There is a diverse array of herbal remedies known for their potential to alleviate stress and anxiety, and we'd like to spotlight top five herbs with anti-viral properties. This focus stems from the common occurrence of falling ill following periods of heightened stress. Indeed, the impact of mental and emotional stress on the immune system can elevate the susceptibility to illness. The selected herbs not only nurture the immune system but also support the nervous system. Consequently, we recommend them for various reasons:
- During Cold and Flu Season: The herbs prove beneficial in fortifying the body against seasonal illnesses.
- During Periods of Elevated Stress and Anxiety: Recognizing the interconnectedness of mental health and the immune system, these herbs are particularly useful in times of heightened stress.
- Frequent Exposure to Viruses (e.g., School-age Children): Given the increased risk of exposure, incorporating these herbs is advantageous for those regularly in contact with viruses, such as school-age children.
- Chronic Viral Infections (e.g., EBV, HPV, "Long Haulers"): The herbs offer support in cases of chronic viral infections, including Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), Human Papillomavirus (HPV), and conditions like "long haulers."
Before delving into the specifics, it's essential to consider contraindications, delivery forms, and dosing. Some herbs may be unsuitable for certain health conditions or medications. Moreover, herbs are available in various forms—tea, solid extract, tincture, and capsules—each with its optimal usage. Additionally, some herbs are best consumed at specific times of the day.
Saint John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
Ideal for individuals experiencing mild to moderate depression, winter blues, fatigue, nervous stomach, and nerve pain, this herbal remedy is not recommended for those dealing with major depression, taking medications (especially antidepressants, Warfarin, birth control pills, etc.), sun-sensitive individuals, and pregnant women.
This remedy, available in tea, tincture, capsule, and topical salve forms (suitable for nerve pain, numbness, tingling, and burns), can be consumed at any time of the day.
While you may be familiar with St. John's Wort for its association with low mood and depression, it also possesses antiviral properties that fortify immune defenses, particularly beneficial during cold and flu season. Beyond its mood-enhancing effects, St. John's Wort offers additional advantages, including calming digestion, boosting energy levels, and alleviating nerve pain.
For individuals with seasonal depression, combining St. John's Wort with lemon Balm can be particularly effective. However, caution is necessary, especially for those on antidepressants (especially SSRIs), as St. John's Wort may interfere with their effectiveness. Additionally, individuals taking medications like Warfarin and birth control should exercise caution, as St. John's Wort can enhance the metabolism of certain drugs through the liver, potentially reducing their efficacy. Moreover, this herb may increase sun sensitivity, warranting the use of a toxin-free sunscreen when outdoors.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Ideal for those seeking a mood boost and relief from mild to moderate depression, winter blues, anxiety, nervous tension, stress, insomnia, ADHD, and hypertension, this herbal solution is not suitable for individuals with hypothyroidism, Hashimoto's, those taking thyroid medications, and pregnant women.
Available in tea, tincture, capsules, and topically for cold sores, this remedy is versatile and can be taken at any time of the day. It's particularly beneficial at night for those struggling with anxiety-induced insomnia.
Lemon balm, a flavorful herb in the mint family, possesses both antiviral and mood-lifting effects. Its antiviral properties, attributed to rosmarinic acid, contribute to reducing inflammation and balancing the immune response. Lemon balm excels in lifting low moods, alleviating anxiety, and promoting deep sleep. When combined with St. John's Wort, it becomes especially effective in combating seasonal affective disorder in the winter. Additionally, this herb has a calming effect on the mind, aiding focus (helpful for ADHD), and may enhance memory. Its mint family lineage also brings digestive benefits, making it suitable for those with a nervous stomach or post-meal gas. For individuals prone to cold sores from the herpes virus, lemon balm can be applied topically as a salve.
However, it's important to note that lemon balm is not recommended for individuals with hypothyroidism, Hashimoto's, or those taking thyroid medications.
For a soothing evening tea with added benefits, consider combining lemon balm with chamomile. This blend can enhance mood, improve sleep, and aid digestion. Simply use one tea bag of each herb, steep covered for 15 minutes, and enjoy the calming effects.
Chamomile, with its bioflavonoid component apigenin, adds an anti-inflammatory element to the blend, making it particularly beneficial for dealing with inflammatory viruses.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Ideal for those feeling "wired and tired" due to chronic fatigue, prolonged stress, overwork, and hypothyroidism, this herb is not recommended for pregnant women, individuals with nightshade sensitivities, hyperthyroidism, or hemochromatosis (high iron levels).
