10 Immunity Boosting Herbal Supplements to Try Today
10 Immunity Boosting Herbal Supplements
Enhancing Your Immune System series
By: Laura Tetrault
Reading Time: 6 mins
In a previous article, we talked about the 5 vitamins you can take now to boost your immune system. Today, we’re going to look at 10 herbal supplements that are known to be helpful to your immune system. Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese medicines have long relied on knowledge of these and other plants as ways to promote healing and health and many people currently use them to reduce inflammation and fight off infections. If you missed our explanations of what the immune system is and how it works, our guide to your gut, or how sleep and laughter affect your immune health you can read them here.
What is a supplement?
Herbal or dietary supplements are substances that people take in order to add nutrients to their diets. They can be capsules, pills, powders, liquids, gummies, gel tabs or extracts. It’s a good idea to talk to your health care provider to find out what supplements would be helpful in your diet and for your current situation. "Supplement" is a broad term that can cover vitamins, minerals, fiber, amino acids, enzymes and herbs. Like vitamins, it is best to get the nutrients from supplements through a varied and healthy diet.
The astragalus root is typically used to fight the common cold, upper respiratory infections, swine flu and other bacteria and viruses. Astragalus has been used for hundreds of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is considered safe for most adults, but can have gastrointestinal side effects including diarrhea. It can also affect blood sugar levels and have undesirable interactions with some immuno-suppresent medications.
Commonly used as a painkiller and a fever reducer, Andographis has also been used to treat the common cold and flu. Current research is exploring the use of andrographis as an antiviral remedy as it has an ability to restrain virus development and replication. That’s because Andrographis contains andrographolide - which Healthline.com defines as “a terpenoid compound found to have antiviral effects against respiratory-disease-causing viruses, including enterovirus D68 and influenza A”.
Derived from the Turmeric plant, Curcumin has commonly been used in Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for its ability to alter how your brain perceives pain. It is produced from the root of the plant and has many medicinal uses. This painkiller also has anti-inflammatory properties, can slow the growth of undesirable microorganisms and it may help overall immune function.
Echinacea is a part of the daisy plant family. The roots and most of the rest of the plant are used fresh or dried to make teas, extracts, tablets and capsules. Often taken at the first sign of a cold, Echinacea contains a compound called echinacea that makes it hard for viruses and bacteria to penetrate your healthy cells. This compound’s antiviral effects against rhinoviruses as well as several other types of respiratory viruses have been documented and studies in its use are ongoing.
Elderberry (Sambucus Nigra)
Elderberry’s anti-inflammatory properties are used as a remedy for colds, flus, and bacterial sinus infections. Elderberry is available in several different forms, including syrups, liquids, lozenges and gummies. It has also demonstrated “potent antibacterial and antiviral potential” against pathogens that cause upper respiratory tract infections. A current article published by Medicinenet.com states that “Some studies suggest elderberry extract reduces the duration of the flu, which is why some believe it may also help your immune system against coronavirus (COVID-19) infection”. In small doses, elderberry extract is considered safe, but eating the flowers, or unripe or uncooked berries can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
It’s not just for vampires anymore. Garlic has antiviral properties too, that may help in reducing the severity of cold, flu or COVID-19 infections. Healthline.com reports that “It has been shown to enhance immune health by stimulating protective white blood cells like natural killer (NK) cells and macrophages”. Garlic can be eaten raw or taken in supplement form. Studies have shown that taking garlic can also help lower your chances of getting sick in the first place.
Did you know that licorice candy isn’t actually flavoured with licorice root? Candy makers use anise oil instead. The licorice that will help you with congestion and reduce inflammation grows in Greece, Turkey and Asia. Its root has been used for centuries as a remedy for stomach inflammation and upper respiratory issues. Glycyrrhizin is one of the compounds in licorice thought to help protect against viral infections. Today, those looking to supplement their diets can chew a piece of the root, drink it as a tea, or take it in capsule, liquid extract or tablet form.
Medical mushrooms are power-ups for your immune system. Specifically, a 2019 study has shown that supplementing with cordyceps led to a 38% increase in the activity of people’s natural killer (NK) cells. The NK cells are a type of white blood cell that protects against infection. Cordyceps are only one type of over 270 medicinal mushroom varieties that are known to have a positive effect on the immune system. Polysaccharides inside of the mushrooms have immune boosting power when eaten. Other common types like lion’s mane, chaga, shitake, reishi, and turkey tail can be found in tinctures, teas and supplements.
Remember this, for the next time you’re playing at home Jeopardy. Propolis is a resin-like material made by honeybees. They use it as a sealant in their hives. It can act as an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory agent in your immune system. Researchers studying propolis agree that it is chemically complex, including polyphenols, terpenoids, steroids, and amino acids. Some evidence suggests that propolis could reduce the duration of upper respiratory tract infections but there is room for more research around its antiviral properties.
African Geranium (Pelargonium Sidoides)
The name African geranium might be more familiar to you than pelargonium sidoides, or Umckaloabo, but no matter what name you use, this plant is known to be an effective treatment for for upper respiratory infections including bronchitis, sinusitis, sore throat, tonsillitis, and the common cold. Pelargonium sidoides prevents bacteria from sticking to your cells, making it difficult for the bacteria to eat and reproduce. And there is some human research that supports the use of the plant’s extract for alleviating symptoms of viral respiratory infections.
These 10 immune boosting supplements are all great ways to help your immune system toward off any unwanted invaders. We have focused on supplements that have a traditional history of use and are backed by the scientific community with clinical research.
When taking any natural supplement it is important to do your research first to ensure you are getting the best immune-boosting supplements for your body. We suggest reading the ingredients and if you have questions talk to your physician or pharmacist. They can assist you with questions about side effects or contraindications if you are currently taking any medications or
over the counter products.
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