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Herbs that Boost the Immune System

Featured image for "Herbs That Boost the Immune System" blog post. Herbal remedies are beneficial even to the immune system.

There are potentially many herbs that boost the immune system. While some lucky people never seem to get sick, the rest of us mere mortals have to fight off sniffles and touches of flu throughout the winter. Luckily for us, there are many natural, holistic ways to potentially boost our immune systems. One great way to strengthen your defense may be to include one, or better yet, a couple, of these herbs that boost the immune system into your diet.

Potentially Effective Herbs That Boost The Immune System

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Echinacea

The first of the many botanicals up to bat is echinacea. Echinacea isn’t just a pretty coneflower to use in your home gardening! Many studies have spoken of the possible effectiveness of Echinacea in treating illnesses from simple colds to serious infections. Taking echinacea while you have a cold might help by stimulating your body’s infection-fighting immune cells and help you recover faster. This might reduce the chance of your cold becoming more advanced.

It also has possible antibacterial and antiviral properties, both of which are certainly nice to have on your side while fighting off a nasty cold or infection. Specifically, drinking some liquid forms of echinacea could have an antiviral effect on the back of your throat. Echinacea is a popular herb and could possibly be a great herb that boosts the immune system!

Echinacea might also trigger the increased production of interferon and other immune compounds. This is because this herb has polysaccharides that may be responsible for increasing the white blood cell (lymphocytes) production in the body. This makes it potentially more effective in your body’s resistance against infection. Research had said that to maximize the potential of Echinacea, it might need to be taken right away at the earliest sign of infection to aid in healing and to suppress a cold or flu. You should always consult a health physician before undergoing any sort of treatment.

You may consume 30 – 60 drops of Echinacea in liquid form. If you buy Echinacea capsules, you might want to take up to 2 capsules within a two-hour interval during the first 24 hours of infection. Echinacea is also available in tablet form and as a delicious herbal tea that can help soothe your throat. Nothing says relaxation more than sitting down to a cup of hot, therapeutic tea before going to sleep!

Echinacea flower.
Echinacea.

Cat’s Claw

Unlike the first two herbs on our list, cat’s claw is a woody, tropical vine native to the Amazon rainforest. Due to its antioxidant properties, it may help support your immune system and fight infections more effectively. It is also possible that it helps promote phagocytosis in the body. This could make it one of the most effective herbs that boost the immune system naturally! Phagocytosis refers to the ability of the white blood cells to fight against the proliferation of disease-causing microbes and viruses. In other words, it might be antimicrobial! It is also possible that it might attack antigens and cancer cells.

Cat’s claw also contains phenolic acids, alkaloids, and flavonoids that may improve health. Additionally, it may also relieve symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis! This may be due to its possible anti-inflammatory properties.

Research has said that cat’s claw may also be a potentially important addition to the treatment plan of an individual afflicted by autoimmune diseases like AIDS or cancer. It could provide protection to help strengthen healthy cells while possibly aiding in the process of cancer cell removal. It also may lessen the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Cat’s claw comes in the form of dried stem bark for extracts or in capsules. You may take an average daily dose of 20-350 mg of dried stem bark or 300-500 mg in capsules. If you are taking medications, pregnant, or breastfeeding, it is critical that you talk with your doctor before taking it.

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Pau d’ Arco

Our next herb of choice is also native to Central and South America. Pau d’ arco is made from the inner bark of serval species of Tabebuia trees. Pau d’ arco tea has potentially powerful compounds such as flavonoids, quinoids, and benzenoids that may be helpful in fighting against harmful organisms. This bark contains active chemicals that experts refer to as naphthoquinones, specifically beta-lapachone and lapachol. These naphthoquinones have the potential ability to kill pathogenic fungi, viruses, parasites, and bacteria.

Pau d’ arco also has high selenium content. Selenium is a mineral that may have antioxidant properties. With the help of selenium, free radicals might be shuttled out of the body to potentially prevent them from damaging cells and causing diseases. In addition to possibly boosting immunity, selenium may also help rev up the metabolism. Pau d’ arco also has the potential anti-inflammatory effects that may be beneficial for individuals suffering from osteoarthritis.

However, pau d’ arco must not be used without the supervision of a professional herbalist or medical doctor. This is to ensure that the amount being taken is within the level that is not toxic, as this is a very powerful herb. It is recommended that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take pau d’ arco.

Astragalus Root

Astragalus root has been used as a remedy in Traditional Chinese medicine as a possible immune system booster. It might be effective in the prevention of the flu, common cold, and other respiratory infections that affect breathing generally. As such, it might be one of the more important herbs that boost the immune system. It also may work well in alleviating the symptoms of seasonal allergy, which includes sneezing, itching, and runny nose.

