WRITTEN BY MICHAEL EKE AND DR. SWATHI
When it comes to getting through cold and flu season, or even just being healthy in general, it is important to keep your immune system in tip top shape. Your immune system is what protects your body from outside invaders such as bacteria, fungi, toxins, and viruses.
What is the immune system?
The immune system has many different working parts. It is made up of different organs, cells, and proteins all working together to protect the body from illness–some components of the immune system include the skin, antibodies, lymphatic system, spleen, and thymus.
How does the immune system work?
The skin acts as a barrier to other microorganisms and foreign substances. Human skin has an acidic pH (5.4-5.9) which creates an inadequate living environment for potential pathogens. The skin also naturally secretes oil with bacteria killing properties. Antibody’s role in the immune system is to facilitate phagocytosis, also known as binding to and inactivating foreign substances like pathogens and toxins. The lymphatic system is a combination of organs, tissues, vessels carrying a fluid called lymph back into your bloodstream. The lymphatic system releases white blood cells that monitor and destroy foreign invaders such as parasites, viruses, bacteria, and other foreign invaders that might enter the body.
What herbs support the immune system?
Even though our body does a lot and works to keep us healthy, that still may not be enough when flu season comes around. So here are some natural herbs that can aid in the fight against foreign invaders to your body.
Astragalus root, also known as Huang Qi in Traditional Chinese Medicine, promotes healthy immune function and supports tolerance to sporadic physical and mental stresses. Polysaccharides, which are complex carbohydrates found in astragalus, interact and instruct the gastrointestinal tract's microbiota and immune system. Clinical studies show that astragalus can promote the integrity of intestinal mucous membranes and epithelial cells, which in turn supports immunological activity in the respiratory system and supports gut health. We urge you to consider your immune system year-round since it takes time to develop a strong defense.
Sambucus is a species of tree from which elderberries are produced. The most popular tree from this family is the European elder, often known as Sambucus nigra or black elder. Elderberries must be cooked before eating; elderberries can be poisonous when raw and can induce diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Elderberry is a powerful anti-allergy remedy once allergy symptoms start to show. Elderberry is a sufficient supplement on its own, but some healers and medical professionals mix it with other herbs to boost its effectiveness. It aids in detoxifying the liver and improving its performance in addition to aiding with allergies. Elderberry users who are extremely sensitive should be aware that their initial usage may result in an allergic response. Elderberry juice helps lessen all cold and flu symptoms, such as bronchitis, a sore throat, a cough, a fever, and other respiratory problems. The bioflavonoids in this juice often work as an expectorant to assist the body expel phlegm and combat inflammation. Additionally, this drink helps asthmatics breathe better. Elderberry syrup is a favorite among those with the flu. Some people create their own using raw honey, cinnamon powder, elderberries, dried organic ginger root, and cold water. Just bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer it for 45 minutes or so, or until the liquid is completely gone. Afterward, turn off the heat, crush the berries, and pour the juice from them into a bowl.
Oregano, also known as Origanum vulgare, is a flowering plant that belongs to the same family as mint. It is frequently employed as a herb to season dishes. The plant's leaves and shoots are air dried to produce oregano essential oil. Following their drying, steam distillation is used to extract and concentrate the oil. Oregano contains a greater concentration of antioxidants than the majority of fruits and vegetables and is also rich in potent substances known as phenols.
Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, has been touted as a natural way to boost the immune system. Many lifestyle factors like poor sleep habits or a diet laden with processed foods could weaken the immune system. As an immunomodulator, it is postulated the CBD could play a role in altering the functionality of the immune system. As CBD works with the endocannabinoid system to promote a healthy response to inflammation and antioxidant properties, more research is needed to determine its precise role in this interaction.
A fungus called the reishi mushroom thrives in a number of hot and humid regions of Asia under the name Ganoderma lucidum. Triterpenoids, polysaccharides, and peptidoglycans are a few chemicals found in the mushroom that may be responsible for the fungus's beneficial benefits on health. Some reishi varieties may bolster the immune system, according to studies. Additionally, this fungus may be able to enhance the quality of life.
Gingerol, a bioactive substance present in raw ginger that has antibacterial and antifungal activities, could play a role in supporting optimal immune system function. Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects are also present in ginger. These qualities work together and have several advantages. Studies have shown that side effects and health advantages of ginger may involve easing cough, infections, and headaches, especially during cold and flu season.
The bottom line
The body has many complex ways to fight off unwanted pathogens but that still may not be enough to keep you from getting sick.These natural herbs can provide many benefits to your immune system and overall health. Paired with other wellness practices like a good night’s sleep, and a healthy, balanced diet, these herbs could be a great way to start supporting your immune system–especially this time of year.
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This article was edited by Dr. Swathi and was written by Element Apothec Scientific Communications Intern, Michael Eke. He is a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) candidate at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas.