Nourishing the Immune System

artists conk

Above: Ganoderma mushrooms are one of my favorite ways to support a healthy immune system.

I get a lot of questions about what can be taken to help boost the immune system and prevent getting sick.  There are plenty of remedies I could recommend, depending on the situation!   If you are concerned about your immune system, there are some natural remedies you can take to nourish it.  I will discuss these in this article.  However, I truly believe that if we eat healthy, practice healthy habits, and get plenty of time outdoors, we can set our immune systems up to function that much better!


I get concerned thinking about all the people stuck indoors right now.  This is not good for the immune system.  If you are one of those people, try to get outdoors as much as possible, even if its just spending some time sitting on your back deck.  Our bodies absorb vitamin D through sunlight and this vitamin is crucial to immune health.

Another thing that concerns me is all the people sterilizing everything and constantly wearing gloves and a mask.  While this can be helpful, adequate oxygen is also essential to health.  Many masks deprive us of the oxygen we need, while forcing us to breathe in our CO2.  There’s nothing wrong with masks if they are worn responsibly and in moderation, but you may be surprised at all the people driving around in cars – nobody else in the car with them – and they are wearing a mask.  There has already been one reported car accident because someone was driving with a mask on and passed out from oxygen deprivation.

As for gloves, I noticed people wearing gloves at the store while touching their face and hair.  Be mindful of what you are doing.  Hand washing is a great way to prevent the spread of sickness, but the constant use of hand sanitizer may have the opposite-of-intended effect.

Our immune system is exposed to lord knows what on a daily basis.  It comes into contact with these germs and pathogens and then learns how to fight them off more efficiently.  If we live our lives in a sanitized bubble, we may actually weaken our immune systems.

The truth is, we are all going to get sick from time to time.  Yes, even those who eat healthy and do the right things.  This doesn’t mean we have weak immune systems.  Exposure to the pathogens that make us sick may help to create antibodies.

Everything in moderation. It is possible to overdo it with the preventative measures and do more harm than good.  (No, I’m  not saying to not wear a mask and gloves – you do you)

Natural Immune Support

I am not one to recommend taking something daily for an extended amount of time, even if it is to boost the immune system.  I feel strongly that our first line of defense is a good offense (eating healthy, healthy habits, sunlight, time outdoors, etc).  However, there are times when I will reach for something in my “medicine” cabinet because I feel a cold or virus coming on.  Below are a few of my favorite remedies to strengthen and support the immune system:

Rose Hips

I collect rose hips in the fall to create a tincture.  Rose hips are super high in vitamin C.  Our native rose, Rosa rugosa, has particularly large rose hips and makes it easier to collect a decent amount.  Plus, it is invasive in some areas so there is plenty to go around.

wild rose

Above: Wild rose in the summer.  By fall, it will produce bright red fruit called rose hips.  These are high in vitamin C.

I prefer tincturing rose hips to get the most out of them, as heat can eliminate vitamin C in some cases.  Tinctures allow me to create an extract without using heat.  I macerate the rose hips and fill a jar.  Then I cover them in around 80 proof alcohol.  Using too high of a proof makes it hard for the water soluble compounds to be extracted.  I let this sit in a cool, dark place for four to six weeks before straining out through a coffee filter and bottling.  We take this during times when sickness is spreading in our area or when we feel under the weather.  We take up to four droppers full daily.


There are several species of ganoderma that grow throughout North America.  (A Ganoderma applanatum is pictured at the top of this page) These mushrooms are adaptogens.  Adaptogens are always my go-to for all kinds of issues because they help to restore balance in the body where it is needed.  Ganoderma mushrooms can support and nourish the immune system, as well as the rest of the body.  I make a double extraction with what I find by first separating the chopped mushrooms into two equal groups.  One group is tinctured for around four to six weeks and the other group is saved to simmer on the stove when the tincture is ready.  I boil the other group in water until the amount of water is reduced to around the same amount of liquid in my strained tincture. Finally, I combine the two liquids.  This is a helpful extract to take (in five to ten ml doses up to three times daily) for immune support.


Another adaptogen, the root of the astragalus plant has been used for centuries to strengthen the immune system.  It can be a valuable asset if you are looking for something for immune support.  In addition, its adaptogenic properties make me feel better about avoiding over stimulation of the immune system and cytokine issues.  We take this in supplement form and tincture form.

Japanese Honeysuckle

This is not what I consider an immune stimulant, but I wanted to discuss it here because it is relevant. Japaneses honeysuckle (that invasive vining plant in many people’s yards) is a potent antiviral.  There are multiple antiviral compounds in this plant that may help the body combat viruses more effectively by attacking the virus. It has been studied against Influenza and even Ebola.

To make a tincture from the plant, rip the whole plant out (leaves, vine, flowers, etc) and chop everything well.  Place the material in a jar and cover it with alcohol.  Allow this to infuse for four to six weeks (shaking daily to further promote infusion) and then strain everything out when its ready.  Take 5 ml up to four times daily at the first sign of a virus.


Above: The jar on the right is my honeysuckle tincture.  Notice the vibrant, bright yellow color!

Essential Oils

There are some essential oils that have been proven to kill viruses like H1N1 in studies. This means that these oils may work with your body to help kill viruses that it encounters.   Two of my favorites are cinnamon and clove essential oil.

You can read more about how they work, other oils that work to kill viruses, and view the studies here: Tisserand Institute

When my youngest son had influenza this past winter, we knocked it out pretty quick using some of the remedies above, as well as diffusing this essential oil combination from my latest book now available for preorder, Aromatherapy and Essential Oils for Healing: 120 Remedies to Restore Mind, Body, and Spirit:

Flu fighters Diffusion Blend

Fill an ultrasonic diffuser to the water line and add five drops of clove essential oil and five drops of cinnamon essential oil.  Diffuse this for 20 minutes.  Twenty minutes is really all you need to kill any airborne pathogens in the immediate area.  If you want, you can repeat this and move the diffuser from room to room to kill any pathogens in those areas.

Use caution with both cinnamon and clove if you have a bleeding disorder or are on blood thinning medications.  Avoid using this if you notice any nose bleeds.

Other Great Remedies

Of course, I feel like I need to mention other plants, mushrooms, and supplements we take for immune support.  We grow Echinacea purpurea, which is an immune-boosting plant.  We also harvest wild elderberry growing on our farm for immune support.  According to author and herbalist Stephen Harrod Buhner, the leaves are much more potent than the berries, so I may make a synergistic blend of flowers, berries, and leaves this year.  Turkey tail mushrooms are a great immune-supporting remedy.  They may help to modulate the immune response depending on the body’s needs.  Making sure we have our daily intake of zinc, selenium, vitamin D, and vitamin C is also important.  This can be attained through diet or supplements.  I prefer getting these through diet as much as possible, but we do have supplements on hand for the kids (who we have a hard time getting to eat healthy sometimes!)

Stay healthy and God bless,

Amber Robinson, RH(AHG)



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