By Sandra Chaloux | 09/21/2020

5 Herbs That Improve Immune Health

5 Herbs That Improve Immune Health

5 Herbs That Improve Immune Health

 

Herbs. They’re our friends. For centuries, they’ve been used for a multitude of purposes: from flavoring our foods, to cosmetics ranging from fragrances, lotions, body washes, and scrubs, to use in religious and spiritual rituals, and, lastly, to uses as medicine. Long before medicines were synthesized and condensed into pills, there were herbs--medicines that grew, and could be cultivated, naturally from the earth. And while being natural doesn’t make them impervious to adverse reactions or side effects, there is something enticing about improving your health yourself--by ingesting something you probably already eat or cook with anyway. For most, it sounds more appealing than swallowing pills or being injected with something that you’re unsure what, exactly, it contains. This could explain why roughly 80% of the populations endemic to African and Asian countries rely predominantly on herbal medicines for their healthcare needs, and why herbal medicine has become more and more popular here in the Western cultures as well.

 

However, like any other medicine, it’s important to know what they do, what ailments they treat, and how to take them, to ensure you receive the greatest benefit from them. In this article, we’ll go over just a few of the more common herbs that are used to boost immune health. These can be found in just about any market, or, perhaps even better, can be grown in your own backyard.

 

Echinacea

 

Echinacea is an herbal flower native to the U.S. in the same family as the daisy. You may know it better as coneflower, and it’s common in many neighborhood gardens. It is an herb with many alleged uses, but a lot of herbalists and holistic healers agree that, when taken at the very onset of a disease, or as a preventative against infection, it does stimulate a rapid response from the immune system to protect against these problems. To be most effective, it must be taken at the first sign of a cold or illness. Alkylamides are compounds found within this herb that have been studied and shown to encourage a healthy bodily response to the immune system breaking down. These are generally concentrated in the root of the plant, so the root may be dried and prepared in a tea, in a powder (and added to juices), or as an extract to help people feel better. The leaves of the flower contain carbohydrates which promote a healthy immune system, effective in maintaining the immune system and keeping it strong. These may also be dried and prepared in a tea, powder, or extract.

 

Garlic

 

Though technically a vegetable closely related to leeks, onions, and shallots, garlic makes this list because it is used much more like a spice or an herb--sparingly, and as an additive, unlike other veggies. There’s nothing quite like that smell of simmering, freshly minced garlic wafting out of a kitchen. Allicin, the compound responsible for garlic’s pungent aroma, is also what gives it its immune-boosting properties. It’s a unique and potent compound that is produced when garlic is chopped or crushed, and it’s believed to give garlic antibacterial and antiviral capabilities. It’s this compound which has been shown to be effective against such bacteria as E. coli and salmonella, and as a protector of overall gut and digestive health. In addition, clinical trials and studies have been done to measure the effectiveness of allicin (by using placebos as the control) against the common cold. When taken as a preventative measure, it has been shown to reduce the onset of colds by 63%. Even if those who take it still manage to get sick, their symptoms are shown to be less severe, shorter lasting, and with a quicker recovery than those without it. This one’s easy to take, because most of us have some form of garlic lying around our kitchen already. Chopped cloves can be added into olive oil and left (chilled) as an infusion. Cloves may be eaten raw or roasted (and thoroughly chewed to release the allicin), or made into a soup, and it can also be made into a liquid extract. 

 

 

Ginger

 

Whether you subscribe to holistic remedies or not, it’s pretty widely known that ginger can help relieve upset stomachs and nausea. It’s widely used for morning sickness during pregnancies (which ginger chews are great for), motion sickness, and even helps alleviate chemotherapy-induced nausea. But there’s even more to this herb than that. The ginger root has been shown to be anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial, making it an excellent defender against fungi and bacteria, and a boost to overall immune system health. This, along with its versatility (in teas, candies, powder, and as a tasty addition to many dishes and beverages) make ginger a top choice during cold and flu season. 

 

Oregano

 

This humble herb is a popular choice for gardens and is used in many dishes, but its health benefits are often overlooked. Not only is oregano a delicious flavoring, but it has higher antioxidant levels than oranges, apples, and even blueberries! It’s rich in vitamins A, C, E, and K, all of which contribute to immune system health, and its antimicrobial properties make it an effective treatment against infections from bacteria and parasites. This is an herb you’ll want to keep on hand. It’s great in Italian dishes, soups, and is even available as an essential oil. Who said medicine has to taste bad?

 

Turmeric

 

Popular in Indian and Thai cooking (especially curries) and from the same family as ginger, turmeric is considered by many to be an herb “superfood.” It contains a versatile, anti-inflammatory compound, called curcumin, that has been studied as a treatment for simple colds all the way to more complex diseases like Alzheimer’s and even cancer. 

 

 

Wrap-Up

 

These are just a handful of the many, many wonderful herbs out there that have been shown to have immune-boosting properties, but before you go making that herbal tea to cure your illness, make sure you do your research and speak to an herbalist or holistic healer. Talk to them about your ailment and the kind of treatment you look to receive from herbs. The whole point of this article is to view herbs as medicine. You wouldn’t just randomly take a synthesized medicine without first looking into it and getting opinions from those in the healthcare field, and so it should be with herbs.

 

And please let us hear from you! If you have used herbs to treat immune issues, share your wisdom! What did you use? How did you prepare it and what were the results?

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