Hi everyone - I hope you are all doing well during our what (?) third week of lock down? Our tenth? It feels like it could be the 40th hahaha well I hope you are well regardless :)
I’ve been feeling super inspired & excited about getting creative in the kitchen to create some fun and yummy ways of supporting your immune system with some newfound information I’ve come across pertaining to some potent but possibly more unconventional ways of supporting your immune system - backed by science. I must give credit to Thomas Delauer whose website and content has greatly inspired my understandings of immune health & some of these lesser known ways to support it. As well as a massive shout out to Cullen and Rix who run Aether Herbalist & Apothecary who have not only provided me with a mound of immune-supporting goods to try and get creative with, but also extensive details into their top 10 immune-supporting roots and powders which I delve into below.
Before I get stuck into this divine recipe (which honest to goodness, is one of the yummiest things that has been created in my little Grahamstown Kitchen) I want to explore some of these unconventional ways of supporting immune health.
THE IMMUNE SYSTEM is there to combat and protect us from invading pathogens and viruses. It is here to support our fullest potential of wellbeing. So, we need to support our immune system in any way that we can in it’s job of supporting us. Below I have three lists.
1. The first a list of 10 powders and healing roots that Cullen & Rix have especially picked & shared many details as to WHY these are such potent healing tools to support immunity. Remember, in order to get these goodies you can purchase any of them on their online store & get a 10% discount using the code THEHEALINGROOT at check out.
2. The second one being everyday foods that help to support our immune system function.
3.The last being a list of more unusual superfood powders, roots & “potions” that are a part of my top picks for things to incorporate into your diet & lifestyle during this time.
What’s nice about having these lists is that the everyday foods list simply highlights everyday “regular” foods that are more accessible yet still POWERFUL in supporting your health and immunity during a time where immune support is of utmost importance. While the more unique foods lists are more specialised superfoods that are incredibly nutrient-dense and especially potent in targeting immune support.
Below are the lists, with just small blurbs into only some of the reasons why they are great for immunity in order to keep this post relatively short.
Top Picks from The Aether Herbalist Fam
They are my number one go-to brand and power team for super foods & healing tinctures.
1.Turkey Tail - These mushrooms are used in TCM as immunomodulators that boosts immune function & fight infections. This ability to support the health of both an under-active & over-active immune system is very rare & valued among physicians. This mushrooms most important phytochemicals are protein bound polysaccharides - PSK ( polysaccharide krestin) & PSP( polysaccharide peptide) which are the principal immune enhancing & anti-tumor fractions present in this fungus. This amazing mushroom has also demonstrated antiviral activity. It is useful for upper respiratory, urinary, & digestive tract infections, as well as a curative to liver ailments, including hepatitis B & chronic active hepatitis. It is an ancient indigenous medicine from many different cultures around the world.
2. Astragalus Root - Astragalus root is one of the superior tonic herbs in traditional Chinese medicine. Of over 2000 known species of astragalus only 2 are used as medicines, both of which grow naturally in northern China and Mongolia. Astragalus is known as a premier Qi tonic. Qi is simple defined as the vital life force that flows in our bodies, thus a qi tonic provides protection or a conceptual “shield” which serves as a primary defense mechanism against pernicious threats to the system. Astragalus is traditionally used to tonify the lungs and is used in cases of frequent immunological disorders. This amazing root is also used for shortness of breath, seasonal allergies, heart conditions, kidney disease, night sweats, chronic ulcerations and sores, numbness and finally paralysis of the limbs. Astragalus is known as a potent immune boosting herb and disease fighter. It is an immunostimulant that can increase white blood cell count and stimulate the production of antibodies, this builds up bodily resistance to viruses and bacteria. Astragalus' flavonoids and astragaloside IV increase cell-mediated immunity which increases the number of T-helper cells, and stimulates macrophage and natural killer cell activity - thus enhancing both cellular and humoral immune responses.
3. Liquorice Root - Liquorice has since been documented in Egypt as a “cure-all” around the times of the great Pharaohs. In 1923 at the first opening of pharaoh Tutankhamun's impressive tomb there were large quantities of liquorice root extract found. Liquorice has traditionally been utilised to increase energy and stamina, fight bronchitis, upper respiratory catarrh, and coughs, as well as to reduce stomach acid. It also increases mucus secretion in the gastric tract, soothing irritation and inflammation. Liquorice root contains more than 20 triterpenoids and nearly 300 flavonoids - which accounts for the powerful antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumorgenic, and antimalarial effects from this root. Liquorice root also helps the body produce healthy mucus within the bronchial system as well as tracheal system, providing demulcent and expectorant effects. This keeps the respiratory system functioning well making it effective in treatment of sore throat, cough and bronchial catarrh. This root also inhibits the growth of various viruses, including herpes simplex, varicella zoster, as well as the infamous influenza virus. This tasty plant is also a vital ally for those struggling with stress and exhaustion as it is a formidable adaptogen - stimulating the adrenal gland, thus promoting healthy levels of cortisol in the body.
4. Cancerbush - Classified as the only true indigenous tonic or adaptogen in South Africa, this amazing plant deserves higher recognition in the world due to its long list of medicinal benefits. Cancer bush has enjoyed a long history of use by all cultures in southern Africa, including the Tswana, Sotho, and the Zulu - who called it Insiswa (the one who dispels darkness). Cancerbush's uses as a medicine reportedly started with the Koi San and Nama people who introduced it to the early European settlers in the Cape. Traditional uses for this amazing plant include the treatment of depression and anxiety, asthma and bronchitis, kidney infections, moderate hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome and more recently as a treatment for both HIV/Aids and cancer. The therapeutic properties of Cancer Bush are based on its ability to help the human body mobilize its own immunologic and physiologic resources to help combat diseases and fight mental and emotional stress. Several complex compounds have been isolated including canavanine (non-protein α-amino acid), triterpenoids, saponins, flavonoids, γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and pinitol canavanine is the most important nonprotein amino acid found in the leaves of Cancer Bush as it is thought to be the major anticancer agent, it also has potent antiviral activity against influenza and retroviruses.
5. Pine Pollen - In Chinese medicine, Pine Pollen is considered to be a tonic herb, capable of nourishing all major organs of the body including the lungs, kidney, liver, heart, and spleen. This powerful supplement contains over 200 bio-active nutrients including 17 amino acids, b vitamins, vitamins a, c, and d as well as powerful antioxidants like superoxide dismutase, resveratrol, and more. Pine Pollen is an exceptionally powerful medicine for improving immune function and lowering the systemic inflammation that often leads to cellular oxidation. It also increases levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD) - the bodies master antioxidant as well as glutathione, which help detoxify environmental pollutants and oxidative stress from the body. Pine Pollen contains bioavailable forms of androstenedione, testosterone, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), androsterone and a wide variety of other phyto-steroidal compounds which harmonize and powerfully rejuvenate the endocrine system. Pine pollen has traditionally been used to enhance the immune system and treat low libido, depression, cognitive decline, and accumulation of fat on the body, among other things.
6. Reishi mushroom - Reishi has been recognized as a medicinal mushroom for over 4000 years, & its powerful effects have been documented in many ancient manuscripts. Traditionally, it was used in China by Taoist monks to promote calmness, improve meditative practices, as well as to attain a long & healthy life. Chinese royalty, seeking longevity, held Reishi mushroom in high esteem. In Chinese medicine it is regarded as a three treasure tonic, nourishing the shen, jing, & qi. Reishi has been used in traditional medicine to remove toxins, treat cancer, rectify heart disease, liver problems, joint inflammation, ulcers. Thanks to modern science we now understand Red Reishi better than ever before, we have successfully isolated 130 different polysaccharides, over 119 triterpenes along with many other phytonutrients making up one of the most complex medicines known to man with just over 900 bioactive constituents identified thus far.This fungus consistently demonstrates a profound ability to nourish vitality, relax the nervous system, calm the mind, & promote a state of relaxed focus and concentration. One of the most important effects of the reishi mushroom is that it can boost your immune system, test-tube studies have shown that reishi can increase white blood cell count & dramatically upgrade our immune response, particularly the process of phagosytosis (the mechanism by which lymphocytes, macrophages & killer cell roam the body picking up debris & consuming toxins & harmful organisms). Out of Reishis vast triterpenoids, 2 compounds in particular stand out, ganoderic & ganoderenic acids, these have shown tremendous results in treating auto immune diseases, allergies, liver function (betaglucoronodase inhibitor - an enzyme linked to sclerosis & hepatitis) they have also shown antioxidant qualities, which protect the body from free radical damage as well as enhance overall cell repair. All this information along with physical testing points to Reishi being one of the best adaptogens we currently have, helping the body adapt to the every day stressors of life, increasing energy & immunity as well as helping to ward off long term degenerative diseases.
