How Do Adaptogens Support The Immune System?

If you’re new to the world of adaptogens, here’s how these cream-of-the-crop medicinal herbs, in a nutshell, support the immune system…

Adaptogens counteract the effects of stress in the body. Stressors of all kinds harm several systems in the body, including the immune systems. Adaptogens can prevent or even reverse those harmful effects.

While counteracting the physical effects of stress is a great thing, how else can adaptogens support the immune system? How do they actually strengthen the immune response? 

Before answering these questions, let’s take a step back and talk about the basics of the immune system. 

What Is The Immune System?  

The immune system contains specialized immune cells, tissues and organs that protect the body from disease-causing pathogens, including:

  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Tumors

The lymph nodes, lymphatic vessels, bone marrow, spleen and thymus gland are the major tissues and organs involved in the immune system. As for specialized immune cells, here are the key players: 

  • Lymphocytes: These are white blood cells, of which there are two kinds, B and T cells. The former are produced in bone marrow, while T cells grow in the thymus gland. Lymphocytes react to the substances called antigens, which are released by pathogens. B cells release antibody proteins that neutralize the antigens.

  • Macrophages: A type of white blood cell that locates and devours the debris of dead bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.

  • Natural killer cells: A lymphocyte that kills virus-infected cells.

  • Cytokines: Proteins produced by white blood cells.that act as chemical messengers in between cells. They stimulate or prevent the growth and activity of immune cells.

  • Interleukins: A type of cytokine; these chemicals fight infections.

  • Interferon: Another type of cytokine; produced by cells in response to viral or bacterial attacks.

adaptogens support the immune system

How Does Stress Weaken The Immune System? 

Chronic stress and its frequent release of cortisol hormone from the adrenal glands, causes the decrease in the number of infection-fighting white blood cells. 

Furthermore, chronic stress decreases levels of natural killer cells. In fact, severe stress can reduce natural killer cell activity by up to 50%. And when a virus or other pathogen invades the body, the inflammation response kicks in. Consequently, white blood cells are sent to kill the pathogens. When your body is functioning in a state of homeostasis (ideal balance), your immune system can protect you from numerous pathogens. 

But the immune system doesn’t work in isolation; it works hand in hand with the neuroendocrine system. These two systems communicate through neurotransmitters. You can think of neurotransmitters as telephone landline switchboard operators from decades ago. Neurotransmitters relay signals between nerve cells and circulating hormones. Chronic stress can interfere with neurotransmitter communication. 

So one of the most important things to keep your immune system working properly is to ensure you remain in homeostasis. And that’s where adaptogens come in to play…

How Do Adaptogens Support The Immune System?

In addition to counteracting the negative effects of stress in the body, thereby maintaining homeostasis, here’s how else adaptogens support a healthy immune system:

  • They counteract chronic immune cell depletion.
  • They increase the production of immune cells, including natural killer cells, and T and B cells. 
  • They signal neurotransmitters to release more cortisol when an infection is present. 
  • They directly affect the nervous system, which improves communication between the brain and the rest of the body. 
  • They have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. 
  • They can reverse immunosuppression caused by pharmaceutical or illicit drugs. 

Adaptogens For Immune Support

Astragalus root (Astragalus membranaceus)

May be beneficial for people who are run-down. If used long-term, it may strengthen the immune system and improve resistance to colds and flu. Research studies show astragalus boosts the activity levels of natural killer and T-cells, and interferon. 

Asian licorice root (Glycyrrhiza uralensis)

Contains antiviral properties. Also beneficial for asthma and allergies. 

Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)

Helps restore immune function in cases of autoimmune challenges. 

Rhodiola (Rhodiola Rosea)

Boosts the activity of infection-fighting T-cells. 

Research Studies on Adaptogens & Immune Function

Ginseng, possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammation properties and acts as an  immunomodulator, says this study in Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy

A study in Phytotherapy Research suggests rhodiola lessens the severity of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) by increasing T-cell activity. (Traditionally, rhodiola has been used in Scandinavia and Russia to treat minor flu symptoms. 

Schizandra can help the immune system due to its detoxifying effects of the liver. Says this study in Nutrition Research & Practice, the adaptogen is a potent inducer of phase II detoxification enzymes and exerts protective effects against oxidative hepatic damage. Treatment with schizandra reduces swelling of liver cells and necrosis in liver tissue. 


It would take far too long to list every adaptogen in Sun Horse Energy formulas and how they can help strengthen the immune system, or at the very least, keep it healthy and in homeostasis. 

But suffice it to say, all adaptogens have been shown in numerous research studies (like this one) to potentiate the immune system. By keeping the endocrine system (glands that regulate and release hormones) in balance, adaptogenic herbs help prime the immune system. In addition, they help cells uptake oxygen more efficiently. This, in turn, increases cellular respiration. When your cells can breathe better, you can breathe better. 

Out of all the functions that adaptogens help perform in regards to immune system regulation, perhaps the most impressive is how they stimulate macrophages, those white cells that love to feast on the pathogenic remains of viruses (as well as bacteria and yeast). 
However, taking adaptogenic herbs and formulas should not be considered a surrogate for eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise and sleep. However, when used in combination with a healthy lifestyle, adaptogens may help protect you from viral attacks and other immune assaults. Adaptogenic herbs work even better in promoting homeostasis when working in combination. That’s why all Sun Horse Energy formulas contain at least 13 adaptogens.

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