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A Return to Herbalism: 10 Ways to Establish a Basic Immunity Practice During COVID-19

May 2, 2020 2 Comments

I grew up in the ’70s, well before there was Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or even a “healthy section” in the supermarket. The only natural food place in town was a teeny tiny store that carried things like tofu, green drinks, carob bars, and patchouli oil. Nobody really went there. At least that’s what I thought.

Then one day my Mom, Lois Stephens, interviewed and accepted a position at that store. She’s a nutritionist and wanted to learn more about this new phase of natural healing. All I knew is I started having green magma smoothies for breakfast and a sprout sandwich in my lunch box. Oh, how I begged for PB&J! 

That summer my mom had the pleasure of meeting and studying with Rosemary Gladstar, the Godmother of American Herbalism. She recalled her conversation:

“Rosemary was speaking at a nearby HerbFest on the Gulf Coast and needed someone to pick her up at the airport and drive her to the event,” said Lois. ” She especially wanted to spend time at the beach while she was in the area (they are amazing). I agreed to find her a nice waterfront condo in exchange for her adding a lecture in Pensacola. Rosemary is one of the loveliest people you can ever imagine. She lectured about the medicinal properties of many herbs and ways to make tinctures and teas from them. This was a time when herbs were really starting to come out, and not what was on the spice rack in your kitchen.”

It’s clear that times have certainly changed. I can walk into CVS or Target and find a variety of herbal remedies from echinacea to milk thistle. Now, in the midst of a global pandemic, many are turning to herbal medicine to bolster their immunity. 

“Even though we don’t know a lot about this particular virus, the emphasis on establishing a basic immunity practice has never been greater,” continues Lois. “Now is a great time to carve out a little space to keep some basic items – like your own medicinal curio cabinet. You can take these items every day or during the colder months and amp up your dosage when you feel lower energy.”

The following are Lois’s Top Ten Remedies for Immunity (with links on where to find):

(1) Raw Garlic – this is one of the most important things you can do to build immunity to fight bacteria & viral infections. Just take a clove of garlic with a meal – chop it, mash it or mince it up in a salad or sandwich, or add it to your morning orange juice or smoothie with a little honey or yogurt.

Note: Make sure you take raw garlic with food. Taken alone may cause digestive discomfort.

(2) Vitamin C with Quercetin – it’s important to take Vitamin C with bioflavonoids like Quercetin, in order for your body to utilize Vitamin C properly. Take as much as 1000 mg of C daily or to bowel tolerance. Alternatively, you can make lemonade! Mother Nature knew best when making citrus fruits because she put the white pith just under the peeling to hold the bioflavonoids.

A neat way to take advantage of this concept is to make your lemonade using the white pith of the lemon. Thinly peel away the yellow rind or “zest” of the lemon, cut it into chunks, carefully removing all seeds, then blend it with lots of water in a Vitamix to make a whole pitcher of healthy lemonade! Add either local honey or Manuka Honey as a sweetener.

3) Turmeric – this is an ancient Indian spice, used for years to alleviate aches & pains, and great for fighting the inflammation of every illness, big or small from the brain to the toes. However, it’s difficult to absorb, so look for added ingredients like black pepper (bioperine) to do that. I love a spicy concoction called Fire Cider, that goes even further by adding garlic, onion, ginger, horseradish, lemon, & cayenne. It is available online at or you can make your own – here’s Rosemary Gladstar’s recipe.

(4) Medicinal Mushrooms – Not what you are thinking!  Mushrooms have many immunity building properties. Some to consider are TurkeyTail, Reishi, and Cordyceps. A great powder that contains 6 medicinal mushrooms is available at Healing Spirits Farm.

(5) Oregano Oil – My favorite is one made by North American Herb & Spice called “Wild Oil of Oregano” or simply “Oreganol”. We tend to think “pizza and Italian Food” at the mention of oregano but the truth is, oregano contains anti-fungal, ant-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-parasitic compounds that work wonders to boost the immune system. AND, if you’re caught outside, late in the afternoon when mosquitos and “no-see-ums” start biting, a drop or two of oregano oil will soothe and relieve the pain of that bite faster than most anything, and smelling its aroma makes the pain easier to bear as it gradually goes away.

