5 Herbs to Supercharge Your Immune System
Herbal remedies to ward off infection and boost health
Constantly unwell and need to give your immune system a boost?
Consider using herbal remedies!
Herbs are rich in important nutrients and powerful compounds to fuel immune cells and ward off infections
Here are 5 herbs to supercharge your immune system and prevent the dreaded lurgy.
All-round Immune Booster
Echinacea is a herb native to North America that has been used for centuries by Native Americans to treat a range of ailments. It has become popular as an immune system booster and is often a core component of cold and flu remedies. Echinacea is known to stimulate the immune system and reduce inflammation, helping to fight off infection, improve energy levels and boost overall health.
It is made up of several active compounds (polysaccharides, alkamides, flavonoids, glycoproteins) and these compounds are responsible for echinacea’s immune-boosting effects. Studies have shown that taking echinacea can stimulate the activity of certain white blood cells (macrophages and neutrophils) and increase the production of cytokines (a type of immune protein) to help to fight infection and regulate the immune system.
How to use Echinacea
Liquid tincture, capsules or drops
If you feel run down or a cold coming on, taking echinacea can be highly beneficial to give your immune system a boost. It is available in capsules, tinctures and drops. Only buy echinacea products that contain standardized active compounds – these are the therapeutic parts of the herb known as echinacosides, alkamides and phenolic compounds. The two most studied species for immune support are Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea angustifolia. Echinacea is generally considered safe for most people; however, if you have an autoimmune condition or are taking immunosuppressant medication, you should not take echinacea. If you are currently taking medication, pregnant or lactating, consult with a herbalist or naturopath before taking any herbal medicine.
Echinacea tea is a popular way to take the herb. Add 1 teaspoon of dried echinacea root to 1 cup of boiling water. Let the mixture steep for 15 minutes, then strain. Drink 1 – 3 cups per day.
Boosts Vitamin C & Reduces Fevers
Elder (also known as Sambucus nigra) is a shrub native to Europe, North America and parts of Asia. It produces clusters of small white flowers during late spring and summer, followed by dark blue-black berries in autumn. Rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, elderberries are highly beneficial to the immune system as they protect immune cells from damage. Elderberries also contain antiviral properties and compounds called anthocyanins which increase the production of immune cells and can reduce the severity of cold and flu symptoms by inhibiting the release of molecules that cause inflammation. Elderberries are helpful for fevers as they exert a diaphoretic action to promote sweating and cool the body down. They do this by stimulating circulation so that capillaries (small blood vessels) can dilate to release excess heat from the body.
How to use Elder
One of the best ways to take elder is to make a tea from the dried berries. Steep 2 – 4 tablespoons of dried elderberries in 1 cup of hot water for at least 15 minutes. Strain the tea and drink it up to three times a day.
You can also make a syrup from elderberries by bringing 4 cups of water to a boil, then adding 1 cup of dried elderberries. Simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain the mixture and add 1 cup of raw organic honey, stirring until it dissolves. Take 1 – 2 tablespoons of the syrup up to three times a day.
Soothes Sore Throats & Mouth Ulcers
Even though propolis is a natural product made by bees from tree resins, it is still considered herbal medicine. It is a highly effective immune-boosting remedy as it contains antioxidants, antiviral and antifungal properties. Propolis has shown to reduce inflammation, protect against pathogens and decrease oxidative stress caused by environmental toxins. It is also rich in vitamins and minerals that support immune health including vitamins A, E and C, magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese and selenium. Propolis contains a compound called caffeic acid which is a powerful immune stimulant. It can regulate the body’s immune response to pathogens and reduce pro-inflammatory molecules that contribute to inflammation and tissue damage.
How to use Propolis
Liquid / tincture or capsules
You can take propolis in a liquid/ tincture or capsule form to boost immune health or if you’re starting to feel unwell. When taking propolis orally, it is important to start with a small dose and build up slowly as it can cause gastrointestinal irritation in some people. Avoid propolis if you are allergic to bee products.
Propolis lozenges are great for mouth sores, sore throats and tickly coughs.
Propolis skin balms, ointments and creams can be applied topically to the skin to treat skin conditions like acne, eczema and psoriasis, as well as minor cuts, scrapes, and burns.
Natural Antibiotic & Skin Healer
Goldenseal is considered a natural antibiotic because of its numerous medicinal benefits and immune-boosting capabilities. It contains a compound called berberine that is known to have immunostimulatory properties and an ability to increase the body’s natural production of antibodies which are essential for fighting off infections. Berberine also has antimicrobial, antiviral, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties.
How to take Goldenseal
Liquid or capsule
The best way to take goldenseal is in capsule or liquid form. It is a low dose herb so it’s important to follow the dosage instructions on the label as taking too much can be harmful. If you have a medical condition or are taking medication, consult with a herbalist or naturopath before taking goldenseal. Do not take goldenseal if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Goldenseal can be applied topically to the skin as a salve, balm or cream for rashes, itching, wounds, acne, eczema and ulcers. Be aware that goldenseal is a bright yellow colour (similar to turmeric) so it can stain.
Clears Up Colds/ Flu Quicker
Andrographis is a herb traditionally used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to treat colds, flu and digestive issues. Its immune-boosting properties are attributed to the active compounds called andrographolides which are present in the plant. Studies have shown that andrographis can stimulate the production of white blood cells to help fight off infection and increase the production of certain cytokines – these are molecules that help regulate the immune system by controlling the growth and activity of immune cells. Using andrographis may help reduce the symptoms, severity and duration of colds and flu.
How to take Andrographis
Capsules, tablets or tinctures
You can take andrographis as a capsule, tablet or tincture. It is a very bitter herb and for some people, the liquid preparation is hard to take so capsules or tablets are preferred. Andrographis is best taken on an empty stomach for maximum absorption. Do not take this herb if you are pregnant or lactating and seek advice from a herbalist if you’re taking any medication.
Where to source herbs
You can source of these herbs from a reputable herbal medicine supplier or health store. Dosages differ brand to brand, so follow the dosage indicated by the supplier.
For a therapeutic dose (if your symptoms/ condition is moderate to severe), it is best that you consult with a qualified herbalist who can select the most appropriate herbs and dosage after taking a comprehensive case history.
To learn more about herbs for immune health, attend CNM’s upcoming 25th Anniversary Event where CNM’s Herbal Medicine Director, Peter Jackson-Main, will be giving a talk on herbs and healthy living to create and maintain super-efficient immunity. You will gain a greater understanding of how to use herbs support immunity and enhance your general health and vitality.