Immune Boosting Herbs
It’s that time of year again when the cold season emerges. Sometimes we are lucky and our immune systems are strong enough to allow us to stay in that perfect state of health. However there are those times when life keeps us a little too busy, gives us a bit too much stress and our immune system lowers its guard. It might start with a sniffle, a scratchy throat and then it is full out body aches, sore throat, fever and even a sore tummy. For those with little ones, it’s even harder when everyone catches a cold or the flu at the same time.
Being an herbalist, I usually make my own little herbal blends and make infusions depending on the outcome I want to achieve. Perhaps a bit of elderberry or ginger is added as an antiviral, a little burdock or plantain if a blood purifier is needed, echinacea to boost the immune system, chamomile to calm and soothe a throat, peppermint or yarrow to sweat out a cold, etc. However not everyone has a mini apothecary in their pantry like I do, but the good news is that many health food stores or even regular grocery stores stock a variety of herbs or even plain herbal teas allowing you the opportunity to create your own mixes to boost your immune system. Additionally, some herbs like ginger or garlic can also be added into your cooking so that you can stay healthy and keep those sniffles away.
Here are the top 5 immune boosting herbs recommended to incorporate into your routine:
Echinacea is quite a well-known herb for the prevention and treatment of the common cold, chest infections and influenza. With its powerful antiviral ability, echinacea is able to boost our natural defences over the winter months. Echinacea has been scientifically proven increase the production of our T-cells (a type of lymphocyte) and activate phagocytes (immune cells that engulf bacteria or other harmful foreign particles). Therefore adding a bit of Echinacea into your routine will help enhance our natural defence mechanisms.
Garlic is one of those herbs known to many to be considered to be a cure-all. Garlic has antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial and antioxidant properties which make it a very useful herb to enhance the immune system. Research has shown that those who take garlic every day are less likely to contract the common cold than those who do not. Fresh garlic or garlic juice can act as a natural broad spectrum antibiotic with the benefit of encouraging friendly bacteria and improving intestinal flora.
Ginger for medicinal usage can be traced back to ancient literature from the great civilizations of Asia, the Middle East and Europe that this herb was used as a remedy for helping a variety of ailments. Ginger has antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory properties and is also a circulatory and immune stimulant. As an antiviral, ginger inhibits the attachment of viruses to the cells thus preventing an infection from occurring in the body.
Panax Ginseng also known as Korean or Asian ginseng, is derived from the Greek word meaning “panacea”, which is a remedy or substance that would cure all diseases. Panax Ginseng has been shown to act as immunomodulator meaning it is able to regulate the immune system and help to optimize the immune response thereby increasing the body’s ability to resist illness. The use of Ginseng is also said to aid in the reduction of stress and provide an increase in vitality.
Elderberry or Elderflower are known to have antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties with the added benefit of being an immune stimulant. Elderberry or Elderflower is a valuable herb as it not only prevents infection but also helps to heal an illness after it has taken hold. The dried flowers can be used in tea and the cooked berries can either be added into tea or made into a syrup.
Immune Boosting Herbs was originally written for the winter edition of Mint Magazine.