How herbs can support your immune system
What are herbs?
How herbs can support your immune system? As human beings, we cannot survive without having plants as a constant source of food. Our bodies are built in a way so that ingredients from plants are persistently needed in order to lead a healthy life. And while most of us are already having their substantial daily amount of plant-based food, a crucial subcategory of this green food is often ignored.
There is a set of aromatic and savory plants, whose leaves are accompanied by flavoring, fragrance, nutritional, and medicinal qualities and values. These plants, called herbs, can smoothly be added to our breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes, and are of significant benefits to our general health. What is more is that most of these plants are widely available everywhere and can already be grown at home (either indoors or outdoors).
The historical use of herbs
The use of herbs is not a recent development; they have had their wide set of uses throughout history. In fact, their first recorded use by our ancestors dates back to more than 20,000 years BC! It is shocking, right? This is because people has kept looking for cures to their diseases in nature, and started trying different plants to discover which of them can be medicinal. And when they found healthy herbs, these herbs were re-cultivated near infirmaries and doctors’ homes.
During the Roman Empire days, herbs were grown for medical reasons, and many of their medicines were made out of a combination of herbs. Roman doctors and surgeons would first try to find an herb-based treatment alongside some natural remedies for their patients, before moving to other solutions available at that time. Some of those herbal treatments are still employed today, such as the use of anise to solve some stomach problems or control blood sugar for patients with diabetes. This proves the important health value of herbs and encourages us to add them to our diets.
How can herbs support your immune system?
Our immune system is what protects our bodies from harmful things like germs, toxins, and disease caused by bacteria, and viruses. It works as a barrier that defends our bodies against such attacks, destroying the foreign substances before they damage our health. If you are ever wishing to pass the cold days without cold or flu, avoid harmful infections, get rid of sicknesses, or just maintain a good health, then it is important for you to keep a strong and a highly functional immune system. Surely, there are several ways in which our immune system can be boosted, yet one of the simplest and easiest ways is to rely on herbs and herbal supplements. All of which help keep our immune system robust while being easily accessible and broadly obtainable.
But how do herbs actually benefit our immune system? Well, according to several research findings, different herbs can strengthen our immune system’s ability to fight off common infections, like cold, flu, mononucleosis, and hepatitis. Germs are all around us, some are friendly because they do us good, and may even reside in our bodies, while others are dangerous and cause various health problems when they enter the body. Now, while most people prefer to take influenza vaccinations or flu shots to fight viruses, this does not seem to be always effective, as some viruses are capable of mutation, producing new strains that could be devastative. Herbs also help reduce inflammation, which is usually characterized by noticeable symptoms such as redness, unusual body heat, swelling, pain, loss of energy, and headache. Thus, it is important to start supplementing your diet with herbs and herbal products. Simply put, the stronger your immune system gets, the less likely you will be to catch a sickness!
Other health benefits of herbs include:
- Reducing damage to our body’s cells.
- Fighting different allergies and congestion.
- Improving the process of digestion.
- Remedying canker sores of the mouth.
- Clearing skin.
- Controlling blood sugar.
Seven Common Immune System Boosting Herbs
One of the most nutrient-dense and well-known herbs is garlic. It can already be used in many recipes to add a delicious spicy taste. By adding garlic to your diet, you will start noticing an incredible difference to your health, as the health benefits of garlic are innumerable. It remarkably strengthens the immune system due to its antiviral properties. If you are afraid to catch a winter cold, or flu, consider inserting it into your recipes, as the ingredients of garlic significantly fight and prevent different infections (both common and rare) by improving your white blood cells naturally. And even when you get a cold, garlic components help reduce the severity of the common symptoms of cold and flu, and lessen the number of sick days. The symptoms of other types of infection are also fought off, like the respiratory, chest, eye, and digestive system infections.
The health benefits of this herb do not stop there. The anti-microbial properties of garlic make it a powerful herbal medicine. The chemical compound found in garlic, Allicin, is very effective in eliminating several types of bacteria, like Escherichia Coli and salmonella (which are capable of making our food poisonous). Other microbes the nutrients in garlic help terminate include Candida Albicans, Influenza B, Proteus Mirabilis, HIV and Tuberculosis. Garlic is also known for its ability to lower cholesterol levels, control blood pressure, reduce the risk of cancer, and purify our blood for a healthy bright skin.
Therefore, it is important for you to always keep an amount of garlic in your kitchen, and start having a moderate proportion of garlic every now and then.
Echinacea (or sometimes called coneflower) is an herb native to Canada and eastern United States, and also found in some areas of Europe. This herb is found in many healthy food stores and in different forms, and has been used as a natural remedy for centuries. The upper part of the plant and its root can be found in the form of pills, capsules, liquid extracts, dried or fresh (in teas), or as an Echinacea juice.
Echinacea has gained a growing popularity among health-conscious public recently, due to its wide range of health benefits. It has a set of beneficial effects on the immune system as it stimulates it against infections. When you consume Echinacea, certain chemicals in your body responsible for reducing inflammation are activated, and the ability to combat common infections increases. This ability to fight infections and certain viruses strengthens the body defense mechanisms against germs by increasing the number of white blood cells, and consequently, lowers the risk of catching a cold and helps people recover faster from illness. That is why many people turn to Echinacea to either avoid getting an infection, or reduce an infection’s duration.
However, even though it is true that Echinacea boosts the immune system, it is still better to consult with your doctor before taking any Echinacea herbal supplements and consume only the recommended amount depending on the form. It is also important to follow the directions on the product package, because this herb may interfere with certain medicines and have rather dangerous effects if consumed randomly.
Echinacea does not only improve the immune system, but also has other health benefits. It helps lower blood sugar, whose high levels can cause serious health problems and chronic conditions. It also helps treat some skin problems, leading to a better skin hydration and less skin wrinkles. And finally, there are claims that this herb’s extracts can prove effective against certain types of cancer.
Thyme is a Mediterranean aromatic herb whose leaves, flowers and oils can be used in food or as a medicinal herb. It is already well known in many cuisines, including the Mediterranean, Central American, African, and European. It comes in different types; there is the common thyme (mostly used as a seasoning), the lemon thyme (it has a lemon scent, and its sprigs are long and thin), the woolly thyme, and other less common types. Thyme is sometimes used in conjunction with other herbal plants like parsley, oregano, or rosemary, and used as a natural flavoring for meat, poultry, and vegetables.
The healthy properties of thyme cannot be underestimated, especially when it comes to enhancing the immune system. The anti-microbial, anti-bacterial and antiseptic properties of thyme make it a medicinal herb and a reliable natural remedy for some infections. This herb is rich in vitamin C, which is known for its ability to boost the immune system and provide a better protection for the body by acting as an antioxidant. The chemical compounds in thyme (such as flavonoids) can fight fungal and bacterial infections and reduce the tendency to have irritations. Some of the infections that are responded to by thyme (when either taken by itself, or combined with other herbs such as Echinacea) include tonsillitis and bronchitis, which attack the upper part of the respiratory tract system, and cause a nagging cough or a sore throat.
In addition to improving the immune system, thyme is a good source of fiber, iron, copper, manganese, vitamin K, and vitamin A, so you should consider growing this herb in your garden, and adding fresh thyme leaves to your meals (either as a whole, or chopped), or making a delicious thyme tea.
Basil is a flavorful aromatic herb with an Asian and African origin, and is widely grown in countries like Morocco, Egypt, Italy, United States and different other countries. It is added (whether dried or fresh) as a seasoning to salads, pizza, pasta and other dishes due to its tasteful and rich flavor. This green fragrant herb is also used to make herbal teas and healthy supplements. There are many varieties of basil, the most common of which are: Sweet Basil (with a sweet and fresh flavor, used widely in Mediterranean countries), Cinnamon Basil (a cinnamon-hinted type of basil, used in some Asian recipes like noodles and rice), Thai Basil (with a more spicy flavor, famous in Thailand and Vietnam) and Tulsi (which has a bitter flavor, and well-known in India).
And when it comes to effectivity of basil in enhancing the immune system, researchers confirm its ability to do so because of its natural anti-bacterial properties. Basil does make a noticeable difference in fighting off Escherichia Coli (a type of bacteria that lives in intestines and can cause diarrhea). This herb’s leaves, seeds, and stems are even used in the formation of some cold and flu medicines. The natural antioxidants found in basil not only strengthen the immune system, but also help protect the cellular structure from free radicals (cell damagers). Furthermore, essential oils extracted from basil are effective in beating inflammation which can lead to several diseases, and are used to treat some health problems like acne, anxiety, and fatigue.