(6) Echinacea is a must-have herb to have around cold and flu season and proven to be a potent immunity-booster. It stimulates and brings balance to the immune system and is very effective in the treatment of acute respiratory infections. It’s usually found in blends of herbal remedies because the herbs are chosen to complement each other in order to produce the greatest effect.

One of my favorites that includes echinacea is ACF Formula (Acute Colds & Flu Formula) by Buried Treasure. This is an herbal whole food blend to take if you think you’re coming down with something & you want to get rid of it as fast as possible! It has over 15 different immune-enhancing ingredients such as Echinacea, Elderberry, Goldenseal, Olive Leaf, Thyme, Cat’s Claw, Ginger Root, Myrrh, Andrographis, and even Zinc and Silver. I have a spare bottle on the shelf at all times. 

(7) Cacao (chocolate) sweetened with Stevia, the sweet herb. Cacao is nutrient-dense & loaded with health-enhancing properties and in general, the higher the % of cacao, the greater the benefits. It has 40 times the antioxidants of blueberries, the highest plant-based source of iron, full of magnesium for a healthy heart & brain, has more calcium than cow’s milk, and is a natural mood elevator and anti-depressant. So there’s a reason why eating a piece of dark chocolate makes you feel so good! A day without chocolate is not complete! Two of my favorite brands that use stevia as a sweetener is Lily’s and Pure Love Chocolate. And don’t forget to look for a high percentage of cacao, as high as 70 – 80% to reap the most reward from chocolate.

(8) Colloidal Silver – Although silver is a mineral, and is found naturally in a lot of plants, including herbs, the quantity may not be enough to give great results. Therefore, it is best to include it as a separate item to take on a daily basis in small amounts, only 1 to 2 tablespoons to help PREVENT illness from occurring in the first place. It acts as a potent anti-inflammatory – and helps prevent the common cold & flu. One I like that comes as a spray is here. Also, consider investing in your own silver generator and make it for pennies a day. I recommend one by but be prepared to wait – they’re in such high demand right now.

(9) Probiotics – There is a lot of interaction between the bacteria in the gut and the immune system, and the presence of an abundance of friendly bacteria in the “gut” greatly affects immunity. Therefore, it’s like carrying a good insurance policy to supplement daily with a probiotic formula. Some have as many as 50 billion of the basic strains. Garden of Life is one of the best resources for probiotics and offers a variety for men, women, and for mood-enhancing. In addition are fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, yogurt, and miso.

(10) Beet Root Powder – Although this is a food product, because of its medicinal value, it might also be considered a big fat herb. This food is powerful for improving circulation in the cardiovascular system because it affects the elasticity of the inner lining of the blood vessels which directly affects blood pressure. But few people enjoy eating beets daily. A more simple way is to order the powder from Frontier Herbs and use it in a daily smoothie mix along with many other powders from fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, etc.

Lois Stephens in the Herbal Department of Ever’man Natural Foods, Pensacola, FL

About Lois Stephens

Lois Stephens is a nutritionist, herbalist, and educator with over 50 years of experience. She started her career as a nutrition instructor at Auburn University and then shifted to the healthcare industry after marrying a young naval officer and became a registered dietician. She presently serves as a holistic healing consultant and teacher at the Ever’man Natural Foods Cooperative in Pensacola and leads a Natural Healing Study Group that covers topics such as healing cancer and heart disease through a whole-foods diet and at-home remedies that support a healthy, vibrant lifestyle. Lois holds a Master’s Degree in Foods & Nutrition with a minor in Biochemistry. Her guiding mantra is the famous quote “Let Food Be Your Medicine and Medicine Be Your Food” (Hippocrates).

Kristen Bala

Kristen Bala is the founder of the Deep End, an online community that supports spiritual learning and well-being. She enjoys writing about her many passions including astrology and holistic healing. She resides in Harvard, Massachusetts with her husband Greg, three kids, and Frenchie Junebug.

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  • Carolyn May 10, 2020 at 2:56 pm

    The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! So nice to read about your mother, Kristen. You are both born healers at heart serving your loved ones and your communities. Happy Mother’s Day to both of you!

    • Kristen Bala May 10, 2020 at 6:38 pm

      Thank you Carolyn! This means a lot to me. I’m so happy you enjoyed it!

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