Herbs and plant-based superfoods are known for their very high nutrition density and their various medicinal benefits, including antioxidant, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, etc. That’s why they have been used for centuries to treat and prevent many diseases and improve the overall well-being of people.
In today’s article, we’re going to talk about herbs and plant-based superfoods that are used to strengthen the immune system and keep it in balance. Although living a healthy lifestyle is key to maintaining your body’s defenses in a good shape, adding natural immune boosters to your diet can be a game changer.
Here is our list of the best herbs and superfoods for keeping your immune system healthy.
This flavonoid (plant pigment) is found in many fruits and vegetables, including red onion, apples, grapes, cherries, broccoli, berries, tomatoes, capers, leafy greens, etc. Quercetin is also present in nuts, Gingko Biloba, green tea, red wine, some grains, various kinds of honey from different plant sources. Quercetin is widely known for its antioxidant properties.
Many people take quercetin in the form of supplements because it can help reduce inflammation, relieve allergy symptoms, reduce blood pressure and blood sugar levels, fight neurodegenerative diseases.
A study showed that quercetin also has anti-carcinogenic and antiviral properties. By the way, taking vitamin C together with quercetin may boost antiviral capabilities of the latter.
When combined with anti-inflammatory enzyme bromelain, quercetin can give powerful support for your immune health.
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This yellow spice has active component curcumin which is known for its potent biological properties. In particular, the effectiveness of curcumin to fight inflammation closely matches the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs.
Studies show that curcumin can also help reduce the symptoms of depression, treat arthritis, improve memory, and even give your immune system a boost by increasing the immunomodulating capacity of your body. However, it’s important to know that curcumin becomes more effective when it’s consumed with black pepper. That’s why many curcumin supplements also include piperine, an active component in black pepper that helps your body to absorb curcumin.
This milky fluid (also known as the first milk) secreted by cows right after giving birth has many health benefits. It contains immune system modulation proteins that fight bacteria and viruses. For example, glycoprotein lactoferrin has many capabilities, including antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory. It participates in modulating innate and adaptive immunity.
Immunoglobulins, also known as antibodies, play an active role in protecting your body against various infections.
Several studies also showed that taking bovine colostrum supplements can help support gut health.
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Elderberries come from the Sambucus tree. People take elderberry supplements and syrup to treat the symptoms of cold and flu since elderberry is rich in vitamin C and antioxidants.
Study concluded that taking elderberry syrup or lozenge at the onset (within the first 48 hours) of acute respiratory viral infection can shorten the period of recovery and reduce the severity of common cold and flu symptoms. It’s possible thanks to pigments anthocyanins present in elderberries which prevent flu viruses from reproducing inside our bodies.
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Echinacea contains various active compounds that have antimicrobial and antiviral properties. That’s why echinacea has been commonly used to treat such illnesses as cold, bronchitis, flu, upper respiratory infections, etc. Echinacea is a potent immunomodulator that modulates both innate and adaptive immune responses. Echinacea extracts can increase the number of white blood cells, which help protect the body against infection. In addition to its immunomodulatory activity, echinacea extracts also have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
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This immunomodulatory herb has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries. Astragalus extracts have various immune and antioxidant benefits thanks to 3 active compounds – saponins, flavonoids, and polysaccharides.
Astragalus in combination with other herbs is effective in the treatment and prevention of the common cold. It boosts your immune system and resistance to infections by stimulating the production of immunoglobulin and white blood cells in your body.
Astragalus roots are rich in selenium, which also has powerful antioxidant and antiviral properties. In addition, astragalus can boost your body’s resistance to stress.
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Andrographis extract possesses a wide spectrum of medicinal properties. It’s an effective immunostimulant – especially when combined with other immune-boosting herbs such as echinacea or ginseng, melatonin, etc. It has anti-fungal, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic activities.
Andrographis has been widely used for treating cold, sore throat, flu, and upper respiratory tract infections. By modulating the levels of immune cells in the blood, it promotes a healthy immune response.