7. Cats claw - Cat's claw is widely thought of as one of the most important botanical herbs found in the rain forest as it is used as a cleansing and supportive herb of the immune system, cardiovascular system, and intestinal system. Although research on cat's claw began in the 1970s, it didn't gain worldwide attention until the 1990s, when studies showed it to be a possible treatment for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS ) and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection; cancer; and other ailments. The active compounds in cat's claw include oxidole alkaloids, triterpenes, phytosterols, and proanthocyanidins. Researchers have isolated unique alkaloids in the bark and roots that activate the immune system by increasing white blood cell activity. This Ancient plant also contains quinovic acid glycosides which have documented anti-inflammatory benefits, and are effective in relieving the stiffness and swelling prevalent in arthritis, rheumatism, and joint pain. Cats claw bark is also used to treat intestinal complaints, asthma, wounds as well as an adjunctive treatment for cancer and AIDS.
8. African Potato - Hailed as a `miracle muti' and `wonder potato', Hypoxis hemerocallidea has long been revered for its powerful medicinal abilities. Inyanga's and Sangoma's use infusions of the corm to treat dizziness and bladder infections, and decoctions are given as tonics or applied to burns - it is also a go-to for immune support and sinus related issues. With modern research we can see that anti cancer, anti HIV and anti inflammatory activity are ascribed to this plants vast array of phytochemicals. Once in the body, the chemical hypoxoside is converted into its aglycone - rooperol, a potent antioxidant. Rooperol has several biological activities, it is antimutagenic and cytotoxic to cancer cells, and ongoing research into hypoxis shows antioxidant, anti inflammatory, anti diabetic, anti convulsant and anti cancer activity. Sterols and sterolins have been shown to be beneficial at enhancing an under-active immune system. Research has shown that these chemicals appears to alert the immune system to produce more CD4 – T cells - lymphocytes which are then made available to destroy invading viruses and bacteria which cause bodily harm.
9. Chaga - This amazing mushroom has been researched extensively & has been proven to treat ulcers , tuberculosis, as well as stomach, liver & heart disease. Chaga contains a large range of important active constituents including polysaccharides, phenolic compounds, lanostane triterpenoids & melanin, a pigment that is present and needed throughout the human body, with a wide range of health benefits. Research on Chaga has demonstrated potent immune modulating actions. Upon ingestion, a range of secondary metabolites are produced, many of which are highly active as potent immune boosters. Chaga is a rich source of β-glucans (beta glucans) - polysaccharides that are quintessential nutrients for the immune system. These polysaccharides have strong immune balancing properties - enhancing the body’s ability to produce natural killer (NK) cells. On a cellular level, Chaga has been shown to support the response to oxidative molecules that may impact human DNA if not quenched. Chaga is also a great adjunct treatment with chemotherapy due to its ability to prevent intoxication, regurgitation, it also improves appetite, reduces pain & improves immunity.
10. Eleuthero - In Traditional Chinese Medicine its action is to invigorate physical energy, regulate vigour, strengthen the skeleton and tendons, and increase one's ambition. As a motivational herb, Siberian Ginseng is hard to beat – there isn’t much else that can deliver so much wonderful, raw energy. For this reason it was given to many Siberian warriors from young, as well as right before battle as it is stimulating to one’s energy level within minutes of consumption — and increases vitality over time. It is also famous as an adaptogenic herb, thus aiding humans in handling stress and increasing mental and physical endurance. Chemical analysis reveals that the active substances in Eleuthero are sterols, coumarins, flavonoids and polysaccharides. Eleuthero research has focused primarily on mechanisms related to stress-protective activity. Interactions within the HPA axis regulate the stress response, and adaptogens, such as Eleuthero, have been proven to help to maintain homeostasis in the presence of stress. Eleuthero's main effects as an adaptogen are believed to be due to its concentration of a unique family of compounds known as eleutherosides. Additionally, two polysaccharides in the plant display specific immune-enhancing power by promoting phagocytosis – when protective cells engulf harmful microorganisms, damaged cells and foreign particles.
