Immune response is a natural process that takes place in the body, so one of the best ways to boost immunity is to supplement your diet with natural herbs. Unlike medications that may contain chemicals, natural herbs are safe and lack toxins that weaken the immune system.
Certain antiviral herbs aid the immune system in defending against viruses and infections. These herbs also act as natural remedies to flu and offer other health benefits for the cardiovascular and digestive systems and provide anti-inflammatory support.
- Astragalus Root – Astragalus boosts the immune system and is best used as prevention. People take it during flu season or before coming into contact with large crowds of people.
- Cat’s Claw – Cat’s Claw is antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral and is known to boost the immune system and increase the body’s protection against illness.
- Dried Ginger Root – Known for its antiviral and antibacterial properties, dried ginger root is used to prevent the common cold.
- Dried Lemon Balm Leaf – Dried lemon balm leaf contains a volatile compound that has antiviral properties.
- Licorice Root – Antiviral and antibacterial, licorice root boosts the immune system and commonly is used to treat gastric ulcers because it kills H. pylori.
- Elderberry – Elderberry fights viral and bacterial infections and can be used to safely treat influenza A and B.
- Echinacea – A type of coneflower native to North America, Echinacea boosts immune and overall health, and its phytochemicals have the ability to reduce viral infections and tumors.
- Calendula – Calendula fights viruses, reduces inflammation and bacteria and has been used for medicinal purposes since the 12th century.
- Dried Oregano – Dried oregano protects against viruses and bacteria and may be taken in a capsule to promote healing.
- Ginseng – Panax ginseng, which is commonly referred to as Korean ginseng and the most common variety of ginseng studied, has shown promise in enhancing both immune and psychological functions.
- Turmeric – A component of turmeric, curcumin, is known for its anti-inflammatory effects, although research spanning the past three decades shows that it can help modulate the immune system.
- Ganoderma – A type of mushroom known as Reishi, ganoderma is a widely used herb in Chinese medicine for its immune-boosting effects as well as its ability to help fight viral infections.
How Herbs Help to Bolster Immune Health: What the Research Shows
Each of these herbs works in various ways to protect immunity and even boost immune health, and it’s not just the alternative health community that says so. Research over the past several decades continues to demonstrate that various herbs can have positive health impacts, boosting immunity, reducing inflammation, and aiding in the reduction of symptoms associated with a variety of health conditions.
Some of these herbs are more widely recognized for their health benefits. Echinacea, for example, is one of the most recognized herbs known for its benefits to immune health. In fact, echinacea first gained popularity as an alternative approach to treating (even curing) the common cold.
Aside from echinacea, there’s ample research to support the immune-enhancing and anti-inflammatory effects of various herbs.
Astragalus Root: A Lesser-Known Herb with Multiple Immune Benefits
Other herbs on this list have recognizable names, although their immune benefits aren’t as widely known as that of echinacea. Astragalus root is less recognized than many of the other immune-boosting herbs listed above, but it holds tremendous promise for enhancing immune health. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), “Astragalus is called an adaptogen, meaning it helps protect the body against various stresses, including physical, mental, or emotional stress.” As stress is proven to be detrimental to immune health, astragalus can be beneficial to immune health in several ways.
Additionally, “In the United States, researchers have looked at astragalus as a possible treatment for people whose immune systems have been weakened by chemotherapy or radiation,” UMMC reports. “In these studies, astragalus supplements seem to help people recover faster and live longer.” However, studies investigating the benefits of astagalus for people with AIDS have produced mixed results.
Herbs with Anti-Inflammatory, Immunomodulatory and Cancer-Fighting Effects
Ginseng is another widely recognized herb. Research reveals that the active component in Korean ginseng, ginsenosides, has anti-inflammatory properties as well as anti-cancer properties. Additionally, studies indicate that this herb has the potential to help ward off health conditions related to diabetes.
According to an abstract from the Journal of Clinical Immunology published in 2007 at PubMed.gov, curcumin, an active component in turmeric, is “traditionally known for its anti-inflammatory effects,” but is also proving to be a “potent immunomodulatory agent,” with an ability to modulate the activation of various immune cells. Research finds that at low doses, curcumin can also enhance antibody response, suggesting that “curcumin’s reported beneficial effects in arthritis, allergy, asthma, atherosclerosis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and cancer might be due in part to its ability to modulate the immune system. Together, these findings warrant further consideration of curcumin as a therapy for immune disorders.” To reap the benefits of turmeric, many people turn to elixirs that incorporate the beneficial herb.
Calendula is another useful herb with anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial benefits. According to UMMC, “Calendula has high amounts of flavonoids, plant-based antioxidants that protect cells from being damaged by unstable molecules called free radicals.” Today, calendula is most often used topically in the form of tinctures and ointments made using the dried petals of the calendula plant. “Calendula has been shown to help wounds heal faster, possibly by increasing blood flow and oxygen to the affected area, which helps the body grow new tissue.”
Like ginseng, the Reishi mushroom, also known as ganoderma, also has cancer-fighting effects in addition to immune health and other benefits. “Regular consumption of red Reishi can enhance our body’s immune system and improve blood circulation, thus improving better health conditions. Generally, Reishi is recommended as an adaptogen, immune modulator, and a general tonic,” according to Reishi.com. “Red Reishi is also used to help treat anxiety, high blood pressure, hepatitis, bronchitis, insomnia, and asthma.” WebMD reports that Reishi is used in conjunction with other herbs in the treatment of prostate cancer, noting that it contains chemicals shown to have myriad helpful effects including both benefits to immune health and activity against tumors.
As research continues to investigate the helpful effects of various herbs on immune health and their ability to help combat the symptoms of different health conditions, herbs hold promise as a natural way to supplement traditional medicine and bolster immunity.
Boosting Immune Health with Probiotics
Herbs aren’t the only natural way to boost your immune health. Adopting better lifestyle habits, such as quitting smoking, starting a regular exercise program, getting enough sleep, and other changes can give your immune system a boost. Probiotics are yet another natural solution for enhancing your immune health. There are some excellent all natural probiotic supplements that offer immediate immune system support. By keeping your physiological systems in better balance, your immune system can better protect you from colds and disease.
Given all of the ways people weaken their immune system, it is important to know how to boost it and protect against infections and disease. Natural herbs are a safe and effective way to boost the immune system and help the body defend against viruses, bacteria, and other invaders.