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This well-known oriental medicinal herb has been used for strengthening resistance of the body to viral and bacterial attacks as it influences each type of immune cells and helps maintain a healthy state of the immune system.
According to the research, ginseng can prevent flu virus infections regardless of strain. In addition to being a potent immunomodulator, ginseng is also often dubbed “the root of longevity” as its consumption helps boost energy, improve physical performance and reduce stress.
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Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. It is best known for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety, and help fight depression.
Ashwagandha contains antioxidants and whitanolides, which play a major role in its ability to boost the immune system. Aswagandha can also help your body increase the production of antibodies – proteins that fight against bacteria, viruses and other pathogens – and natural killer cells, which survey your body for stressed and abnormal cells and neutralize them.
It’s also important to mention that ashwagandha is rich in iron, which is essential for the normal development of the immune system.
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Moringa is a good source of vitamins A, C, E, B6, and iron – essential nutrients that are needed for the proper functioning of the immune system.
Due to its high nutrient density, moringa was reported to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Moringa not only helps eliminate pathogens and parasites, but also inhibits chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases.
Moringa is often referred to as a panacea because it is used to cure more than 300 diseases.
Goldenseal is considered a natural antibiotic and used as an immune stimulant. One of its active components berberine was confirmed to have antioxidant, antimicrobial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. Goldenseal is often taken together with echinacea for relieving symptoms of cold, flu, and sore throat.
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Cleavers stimulates lymph nodes to remove waste and toxins from the blood. This helps keep your immune system healthy as toxins in your blood may weaken your immune system and hinder its ability to function properly.
Black seed oil
Active ingredients of black cumin (Nigella sativa) seeds have intense immune-regulatory, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. One of these ingredients called thymoquinone deserves special interest as there is an evidence that it has a promising anti-cancer activity.
Another study concluded that thymoquinone has the ability to strengthen cellular immunity. Some studies suggest that thymoquinone can block coronaviruses into the host cells and diminish viral replication in the body. This ability of thymoquinone makes it a potential remedy against coronavirus disease.
It has been reported that the intake of black seed oil can also increase the number of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cells that is of fundamental importance in the immune system as they defend your body from infection.
Garlic is often used as a natural antiseptic and immune booster. It contains various compounds that exhibit immunomodulatory activities. For example, its main component allicin, which is known as a strong antibiotic, can help improve the ability of your immune cells to fight cold and flu. Studies also showed that regular consumption of garlic can help to avoid getting sick in the first place.
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Ginger is often used for medicinal purposes due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also one of those superfoods that can help strengthen your immune system, promote longevity and even prevent cancer. Ginger and its active compounds exert antibacterial and antiviral activities and can be used as a treatment of cold and flu.
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Active compounds present in medicinal mushroom extracts exert anti-cancer activity, suppress autoimmune diseases and allergy. These properties of medicinal mushrooms are associated with their immunomodulating effect on the body.
For example, reishi mushrooms help strengthen the immune system through their impact on white blood cells.
Cordyceps, according to the research, influences both innate and adaptive immunity. It can stimulate the immune response and calm the overactive immune response when needed. Cordyceps also has energy enhancing properties and its regular intake can help prevent cold and flu.
Chaga mushrooms are also known for their ability to keep the immune system in balance. They contain proteins that stimulate the production of white blood cells.
Regular consumption of maitake mushrooms helps support the immune system as their active components increase white blood cell activity and production.
Lion’s Mane mushrooms help boost the immune system by supporting your gut health.
Herbs and superfoods play an important role in the prevention and treatment of many diseases and keeping your immune system healthy. Therefore, adding them to your nutrition regimen can significantly help improve your overall well-being.
Written by Natalie Myhalnytska
About the Author
Natalie Myhalnytska is a founder and editor at Magazine MN, online media and marketing professional. Natalie holds BA in International Economic Relations and writes on topics related to personal development, psychology and wellness.