Immunomodulators (Rasayana)

Immunity is a vital component of the interface between the individual & their world, and an expression of homeostasis & relationship between our bodily health, emotional well-being, and mental vision & perspective.

Although some herbs can indeed stimulate immune responses, most can be best described as immune modulators, in that they facilitate greater immune system flexibility in the body’s natural response to disease.

Deep Immune Activation

Herbs in this group are also referred to as Deep Immune Tonics or Immune Modulators. The pharmacology of these herbs tends to point to saponins and polysaccharides as key contributors to their function. They are used where there is a chronic problem or where the immune system needs feeding and strengthening, and usually used in combination with other body system tonic herbs where a weakness has been identified. Some herbal examples include:

Astragalusmembranaceus (Astragalus)

Codonopsistangshen (Codonopsis)

Ganodermalucidum (Reishi mushroom)

Lentinusedodes (Shitake mushroom)

Trametesversicolor (Turkey tail)

Ligustrumlucidum (Privet)

Schisandra chinensis (Schizandra)

Surface Immune Activation

These are many plants perhaps more well known as Antimicrobials, or “immune-boosters” that often act directly on a bacteria or virus, while also stimulating the function of the immune system as a whole. Active pharmacological compounds are many and complex, however Volatile oils are common. Some herbal examples include:

Allium sativum (Garlic)

Baptisiatinctoria (Wild Indigo)

Echinacea sp. (Echinacea)

Thujaoccidentalis (Thuja)

Usnea sp. (Old Man’s Beard)

Adaptogenic action or Hormonal Modulation

Herbs in this group work through some hormonal modulation of the immune response. The field of Psychoneuroimmunology describes the numerous endocrine functions that can be affected by stress, our mental/emotional health, and it is largely at this levels the herbs demonstrate their actions. For example, adaptogens exert their effects through saponins(steroidal &triperpendoi) via the adrenal glands which is foundational component of healthy immune status. Herbal examples include:

Eleutherococcussenticosus (Siberian ginseng)

Panax ginseng (Chinese/Korean Ginseng)

Glycyrrhizaglabra (Licorice)


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