Top Picks of Everyday Foods to Help Immunity:
• Olive Oil: whether that is in the form of Olive Leaf extract, whole olives or a high quality cold pressed olive oil or olives in their pure form. Olive oil is a great source of the antioxidants because olive oil is a condensed form of the compound that is highly beneficial for the immune system. It neutralises free radicals but it also essentially tells the body on a genetic level to produce more of the natural antioxidants that your body creates. However, be aware that olive oil is also dense in energy. So, if you would like to get the benefits of these compounds without the high fat & energy content you can use olive leaf extract. Olive oil is about 15 times more powerful than green tea in terms of its’ antioxidant power.
• Brussel sprouts: incredibly high in vitamin C
• Kale & other leafy greens: packed with vitamin C, and anti-oxidants, vitamins & minerals that make leafy greens a TRUE powerhouse source of health
• Bell peppers: extremely high in Vitamin C and a range of other vitamins & minerals & antioxidants.
• Kimchi & Sauerkraut: 60-80% of our immune cells are in our gut, meaning that healthy gut = healthy immune system and fermented foods like apple cider vinegar, kombucha, krauts, kefirs and anything else that is fermented will help to support immune function.
• Vitamin D: is what enables the immune cells to be called to work through activation via vitamin D (in other words, Vitamin D is what allows the immune system to make use of the vitamin C that we take in, so if you aren’t getting enough vitamin D then much of the other vitamins that are supposedly good for immune function are much less effective). The zinc keeps inflammation in check which is important because inflammation suppresses optimal immune function - this can be found in dark leafy greens.
• Garlic: garlic is a potent healing force that helps to fight off infection - sulphur compounds in garlic help to neutralise free radicals really quickly.
• Ginger: decreases inflammation & helps fight infection
• Turmeric: anti-inflammatory properties & a range of vitamins & minerals
• Papaya: great for digestive health, anti-inflammation and high in Vitamin A and C particularly (among many other nutrients)
• Kiwi: very high in vitamin C and other nutrients
• Berries: lower inflammation in the body, high in antioxidants and other minerals
• Granadillas: high in iron, Vitamin C, beta-cryptoxanthin and alpha-carotene all of which support immune function
• Citrus fruit (grapefruit, lemon, orange especially): high in Vitamin C among many other vitamins & minerals that help in supporting immunity
• Green tea: high in compounds called Polyphenols which help to fight off viruses & infections
• Chamomile tea: also great for supporting immunity but de-stressing the mind & body
• Black tea: this might surprise you but in fact normal tea has a high amount of anti-oxidants which support immune system functioning
• Sunflower seeds: help the immune system to manage cell damage & are high in a host of other nutrients which support immune function
• High quality dark chocolate (the darker the better): one of the BEST sources of antioxidants on the planet
• Pecans: the manganese in these nuts is great for boosting immunity and pecans also have powerful anti-inflammatory properties
• Macadamias: high in copper, magnesium & mangenese which together support healthy neurotransmitter function & neuroscientists are now considering the stomach to be the “second brain” due to the strong correlation between brain function & immunity
• Sweet potatoes: among many other things, sweet potatoes are high in Carotenoids which help your immune system stave off infection & disease
My Top Picks of Super Foods for Immunity:
• Acai berry (powder or pulp)
• Barley grass powder
SOME OTHER VITAL THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN TRYING TO SUPPORT IMMUNITY:
• REDUCE stress - stress is one of the biggest immuno-suppresants! By reducing stress, we activate our parasympathetic nervous system which immediately allows us to enter rest & digest mode which is the space where much healing occurs on a mental, emotional, energetic & physical level. When we are consistently over-burdening our system by being in a constant state of fight or flight response, there is excess cortisol in the body and this can have highly detrimental effects if activated in excess. Some cortisol is healthy & normal, however we live in a society where our stress response is consistently activated leaving little time for the healing state of the parasympathetic nervous system.
