If there were ever a time to boost your immune system, the changing of the seasons is prime time. Giving your immune system a little boost doesn’t have to be complicated – many plants and herbs contain antioxidants and immunity-supporting characteristics that could help your immune system stay strong and balanced. Check out these 5 natural (bonus points if they’re organic) immune-boosting plants and minerals.
Echinacea is a versatile immune-supporting herb from the daisy family with antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, and larvicidal properties (3). You may notice that it’s popularly used in immunity teas and immune-booster supplements because of its immunostimulatory and anti-inflammatory characteristics. Echinacea delivers multiple beneficial results in treating viral respiratory infections, like reducing inflammation and mucus, which is why it’s often consumed in the presence of colds or other respiratory infections (4).
If you’re looking for an herbal remedy that’s been used for centuries in folk medicine to boost the immune system and aid in the healing of a wide variety of ailments, you’ve found the jackpot. This dark, almost black, purple berry has historically been used to help reduce symptoms of sinus congestion, constipation, diarrhea, sore throat, the common cold, along with a long list of other symptoms (5). If you’re looking to include an immune-boosting tea or supplement to your regimen, especially at the first signs of a cold (1), elderberry is a great place to start.
Lonicera Japonica (Jin Yin Hua)
The use of this traditional Chinese medicine dates back thousands of years. Lonicera Japonica, or Jin Yin Hua, is a very versatile plant with many beneficial elements. Many people use it to maintain their health because of its pharmacological abilities as an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antiendotoxin (counteracts internal toxins), blood fat reduction properties, antipyretic (fever reducer), and more (6).
Another tried and true traditional Chinese medicine comes from the root, panax ginseng. This flavorful root has been extensively reported to strengthen resistance to illness or microbial attacks and maintain homeostasis by regulating the immune system (7). Ginseng has a highly aromatic floral scent with a punchy licorice-sweet flavor.
Selenium (Se) is an important mineral for a strong and balanced immune system. It’s naturally found in water, soil, and some foods. When someone is selenium-deficient, their immune system may have a more difficult time fighting off certain types of diseases and illnesses (8), may experience infertility (9), or may have symptoms of depressed mood, anxiety, and confusion (10). Selenium deficiencies are rare but taking a supplement with selenium can still benefit your immune system when taken within daily suggestions.
If you’re looking for a simple approach to introducing these herbs into your routine, try an herbal tea blend, drink mix, or supplement. While these tips are great for supporting a balanced immune system, it should be noted that vitamins or supplements can’t prevent you from contracting COVID-19 or most other common viruses. It’s important to keep social/physical distance, quarantine if possible, wash your hands thoroughly, and refrain from sharing food or beverages with others. Combining these immune-boosting tips with government recommended advice on COVID-19, a balanced diet, consistent sleep patterns, and daily acts of self-care will have you performing at your very highest level.
1: Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travelers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial
2: Immune system effects of echinacea, ginseng, and astragalus: a review
3: Echinacea purpurea: Pharmacology, phytochemistry and analysis methods https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4441164/
4: Echinacea—A Source of Potent Antivirals for Respiratory Virus Infections https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4058675/
5: A Comprehensive Study on the Biological Activity of Elderberry Extract and Cyanidin 3-O-Glucoside and Their Interactions with Membranes and Human Serum Albumin https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6222845/
6: Lonicera japonica Thunb.: Ethnopharmacology, phytochemistry and pharmacology of an important traditional Chinese medicine
7: Ginseng, the ‘Immunity Boost’: The Effects of Panax ginseng on Immune System
8: The influence of selenium on immune responses
9: Selenium Fact Sheet for Health Professionals
10: Selenium Deficiency