In a 2004 study, astragalus root was said to possibly inhibit the adverse effects of Type 1 herpes simplex virus. Astragalus is an adaptogenic herb. This means that this herb might have the ability to adapt its functions in certain circumstances. Because of this, it could help individuals cope better with the symptoms of emotional, mental, and physical stress.

In China, astragalus is used as part of adjunctive therapy that may possibly help with cancer and heart disease. Astragalus root can be taken in the form of tablets or capsules. Its dried root may also be added to soups.

Astragalus plant.
Astragalus.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha, or Indian ginseng, is an evergreen shrub that grows in the drier regions of India. Its name, “ashwagandha”, describes the smell of the root. Which is to say, it means that it literally smells like a horse. So why bother with these stinky plants?

Different parts of the ashwagandha plant, like the leaf, stem, root, or fruit, can be used in different treatments depending on the sickness. More clinical research is necessary, but some people use this herb as a general tonic to boost energy and reduce stress and anxiety. It also may possess antioxidants that help protect the body against cellular damage.

As with all supplements, talk to your doctor before starting to take ashwagandha. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid consuming ashwagandha as it may cause distress and possible harm to the baby. Most people can usually tolerate ashwagandha in small doses; however, taking large amounts of this herb can lead to diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. There may also be an adverse response if taken in combination with some prescription drugs.

Ashwagandha plant.
Ashwagandha.

Garlic

Garlic is another possible contender for herbs that boost the immune system! Garlic has been used throughout history as both a delicious ingredient and as a medicine. Garlic is said to be able to reduce heart disease risk and other circulatory issues, improve mental health, and enhance immunity. Garlic might even specifically protect against the common cold and influenza.

Whole garlic contains alliin, which turns into the compound allicin when chewed or crushed. Allicin quickly converts into sulfur-containing compounds. These compounds are thought to possibly give garlic its potential medicinal properties. These sulfuric compounds are thought to possibly boost the disease-fighting response of some white blood cells in the body when they encounter viruses that cause colds or influenza. It turns out garlic is possibly a good bet for warding off colds and cases of the flu as well as vampires!

Garlic cloves.
Garlic is a common ingredient in many popular dishes that also potentially has many health benefits.

Ginger

Ginger might be another one of the many herbs that boost the immune system! Ginger elixirs of all types have been used since ancient times to treat many ailments. Today, one of the most popular ways of taking ginger is concentrated ginger shots. You can find this drink at juiceries or make it at home by blending a small bit of ginger with other liquid ingredients in a high-quality blender. While drinking this is spicy and a little unpleasant, it might give your immune system a boost!

Ginger has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties due to the number of gingerols, paradols, sesquiterpenes, shogaols, and zingerone it contains. Some tests may have shown that ginger extract helps in reducing inflammation. This is important because chronic inflammation may harm your immune system, which can increase your chances of catching a nasty bug.

Increasing the number of foods in your diet that contain lots of powerful antioxidants and reducing those that are inflammatory (i.e. smoking and drinking alcohol) can give your immune system the boost it needs. As a bonus, ginger may also help your gut by soothing your digestive system and nausea issues.

Ginger and lemon.
Ginger and lemon, a delicious smoothie combination that may also yield some health benefits.

Ginseng

Ginseng has been used in remedies medically in traditional Chinese medicine and is a popular supplement today in North America and is being studied heavily in the immunology field! The reason it might be effective at boosting your immune system is the beneficial antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Specifically, ginseng contains two important compounds that work in relationship with each other, ginsenosides and gintonin. Both of these compounds may have anti-inflammatory properties.

Ginseng root can be taken in a variety of ways. It can be eaten raw or lightly steamed to make it softer. It can also be used to make teas or added to soup and stir-fry. It can also be found in supplement form as powders, tablets, capsules, tinctures, tonics, and oils. It has been suggested that when starting to take ginseng, it is best to start with a lower dosage amount and slowly increase the amount up to 2 grams raw or 200-400 mg of extract.

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Turmeric

Turmeric is unique among all of the herbs that boost the immune system. Its bright yellow hue makes it really stand out! What makes this herb so yellow is curcumin, which is an orange and yellow color. This compound might be a potent immunomodulatory agent and in low doses, might be able to enhance your antibodies. In fact, curcumin’s possible beneficial effects on arthritis, allergy, and asthma might be because of its possible immunomodulating of the immune system.

Some people believe that turmeric can also improve your liver health by potentially functioning as a detoxification agent and supporting your liver in getting rid of the toxins in your body. It also might help reduce immunoglobulin type E-mediated allergic reactions.

