• Anna Johnson

How to Stay Well, Naturally

Happy Wellness Wednesday, friends! I was inspired to write about this thanks to my own experiences from the past week and a half. Exactly one week ago today, I came down with The Big C. And while I have definitely had my share of extreme sickness events, I can attest that this was BAD, and probably one of the worst I've endured. Given how high-risk I am, I feel incredibly grateful and fortunate to not have gotten sicker than I did - although a 103-degree fever for almost 72 hours was plenty sick for me!

With this said, I was reminded in a much more powerful way through all of this the true power in plants, and in things we have readily available to us on this earth. Plants - herbs and food - have saved my life multiple times, but sometimes I forget just how incredible they are, and how quickly and thoroughly they can work. So, I wanted to specifically highlight a few of my very favorite ways to ensure my immune system is in tip-top shape and ready to fight whatever attacker comes its way. Please note that this is NOT the specific things that I did to recover from being very sick. If you are curious about that, please email me directly at annasorganicswellness@gmail.com

5 Natural Remedies for Immune Support

1. Elder

Elder, Sambucus nigra, is far-and-away my favorite remedy for immune support. This incredible herb never ceases to amaze me with how quickly it can reduce even the highest fever. Elder is a diaphoretic, or an herb that works to reduce fevers naturally by opening the pores and encouraging one to "sweat it out." Numerous studies have proven the efficacy of Elder, including this one, which revealed that those who consumed Elder recovered from the flu 4 days earlier than non-Elder consumers, and this one, which showed that Elder binds to and prevents the H1N1 virus.

Elderberry extract is very easy to find these days, and just as easy to make. Just be sure that, if you do make it, you thoroughly cook the berries, as they cannot be consumed raw or undercooked. You can find elderberry extract on Amazon, at the Vitamin Shoppe, Whole Foods, and at any local health food store. This brand (below) is a great one, and one I use myself.

2. Astragalus

Astragalus is an ancient herbal remedy originating from Traditional Chinese Medicine. Astragalus provides deep immune support by biochemically modulating the immune response and the immune system's ability to fight off invaders. Unlike Elder, Astragalus is NOT meant to be taken during acute infection or fever (stop taking it at the FIRST sign of sickness), but instead, taken when well to help build a thorough foundation in the immune system. Another common use of Astragalus is post-sickness, specifically sicknesses that are long-term, very physically depleting, and has resulted in potential compromise of an individual's immune system for a long period of time (think cancer survivors). Astragalus is one of the best remedies for rebuilding, re-nourishing, and restoring the body to optimal function. It is also highly anti-inflammatory, and can be an excellent remedy for fatigue related to illness recovery as well.

3. Zinc

Zinc is one of the most important things for immune health...not to mention metabolic health, digestive health, brain health, and reproductive health. One of the easiest ways to naturally support your immune system is to make sure you're consuming zinc-rich foods on a daily basis (pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, grass-fed beef, chickpeas, lentils), and possibly taking an extra supplement if you have poor digestive function, digestive issues, or an autoimmune disease. Boosting your intake of zinc when you're under the weather gives your immune system the fuel it needs to kick into high gear and fight off whatever is attacking. And taking an easily-absorbable form (like liquid ionic) makes it that much more effective. NOTE: taking very high-dose zinc supplementation all the time is not recommended, as zinc and copper need to remain in balance within the body. Taking extra/high dose zinc supplementation during an acute sickness, however, is unlikely to throw your zinc/copper ratio out of balance, as your body will be using the zinc, rather than storing it.

4. Get Your Greens (and Reds, Blues, Purples, Oranges, etc.)

Never underestimate the power of the color GREEN! Just like spring, green is the color of LIFE - and this holds true for our diet, too. Getting plenty of green vegetables every day improves the function of every cell in our body, including our immune cells. Similarly, making an effort to "eat the rainbow" every day ensures that we are filling our bodies with a rainbow of nutrients.

If you have trouble eating enough vegetables, get creative. Blend butternut squash into a sauce, add some cauliflower into your mashed potatoes recipe, add a few handfuls of spinach into your morning smoothie, swap potatoes for sweet potatoes, or grab an apple and some nut butter for an afternoon snack.

5. Lower Stress, Increase Sleep

This is a biggie, and the one you're most likely to ignore doing...because let's be real - who has time for sleep?! And how can you lower your stress when it infiltrates every area of your life?This is the sad but true attitude of too many people these days...and our health is suffering because of it. Sleep is one of the most important things (if not THE most important thing) for our health, wellbeing, and especially PREVENTION of and RECOVERY from sickness. Studies show that consistently getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night raises risk of developing dementia by a whopping 30% - that is huge.

Similarly, stress is a major issue in our culture. We are a very fast-paced society, and I often wonder if that is a leading factor in heart attacks (in Traditional Chinese Medicine, "joy" is the emotion of the heart, and the one that, when felt excessively, can weaken the physical function of the heart. However, the literal translation of their term for "joy" is "over-excitement" or "over-stimulation." Sounds a lot like out word stress, doesn't it?). Either way, the link between stress and poor immune function is clear: stress weakens the immune system. And chronic stress chronically weakens the immune system.

So what to do? Strive to go to bed just 30 minutes earlier each night until you are hitting 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Breaking it down into 30-minute segments will get you there without feeling like you're losing half of your day. And as for stress? Well, you know I'm a huge proponent of meditation...and for good reason. Countless studies have shown that meditation CHANGES our gene expression, thereby changing our predisposition for illness and disease. Just meditating for 5 minutes a day has proven to be effective - so don't let the excuse of "I don't have time" get in your way. Everyone has 5 minutes.


So there you have it. 5 things you can incorporate into your life to improve the function of your immune system. As always, I am just an email away if you have any questions or concerns, or are ready to take the first step in your healing journey and work with me one-on-one. Reach out to me at annasorganicswellness@gmail.com.

Until next time,

Stay happy, healthy, and hopeful.

Dr. Anna Johnson, ND






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