Boosting Natural Immunity
These herbs and nutrients keep your
immune system on its toes.
Have you been hearing a lot of sneezing lately? That wouldn’t be a shock; it has been estimated that Americans come down with 1 billion colds a year, an annual average of two to four for every adult. What’s more, the flu accounts for up to 25 million doctor visits annually, with each influenza epidemic costing about $12 million in not only direct medical expenditures but also the indirect costs caused by lost work days.
While nothing can guarantee that you won’t catch an upper respiratory infection this year, you can help keep germs at bay by eating right, exercising consistently, getting enough sleep and finding a stress relief method that works for you. In addition, the following natural remedies may provide a boost to your immune system.
|Name||What It Is||What It Does|
|Andrographis*||Andrographis paniculata, a shrubby annual native to
eastern and southern Asia
|Long used by traditional Indian and Chinese healers to treat fever and sore throat; modern research has found it to have anti-infective properties|
||A type of fiber found in plants and fungi; one source used in supplements is the Western larch (Larix occidentalis)||Helps stimulate immune-system components, especially natural killer (NK) cells; has reduced incidence of colds and boosted vaccine response in studies; may help reduce ear infections in children
||Astragalus membranaceus, also known as milk vetch root; long used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)||Traditionally used for frequent colds, shortness of breath and fatigue; has been shown to heighten the activity of immune cells in a “resting” state in addition to encouraging immune cell proliferation
||Also known as purple coneflower, often grown in gardens; several Echinacea species have shown medicinal qualities||Used as an antimicrobial by 19th-century Eclectic practitioners; analyses of clinical data support
echinacea’s use in the treatment and prevention of upper respiratory infections
|Garlic||Allium sativum L., used in cultures around the world as a culinary and medicinal herb||Extracts have demonstrated antimicrobial and immune-stimulant properties; also found to support overall well-being, including cardiovascular health|
|Green Tea||Camellia sinensis, native to southern and eastern Asia; source of all beverages labeled “tea,” including green||Long valued by Chinese healers for its many medicinal properties; EGCG, tea’s main component, has been found to fight bacteria, fungi and viruses; also available in extract form|
|Maitake||Grifola frondosa, a large, edible mushroom also known as “hen of the woods” for its ruffled appearance||Appears to stimulate a wide variety of immune-system components, among them macrophages, cells that engulf and digest microbes, and NK cells; has shown anti-cancer effects|
|Olive Leaf*||From the same tree, Olea europaea, that produces table olives; native to the Mediterranean area||Traditionally used to ease fevers; contains oleuropein, which fights bacteria and viruses; acts as an
anti-inflammatory and antioxidant; has also been found to lower glucose and blood pressure levels
|Shiitake||Lentinus edodes, an edible mushroom native to the Far East and now cultivated commercially||Contains amino acids and B vitamins; helps stimulate the development of immune system cells; also helps to lower cholesterol levels and fight tumors|
|Vitamin A||Fat-soluble nutrient in animal products such as eggs and dairy; precursors in produce such as carrots and pumpkins||Initially called “the anti-infective vitamin” because of its importance to immune function; also crucial to proper eyesight, gene regulation and fetal development|
|Vitamin C||A water-soluble nutrient also known as ascorbic acid; found in a variety of produce including citrus fruit and tomatoes||Stimulates a number of immune cells and helps protect them from free-radical damage; also an essential cofactor in numerous enzymatic reactions within the body|
|Zinc||A nutritionally essential mineral found in shellfish, beef and other red meats in addition to legumes and nuts||Required for proper development of immunity factors called T cells; even mild deficiency has been linked to impaired immune function; also vital for neurological and reproductive health|
*Generally available only in supplement form in the US.
NOTE: Always consult with your healthcare practitioner for help in designing
a supplementation program, especially if you have a pre-existing condition.
Additional Immunity Boosters
|Name||What It Is||What It Does|
|Withania somnifera, a small, woody shrub native to India, Africa and the Mediterranean also known as “winter cherry”; used in Ayurvedic medicine as a Rasayana, an herb that promotes all-over well-being||
Helps regulate immune function and help the body adapt to stress (which can depress immunity); has shown anti-anxiety and antidepressant properties; appears to stimulate a sluggish thyroid; eases arthritis pain
||N-acetyl cysteine, a derivative of the amino acid L-cysteine||
Helps clear mucus from the lungs; has led to less severe cases of flu and bronchitis in studies; promotes greater cellular health
||A trace mineral found in Brazil nuts and various types of seafood||
Helps regulate immune cell function; deficiency has been linked to impaired immune response and increased cancer risk