Medical herbalist Nicola Parker believes now is the time to put stress on boosting your immunity

A weakened immune system can lead us to feel weak, unwell, prone to infection and miserable.
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I love this time of year. Still in the depths of winter, but with March on our doorstep, promising the warmth of spring. Walking in the woods by my home, I see new saplings on the forest floor and bare trees promising little buds of new growth, visible only to those who care to take a closer look.

Many people I’ve been interacting with recently are talking about their scheduled vaccines and I see that same light of hope in their eyes that I feel yearly as the winter comes to a close. Is this what this is? Our long stretch of forced isolation, the long, dark of Covid finally reaching an end? I know I’m not the only one that hopes so.

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It has been a full year of concern about the virus and about vulnerability. We are told that we are vulnerable if we are older, if we have underlying health conditions and if we are exposed to more people during our line of work. In my own clinic, I work a lot with vulnerability based on poor immune function, not just because of covid, but because a weakened immune system can lead us to feel weak, unwell, prone to infection and miserable.

Picture: Suzy Hazelwood, PexelsPicture: Suzy Hazelwood, Pexels
Picture: Suzy Hazelwood, Pexels

There are a number of things that can weaken out immunity, so as before the promise of socialising becomes a reality, I think it’s worth arming ourselves with this knowledge, so that we can keep safe not just from covid, but also the flu virus and other infections that might have a significant impact on how well we can take on the day.

Firstly, watch out and prepare yourself for stressful times. Stress is a fight or flight response and, in a life or death situation, all energy is focused on survival. When stress is prolonged, days or weeks can pass with your body responding like this. Immune function suffers and it’s not uncommon for people with busy lives to complain that they always get ill when they take a break or a holiday. Instead of surviving on the stress hormones produced while they were busy, the body finally gets to work on recovering, both from the prolonged stress and on rebuilding their immune system and fighting things off.

When stressed, I suffer from styes on the eyelid, a sore swelling caused by bacteria in the eyelash follicle that my body can’t deal with until I take rest or use some herbs to give my immunity a boost.

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For immune function, during stressful times, I use Siberian ginseng. Through traditional use and through studies, Siberian ginseng has been shown to reduce the impact of stress, improve energy during times of stress (including athletic performance!) and to support immune function. Naturally, this is the one to choose if you get run down and unwell when life is demanding too much of you.

Beware too, of not supporting your gut after antibiotic use. Like a tree, the immune system is rooted where we cannot see it, within the gut. Antibiotics destroy many protective bacteria that support our immune function and if you do not replace these with a good probiotic capsule, you may find yourself prone to frequent infections or constant and debilitating tiredness after your initial recovery.

Vitamin D has been all the rage this year, becoming famous for it’s role in immunity. Our main source of vitamin D is sunlight, not something we get a lot of here in Britain, especially during the colder months. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, so take an oil-based capsule or an oil dropper as a liquid for best absorption of this nutrient. Watch out too for zinc from red meat and shellfish, as well as the obvious vitamin C that should come from vegetables (not just sugary fruits). Deficiency is the friend of many an invading virus or bacteria, so ensure you are getting what you need!

With the right tools, we can all enter this new phase, more prepared from an immune stand point. Not just with breakthrough advances such as vaccines, but also on a smaller level, rooted in tradition, self-care and an understanding of our own immunity.

For more information, or to make an appointment with Nicola, contact her clinic on 01524 413733.