Immune Strengthening Herbs
A strong and healthy immune system is crucial for fighting off illnesses and infections. While many factors affect immune health, including diet, exercise, and stress levels, certain herbs have been shown to boost immunity naturally. This article will explore 10 top herbs that can support and strengthen the immune system.
Echinacea is one of the most well-known and widely used herbs for boosting immunity. Native American tribes traditionally used echinacea to treat wounds and infections. Today, research has confirmed its immune-enhancing effects. Studies have found that echinacea increases the production of immune cells like T-cells and natural killer cells. It also contains polysaccharides that stimulate the activity of macrophages, which are immune cells that engulf and digest pathogens. Echinacea is best taken at the first signs of infection, and can help reduce symptom severity and duration.
Elderberry has become an extremely popular herbal supplement for colds and flu. Both the elderberry fruit and flowers contain flavonoids and anthocyanins, compounds with strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capabilities. Elderberry is thought to work by blocking viruses from attaching to and entering host cells.
A 2019 review noted that elderberry supplements can substantially shorten the duration of colds and flu. Supplementing with elderberry extract at the onset of respiratory infection symptoms appears most effective.
Astragalus is an herb commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to strengthen immunity. It contains unique polysaccharides that enhance the activity of immune cells. Animal research has found astragalus can increase the production of T-cells and stimulate natural killer cell activity.
Human studies have also noted immune-boosting benefits, including reduced severity and duration of colds. Astragalus appears most useful when taken consistently to prevent infections. However, it also has mild antibacterial properties that may help inhibit growth of pathogens.
Garlic is not only a flavorful culinary ingredient. It also contains beneficial compounds like allicin that have antimicrobial and antiviral activities. Consuming garlic regularly can help support overall immune function. Allicin is thought to inhibit the enzymes of infectious bacteria and viruses, limiting their ability to thrive and replicate in the body.
Garlic also promotes the production of glutathione, an antioxidant that supports natural detoxification processes. The antiviral and antibacterial properties of garlic make it helpful both for illness prevention and for fighting active infections.
Ginger root is commonly used as a remedy for nausea and other digestive issues. But it also has notable immune-boosting qualities. Ginger contains compounds called gingerols and shogaols that can suppress inflammatory compounds. This helps control excessive inflammation that can weaken immunity.
By keeping inflammation at healthy levels, immune cells are better able to do their job. Ginger has also been found to stimulate T-cell production and enhance their activity once produced directly. Fresh or dried ginger can help prevent infections when used regularly.
Licorice root contains unique triterpenoids like glycyrrhizin, giving it antiviral, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. It has been used traditionally for upper respiratory infections like coughs and bronchitis.
Licorice helps boost immunity by increasing antibody response and stimulating the activity of immune cells like T-cells and natural killer cells. Some compounds in licorice also seem to prevent viruses from replicating. Licorice delivers the most benefits when taken at the first signs of infection. It produces mild immune stimulation when used preventively long term as well.
Oregano leaves and oil have strong natural antibacterial qualities. Thymol, carvacrol, and rosmarinic acid have potent antimicrobial effects against drug-resistant, infectious bacteria like MRSA. Oregano oil has been found to inhibit the growth and spread of Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. When used at the first onset of any bacterial infection, oregano oil or leaves can help control it. Oregano also inhibits the activity of enzymes some viruses need to replicate. Regular preventive use provides general immune-boosting benefits as well.
Certain medicinal mushrooms have incredibly beneficial effects on immune function. Species like maitake, reishi, shiitake, and cordyceps contain polysaccharides that enhance immune cell activity. Research shows these mushrooms increase the production of T-cells, natural killer cells, and macrophages.
The specific polysaccharides in medicinal mushrooms also stimulate the production of cytokines, the signaling proteins that help immune cells communicate and coordinate responses. Regularly consuming these medicinal mushrooms builds immune resilience and adaptability so the body is ready to fight infections.
Parsley is an excellent source of vitamin C, which helps stimulate the production of antibodies and white blood cells. It also contains antioxidants like carotenoids and flavonoids that prevent cellular damage from oxidative stress, which can weaken immunity. Parsley contains a volatile oil called eugenol that has been found to inhibit the activity of microbes like bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
Chewing on fresh parsley helps release its immune-enhancing compounds. Using it as a regular culinary ingredient or as a supplement prevents nutrient deficiencies that can impair immune function.
Green tea contains polyphenols like epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) that have extremely potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits that bolster immunity. EGCG inhibits inflammatory compounds that can suppress immune responses if unchecked. Green tea also supports healthy populations of intestinal bacteria that train immune cells.
Specific probiotics stimulated by compounds in green tea produce short-chain fatty acids that regulate immune cell responses. Sipping green tea regularly prevents oxidative stress and excessive inflammation for optimal immunity.
There are many natural ways to strengthen immune defenses without relying solely on medications. Incorporating herbs like echinacea, elderberry, astragalus, and medicinal mushrooms can provide general immune-boosting benefits. Herbs like garlic, oregano, and licorice have antibacterial and antiviral properties to help actively combat infections.
Immune-supporting nutrients from green tea and parsley help optimize immune cell function.
These natural supplements, especially at the first signs of infection, can strengthen the body’s immune response and help you stay healthy.