Nutrition and Herbs for Lungs & Immunity

I was actually out of the country while the coronavirus first started spreading globally.  (Disclaimer:  It was a wonderful trip and I got to enjoy lots of awesome quality time with my family!)

I don’t want to be a part of the hysteria or fear mongering, especially since being fearful and stressed is actually known to LOWER our immunity (1) – but I think it’s important for us to feel empowered and proactive during this time of uncharted territory.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not giving any kind of “end-all-be-all” solutions here (it’s all just based on what I know about immunity and the lungs) – but for too many years, prevention and complementary alternative medicine have been seriously minimized and brushed off. 

If something has potential to help, and it can’t hurt, why not entertain the idea?

I stand by my conviction that we have a plethora of safe resources available to us in nature (and in abundance) that have an incredible amount of potential to really, really help us.

That said, below is a list of some foods, vitamin/mineral supplements and herbs that may be proactive in helping many people to support stronger immunity and more resilient lungs…

(Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, there’s no guarantee this will prevent or cure anything because there are so many variables and we are still learning about Coronavirus, and of course none of this should REPLACE hand-washing, santitizing, social distancing etc.)… but again. When used properly, this stuff can’t hurt, and it may help!

I realize this is a bit late in the game to share this, but I like to think if anything from this post helps ONE person, it’s still worth sharing.

  1. Take care of your gut.  60-70% of our immune system lives in the gut, and many people with compromised immune systems also have digestive disturbances (2).   Bone broth/meat stock and probiotic foods are two great ways to support your immune system at a root level!
  2. Get more sleep if you can… Sleep is hugely correlated with immune function (3, 4, 5).  Speaking from personal experience, before I started taking herbs and healing my gut to support my immune system, I got sick multiple times a year.  Luckily now I use herbs to strengthen my resilience and it’s kept me in the clear so far (knock on wood) when I don’t get enough sleep… but ideally we don’t want to be burning the candle at both ends!
  3. NUTRITION & HERBS:  I could write an entire book on this and what you see below is the tip of the iceberg!
  • Vitamin C (supplements and/or from fresh fruits) – this is not news to most people but it’s something we can get very complacent about.  I’m an advocate of getting our vitamins mostly from real food, but when our immune system is actively combating a virus we need a lot more vitamin C. If you don’t have kidney disease, I’d say at least a thousand milligrams of vitamin C daily would be helpful (that’s like  13.333 oranges in a day… no thank you!).
  • ***If you have kidney disease, consult a dietitian to get some custom vitamin C & fruit guidelines based on your labs!***
    • Fresh fruit (berries, citrus, pineapple) is great, but for additional support, assuming you don’t want to eat 13.333 oranges everyday (or probably ANY day), try supplementing:
      • Radiant Life Catalog has some great vitamin C options if you would like to avoid the chaos at your local market, and also get your vitamin C from a natural supplement (versus ascorbic acid, which is actually derived from corn)!
    • If you’ve got a hankering for fresh fruit, dietitian Jenna Bradock of Make Health Easy has an orange mango ginger smoothie recipe. It will leave you feeling energized with a nice natural and refreshing burst of vitality, resilience and of course vitamin C!
  • Zinc: An anonymous MD and former professor of pathology at University of California San Diego recommends:
    • “These lozenges have been proven to be effective in blocking coronavirus (and most other viruses) from multiplying in your throat and nasopharynx. Use as directed several times each day when you begin to feel ANY “cold-like” symptoms beginning. It is best to lie down and let the lozenge dissolve in the back of your throat and nasopharynx. Cold-Eeze lozenges is one brand available, but there are other brands available.”
  • Fire cider is made in a base of raw apple cider vinegar and loaded with anti-inflammatory herbs including primarily garlic, ginger and horseradish. 
    • *This is a great option for people with autoimmune disorders as long as the vinegar does not upset your stomach!*
    • LaDonna Rocha, herbalist & founder of Arcane Moon Apothecaria, has a fabulous fire cider recipe!
      • Garlic cloves (cooked from fresh, or infused from raw in fire cider/raw honey) – garlic is proven to modulate the immune system and has anti-viral activity in humans (7, 8).  It thins the blood so avoid and check out other options if you’re on blood thinning medication.
      • Ginger root (fresh in tea, tinctures, syrups and/or added to soups) – proven to strengthen the immune system and have anti-viral actions in humans (9, 10). Like garlic, ginger thins the blood so avoid and check out other options if you’re on blood thinning medication.
    • I will also be incorporating immune-supportive herbs turmeric and hibiscus into my version of fire cider.
  • ADAPTOGENS are a class of herbs that help to MODULATE (balance) the immune system.  They also reduce the stress response in the body and have lots of other amazing health benefits (you might enjoy my adaptogen chai tea recipe!).
    • Ginger Webb (my awesome herbalist teacher, founder of the Sacred Journey School of Herbalism in Austin, and owner of Texas Medicinals), is an advocate of using astragalus root for preventive purposes but advises us not to take astragalus once we are ill:
      • “Astragalus is an important adaptogen for people to use right now while they are maintaining wellness… Astragalus has a lovely sweet rooty taste and makes me feel really well-nourished. The addition of the chai herbs adds a nice aromatic spiciness with anti-microbial effects!”
  • As for elderberry syrup (my go-to for preventing the cold and flu viruses all year round), it’s not black and white. Like nutrition, one size does not fit all.
    • Herbalist and fire cider “founder” Rosemary Gladstar shares a recent study in which elderberry was able to inhibit the coronavirus in chickens! But it’s not for everyone (especially those with certain types of autoimmune disorders).
    • Ginger Webb also points out:
      • “There is a lot of controversy and questions about using elderberry and elderflower in this current situation that we find ourselves in with the coronavirus. While I do definitely personally use elderberry syrup and elderflower tincture when I first start feeling a little under the weather, the word amongst herbalists is that it potentially is not appropriate because of the fact that it seems to ignite a cytokine storm. I have read other reports by other herbalists who say that it’s actually more immunomodulating than that.”
  • Chamomile flowers and/or valerian root make great tea infusions/decoctions as well as anti-spasmodics which may help reduce the degree of damage once someone comes down with a cough.
  • Lung herbs: I have personally been making an herbal cough syrup (since before coronavirus) which includes mullein leaf, wild cherry bark and horehound (potent lung herbs) and will be including the cough syrup recipe in my upcoming e-book!

