First thing’s first. I need to make a very important point about taking herbs as a way to help your immune system. I want to make this as plain and simple as I can. Herbs are not going to cure you from a severe infection. Herbs are extremely good for mild to moderate cases of colds and flu like symptoms when you catch them early but if the symptoms last for more than a couple of days and are not getting better, you need to see a medical professional. Also, never neglect the importance of things like sleep, nutrition and common practices like staying out of crowded places if something is “going around” and if you can’t stay out of those places, you can absolutely wear a mask. None of these measures, the herbs, the social distancing, the keeping yourself reasonably healthy will on their own be a perfect way to avoid getting sick. But combined, they can absolutely make a difference.
Now, back to our scheduled programming.
We here at Team Herbalogic have created an herbal system of immune boosters. We named the first formula Support System Booster Shield. But his friends just call him Shield.
First, let’s do a little review on our formula Support System, our version of the traditional formula called Yu Ping Feng San - often translated as Jade Wind Screen Powder. This is a gentle formula, appropriate for long-term, daily use and is arguably the number one formula for immune support in Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine. It is a formula you take during times when it is more likely that you might come down with a common cold or mild flu like symptoms. If you know that when the weather changes in autumn you often get the sniffles, this is a great formula to take daily during that seasonal change.
Shield builds on Support System by adding 5 herbs specifically aimed at making the formulation stronger. This absolutely begs one to ask the question, why not just take Shield all the time if it is stronger? Excellent question. Just about anyone can take Support System all year long. It is gentle and easily tolerated for long periods of time. Shield is stronger and meant to be taken for up to 6 to 8 weeks at a time followed by a break.
Let’s take a look at the extra herbs that build the Shield.
- Ziziphus jujuba: It’s a date. No, we aren’t going to dinner, this herb is actually a fruit called a date. It isn’t exactly what people are thinking of when they think of herbs. Often people think of rare plants in the misty mountains with near magic properties. I don’t know about magic, but this is a date you want to be on. It is not only full of deliciousness but also polysaccharides, antioxidants and triterpenes that moderate the immune response.
- Turkey Tail mushrooms: This herb isn’t traditionally part of Chinese Medicine but there has been enough research on its ability to trigger a variety of antiviral cytokines that we decided to include this medicinal mushroom in the formula.
- Cordyceps sinensis: This whole genus is regarded as a source for promising novel medicinal compounds. It is often treated as an expensive tonic harvested by locals high in the himalayas. (Side note: I came across this herb in a market in Chengdu in 2005 and even with the exchange rate of 8 RMB to 1 USD, it was still going for nearly $100 per gram although it was considerably less expensive in Lhasa) We use it here because of the research showing it inducing phagocytosis which is an important part of the immune process.
- Woad (root) This herb known as Ban Lan Gen is routinely used in many TCM formulations for upper respiratory issues.
- Woad (aerial portion) Also known as Da Qing Ye, this herb is often used to do many of the same things as Ban Lan Gen, in fact they are the same plant, just different parts. Da Qing Ye is thought to be somewhat stronger and work more deeply.
It is a complicated task to tell someone exactly when to switch from Support System to Shield, but I would like to offer this analogy. Imagine that your body is a mediaeval castle and for this analogy there are some marauders in the lands.
When to take Support System
Take Support System when you have heard that there are marauders in the lands but you haven’t seen them, they might not make it to your little part of the kingdom but just in case you make sure that your security team knows to be on the lookout.
When to take Support System Booster Shield
The marauders are not at your gate, in fact they might not even be in your lands yet, but you can see the smoke from their encampment over that hill over there and there is a pretty good chance that they might make their way to you. What this looks like in reality is hearing that Sarah from accounting called in sick today because she has a tickle in her throat and just doesn’t feel great. And just like that you can’t remember if you stole a french fry off her plate when you had lunch together yesterday. Time to start building the Shield wall.
When should you not take Shield?
We can start with the pretty obvious times like if it upsets your stomach or gives you any other subtle cue that you aren’t tolerating these herbs well. You should also quit taking them if you start to come down with symptoms that one would normally associate with a cold or flu. We will cover some herbs to take when you get symptoms in another blog post.
As with all our formulas we also add a pregnant, trying to get pregnant and breastfeeding warning out of an abundance of caution. Talk to your health care provider about the best options for you.
There is no hard and fast rule about taking breaks with herbs but we suggest doing so for a couple of reasons. First, your body will adapt to anything you take for long periods of time and this adaptation could make the herbs and dosage of those herbs less effective. Second, there are some herbs in this formula that can, over the long term, theoretically, have an effect on digestion. As for how long a break- 10 to 14 days ought to do it.