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Boosting Your Immune System with Ciara O' Meara

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

With so many colds and flu viruses going around we should all be looking at ways to boost our immune system.

Today Ciara will be showing us the must have herbs to boost your immune system through the winter.

Ciara O Meara - Medical Herbalist

I have a long standing interest in natural medicine. From a young age I found myself allergic to antibiotics, this prompted a proactive approach to preventative medicine, ensuring that through diet and exercise I was always doing my best to stay healthy. I completed an honours Science degree in University College Dublin in 1997 followed by an MSc in Medical Genetics at Aberdeen University. I then spent a number of years working in the field of academic research in areas such as The Human Genome Project at Oxford University, UK, and on Cancer research at Cancer Research UK. It was during this time that I took up a yoga practice and further cultivated an interest in holistic medicine.
First hand experience of successfully using herbal medicine  prompted me to pursue an interest in the subject. I soon realised that this interest was part of a much broader, richer and complex area of natural medicine which required dedicated study to appreciate both its subtleties and power. To deepen my knowledge on the subject and acquire the ability to confidently use it as a health professional I completed a four year degree at Westminster University in London.
This University is a long established centre for excellence in the training of medical herbalists. Its facilities encompass a central London clinic for herbal medicine where members of the public can avail of treatment. This is where I completed 500 hours of clinical training as part of my degree, treating members of the public from young to old with a range of illnesses. This was an integral part of the educational programme, in the interests of maintaining a high level of safe practice. This training included differential diagnosis of illness up to a high standard of training clinically on par with that of a GP.

How Boosting your Immune System

Important factors to be aware of during the winter months to maintain a healthy immune system.

Ensure plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Try and have a varied diet and include adequate protein like fish, poultry, eggs, pulses, nuts and seeds as protein provides the building blocks for antibody formation in the body.

Just walking or other exercise for 20 minutes per day can have vast benefits for the body it reduces stress and can improve mental outlook.


There are two types of Echinacea species E angustifolia and E.purpurea. It is generally accepted that the angustifolia is the stronger of the two species in immune stimulating action.  Most research done on this herb focuses on the root portion of the plant having proven effectiveness. It is important when buying the tincture that you look for this. While the angustifolia is the stronger in action of the two species, research has found a synergy in action between the two types of Echinacea.

Proven effective as an immune stimulant when taken at the first sign of a cold or flu. It reduces the severity and duration of the infection. Can also be taken as a preventative through out the winter months.

(Astragalus membranecous, Huang qi)
This is a Chinese herb with immune boosting and anti-viral properties. Particular affinity for the lungs and upper respiratory tract, it can be used as a prophylactic for same. Dosage; capsules or tincture as directed, available at health store.

Shitake Mushrooms
Renound in china and Japan for their immune boosting properties Shitake mushrooms can be bought in your local vegetable shop or in supplement from the health store. They are ideal for debilitated conditions, where there has been a number of infections through the winter and the systems needs and extra pick me up.

Bee Pollen
This is an excellent nutritive and tonic supplement to include for those who are stressed out or recovering from long term illness, or just plain overdoing it.  Pollen contains 21of the 23 known amino acids, many of the B vitamins, Vitamin A and numerous minerals. It also contains powerful anti-oxidants, which are said to help with stress induced premature aging. 

It is useful for building up the immune system and helping the body to cope with stress.

Immune boosting for Children

Provides a nutritious breakfast which will sustain children and prevent them snacking unnecessarily. You can add honey, banana, strewed or grated apple, or cinnamon or vanilla to make it more interesting!

Liquid Iron Formula
This is an iron tonic formula, which is widely available. It has a sweet taste and is easily taken, by children to further support the immune system in the winter months.

Elderberry Juice
Provides a rich source of vitamin C and anti-oxidants. The juice can be bought from your health food store and added to the daily drinks for school etc. As well as being useful in actively fighting a flu it boosts the immune system and can be used to add a few drops of Echinacea to for taste in small children.

Tablets VS Tinctures
Over the following few months, members of the Afternoon Show production office will act as our very own case study in an experiment to test out the effects of herbal remedies versus conventional remedies for common ailments such as colds and flus etc. Everyone in the office works in close proximity to each other so by default we're all breathing each others air. With this in mind, it's only natural that they share the various colds and flu's that are going around at this time.
So we've decided to see which method of treatment works best ie is it Tablets OR Tinctures?!

The office will be split into three groups,
. The first will be advised on herbal medicine by Ciara,
. The second on conventional medicine by Dr. Philip
. The third will be a control group who will take whatever they normally take for their colds and flus.

We'll keep a diary on every member and we'll return in early March with the results.

For more information on Ciara please visit .

Locations of Ciaras clinics are,
Midland Centre for Natural health
Mitchel Street, Nenagh
Co Tipperary
The Herbal Clinic
Suir View
Cathedral Street
Co .Tipperary

For More Information On Herbalists
Visit the Irish institute of medical herbalists -