Healthy Herbs: Top 10 Herbs that Boost the Immune System

Healthy Herbs and Spices

The immune system [1] consists of a network of cells and organs that help to protect the body against disease. Healthy herbs and spices are an easy way to arm your cells with super immunity fighting power.

An effective immune system needs to be able to not only identify pathogens and tell them apart from the body’s natural tissues, it also needs to be able to effectively combat infections and remember them for a more efficient response in the future.

Many herbs and spices from around the world contain substances which can support the immune system by doing things like reducing inflammation and protecting the body against oxidative stress caused by free radicals.

Some herbs are more effective than others, and some boast unique immune-boosting properties that set them aside from the rest.

Top 10 Healthy Herbs that help to Boost the Immune System

 

Turmeric

Turmeric is a member of the ginger family with potent antioxidant properties.

Grown in great abundance throughout Asia, turmeric is a key component of many curry dishes and possesses a rich orangey-red color, making it ideal for adding color to food.

Turmeric also boasts the following properties:

  • High concentrations of curcumin [2] which is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agent;
  • Liver detoxification, similarly to milk thistle; and
  • Action as a powerful digestive aid, stimulating bile production

Turmeric is ideal for people suffering from joint pain and conditions such as arthritis due to its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.

 

Elderberry

Elderberry is a shrub that is native to North America and Europe [3], and has come to the attention of the research community much more so in the past two decades due to its potential immune-boosting properties.

So far, elderberry has been shown to hold the following health benefits:

  • Vitamin A, B, and particularly high levels of Vitamin C, your A-B-C of immune-boosting;
  • Improved blood pressure readings;
  • Possible application in weight loss;
  • High concentrations of anthocyanins[4], which possess potent antioxidant properties; and
  • Possible treatment of influenza

Elderberry tea is generally considered to be a very safe way of consuming this herb; however, you may want to consult your doctor before taking an extract.

 

Seaweed

Among the many health benefits of seaweed is its lignan content, which has been demonstrated to inhibit the growth of blood cells, helping to fight against cancer. Lignans also inhibit estrogen synthesis with the same level of efficacy as some chemotherapy drugs. seaweed.

Seaweed also possesses benefits such as:

  • Aiding digestion with its high soluble-fiber content;
  • High levels of folic acid, which has been shown to protect against colon cancer;
  • Iodine, which is essential for optimal thyroid functioning; and
  • Pantothenic acid and riboflavin, both of which reduce stress levels by acting on the adrenal glands

Any food which can help to regulate stress via the adrenals will provide a significant boost to your immunity, which can become severely compromised in times of stress.

 

Garlic[5]

Besides being a delicious addition to many dishes, garlic has been proven time and time again to possess a great number of health benefits.

Along with providing a significant jolt to the immune system, some other benefits of garlic include:

  • Anti-microbial properties;
  • Antineoplastic[6] properties, meaning garlic can help stem the proliferation of malignant cells in cancer patients;
  • Heart-strengthening properties;
  • Blood-cleansing properties; and
  • Handy for fending off vampires

Additionally, garlic contains enzymes which convert into a unique compound known as allicin[7] which has been shown to be useful in boosting antibodies, protecting against heart disease, and even helping to prevent the common cold.

 

Astragalus

Astragalus or milk vetch has been prized in Chinese medicine due to its immune-boosting properties[8].

Among the many health benefits of astragalus are properties such as:

  • Mild diuretic properties which relax blood vessels, lowering blood pressure and protecting against heart disease[9];
  • Reduction of stomach acidity, ideal for people who suffer from stomach ulcers or acid reflux;
  • Antiviral properties;
  • Immune-bolstering properties via the production of white blood cells and antibodies; and
  • Protection against disease in HIV and AIDS patients

Astragalus is not very well-researched, so at present the potential side-effects remain unknown; however, if in doubt, speak to your doctor.

 

Ginger

One animal study showed that ginger extract possesses potent effects in terms of reducing bad cholesterol and thinning the blood to protect against clots.
Ginger

Furthermore, ginger possesses the following health benefits:

  • Inhibition of the genes associated with inflammation;
  • Protection against heart disease; and
  • Significant digestive aid[10];

Much like garlic, ginger is widely-available and is compatible with countless dishes and culinary styles, making it incredibly easy to incorporate it into your diet. Alternatively, you may enjoy adding a ‘thumb’ of ginger to a fruit smoothie to give it a spicy kick.

 

Ginkgo Biloba

Gingko biloba leaves contain unique compounds known as ginkgolides and bilobalides which possess potent antioxidant properties, effective in protecting the body against oxidative damage caused by free radicals.

This health-boosting herb also has further benefits, such as:

  • Protection against radiation poisoning;
  • Up to 50% reduction in brain damage[11];
  • Reduction of symptoms in glaucoma patients[12];
  • Improved concentration levels; and
  • Protection against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

Ginkgo biloba appears to be an ideal addition for people with disorders of the eye, such as macular degeneration due to its flavonoid content.

 

Cat’s Claw

Cat’s claw is known to contain oxindole alkaloids which stimulate the production of white blood cells, as well as increasing the ability of the cells to attack and remove pathogens and cancerous cells.

This Peruvian herb has also proven useful in protecting the body against degenerative diseases, and even has utility for patients suffering from cancer, reducing the size of certain tumors.

As an immune-response stimulator, cat’s claw can be highly beneficial in helping AIDS patients fight off infections.

 

Echinacea[13]

A member of the compositae family, Echinacea has been utilized in America for its health benefits since 1887.

Echinacea packs a mighty immune-boosting punch owing largely to its array of healthful compounds, including flavonoids, alkylamides, polyacetylenes, and essential oils. These chemicals possess antimicrobial properties and can cause cell death in tumors.

Echinacea also boasts the following health benefits:

  • Immuno-modulating compounds which can increase the production of white blood cells, interferon, and interleukin;
  • Protection against secondary infection in patients undergoing chemotherapy; and
  • Up to a 30% increase in  white B- and T-lymphocytes, which are cells that can seek out cancer cells

Whichever way you look at it, Echinacea is an incredibly powerful herb that is a must-have in your immune-boosting arsenal.

 

Skull Cap[14]

Also known as scullcap or scutellaria, skull cap is not a particularly well-studied herb[15], although it has been known to have application in the treatment of fever, epilepsy, rabies, and skin infections, to name but a few. Scutellaria antirrhinoides

Further potential benefits of skull cap include:

  • Relaxant and sedative properties[16] which last for approximately two hours, although long-term application in this context has not been established;
  • Protection against prostate cancer;
  • Reduction of symptoms in patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease; and
  • Protection against Alzheimer’s disease

Skull cap is also known for its use in patients suffering from hepatitis, and is an effective anti-inflammatory agent.

 

Conclusion

So there we have it, a wide selection of powerful herbs which can be found either online or in stores without great difficulty. Some of these herbs, such as garlic and ginger, are easier to incorporate into your diet than others, but many of these herbs can be consumed in pill form or drank as a tea or infusion.

Each ‘super-herb’ has its own unique properties with application to different people, but including at least a few of these in your diet is a surefire way to bolster your immunity and protect against pathogens.

It’s particularly important to consume these herbs during cold and flu season, especially if you work in a busy office environment. If you live in a cold or dark climate, be sure to drink some Echinacea tea instead of that third coffee.

While you’re at it, why not add some garlic to your lunch? The smell might not make you too many friends but it will certainly pack a nutritional punch and keep you healthy while your coworkers are coughing and sneezing around you! Leaf Man

 

 

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