However, you should absolutely check with your doctor if you have had or have any of these conditions: inflammation of the gallbladder or gallbladder stones, obstruction of bile passages, stomach ulcers, or diabetes. Consuming too much turmeric can also cause increased stomach acidity (which can cause ulcers) and can create a blood-thinning effect. As with all supplements, you should talk to your doctor and check to see how much you should take for optimal health.

Turmeric and a flower.
Fresh turmeric.

Oregano Oil

Oregano is just another common kitchen spice among many spices, right? Wrong! Oregano is a herb that might help boost your immune system! Oregano oil may have antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. It also contains carvacrol, thymol, and terpinene. Because of the possible properties, oregano oil has become a popular alternative remedy for treating cold and flu symptoms.

Some believe that oregano oil’s carvacrol content is to thank for the possible cold and flu-fighting properties. Carvacrol might be effective against certain pathogens. Oregano oil might also help with pain-related flu systems, such as body aches or sore throats.

Oregano oil is generally safe, but you should keep the following in mind. Make sure you take a least a weeklong break for every three weeks of consumption. Avoid using oregano oil if you are allergic to mint, sage, basil, or lavender. Because these plants are related, it’s likely that if you are allergic to these plants, you might be allergic to oregano as well.

You should also not use oregano oil if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Depending on the age, you should also talk to a pediatrician before giving a child oregano oil. If you have a bleeding disorder or are on any medications that alter the clotting of your blood you should not take oregano oil.

Garden of oregano.
Oregano is an herb that you can grow yourself!

Possible Fruits That Can Boost Your Immune System

Elderberry

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Next on our list is another popular medicinal plant: elderberries! The most common type of elderberry is Sambucus nigra and is more commonly known as the European Elderberry or Black Elder even though it is grown around the world.

Elderberries contain active compounds that may work to destroy viruses and potentially prevent them from latching onto healthy cells. Findings from several studies have found that elderberry supplements might work wonders in potentially protecting the body against viral infections, such as those that target the respiratory tract. Elderberries are also high in vitamin C, phenolic acids, flavonols, and anthocyanins. This means that this berry is high in powerful antioxidants and may have anti-inflammatory effects.

Elderberry supplements come in many forms, including liquids, capsules, lozenges, and gummies, and can be found next to the multivitamin section in the supermarket as well as online. Take half a teaspoon of elderberry liquid extract, two times a day for potentially better protection against infectious diseases. To use elderberry syrup as a possible protective tonic, take one teaspoon two times a day. To potentially speed up recovery from or reduce the severity of the flu or a cold, take the same amount but do it four times a day.

Elderberry might also be used for treating sinusitis, chronic fatigue, nerve pain, constipation, allergies, and inflammation. It is also claimed to be possibly helpful for people who are suffering from cancer. If elderberry is taken right at the onset of infection, it possibly depresses the duration of flu by up to four days.

Pomegranate

Both beautiful and delicious, pomegranates are great for boosting your immune system! This pretty red fruit is full of healthy compounds. There are antioxidants, phytochemicals, anthocyanins, catechins, and ellagic acid. These healthy compounds may make pomegranates a great anti-inflammatory, cancer-fighting, and immune system boosting food.

Pomegranates are delicious eaten raw or as a juice! There are a lot of ways to incorporate raw pomegranate arils (the jewel-like mini fruits inside the red husk) into your diet. You can eat them as a movie snack or toss them into your favorite salad recipe.

Pomegranates go really well with an organic super-food kale salad with nuts, pumpkin seeds, olive pieces, grilled reishi or shiitake mushrooms, and cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and broccoli. Many people love eating a big helping of raw pomegranate arils mixed in with oatmeal with a little bit of cinnamon, apple chunks, and honey for breakfast. Don’t knock it until you try it!

Sliced pomegranate.
Pomegranate.

Camu Camu

The next heavy hitter on our list is Camu Camu! What is this plant? Camu Camu is a bush that grows in the Amazonian rainforest in Peru that produces a sour berry with a myriad of possible health benefits. This berry contains powerful phytochemicals, including the amino acids serine, valine, and leucine.

What makes this berry a potential immunity powerhouse is its level of vitamin C, an essential vitamin for maintaining your immune system and typically found in citrus fruit. In fact, it has 30 times more vitamin C than an orange! These little berries may help strengthen the immune system and maintain healthy gums, eyes, and skin. There may also be possible benefits for people suffering from asthma.

Hawaiian Noni

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Next is the Hawaiian Noni! This funny-looking and funny-smelling fruit grows on small evergreen trees in the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia, Australia, and India. Despite its outward appearance, Hawaiian Noni potentially has some great health benefits! Noni has been found to have high levels of phytonutrients, including saponins, triterpenes, steroids, flavonoids, and cardiac glycosides. Some of these compounds may help repair damaged cells and activate the immune system.