The nutrients found in basil should encourage you to add it to your diet and start consuming it more often. Basil is good source of vitamins K and C, and it has an amount of potassium and magnesium, which are important to keep a healthy body and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Oregano, also called Wild Marjoram, is an aromatic plant with very small leaves and pink, purple, or white flowers. It is employed in several cuisines, but mostly in the Mediterranean and Mexican cuisines. It has been used as a seasoning (both, the leaves and flowers) due to its ability to add a pungent and sharp flavor, and is one of the herbs that are almost always associated with pizza. It is known that oregano grown in the driest climates provides more flavorful leaves. There are different types of this herb, and each has its little different characteristics. Common Oregano is found more in Europe and Africa, while Syrian Oregano is used more in the Middle East countries, with a slight different taste (having a hint of mint). Greek Oregano has a strong flavor and is used much in Italian recipes like pizza, sauces, and pasta.
And just like many other herbs, this one herb also boosts the immune system due to its antiviral, antiseptic, and anti-parasitic properties. The components of its essential oil, thymol and carvacrol are known for their propensity to fight microbes and lower the susceptibility of having a disease. Additionally, a research conducted on the effectiveness of oregano oil and oregano components in treating cold and flu has brought a promising finding. Oregano has proved effective in beating upper respiratory system infections, as carvacrol is able to fight both cold and flu viruses and reduce their symptoms.
Oregano oil is also able to reduce inflammation, which can lead to asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and autoimmune arthritis. It is also said to be useful to those with type 2 diabetes as it improves insulin sensitivity. And finally, this herb may help reduce gut symptoms like pain, diarrhea, and abdominal bloating to a great extent. So keeping an amount of oregano in hand is certainly a good idea if you are thinking of improving your health status and staying away from disease.
Cilantro (or Coriander) is an herb that is very popular in the Mediterranean area, in addition to India, Mexico, China, Central America, and other countries. It adds a nice fresh flavor to some dishes like salads, pastas, salsa, and dips. Not only are the cilantro’s leaves edible, but also its stems and roots (which can also be added to different dishes), in addition to the seeds (which have a completely different flavor than the leaves, but also a strong one). There are different types of cilantro sold in markets. One of the most popular types, Culantro (or spiny coriander), is much known in the Caribbean and some Asian cuisines, and looks very different from the typical cilantro we know of. Vietnamese Cilantro (or Rau Ram) has darker and narrower leaves than the regular cilantro. There is also the Summer Cilantro, which is sometimes used instead of cilantro, with a somewhat different taste. Some people prefer to harvest the seeds, which can be gathered after the plant has finished its life cycle and turned brown.
And since cilantro is rich in beneficial chemical compounds, it is considered to be one of the strong immune system booster herbs. These immune system strengthener compounds include tocopherols, terpinene, and quercetin. The essential oils of cilantro can thus provide you with what you need to keep a healthy immune system. Research also found that cilantro leaves and seeds are rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant that reduces severity of allergic reactions and fights infections.
The medicinal benefits of cilantro do not end there. Studies show that its seed oils and extracts are effective in lowering the blood sugar in people with diabetes, as they can activate the enzymes that help regulate the blood sugar levels by removing excess sugar. Other studies showed how some compounds in cilantro are able to treat some skin issues, like skin ageing and sunburns. It could also be helpful when it comes to treating dermatitis. Other health benefits include the ability to improve digestion, and lower both blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Having seen all these benefits, we can say that adding cilantro to your diet will assuredly have a positive, noteworthy impact on your health.
Mint is a leafy herb with very fragrant leaves that produce a pleasing aroma. It is native to the Middle East region, but is also distributed throughout many moderate temperature areas around the world. Its leaves are constantly harvested during spring, but mint can still grow indoors during other seasons. Mint is known for its ability to spread quickly in gardens, so it is recommended that you grow it in containers. There are different varieties of mint. Spearmint has a less intense aromatic or minty flavor than some other types of mint (because it produces less menthol) but has a sweeter taste. Watermint is a less common variety, but is also edible. It has a more pungent taste (so some people may not prefer to use it for flavoring), and lives best near water bodies, because it prefers damp areas. Peppermint is one of the most familiar varieties of mint, and is a hybrid of both spearmint and watermint. It has a higher menthol content, which means more aroma and flavor.
