Herbal-Spiritual Perspectives on Boosting Immunity

Herbal-Spiritual Perspectives on Boosting Immunity


Herbs have the power to boost immunity and nourish the spirit. Learn more with wisdom from herbalist and green witch Robin Rose Bennett.

In the summer of 2023, I was lucky enough to attend the bi-annual International Herb Symposium at Wheaton College in Massachusetts. One of the workshops that caught my eye was titled “Strengthening Your Immune System & Herbal Alternatives to Antibiotics,” taught by herbalist, storyteller, and green witch Robin Rose Bennett. What I assumed would be simply an informative seminar on the power of herbs for immunity ended up being a shining example of the power of storytelling and word-weaving as an accompaniment to herbalism.

The Story of Immunity

Bennett began the workshop with words of wisdom, setting the tone: “Joy is medicine, as much as echinacea, as much as dandelion.” This joyousness seemed to spread throughout the outdoor classroom environment on that sunny June day as Bennett shared her thoughts on immunity and healing.

She shared her belief that the story of what’s happening to us and our bodies is perhaps more important than what’s actually happening. One way to promote healing in the body, in her perspective, is to shift the body’s story to one of profound protective care for the self, and to honor the time it takes to heal the body and boost our immunity.

Boosting Immunity with Nutritive Herbs

Bennett’s philosophy is to utilize the smallest amount of herbs possible to help the most, believing that you can’t cure everything at once. She started us students off with a foundation of nutrition: How can we offer the simplest form of herbal medicine for those who may currently be suffering the most? Once we take care of the base needs of the body (getting us out of acute illness), then we can begin rebuilding the body’s immune defenses.

Red Clover

Bennett began explaining her herbal immunity protocol by emphasizing the need for good nutrition, which includes a variety of nutritive herbs (herbs that are majorly rich in nutrients and minerals, such as iron and calcium). Red clover was noted to have an abundance of amino acids. This herb can be utilized as a nourishing protein-rich tonic for those who are very ill after steeping the dried blossoms in hot water for eight hours and squeezing them thoroughly. You can also simply enjoy the fresh flowers in a salad or other dish.

Elder (Berries and Flowers)

Next, Bennett passed around an elder cordial for the class to try. The concoction was gently sweetened with honey, as many traditional herbal syrups are, and contained both elderberry and elderflower. Bennett suggests utilizing elderberry as a support for lower respiratory immune health and elderflower for upper respiratory immune health.

Working from an animist perspective, Bennett bolstered her scientific and clinical perspective of the herbs with one that views the herbs and plants as teachers and allies. Bennett believes that the elder tree is a guide through the chaos of transformation and can teach us how to navigate the non-linear, spiral-like journey of healing.

More Powerful Herbs

As the conversation went on, Bennett dove further into the more medicinal aspects of herbs, continuing to weave in affirmative, supportive advice for all who attended. At one point in the outdoor workshop, an eagle flew over the class and seemingly emphasized a point Bennett was making. It seemed as though all nature was listening to her words in that moment.

Antiseptic Herbs

For more fierce immune protection, Bennett also shared her recipe for herbal antiseptic spray. She combined alcohol-based tinctures of plantain leaf, calendula flower, rose petals, and yarrow in equal parts and utilizes them for wounds. The herbs themselves have antiseptic properties. She also shared an herbal hand sanitizer recipe, combining three parts high-proof alcohol, one part aloe vera gel, and a couple drops of lavender essential oil.

Herbs for Active Illness

Bennett also shared a few different remedies for when the body is actively fighting illness. She suggested a tincture of mullein flower and/or leaf, a traditional herbal respiratory remedy, for cough that might follow COVID-19 infection, and elecampane root steeped in honey for active cases of the illness.

Additional respiratory remedies include pine needle tincture, an infusion made from the cambium (inner layer) from freshly fallen pine branches, and a tincture of usnea, a powerful antibiotic lichen, for any fungal infections of the lungs.

Final Thoughts on Herbs for Immunity

Throughout her class, Bennett engaged students in an exploration of what it means to heal, reminding us that the healing journey is not linear, but rather spiral-like in its quality. As she gave us concrete suggestions about utilizing herbs for immunity (refresh yourself regularly with lavender water for its antiseptic and calming properties), she also emphasized the need for transformation and ritual to honor the phases of our lives, particularly for those of us impacted by illness, both acute and chronic.

Find more about Robin Rose Bennett’s work here.

Herbal Spiritual Perspectives on Boosting Immunity

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