The Ecology of Immunity

By Westgarden Steward Jules LeDrew

Ecology is defined by the relationships among organisms, with one another and with their physical surroundings. If we view the immune system from an ecological perspective, we can see it as one of the primary means, along with the nervous and endocrine systems, by which we relate to the external world: physically, emotionally, spiritually, and naturally.

I often think about how our inner world reflects our outer world as I consider how to support people along their journey to wellness. There are complex relationships between mind, body, and our external environment, and all are sensing and responding to one another for the purpose—the innocent ambition—of survival. Through the magic of being alive we infinitely strive toward a stable, constant state—homeostasis. The body is always working to heal itself, and so is our environment.
What a tremendous gift it is to know that deep down, your being always believes in you.

Medical Herbalist and author David Hoffman states that, “Immunity represents an ecological interface between inner and outer environments.” If we focus merely on immune cell stimulation to target and kill disease alone, without the broader holistic perspective, herbal medicine is as limited as conventional medicine. I invite you to view your body and your relationship to the environment as interdependent—to consider your ecological imprint. This is an invitation to reframe your thinking around your health and your immunity as an expression of relationship.

What is your relationship to food, to movement, to community, to nature? What creative expressions fulfill your soul? Do you nurture your connection to feeling experiences, allowing for joy, pain, sadness, love, fear, and anger to be parts of your life? This is the perfect time to nourish these relationships and commit to developing a rich connection between your inner and outer landscapes.

Pictured above: In her native homeland of India, this medicinal plant, Withania somnifera aka Ashwagandha, grows as a perennial. In the Pacific Northwest we are lucky to see her established even as an annual. Here in the Westgarden, our greenhouse has proven a welcoming habitat for this powerful medicinal adaptogen. Roots harvested in the fall are used for medicine.

August 18, 2020



  1. Luanne Brown says:

    I loved this article, especially the line, ”
    What a tremendous gift it is to know that deep down, your being always believes in you.”