Borojo

Next on our list is another fruit from South America: the Borojo fruit! This round, green-brown fruit comes from the Choco-Darien region of Colombia. This super fruit can possibly strengthen the immune system by regenerating cells. It’s high in protein and an excellent source of vitamin B, which might be one reason why it might enhance immunity and counteract stress, depression, and heart disease. Borojo might also help treat bronchial issues in the lungs.

Potential Berries That Boost The Immune System

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Aronia

Up next is another super berry that may help with immune system support: aronia berries! Aronia is a berry shrub native to North America, but its berries are better known as chokeberries. These aren’t chokecherries but have very similar properties. Like chokecherries, chokeberries have a bitter and sour flavor but can be eaten fresh and are packed full of phytochemicals, flavonoids, and polyphenols. These chokeberries may function as an anti-inflammatory and may help combat bacteria and viruses.

Aronia smoothie.
A delicious Aronia smoothie.

Goji Berry

Goji berries are small, red fruits that pack a punch! They’re high in vitamins A and C, which are vital to building up your immune system and preventing illness. They’re also packed with antioxidants. These two properties make goji berries a potentially big immune system booster. As a bonus, goji berries are high in the antioxidant zeaxanthin, which may help protect your eyes, and specifically your retinas, against damage.

You can find goji berries in dried or powdered form. Most healthy adults can eat a normal amount of goji berries as a part balanced diet. However, goji berries may interact with blood thinners and medications for diabetes or high blood pressure. You should also ask a doctor before eating goji berries if you are pregnant.

Raspberry

One delicious berry that may boost the immune system is the humble raspberry. Fun fact: raspberries are actually related to roses! But more importantly, raspberries are also full of phytochemicals and nutrients like vitamin C, which might make them great for boosting your immune system!

Raspberries are easy to incorporate into your lifestyle. You can eat them fresh on top of pancakes, blend them up in a smoothie, add them to your water, or eat them with yogurt to balance the tangy flavor. Nutrition never tasted so good!

Red raspberries.
Beautiful red raspberries.

Blueberry

Another super delicious berry that can boost your immune system is the common grocery store blueberry. Besides being good to eat, blueberries are good for you! Blueberries are high in zinc, dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium (a great source for bone strength if you’re lactose intolerant!), and manganese.

Blueberries are also ridiculously high in antioxidants. In fact, it may have one of the highest antioxidant levels of all common fruits and vegetables! Blueberries are particularly high in antioxidants called polyphenols, which appear to boost their disease-fighting ability! Blueberries are also high in flavonoids, which are thought to play a role in the function of the respiratory immune system.

There are a lot of ways you can incorporate blueberries into your favorite recipes and lifestyle! You can freeze them and eat them like candy, toss them into your probiotic yogurt to sweeten it a little, or turn them into a low-sugar jam. Blueberries are easy to incorporate into your life!

Bowl of blueberries.
Blueberries are amazingly delicious berries that can be incorporated into so many different dishes and smoothies!

Grape Skin Extract

Grape skins may also have some serious immunity-boosting effects due to their resveratrol content. Resveratol, among other purported health benefits, seems to exhibit antioxidant activity and inhibit the production of free radicals. It also may have anti-inflammatory effects as it might inhibit both acute and chronic phases of inflammation.

Grapes skins are easy to incorporate into your diet: eat more whole grapes! In fact, some people believe that eaten holistically, rather than as a supplement, grape skins can be more beneficial. I love to freeze my grapes and then eat them as a healthy movie snack! If you don’t like grapes, there are plenty of extracts and supplements on the market as well to help you in your quest for wellness.

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Acai Berry

The next immune booster is the acai berry! You’ve probably seen yummy-looking acai bowls in restaurants, but did you know how good acai berries are for you? Acai berries have the second-highest ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity) values of any reported food and are filled to the brim with vitamins.

Acai berries have vitamins such as B1 (Thiamin), B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin), Vitamin E, and Vitamin C. It also contains minerals such as phosphorus, calcium, potassium, and iron. If that wasn’t enough for you, it also contains essential fatty acids such as Omega 6 and Omega 9 (linoleic and oleic acids) plus all the essentials amino acids.

Big acai bowls.
Delicious acai bowls.

Maqui Berry

The Maqui berry is another possible immunity-boosting berry from South America! This dark purple berry from Chile has gotten everyone in the health industry excited. Maqui berries have the highest ORAC score of any other fruit known to science and have the highest concentration of anthocyanins and polyphenols! It’s also a great source of vitamins A and C and is rich in minerals like calcium, potassium, and iron. These compounds may make this little berry a powerful immunity booster.

*Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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