People across the world continue to use herbs for treating all kinds of ailments including headaches, the common cold, and digestive problems. They also use herbs and spices in teas, tisanes, and soups to boost their immunity and avoid getting sick.
A strong, healthy immune system is necessary for your body and brain to function well. Eating nutritious foods, exercising, and avoiding bad habits, such as smoking and excessive drinking, help promote good immune function. You can also easily add herbs to your diet for building immunity against diseases.
The use of plants and herbal tea to boost immune system function is part of the Indian Ayurvedic medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) systems. But even Western medicine doctors acknowledge the role herbs play in warding off illnesses and preventing diseases. Five of the best immune boosting herbs researched by scientists include Green Tea, Elderberry, Ganoderma, Astragalus, and Ginseng. Each herb contains active ingredients that are beneficial to health and for strengthening the immune system.
Immune system function and your health
Your immune system plays a crucial role in helping you stay healthy as well as reduce the risk of infections, diseases, and illnesses. It consists of different organs, cells, and proteins (antibodies) working together to protect your body from bacteria, viruses, fungi, toxins, and other harmful invaders. The main cells are the T-cells, B-cells and NK cells (lymphocytes), neutrophils, monocytes, and macrophages.
When the body is under attack, the immune cells produce inflammation and antibodies to fight off infections or remove toxins. But this only happens if you have good immunity to start with. Those with reduced or compromised immunity due to poor diet, health conditions, or diseases, such as HIV and cancer, have a greater risk of contracting certain infections. Common opportunistic infections or illnesses include the following:
- Colds and flu
Sometimes the immune system becomes hypersensitive and attacks itself, leading to overproduction of inflammation, allergies, and autoimmune diseases. Certain herbs, including the ones mentioned here, may enhance immune functions and prevent or reduce the chance of developing opportunistic infections.
Signs of a weak immune system
Some people naturally have a stronger immune system than others. But your immune defense can also grow weak due to aging, obesity, and medications such as chemotherapy drugs. Some common signs of weakened immunity include:
- Frequent colds, flu, or respiratory infections
- Feeling tired and fatigued easily
- Wounds take longer than usual to heal
- Recurring skin rash or infection
- Chronic or frequent digestive problems, e.g., bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
- Blood disorder
- Autoimmune disease, e.g., rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis
- Organ inflammation
Herbs to Boost the Immune System
Human and in vitro studies were done to assess the therapeutic benefits of the following best herbs for immune support. Chances are, you’ve seen them in your local health food store or used them before, but didn’t realize they’re good for your immune system.
1. Green tea for immune system
Green tea (Camellia sinensis) is a well-known plant with immune-boosting powers. It is believed to originate in China and is widely grown and produced in places like India, Japan, Sri Lanka, and the US. The tea is made from the leaves and buds of the Camellia sinensis, and is one of the most commonly consumed teas in the world.
Although it can take some time to get used to green tea’s strong, grassy flavors with earthy undertones, that shouldn’t stop you from taking advantage of its health benefits. The herb has traditionally been used for regulating metabolism, weight loss, maintaining youthful skin, promoting brain and heart health, and immune system support.
The active beneficial ingredients in green tea are the polyphenol antioxidants known as catechins, flavonoids, proteins, and fatty acids. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is an important catechin. One of multiple studies done on green tea immunity benefits found that EGCG in green tea strengthens immune system function because it protects against oxidative stress caused by free radicals.
Research done on EGCG suggests that this particular antioxidant has a dramatic effect on T cell functions. T cells play a critical role in the development of autoimmune inflammatory diseases. Interestingly, EGCG was found to be a potential therapeutic agent for preventing and improving autoimmune diseases linked to T cells.
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