The winter months are high-time for various germs, bacteria, and viruses to spread – especially cold and flu. The downside to this rampant onslaught of seasonal illness, aside from getting sick, is the fact that you won’t even know someone near you is sick until their symptoms present themselves.
This is especially true for the flu. People who have it won’t even show symptoms the first day they have it and are able to spread those germs to others without even knowing they’re sick.
So how do we help protect ourselves when we can’t even pinpoint who (including ourselves) is sick around us?
The answer is using herbs as natural immune boosters to help negate the chances of getting sick.
Using Herbs as Natural Immune Boosters
There are a variety of herbs that have stood the test of time when it comes to enhancing and strengthening the immune system and offering protective activity against certain seasonal illnesses.
They do this by supporting specific organs in the body while restoring any suppression in the immune system thus allowing the body to fight off invading organisms.
Additionally, some the herbs I describe below also support the body’s response to stress which can further support the immune system by ensuring that we’re not feeling burnt-out, run-down, or overstressed in our daily lives.
When used over the winter months, or just whenever cold and flu are on the rise, these herbs can help protect you, or, at the very least, reduce the severity of whatever cold or flu you happen to catch.
So, without further ado, here is how to boost the immune system naturally using just five herbs!
The Top 5 Herbs for Boosting Immunity
Ashwagandha root is an amazing immune tonic and immunomodulant. It is known to increase the activity of white blood cells which are cells that fight infection while also decreasing markers of inflammation. This is extremely useful since inflammation in the body, especially within the mucous membranes, greatly inhibits the body’s ability to prevent seasonal illness from taking root.
Ashwagandha is also immune-boosting in that it helps us cope with stress. Stress is one of the leading causes of a compromised immune system during the winter months due to holiday stress and other factors that come into play this time of year.
To use ashwagandha, take 30-40 drops of the tincture (from the root) up to 3x daily.
You can get my favorite ashwagandha tincture HERE.
Do not take if you are pregnant or if you use anxiolytics, barbiturates, or sedatives.
Astragalus root is one of my favorite herbs for boosting the immune system naturally. It’s an immune enhancer, modulator, stimulant, AND restorative while also boasting some significant antibacterial and antiviral properties.
It does this by increasing interferon-gamma and interleukin-2 levels – proteins that regulate the activity of our white blood cells.
It also enhances our stress response and reduces inflammation in the body.
These three main actions are the perfect trifecta for boosting our protection against cold and flu.
Astragalus root can be taken as a tea, capsule, or tincture.
To make a tea, add 1 tsp of dried root to 8 oz of boiling water and drink once a day. You can get the dried root HERE.
For the tincture, take 30-60 drops up to 4x daily. You can get astragalus tincture HERE.
These are my favorite capsules.
Do not take astragalus if you are pregnant, have Lyme disease, have had a transplant, or take interferon or cyclophosphamide.
Boneset is a leafy stalk of an herb that was traditionally used by Native Americans for fever, chills, body aches, and weakness – so the flu!
This herb is a potent immunostimulant. In fact, it increases phagocytosis (the stimulation of white blood cells) up to four times better than echinacea – one of the leading immune support herbs.
Additionally, boneset is anti-inflammatory, improves peripheral circulation (meaning it can help get those white blood cells where they need to go), and helps support mucous membrane integrity – three things that are essential for preventing cold and flu.
Boneset is also a natural pain-reliever – about as effective as your OTC aspirin so it’s no wonder that this herb works so well for mitigating symptoms of the flu.
Boneset can be taken as a tea or tincture using the dried herb only.
In fact, taking it as a hot tea by adding 1 tsp of the dried herb to 8 oz of boiling water, is the best way to treat fever and chills 2-3x per day.
You can get the dried herb here.
You can also take 20-40 of the tincture up to 3x daily. You can get my favorite boneset tincture HERE.
Do not take boneset if you are pregnant. It is also important to note that boneset can cause mild nausea if you consume too much.
Echinacea root, especially of the augustifolia variety, is a widely used herb with potent immune-modulating and stimulating effects and has been shown to be a supportive therapy in the treatment of the common cold and upper respiratory tract infections.
Echinacea is also anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral.
It has shown profound effects on immune cell number, granulocyte migration, macrophage phagocytosis, natural killer cell cytotoxicity, and cytokine production – meaning it efficiently stimulates the body’s antibody response.
Echinacea has been shown to be effective against:
- Candida albicans
- Haemophilus influenzae
- Legionella pneumophila
- Mycobacterium smegmatis
- Propionbacterium acnes
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Streptococcus pyogenes….and much more!
Echinacea is best taken as a tincture – 30-40 drops up to 4x daily. You can get the tincture HERE.
The tincture is especially effective when used each hour undiluted and directly on a sore throat, including areas of strep throat.
For cold and flu, take 30 drops of tincture every hour at the onset of symptoms until symptoms stop.
It is important when taking echinacea to give your body plenty of rest since it stimulates the immune system especially if you have an immune deficiency.
Echinacea should be avoided if you are pregnant or take influx transporters.
5. Reishi Mushroom
Reishi mushroom is antibacterial, antibacterial, antiviral, pain-relieving, immunomodulating, and immunostimulant. The perfect combination of properties for fighting off seasonal illness.
As an immune stimulant, reishi:
- Activates macrophages
- Boosts the production of interleukin 1 and 2
- Enhances natural killer cells and T cells
- Increases lymphocytes
- Stimulates gamma-interferon production
- Stimulates phagocytosis
All of these things enhance immune function and protect the body cold and flu making reishi one of the best herbs to use for boosting immunity naturally.
Reishi mushroom can be taken as a tincture or capsule for the best results.
This is my favorite reishi mushroom capsule.
This is my favorite reishi mushroom tincture.
For the tincture, take 30-45 drops up to 3x daily.
Do not take reishi mushroom if you are pregnant or take immunosuppressive herbs or blood thinners, cefazolin, interferon-alpha, or acyclovir.
What have been your favorite herbs for boosting immunity? Please share in the comments below!
You may also enjoy reading:
(Habtemariam, S. and Macpherson, A. M. Cytotoxicity and antibacterial activity of ethanol extract from leaves of a herbal drug, boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum). Phytother Res 2000;14(7):575-577)
(Wagner, H. and Jurcic, K. [Immunologic studies of plant combination preparations. In-vitro and in-vivo studies on the stimulation of phagocytosis]. Arzneimittelforschung 1991;41(10):1072-1076)disclosure and disclaimer.