When it comes to medicinal uses, mint leaves can provide a set of minerals, vitamins, and a range of antioxidants that are necessary to keep a healthy immune system. The chemical compounds in mint treat cold and flu symptoms and help lessen their effect on your body (thanks to the menthol found in the mint oils), that is why common cold and flu medications are available in mint flavor. Consuming the menthol in mint also treats the increased mucus in lungs by loosening it, which makes it easier to remove. It breaks up and eliminates the excess phlegm, so it becomes easier to expel by coughing.
Mint also has other healing and healthful properties, which makes it a highly advisable natural remedy. This herbal remedy is loaded with anti-inflammatory properties which can limit the possibility of chronic inflammation and heal some ailments. Additionally, mint is a good remedy for some digestive problems. It is effective in soothing an upset stomach and relieving indigestion. It can also treat irritable bowel syndrome by exerting its relaxant effect on the muscles of the digestive tract. The rosmarinic acid (an antioxidant in mint) is said to have anti-allergenic effects and can reduce the symptoms of asthma, according to a study conducted in 2019. Considering all the health benefits of mints, you may want to add it to your diet or start having more fresh mint tea.
Important considerations for herbs
Although we have seen that several herbs are strong immune system boosters, one should still be a bit careful before having some of them. Having large doses of some herbs may have its negative impact on the general health and cause a set of undesirable consequences. Also, for those who already take conventional medicines regularly to deal with chronic or dangerous diseases, or have already been taking vitamin supplements, or those with allergies, or pregnant women, it is always recommended that they consult with their doctors in order to know whether or not they can consume certain herbs or herbal supplements, and to know the maximum quantity permitted of these herbal products, since some herbal supplements may interfere with conventional medicines (either by decreasing their effectiveness, or increasing it more than required), or have some considerable side effects. Some herbal supplements may cause headaches, allergic reactions, diarrhea or vomiting, and thus, must be prescribed by qualified doctors. So if you have any worries about any possible interference between an herbal supplement and a conventional medicine, it is better to inform your doctor before consuming supplements to avoid any risks and prevent current and potential future harms.
Why have your own herb garden?
Although many grocery markets and food stores offer a wide variety of herbs, there are still several reasons why it is still a good idea to grow some of your favorite herbs by yourself in your garden. First of all, some herb stores may not offer all types of herbs all the time. While because you are going to have your own garden of herbs, you can grow whatever herbs you wish to and get more variety, and the only limit you would have is the size of your garden or the number of pots you have. It is very easy to get started; just grab the seeds of those herbs you would like to grow, some pots to grow those herbs in, and dirt. This way, herbs of your choice would be available for you to immediately pick whenever you need them.
Also, because you are the one growing your desired herbs in your own garden, you will be able to pick an amount of totally fresh and luscious herbs that will satisfy your need for delicious meals or drinks. Of course you can get many types of packaged herbs from food stores, but they may not always be recently picked, so they could have lost some of their aroma, or could have been languishing on shelves, especially if they have been displayed in the herbs aisle for too long. So why not have fresh home herbs with a much better taste and a much stronger aromatic flavor?
And when you grow your own herbs, this can surely encourage you to start consuming them more often. They will always be readily available, so you will always be thinking of ways to use them in different recipes, the thing that will help you add more variety to your dishes and start having a healthier diet. Just cut the herbs you think are going to add a nice flavor to your lunch or dinner, and try out new and healthy recipes. Or you can simply dry some herbs and store them in jars for later use.
The nutritional value and health benefits of elderberry
Elderberry is a low-calorie dark purple fruit that has been used for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years, due to its ability to treat various health conditions. It is commonly used to improve cold and flu symptoms as it is full of antioxidants, which makes it one of the healthiest and mostly recommended types of berries when it comes to enhancing the immune system. One cup of elderberries can provide you with 52 milligrams of vitamin C, and 870 milligrams of vitamin A, the two antioxidants that can substantially fight common infections. Whether consumed in the form of capsules, lozenges, or as a syrup, it is going to boost your health and help reduce the duration and the severity of your cold or flu. So next time you feel sick, consider having a daily portion of this fruit!
Elderberry may also have other positive effects on your health. It is said to be a good constipation treatment, and an anti-diabetes fruit that helps patients with diabetes manage their blood sugar. It is also a good skin soother as it helps reduce and prevent wrinkles (thanks to vitamin A, which is abundant in this fruit). The health-boosting properties of elderberry also make it effective in improving heart health, and fighting against cancer. This highly nutritious fruit deserves to be added to your daily diet if you want to live a healthy lifestyle.