I hope you stay safe, strong, well and empowered through all of the chaos happening right now.  Let’s support one another and this too shall pass! 

<3 Jenna


  1. Rosenburg, Jaime. (2017). The Effects of Chronic Fear on a Person’s Health.  American Journal of Managed Care. Retrieved March 4, 2020 from:
  2. Thaiss, C., Zmora, N., Levy, M. et al. (2016). The microbiome and innate immunity. Nature 535, 65–74.
  3. Bryant, P.A., Trinder, J., Curtis, N. (2004). Sick and tired: Does sleep have a vital role in the immune system? Nature Reviews Immunology, 4, 457–467.
  4. Irwin, M., McClintick, J., Costlow, C., Fortner, M., White, J., Gillin, J.C. (1996). Partial night sleep deprivation reduces natural killer and cellular immune responses in humans. Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal, 10, 643–653.
  5. J Born, T Lange, K Hansen, M Mölle, H L Fehm. (1997). Effects of sleep and circadian rhythm on human circulating immune cells. The Journal of Immunology, 158 (9) 4454-4464.
  6. University of Sydney. “Elderberry compounds could help minimize flu symptoms, study suggests.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 April 2019. <>.
  7. Arreola, R., Quintero-Fabián, S., López-Roa, R. I., Flores-Gutiérrez, E. O., Reyes-Grajeda, J. P., Carrera-Quintanar, L., & Ortuño-Sahagún, D. (2015). Immunomodulation and anti-inflammatory effects of garlic compounds. Journal of immunology research, 2015, 401630.
  8. Nantz M. P., Rowe C. A., Muller C. E., Creasy R. A., Stanilka J. M., Percival S. S. Supplementation with aged garlic extract improves both NK and γδ-T cell function and reduces the severity of cold and flu symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled nutrition intervention. Clinical Nutrition. 2012;31(3):337–344. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2011.11.019
  9. Chang JS1, Wang KC, Yeh CF, Shieh DE, Chiang LC. (2013). Fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale) has anti-viral activity against human respiratory syncytial virus in human respiratory tract cell lines. J Ethnopharmacol, 145(1):146-51. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2012.10.043.
  10. Imanishi N, Andoh T, Mantani N, Sakai S, Terasawa K, Shimada Y, Sato M, Katada Y, Ueda K, Ochiai H. (2006). Macrophage-mediated inhibitory effect of Zingiber officinale Rosc, a traditional oriental herbal medicine, on the growth of influenza A/Aichi/2/68 virus. Am J Chin Med, 34(1):157-69.


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