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Herbal Treatments for an Overactive Immune System

author image Christine Garvin
Christine Garvin is a certified nutrition educator and holds a Master of Arts in holistic health education. She is co-editor of Brave New Traveler and founder/editor of Living Holistically... with a sense of humor. When she is not out traveling the world, she is busy writing, doing yoga and performing hip-hop and bhangra.
Herbal Treatments for an Overactive Immune System
Reishi mushrooms can help your immune system. Photo Credit geargodz/iStock/Getty Images


Dealing with an overactive immune system can be trying and exasperating. Many foods will cause an allergic response when consumed, and any vitamins or herbs that stimulate the immune system may cause more harm than good. Adaptogenic herbs should be used when attempting to heal an overactive immune system, as they can both calm the system or stimulate the system depending on the body's current needs. Several well known adaptogens include reishi mushrooms, American ginseng, ashwagandha, and licorice.

Always consult your physician or health-care provider before consuming herbs for medicinal purposes.

Reishi Mushrooms

Many mushrooms are helpful for the immune system, but reishi mushrooms in particular can help with an overactive immune system. According to the Secrets of Immunity website, reishi is an immunomodulator, which "regulates the immune system, either increasing or decreasing its power."

It is important to use an adaptogenic food or herb such as reishi, instead of herbs that stimulate the immune system when dealing with an overactive immune system. As Edward C. Wallace, N.D., D.C. notes,"modern herbalists say adaptogenic herbs are plants with properties that exert a normalizing influence on the body, neither over-stimulating nor inhibiting normal body function, but rather exerting a generalized tonifying effect."

American Ginseng

American ginseng is another herb that can be helpful in treating an overactive immune system. Inflammation is often a byproduct of immunity that has gone into overdrive, and auto-immune diseases may eventually develop. In one study conducted by the Department of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences at South Carolina College of Pharmacy and published in "Oxford Journals," American ginseng was found to target inflammation in mice suffering from ulcerative colitis, often labeled as an auto-immune disorder.


Ashwagandha is an herb that has been used in Ayurvedic and Indigenous medicine for over 3000 years, according to Thorne Research in a synopsis of studies on the herb. Besides helping the liver and being anti-inflammatory, Thorne Research notes clinical trials and animal research support using this herb for anxiety, Parkinson's disease, nervous exhaustion, insomnia, and debility due to stress, all possible symptoms of an overactive immune system.


Another herb defined as adaptogenic, licorice is useful in repairing damaged adrenal glands according to Stephen Harrod Buhner in his book, "Herbal Antibiotics: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-Resistant Bacteria." Buhner notes that licorice stimulates the thymus gland, and also "possesses a distinct immunomodulator activity" which can both calm an overactive immune system and stimulate an underactive one.

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