Selection of spices

Host Immunity

First let me give a shout out to the amazing  Dr Christopher Hobbs who has taught me so much about natural and host immunity and to the Shift Network  for putting on the recent Summit on Plant Medicines and the Modern Epidemics.     A lot of the material in my blog is thanks to the great information they have given out so freely.

Let me secondly shout out to all of us standing up for freedom to choose our health decisions. We really need to do a deep dive into understanding the way our bodies and their immune systems work and what resources are around us that we can draw from to boost our own immunity and  pull us through the effects of diseases when we get hit by them.  Back to our own resourcefulness and  our own responsibility for the decisions we take for ourselves and our families.  Know that each of us has a different biology and  so modify what you take according to  that. Start cautiously and  notice how your body  responds to anything you are taking and adjust accordingly.

Pandemics are said to be likely to be more lethal in the future than the one we have now, so take up the challenge to be well prepared. For the  focus of this blog I’ll put most attention on respiratory diseases and related secondary infections.   That seems to me to be the most relevant in our current global climate.

Below I’ll outline as succinctly as possible what the types of immunity are, and the most useful daily habits and effective plant based medicines that can be used.  It seems to me to be important to outline the medicinals and strategies that are easily accessible to all of us. Don’t suddenly go out of stock just because the spin on the street is that this or that brand is the best, the be all and end all of immunity boosters (!!!)

What else is available as locally as possible and for as little money as possible. If finances are tight or cash flow gets disrupted what can we grab out of the garden, out of the pantry or from foraging wild?

None of this comment is brand based

There are a plethora of whizz bang brand based products out in the marketplace (online and off) and knowing which ones have integrity and are not just sold on marketing spin is for you and your due diligence to determine. Buyer beware. Read labels, question suppliers and don’t just listen to what, for example, your aunt who is a naturopath might say.

I’ll mention some tried and true suppliers I have used over many years. They are mainly relevant to the East Coast of Australia or close by.   If you live elsewhere seek out similar suppliers and check how and where they source each product you are asking them about.

Make sure your supplies are chemical free or organic, not from China, not bulked out with fillers and are non GMO.  In an emergency however, grab the closest product similar to that which is available!

We have two types of immunity

Firstly – Innate immune response: This kicks into immediate response when we are confronted with a pathogen. Our innate immune systems goes into a general targeting response to the challenge.  It throws all it can at the unfamiliar threat and in doing this   our bodies respond in a many ways in an attempt to destroy the pathogen – fever, inflammation, aches and pains, headaches. Do manage them wisely but don’t feel you have to absolutely suppress them as they are performing a function in the healing process.

Secondly – Adaptive immune response: This is a secondary response which is highly specific to a particular pathogen.  It involves B-cells which produce antibodies and T-cells which have a memory of how best to orchestrate a defense to a specific pathogen that has been encountered by the body before.  This gives us our long term adaptive immune responses.   Recent research over the period of the current pandemic is indicating that if you contract this respiratory disease naturally and develop symptoms your adaptive immune system will remember how to respond effectively at for at least a year after the initial disease.  Unfortunately  we will have to wait to see if research into this  immunity shows that it will last longer than one year as this particular respiratory disease has only been around a short time.  Watch that space.

Secondary bacterial infections

Its common with virally caused respiratory diseases to have secondary opportunistic organisms take advantage . These include bronchitis and pneumonia.   When planning heath responses we need to prepare for these possible bacterial challenges as well.

How do we do prepare for all this? 

I’ll start with the more familiar strategies, foods and herbs and   end with the heavy hitters so be sure to read down to the end of this blog.

Lifestyle matters!

Prevention is important. This might seem simplistic, however, it is the single most important factor in building optimal health and resilience so let’s cover that first.  Living each day having healthy habits builds a strong natural immunity system. Your body will then be able to throw off most disease and do so with minimal symptoms.

Lower stress and worry – build stress reduction into your life as a daily habit

  • meandering without a driven purpose
  • forest walks and beach strolls
  • meditative actions like being in nature and watching  trees, clouds and stars
  • gardening or mucking about in boats
  • humm, sing, whistle and dance
  • sniff lavender essential oil

Sleep 7+ hours a day – healthy sleep without mobile phones and computers near you.  Recent research shows that those with poor sleep patterns had a 30% reduction in immune system functionality.

Relationships – build them, nurture them and recognise their importance – hang out with those you love and let them know you care.

Exercise that involves stretching, run/walk sequences and aerobics. Exercise and strengthen your lungs especially important where we face respiratory diseases.

Put less toxins into your system. Did you know that 60% of your immune system tissue is in the gut? What you put in your gut really effects your immunity.

  • Swing over to more unprocessed and natural unrefined complete foods.
  • Organic or chemical free, free of preservatives and fillers, non GMO.
  • Grow some of your own if possible
  • Filter your drinking water to eliminate fluoride and other chemicals
  • Slow down on eating meat from animals fed bulk antibiotics as part of that food production process (poultry, pork, beef and farmed fish are all subjected to heavy chemical use in their farming)
  • Back off high sugar, high refined and processed food which depress your immune system. These are natural responses and are working to detox your body.

Don’t help bacteria build their resistance to antibiotics. Avoid using pharmaceutical antibiotics unless it’s a life threatening situation. Save their use for situations where it’s absolutely vital. Instead use natural antibiotics, anti-fungals and antivirals  like the ones mentioned below. Chuck out antibacterial wipes where possible and use vinegars and baking sodas and natural cleaning products instead

Probiotics – these repopulate the good gut bacteria and balance the gut biome. Use a potent one that has been stored in the fridge. Use a daily maintenance dose and up this if you get sick.  Remember that 60% of your immunity flows from having a healthy gut.

I suppose I should also say the obvious as well! Stop smoking!  Especially in an era of respiratory diseases.

