Strengthen Your Immune System with Botanical Medicine
Basic Nutrients are key!
One of the primary functions of our immune system is to recognize “foreign invaders” i.e. viruses and pathogenic bacteria and respond by sending in the troops safely. The list of nutrients to carry out such a complex function is vast and vitamins A, B’s, C, E and the minerals zinc, iron and selenium and a well-balanced protein intake are f fundamental. No other supplements can make up for these essential nutrients but herbs need a special mention as a complimentary aid and support.
Healing Herbs not only for cooking…
Hundreds of plants have been used for thousands of years in healing various ailments from the cuts, to colds to more serious infections and illnesses. We can grow many in our own gardens or find them in nature but that doesn’t mean they are less effective! They are antibacterial, antiviral, stimulate the immune system and if grown ourselves, can be quite affordable.
When cooking and adding flavor and antioxidants to dishes choose fresh herbs. Supplement use comes from concentrated dried or liquid herbs which contain powerful ingredients. When used properly can heal the body not only on a physical level but bring mental and emotional balance. The WHO (World Health Organization) estimates that 80 percent of the earth’s population today depends on plants to treat common ailments.
Types of Preparations
Commercial preparations are available at health food stores in several different forms, including bulk herbs, medicinal herbal blends, teas, oils, tinctures, liquid extracts, and tablets or capsules. One of the best manufactures that I have used and suggested to clients is Himalaya (www.himalayacanada.ca or www.himalayausa.com ), they have been crafting herbal supplements since 1930 and are a reputable, reliable and still family owned!
Here are my TOP 8 botanical supplements that will strengthen your immune system:
an Ayurvedic herb also known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry. It rejuvenates and energizes the nervous system and helps prevent stress-related disorders and depleted vitamin C and cortisol due to stress. It also increases physical endurance and improves sexual function and stamina. Best taken in capsule form as the taste is extremely bitter and not pleasant.
also called huang qi. It protects the immune system, promotes healing, provides energy to combat fatigue and prolonged stress and increases stamina. Good for immune deficiencies such as colds, flu, AIDS, cancer and tumors and effective for chronic lung weakness. NOTE: do not use if you have fever.
this medicinal mushroom and others including cordyceps, maitake, reishi, shiitake have an active substance called beta glucan or Bta-1, 3-Glucan which is a polysaccharide (complex type of carbohydrate). They have immune stimulating properties that destroy cellular debris by surrounding them and digesting them, thereby reducing infection and inflammation.
is also good for the lymphatic system and stimulates white blood cells. This herb is a good prevention to the common cold or flu but should not be used longer than 3 weeks or by those who are allergic to rag wood. The tea is a good start but is not powerful enough for effective dosages and capsules or alcohol-free extract is recommended.
also known as black elder, black elderberry or European elder. It fights inflammation and free radicals, relieves coughs and congestion, lowers fever and soothes the respiratory tract. NOTE: should not be used during pregnancy and the stems should be avoided as they contain cyanide and can be very toxic.
detoxifies the body and protects against infection by boosting immune function. It also lowers blood pressure so not recommended for someone who already has low blood pressure or for those who take anticoagulants as garlic also thins blood. This is a powerful superfood herb which serves to heal over 20 disorders and illnesses. Odorless capsules are available.
there are various types such as Panax which belongs to American, Chinese or Korean and Siberian, however they have similar properties. This root strengthens adrenal and reproductive glands, promotes lung functioning and useful for bronchitis and for overall body strengthening and immune boosting. NOTE: should not be used by those who have high blood pressure, are pregnant or nursing.
this Peruvian root not only supports your immune system but gives you energy and is good for chronic fatigue, menopausal or menstrual symptoms and is rich in amino acids and high in protein. NOTE: those with liver or heart disease should avoid high doses as its been shown to worsen liver blood tests and raise blood pressure.
also called Holy Basil, is known for its therapeutic benefits. It is an adaptogenic herb which means it works with your nervous system and helps combat causes of stress. It also relieves headaches, fever and helps improve respiratory disorders. The leaves contain 3 powerful compounds: camphene, eugenol and cineole, which have anti-asthmatic abilities and make breathing easier.
These Superfoods Too!
Two more superfood favorites that I love to add in my smoothies or “nicecream” are the superfoods acerola and moringa for their super high Vitamin C content and other vitamins and minerals that boost immune function.
Fresh Garden Herbs
I can’t end this Botanical blog without mentioning 4 of my favorite, easy to grow, fresh garden herbs that are rich in powerful immune strengthening nutrients.
high in vitamin A and C, basil, an anti-inflammatory high in vitamin K which is needed for optimal absorption of vitamin D
good for respiratory tract
a potent antiviral and also high in vitamin C and lastly
high in vitamins B, C, iron and zinc.
All herbs mentioned in this article may also be rich in many other vitamins and minerals and may also serve functions other than those mentioned. For the purpose of this article, I have highlighted their function for our immune system only.
Information supported the following sources:
- Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healing 5th Penguin Group, New York, 2010.
- Haas, Elson M. Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Crown Publishing Group, New York, 2006.
- Murray, Michael and Pizzorno, Joseph. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, 2nd Three Rivers Press, New York, 1998.