Available in tincture, capsules, and powder (suitable for blending in a smoothie), this remedy is versatile and can be taken at any time of the day, especially if dealing with anxiety. For those seeking deeper sleep, taking it at night is particularly beneficial. The herb's effectiveness is enhanced with long-term use, recommended for at least several months.
Ashwagandha is a deeply nourishing and balancing herb that addresses the endocrine, nervous, and immune systems. As an adaptogen, it brings these systems into balance, adjusting to whether they are overactive or underactive. It responds dynamically to the body's needs, boosting immune function when faced with a pathogen and later reducing the immune response once the infection is under control.
This herb is particularly useful for supporting the adrenals and promoting better sleep without being overly stimulating or sedating. It addresses fatigue, insomnia, mental overwork, anxiety, and stress, making it an excellent choice for restoring adrenals after periods of prolonged stress, such as post-finals for college students or after working long hours on a project. Additionally, it supports endocrine balance by nourishing the HPA axis (hypothalamus, pituitary adrenal axis), helping balance the stress response, and preventing a perpetual "fight or flight" mode.
Ashwagandha is beneficial for those with an underactive thyroid (hypothyroid), providing anti-inflammatory effects that can alleviate aches, pains, and muscle tension. The herb contains some iron, making it useful for individuals with low iron levels, especially in its powdered form.
Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Perfect for those experiencing persistent exhaustion despite a full night's sleep, chronic fatigue, adrenal fatigue, low blood pressure (hypotension), and various digestive issues such as acid reflux, ulcers, heartburn, IBS, and IBD, Licorice Root is not recommended for individuals with hypertension, congestive heart failure, water retention, pregnancy, glaucoma, diabetes, those taking MAOI antidepressants, taking potassium-depleting diuretics, or experiencing low potassium (hypokalemia).
Licorice Root is available in various forms, including tea, tincture, solid extract, capsules, and topically. It is most effective when taken in the morning.
Known for its sweet and pleasant taste, reminiscent of licorice candy, Licorice Root offers numerous benefits beyond its antiviral properties. It acts as an immune system modulator, initiating the immune response when exposed to a pathogen and subsequently helping to regulate excessive immune activity once the infection is under control. Additionally, Licorice Root is a valuable herb for supporting adrenal health and combating chronic, long-standing fatigue, making it particularly suitable for those who still feel tired after a full night's sleep.
The herb also contributes to soothing the gut lining, promoting healthy digestion when taken after meals. Its antioxidant and antihistamine properties support lung health, which can be beneficial for individuals dealing with congestion, dry cough, wheezing, or exacerbations of asthma or bronchitis. Licorice tea or glycerite can also be soothing for a sore throat, and topically, it has been known to assist with viral outbreaks like herpes and warts.
Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
Ideal for individuals embodying a "Type A" personality, those with a "go hard or go home" mentality, and those too busy to get adequate sleep, Eleuthero, also known as Siberian ginseng, is particularly beneficial for athletes, workaholics, busy parents, and students. It is well-suited for addressing chronic fatigue, adrenal fatigue, sleep problems, ADHD, and enhancing immune function. However, it is not recommended for those sensitive to caffeine (as it may be stimulating for some individuals), pregnant individuals, and those taking Digoxin or certain antibiotics. Caution is advised for individuals with hypertension.
Eleuthero is available in tincture, solid extract, and capsule forms, and it is most effective when taken in the morning or afternoon.
This herb is an excellent choice for building immune and adrenal reserves, making it particularly useful when taken several months before and during cold and flu season. As an immune tonic and modulator, Eleuthero is especially beneficial for individuals who tend to catch every bug circulating. It goes beyond immune support and serves as a valuable ally for the adrenals, energy levels, and a balanced stress response.
Tailored for individuals who thrive on a hectic lifestyle and believe that life is too short to prioritize sleep, Eleuthero is a resilience-boosting herb. It proves beneficial for those facing high-stress situations such as workaholics, individuals working long hours or overnight shifts, and students studying for finals. It's essential to note that while Eleuthero can help improve resilience, taking breaks and prioritizing self-care is equally crucial. This herb promotes calmness in the face of stress and provides additional advantages for athletes by improving stamina and supporting post-exercise recovery.
These antiviral herbs offer a fantastic choice for alleviating stress and bolstering the immune system in demanding circumstances. The versatile herbs mentioned earlier yield optimal results when integrated into a wholesome lifestyle, encompassing a nutrient-rich diet, ample water intake, a regular exercise routine, stress management techniques, well-defined personal boundaries, and healthy sleep habits.