Natural Immune Boosters
During the winter, when cold and flu season hit, we rely heavily on our immune system to fight off the germs, bacteria and viruses that can make us ill. So it is important that we keep our immune system strong enough to defend our body. Here is a list of time-tested plants, herbs and spices that can help keep you healthy and fortify your immune system.
- Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng, boasts a long history of medicinal use as a vital herb. Known for its rejuvenating and anti-inflammatory properties, it strengthens the immune systemand works as a general tonic to increase energy and prolong longevity. Ashwagandha strengthens the body’s resistance to stress, maintaining a healthy interaction between your nervous system and immune system.
- Garlic, a member of the Allium family, along with onions and leeks, garlic has been used to treat the common cold, chest infections and even ward off evil spirits. This flavourable food fights infection by increasing your body’s natural killer cells, macrophages and lymphocytes. It also protects the heart and lowers cholesterol, and it’s being studied for its anti-tumor effects.
- Astragalus, is a native plant with yellow-coloured roots and is a leader among immune-boosting herbs and it’s known as the “yellow leader” in Chinese medicine. It is usually boiled into a decoction to be taken at various times of the year to help prevent illness. Also called huang qi, this herb helps protect against viral infection. Astragalus may stimulate the immune system to help prevent colds.
- Ginger, is a pungent herb and has been a mainstay in Asian medicine for centuries. It’s been used to treat migraines, pain, and a variety of digestive problems including upset stomach, nausea and vomiting. Ginger contains chemicals that may help to reduce inflammations. It’s also been used to treat upper respiratory tract infections, bronchitis and coughs.
- Reishi Mushrooms, known as the “mushrooms of immortality”, have benefits that are not to be underestimated. The most revsatile of the cancer-fighting mushrooms, reishi mushrooms also nourish and protect the heart and liver. These mushrooms have withstood the test of time in Asian medicine as a balancer and revitilizer of the body. Besides boosting the immune system, it’s been used to fight viral infections, bronchitis and various forms of the flu.
- Echinacea, has an impressive amount of clinical research. This Native American plant stimulates nonspecific activity of the immune system, providing a cure-all for a variety of infections and diseases. Echinacea is used to treat the flu and the common cold. Research shows that echinacea may also reduce cold symptoms. Ongoing studies are examining echinacea’s effects on the immune system and it’s ability to treat upper respiratory infections.
- Ginseng, has been studied for it’s anti-fatigue effects and also improves mental clarity, vitality and alertness. Different varieties, such as panax, both Korean and Siberian, offer different health benefits. However, all types of ginseng provide immune-stimulating effects such as lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels and reducing stress and promoting relaxation.
- Tumeric, the main spice in curry, has been used for over 4,000 years in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines. Studies show it may boost immunity, reduce pain and inflammation, and fight infections. Used to treat a wide variety of ailments from arthritis to heartburn, it’s also been used for bronchitis, ling infections and colds.
- Holy Basil, is an Ayurvedic herb, considered sacred by the Hindus and is often planted around Hindu shrines. This holy herb is venerated for its healing properties and is a powerful adaptogen, which can induce relaxation during times of stress. Historically, holy basil has been used to treat the common cold, headaches, stomach disorders, skin disorders, dental problems as well fevers.
Before adding any of these immune boosters to your health regime, it is a good idea to check with your health practitioner, to ensure it is right for you. In addition to improving your immune with the above mentioned it is also good to be supplementing with probiotics as they can help fortify the intestinal walls as well as strengthen the immune system. Having an unhealthy digestive tract can stress your immune system making you more susceptible to infections, viruses and parasites. Eating healthy foods, getting adequate sleep, regular exercise and maintaining a positive mental outlook will also increase and support your immune system not just in the winter months, but all year round.
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