Immune-support herbal medicines can be immune-enhancing, and some are also immune modulating, which can balance an underactive immune system, evidenced in frequent colds; or depress an overactive system, manifesting as symptoms such as eczema or rheumatoid arthritis.

Following are some of my favourite immune-enhancing herbs. It’s important to seek professional advice from a qualified naturopath or western herbalist to ensure you use the correct herb and dose and that contraindications are identified.

Echinacea root (Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea purpurea)

Actions: Immune enhancing, immune modulating, anti-inflammatory, depurative (soothing effect on mucus membranes), lymphatic (assists detoxification), vulnerary (wound healing) and anti-anxiety.

Echinacea is one of the most valuable herbal medicines for enhancing and modulating the immune system. Traditionally Native Americans used both types of the Echinacea root as they work in synergy: each contains different types of alkylamides and extensive research shows the combination is more beneficial.

Currently over 1000 publications in PubMed are about Echinacea, with many recent studies proving its value.

Echinacea is used for acute and chronic bacterial, viral or parasitic infections. It’s helpful in patients with swollen lymphatic glands, sore throats, tonsillitis, colds, flu, and upper respiratory conditions such as sinusitis, bronchitis, conjunctivitis, ear infections and asthma.

It’s beneficial for skin infections such as dermatitis, ulcers, abscesses and boils. Basically, Echinacea can be used in any condition involving the need for the immune system to heal, balance and restore optimal recovery.

Patients taking immunosuppressive medications should use Echinacea with caution.

Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)

Actions: Adaptogenic (supports adrenal glands), immune enhancing, tonic, cardio tonic and hypotensive (lowers high blood pressure).

Studies show astragalus helps balance the T helper cells in chronic autoimmune diseases[i].

It’s also useful for chronic immune deficiency, especially when patients experience symptoms like palpitations, tachycardia and tightness of the chest. Other indications are fatigue, debility, night sweats and leukopaenia (low white blood cells).

I often use astragalus with echinacea to support immune modulation and function.

Cat’s Claw (Uncaria tomentosa)

Actions: Immune enhancing, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

A valuable herb for treating chronic stealth infections, which are believed to play a causal role in various chronic illnesses, including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and motor eurone diseases, cat’s claw is helpful for those with poor immunity and a tendency to infections.

From my clinical experience, it can have profound effects in killing off bacteria and busting biofilms such as Borrelia in Lyme disease.

One recent study showed cat’s claw protected against gastritis and prevented TNF alpha mRNA expression (an inflammatory causing cytokine) and apoptosis [natural cell death that must occur to prevent illness such as cancer], proving results of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions[ii].

Another study highlighted the use of cat’s claw to be beneficial in patients with advanced cancer, by improving their quality of life and reducing fatigue[iii].

Caution is needed with this herb with the high doses used initially in treating chronic illnesses.

Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus)

Actions: Adaptogenic, immune modulating.

I use Siberian ginseng to support the immune system and protect the adrenals with initial infections. It works well with astragalus and echinacea.

Traditionally it was used to improve physical performance, relieve fatigue, help cope with stress, and enhance focus and concentration.

It can be used in cancer treatments in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiotherapy when monitored between medication.

Siberian Ginseng can be stimulating so it’s important to use it under the guidance of a natural therapist.

Withania (Ashwaganda – Withania somnifera)

Actions: Adaptogenic, anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, immune modulating, anti-anaemic and thyroid supportive.

Used as a tonic for over 2500 years, this traditional Ayurvedic herb is my first choice as adrenal support for patients with chronic immunity deficiencies, post viruses, physical stress and those who struggle to thrive.

High in iron, withania can build the blood of patients suffering from anaemia common in immune deficiencies. It’s also beneficial for menstruating women and those with chronic parasitic infections who also often present with low iron levels. Withania may assist in raising low white blood cells in leukopaenia.

Recent studies show withania is helpful in balancing cortisol levels and increasing the adrenal hormone DHEA, which is often depleted after long-term stress and in those with chronic fatigue.

I find withania invaluable for the nervous system in treating anxiety and stress symptoms. The adaptogenic actions of withanolides help patients adapt to their environment, enabling them to deal with stress much more effectively[iv].

Studies show withania increases T4 thyroid levels when the thyroid may be underactive[v].


Thuja Occidentalis

Actions: antimicrobial, anti viral, anti fungal, expectorant (clears mucus) as well as a depurative to improve detox.
Thuja is indicated for viral Infections, common colds, catarrh type coughs (not dry coughs), sinusitis, and topically for warts.
Can be used topically for fungal infections such as tinea, ringworm and candida.
I often use Thuja for patients with mould illness or SIFO (Small intestinal fungal overgrowth).

Recent studies show Thuja to be antioxidant and anti inflammatory for the treatment of ulcerative colitis

Another 2019 study shows its promising effects in the treatment of poly cystic ovarian syndrome.

Traditionally used to treat inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis and rheumatism.

It has a reflex action in the uterus so helpful for delayed menstruation.
N.B There are contraindications for this herb so must be professionally prescribed by a naturopath or herbalist. Not to be used in pregnancy or lactation.



[i] Wang et al, 2006

[ii] Sandoval M et al, 2002

[iii] De Paula LC et al, 2014

[iv] Pingali et al, 2014

[v] Gannon et al, 2014




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  3. Hoffman D, The New Holistic Herbal (Element books)
  4. Naser B, Bodinet C, Tegtmeier M, Lindequist U. Thuja occidentalis (Arbor vitae): A Review of its Pharmaceutical, Pharmacological and Clinical Properties. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2005;2(1):69–78. doi:10.1093/ecam/neh065