Author: Maria Kuzmiak, Wellness Writer
Immunity is the body’s ability to resist infection and disease. The blood, lymphatic system, digestive tract and liver all play a role in immunity by working together to rid the body of toxins. Simply put, if you have a strong immune system, you will not get sick as often as someone with a compromised immune system.
Some people have full-blown immune system disorders, such as HIV, that make them more susceptible to illness. But even if you do not have a diagnosed immune system disorder, your disease-fighting capacity may not be up to par. How well your immune system functions depends on factors that include your exposure to toxins and germs, your overall nutritional status, and genetics, among others.
If you find that you get sick more often than most people, or if you want to ensure that you stay healthy, there are herbs you can take to boost your immunity. You can also use these herbs at the first sign of a cold, flu or other illness. Some may even be effective in reducing the duration and severity of illness if you do get sick.
Also known as purple coneflower, Echinacea is among the best known herbs for boosting immunity. Native Americans used it to treat infections and to boost the blood and lymphatic system, which both play a vital role in immunity. There have been hundreds of studies that suggest that Echinacea can help to alleviate symptoms of the common cold when it is taken at the first sign of infection. It works by increasing the production of white blood cells, which are responsible for removing infections from the body.
Another herb used by Native Americans to fight disease, Goldenseal contains two substances that can destroy bacteria and viruses as well as reduce inflammation. The substances are hydrastine and berberine, and they are members of a group of compounds known as alkaloids, which are the active ingredients in many drugs.
You may know aloe vera as a topical treatment used to treat wounds or as an ingredient in skin lotions, but aloe vera can also be taken internally. Research has shown that taking aloe vera supplements or drinking aloe vera juice or gel may result in the production of antibodies that fight disease. In addition, aloe vera appears to help the GI tract function to remove toxins from the body. Aloe vera gel contains substances called saponins which have antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal effects.
Here’s an immune-boosting herb that may be right in your kitchen. Rosemary contains anti-inflammatory compounds and properties that improve the functioning of the digestive system, which can help the body to eliminate toxins more effectively. Caffeic and rosmarinic acid are the active ingredients that are thought to be responsible for this herb’s effect on the immune system. Rosemary is also rich in the antioxidant vitamin E, which helps prevent free radical damage that can lead to the development of chronic diseases.
Mistletoe is probably not the first herb you think of when you are looking for natural ways to boost immunity, but studies in Europe suggest that this herb may have properties that can help increase the number of white blood cells, thus increasing immune response. The herb was used in ancient times to treat tumors, and proponents believe that it may have some use in treating cancer and AIDS.
Ashwagandha is also known as Indian ginseng. It is an adaptogenic herb, meaning that it is used as a tonic that helps the body adapt to stresses. This herb has been used for more than 2500 years to promote strength and vitality. By strengthening the body as a whole, ashwagandha also helps to strengthen the immune system.
Astragalas is an herb rich in antioxidants that can help reduce the toxic load of the liver. It also boosts the immune system and creates cells that fight cancer. According to Chinese medicine, astragalas can help boost the immune system and prevent the development of colds and flu, but it should not be used if you have an active cold or other virus.
In addition to using herbs to boost immunity, you can increase your body’s ability to fight off disease with some basic healthy habits. Eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water, exercise and get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. Also, be sure to take the time to have fun and manage the amount of physical, mental or emotional stress in your life.