs for Your Immune System: It Starts from Within
At Body Ecology, we strongly support learning more about the body and how it defends itself. This way, you can take steps to boost your immune system during flu season.
Herbs may offer a natural way to fight off infection this flu season. Rosemary, thyme, sage, and lavender have potent antiviral properties, and cultured vegetables made with the Veggie Culture Starter can help bolster the immune system with gut-friendly bacteria.
Depending on what research you look at, anywhere from 70–80 percent of your immune system is found within your gut.
Besides cells belonging to the immune system, your gut also contains a whole world of microbial residents. These communities of bacteria and yeast interface with your immune system, shooting signals back and forth that either inflame the body or soothe it. These signals either increase your risk of infection or minimize it.2
Obesity and Increased Risk of Flu
We hear constant recommendations that everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each season, but oftentimes, there's a little more to the story. In 2016, research out of the St. Jude's Children's Hospital revealed that flu vaccines didn't work as well on mice that were obese. Obese mice weren't protected against severe influenza infections by vaccines that included adjuvants, with the same possible risk among obese people.3 "This is the first study to show that current strategies to bolster the effectiveness of flu vaccines protected lean mice from serious illness but fell short of protecting obese mice from infections," Dr. Stacey Schultz-Cherry, corresponding study author and member of the St. Jude Department of Infectious Diseases, said.
At Body Ecology, we know that the latest research on obesity shows that the inner ecosystem dramatically influences weight.
For example, in 2011 researchers at the University of Innsbruck in Austria explained that when the inner ecosystem is wounded — like in the case of Candida overgrowth — this is enough to change metabolism and increase weight.4
We also know that when your gastrointestinal tract is filled with a rich assortment of microbes, you are more likely to be lean.5 In animal studies, scientists were even able to create obese mice by simply placing the gut bacteria from obese mice into lean mice.6
Because of the complex relationship between our metabolism, our immune system, and our gut bacteria — maintaining a healthy inner ecosystem is essential during flu season.
Cultured Vegetables with the 4 Thieves
One of the easiest ways to rebuild the inner ecosystem of the gut and support the immune system is with cultured vegetables, a natural super-probiotic.
According to legend, when the Black Plague swept through Europe and killed millions of people, a group of thieves escaped the plague and were caught robbing the sick. When the thieves were caught, they revealed how they were able to steal from the sick without falling ill themselves.
Their secret was in four herbs:
While the Black Plague was a result of bacteria, these four herbs are potent antivirals.7,8 Because they are natural, they do not damage the inner ecosystem in the gut or the immune system.
When we culture vegetables with the “four thieves,” we give our body valuable tools to ward off infection.
BONUS RECIPE: Cultured Vegetables with the 4 Thieves
- 1 large head of green cabbage, shredded (set aside 4–5 whole outer leaves)
- 1/2 TB fresh rosemary (1/4 TB dried)
- 1/2 TB fresh thyme (1/4 TB dried)
- 1/2 TB fresh sage (1/4 TB dried)
- 1/2 TB fresh lavender (1/4 TB dried)
- 1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
- Dissolve one package of Body Ecology’s Veggie Starter Culture in ¼ cup warm water.
- Add EcoBloom to feed the starter. (Optional)
- Allow starter to rest and “bloom” for 20 minutes or longer. While starter rests, combine cabbage, herbs, and garlic in a large bowl.
- Remove ½ of the mixture and blend with enough water to create brine.
- Add Veggie Starter Culture to the brine.
- Pour the brine into the bowl with the remaining shredded cabbage, herbs, and garlic. Gently mix.
- Pack the mixture tightly down into as many pint or quart sized glass jars as necessary. Press out as much air as possible, leaving 2 inches from the rim for veggies to expand.
- Roll up outer cabbage leaves into a tight "log" and place on top, filling the remaining 2 inch space. Clamp jars closed or tightly screw on lid.
- Let veggies ferment at approximately 70 degrees Fahrenheit or at room temperature for 1–2 weeks. Refrigerate to slow down fermentation.
What To Remember Most About This Article:
The H1N1 virus from 2009 is back this flu season. The CDC warns that this virus is especially dangerous because it targets younger to middle-aged adults, those that are least likely to get vaccinated. It's more important than ever to learn about how your body defends itself so that you can boost your immunity this flu season.
Remember — your gut is directly related to your immune health. Up to 80 percent of the immune system is found within the gut.
Support your inner ecosystem naturally with cultured vegetables and immune-boosting herbs:
These delicious herbs have potent antiviral properties. They are natural, so they will not damage the inner ecosystem or the immune system. You can make your favorite cultured vegetables using the Veggie Starter Culture, EcoBloom as a prebiotic, and fresh herbs to ward off infection.
- "Frequently Asked Flu Questions 2016-2017 Influenza Season." CDC.
- Dinan, T. G., & Cryan, J. F. (2012). Regulation of the stress response by the gut microbiota: implications for psychoneuroendocrinology. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 37(9), 1369-1378.
- Karlsson EA, Hertz T, Johnson C, Mehle A, Krammer F, Schultz-Cherry S. Obesity outweighs protection conferred by adjuvanted influenza vaccination. mBio, 2 August 2016 DOI: 10.1128/mBio.01144-16.
- Tilg, H., & Kaser, A. (2011). Gut microbiome, obesity, and metabolic dysfunction. The Journal of clinical investigation, 121(6), 2126.
- Le Chatelier, E., Nielsen, T., Qin, J., Prifti, E., Hildebrand, F., Falony, G., ... & Pedersen, O. (2013). Richness of human gut microbiome correlates with metabolic markers. Nature, 500(7464), 541-546.
- Turnbaugh, P. J., Bäckhed, F., Fulton, L., & Gordon, J. I. (2008). Diet-induced obesity is linked to marked but reversible alterations in the mouse distal gut microbiome. Cell host & microbe, 3(4), 213-223.
- Aruoma, O. I., Spencer, J. P. E., Rossi, R., Aeschbach, R., Khan, A., Mahmood, N., ... & Halliwell, B. (1996). An evaluation of the antioxidant and antiviral action of extracts of rosemary and Provencal herbs. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 34(5), 449-456.
- Nolkemper, S., Reichling, J., Stintzing, F. C., Carle, R., & Schnitzler, P. (2006). Antiviral effect of aqueous extracts from species of the Lamiaceae family against Herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 in vitro. Planta medica, 72(15), 1378.
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