Adaptogens for Winter Immunity

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When winter arrives and the temperature outside plummets, our body has to work harder and burn more calories to stay warm. On a physiological level, cold weather is an additional source of stress for the body.

Compounded with other common stress factors like: Lack of sleep, blood sugar highs and lows, prolonged heavy exercise, poor diet or a demanding job, winter can make us more susceptible to cold and flu viruses.


When stress is an ongoing reality and you find yourself prone to catching colds, Adaptogenic herbs are a good choice for strengthening the immune system and boosting overall health.

Adaptogens are a class of herbs which help the body handle stress more effectively.

They have a fascinating history which can be traced back to ancient cultures from around the world, including India, China, Scandinavia and the Americas. They were prized herbs which were traditionally used as longevity tonics to increase vigor and ward off disease.

For decades, Russian scientists studied the effects of adaptogens on subjects who deal with more extreme conditions of stress. They demonstrated in hundreds of studies that their soldiers, athletes and astronauts could perform and recover better when using adaptogenic herbs like Eleuthero or Rhodiola.

Adaptogens increase the power of the body to resist any kind of stress, be it psychological, mechanical, physiological or chemical in nature.

By reducing the impact of stress, more energy is available for other important things like immunity. Adaptogens increase both the number and effectiveness of immune cells in fighting off disease and pathogens, including cancer.

But that is not all you will experience from using them. Adaptogens have positive, system-wide effects on mood, energy, sleep and metabolism, making them ideal tonics for people who are run down or recovering from chronic stress.


There are a wide array of amazing adaptogenic herbs to choose from and they each have a unique set of benefits. The three adaptogens I use most frequently in my clinical practice for booting winter immunity are:

1. Dang Shen
   (Codonopsis pilosa)

2. North American Ginseng
    (Panax quinquefolium)

3. Astragalus
    (Astragalus membranaceus)

Dang Shen is a milder, less expensive cousin to panax ginseng but is a very effective immune tonic for people who are prone to colds and lungs infections, and may also suffer from chronic fatigue or anemia. It is a nourishing, non-stimulating herb which can rebuild a tired and weakened system.

North American Ginseng both strengthens and modulates the immune response, making it useful for people who are prone to colds but may also suffer from allergies or other autoimmune conditions. It has a stabilizing effect on blood sugar and improves energy levels. It is good choice for busy people who are experiencing some burn out.

Astragalus is a premier immune stimulant and is a reliable prophylactic for colds and flus. It is useful for people who are prone to lung congestion, night sweats, hot flashes or excess sweating in general.

For enhancing winter immunity, adaptogens are best used as a preventative measure at the start of the season. They will not treat an acute infection and may in fact exacerbate it.

Adaptogens are slow-acting, meaning their positive effects build up over 1-3 months of use. Since they are tonics they can be used to restore overall health over a 6-12 month period. More is not always better with adaptogens, as some of these herbs can be overstimulating at higher dosages. Moderate and steady use will produce the best results.

Some adaptogens have a rich and heavy nature which can aggravate symptoms of a sluggish digestion, like bloating and gas. North American Ginseng would be the better choice here, as it will improve digestion.

At Urban Healer, we make custom formulations for winter immunity. To learn more, get in touch >