• Vitamin C: it’s important to note that Vitamin C is pretty much useless without sufficient amounts of Vitamin D - so if you ever needed an excuse or prescription to sun bathe daily, this is it! Lying in the sun with about 80% of skin exposure for about 20 minutes a day has been proven to increase Vitamin D levels substantially. What’s more is that sun bathing is not only a great way of getting vitamin D but it also relaxes the nervous system by reducing stress & other stress hormones in the body and is therefore great for supporting optimal immune function.
• BREATHING - breathing techniques such as Wim Hof breathing help to alkalize the body & help to boost immunity in a POWERFUL way.
NOW, to get to the delicious bar recipe.
I am aware that this recipe uses a bunch of ingredients from the ‘unusual’ immune-supporting foods list so, if you don’t have some of the powders that I have specified below, you can substitute whatever superfood powders that you have on hand instead.
In total, you will need to substitute 4 teaspoons worth of powders - taking a slightly more conservative approach (in terms of amounts) with powders that have a VERY intense flavour. For example, if you are wanting to swap out pine pollen for Spirulina I would not suggest putting in more than a teaspoon unless you really want your bars to taste like pond scum! In fact if you are wanting to sub in Spirulina I would suggest starting off with half a teaspoon first, and increasing it as you go. Remember, you can always add in but you can’t take out! So whatever your ratios of powders are, together let them constitute 4 teaspoons worth.
If you don’t have any super food powders to substitute with you can simply account for that quantity of dried goods by adding in the one tablespoon more of coconut/oats or almond meal and another teaspoon of cinnamon to make up the 4 teaspoons worth.
Another fantastical thing about this recipe is that it lasts for AGES in the fridge or freezer making it a really ideal snack to make ahead of time before the busy-ness of the weeks begin.
Yet another fab thing about this recipe is that it has a range of different vitamins, minerals and amino acids and a really great ratio of healthy carbohydrates and heart healthy fats that together create a truly fantastic little bar to have whenever you need a little pick me up. These really are an anytime deal because they are just so dang good AND healthy: in the morning with your coffee, pre or post workout, as a dessert treat or as an afternoon sweet somethin’ or as a take-to-school or work substitute for that treat with your mid morning tea break.
Let’s get to it …
• 1/2 cup desiccated coconut (I used regular unsweetened)
• 10 tablespoons of Jungle Oats (or quick cook oats)
• 8 raw brazil nuts (these are important! Even if you don’t like the taste of brazil nuts on their own, they add an important textural quality to the bars & you don’t taste them!)
• 1/4 cup raw honey (maple, agave or sweet molasses can be substituted)
• 3 tablespoons of chopped dark (really dark) chocolate (I used Soaring Free Superfoods CBD chocolate)
• 2-3 teaspoons of tahini
• 6 semi-dried dates (not medjool: medjools are a lot fresher & juicier so they will change the consistency of the bars. If using medjools start off with 2 and see how the consistency is - you don’t want the bar dough to be too “wet”)
• 1 tablespoon of chia seeds
• 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon of Maca powder
• 1 teaspoon of Pine pollen
• 1 teaspoon of Baobab powder
• 1/2 teaspoon of Buchu powder
• 1/4 teaspoon of Pau D’arco or Cats Claw powder
• 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon of Ashwagandha powder
• 1/2 teaspoon of liquid stevia OR more honey to taste
• Big pinch of mineral salt
1. In a food processor place the oats, the coconut, the dates, the stevia, the salt and the powders. Blend until thoroughly mixed & combined.
2. Now add in the honey, tahini, the roughly chopped chocolate chunks and the brazil nuts and pulse/process until a rough dough is formed (you will have to test it’s doughy-ness by pressing the mixture between your fingers because you don’t want to pulse this mixture until there is no texture - the little chunks of brazil nuts and chocolate make it really delicious so you don’t want to pulse it to the point of it being like a smooth/paste-like consistency).
3. Line a small square baking tray or tupperware with parchment/baking paper and then press this dough into the corners, pressing it all down evenly to create the base for your bars.
4. Place into the fridge for a couple of hours to firm up (or overnight) and then slice into desired size & TUCK IN!