Out of your pantry or garden – DIY medicinal foods

Ingredients for a herb tea
Get creative with herb teas
  • Dried herb mixes that can be blended, dried and then used to make a herbal tea. Brew up a pot and sip throughout the day, hot or iced:  Sage, lavender, rosemary and thyme
    • Onions – Eat daily cooked or raw
    • Garlic which is far more active antimicrobial if taken raw.   Crush into food you are cooking at the very end as heat destroys its medicinal  qualities.  Or make a garlic syrup with crushed cloves in honey, thinned with a little water and sealed and stored in the fridge. Take a half teaspoon daily and more if you are unwill with flu, colds or lung disease.
    • Good old Vitamin C. Most of us are deficient in it. 1 gram a day or more (up to bowel looseness) if you are deficient. It’s best used as a preventative before you catch anything.
    • Coloured berries particularly the dark ones like blue berries
    • Pomegranate juice
    • Elderberries are dynamite for respiratory diseases.  You can look for fruiting trees in your neighbourhood or perhaps you are lucky enough to have some.   You need to cook the berries to prevent nausea response.  Best is to heat them for 10 minutes, add boiling water, jar and lid them and preserve them by placing the jar in boiling water until the lid expands. Cool and keep jar unopened in the fridge for use when the trees are not fruiting.  I think I have seen a good naturally produced elderberry juice and syrup for purchase online.  Great remedy if children are sick.
    • All spices especially turmeric (a great anti-inflammatory) purchased fresh – use with a bit of black pepper as piperine (in pepper) enhances curcumin absorption in the body by up to 2,000%, combining the spices magnifies their effects. Cinnamon is great for the lungs – put it in all your coffees, teas, lattes, smoothies or combine with coconut oil when cooking curries.
    • Dark greens added to smoothies and teas and cooking – chlorophyll, spirulina powder, stinging nettle and kale are all great

Therapeutic herbs and fungi

Quality matters. Check the supplier and quiz them on their sources.  Fresh is often better so can you grow your own, forage them or buy from the local farmers market?  If not, get powder concentrates as they are generally stronger, more potent and don’t have the fillers that are often found in capsuled herbs.  

Often herbs work synergistically and enhance each others potency.   

  • Combine liquorice, fresh ginger and red reishi mushroom into a tea. You can add dark greens like stinging nettle to this mix. Red reishi is a powerful natural antiviral fungi particularly effective with lung diseases and has a 2,000 year track record with this useage in Chinese traditional medicine.  It revs up the T-cells and provides a long term adaptive response to respiratory infections.  Check out Google for “red Reichi medicinal mushroom” and do some of your own due diligence. Here’s a good link.
  • “Jade Wind Screen” – is for viral and antibacterial infections and strengthens the immune system.  It’s another mix where its individual herbs are enhanced by being in combination with the others. Dipping into traditional Chinese Medicine you can Google “Jade Wind Screen”  up for  suppliers or find a Chinese Herbalist near you.  It contains Astragalus root (immunity strengthener), Atractylodes rhizome for lung and spleen  balance, and Ledebourella root (expectorant for lungs).
  • Echinacea tincture:  Get this from  Newtons Pharmacy as they do a very strong extract. Take it at the very, very first indication of any cold or flu symptoms. This herb has literally saved my life once. It has been, in an earlier time the go to herb for a burst appendix.
  • Codonopsis for lung health and deep immunity.  There are some good options online.
  • Shitake mushrooms – stir fry and enjoy this medicinal mushroom

Most of the above herbs and fungi are available locally

Try these direct mail sources for herbs and tinctures: because they are not pushing a particular brand their prices are reasonable and their advice unbiased: 

  • Isabell Shipard’s herb farm in Nambour –   She’s no longer around but her son runs the farm and direct mails your orders. Ring him rather than attempt to use the online order system.  They also sell Isabell’s classic book on medicinal herbs so it’s a great tool to have on hand.
  • Newtons compounding chemist in York Street Sydney. It’s been operating for over 50 years, is highly ethical and experienced and has a huge range of herbs and natural medicines.  Do phone orders, talk to the resident naturopaths or fill in their online form.

Heavy hitting antiviral herbs

  • Andrographis – use capsules as its very bitter
  • Elderflower tea – we mentioned berries  above but the flowers make good tea.
  • Cedar leaf teas – any cedar will do.  Cut the leaves and use fresh or dry them and store for later use.
  • Zinc – that old and very important standby mineral. Prevents viral infections. Take daily. Sometimes it makes you feel nauseous so adjust to your body’s needs.
  • Vitamen C as a preventative.

Heavy hitting anti bacterials

  • Oregano  – leaves picked from your garden and steamed to get a mix to put into a little spray bottle or find a pure oregano oil to have on hand.
  • Raw garlic.  Make the syrup with a raw honey – we mentioned this above
  • Manuka honey – get a raw local one that’s 20+ MGO for antibiotic use.   Take probiotics and fermented foods after the course of treatment to repopulate the gut with good bacteria as these very strong natural antibiotics knock out many good bacteria in your gut as well as the ones you don’t want.  

Just to finish on a high note – a potent expectorant  – Cyclone Cider

This is a very useful recipe if you get secondary  infections in the lungs – bronchitis, mucous, pneumonia.

 2 cups of apple cider vinegar

Fresh grated ginger


Horseradish if you have it

Fresh squeezed garlic

Cayenne pepper

Tangerine or orange peel if you have it

Manuka honey to taste

Blend it all up, store in the fridge and take a teaspoon as needed. 

Not sure if I can say ENJOY with this last recipe!

Jenna Ford portrait

Jenna Ford


Bringing to you the finest Australian Manuka honeys and plant based medicinals for health, immunity and longevity