The winter months provide the perfect storm of viral traps. A cough, head cold, or the dreaded coronavirus is waiting around every corner. The best way to make it through the cold without catching a cold is by keeping your immune system strong. COVID-19 safety measures make everyone more cautious about their healthy and safety, which helps keep them safe from other viruses. Sometimes, though, you just need to boost your health, herbal style.
Alternative healing modalities have kept people healthy for thousands of years. Various herbs contain immune-boosting properties that give the body a helping hand when it encounters pathogens. The herbs in this article are essentially immunostimulants, also known as immune stimulants, which help the body resist illness after exposure to a pathogen. They enhance the body’s antimicrobial efforts to activate white blood cell activity. Keep reading which immune stimulants can help you fight pathogens and the common cold.
Commonly made into tinctures, syrups, poultices, and compresses, Japanese honeysuckle is one of the most widely used medicinal herbs in the world. Its popularity among Western herbalists is relatively new, but Chinese herbalists have been using it for many years. Historically, herbalists used it to treat influenza and related symptoms like sore throat or stuffy nose. According to a 2015 study, scientists concluded that Japanese honeysuckle may contain a natural product that helps suppress viral infection.
Recently, elderberry is the talk of the town, and you’ve likely heard about it. It contains powerful antibacterial, antimicrobial, and anti-fungal properties, giving your immune system a helping hand. Some studies have even found that it effectively treats the cold and flu. You can find it in the form of tea, extracts, tinctures, or supplements. There’s no need to chug a whole bottle of elderberry extract, though; a teaspoon at a time will do you good.
No, this is not the stuff you give to your cat. Japanese catnip is primarily found in mainland China and it contains numerous beneficial compounds, including menthol, schizonodiol, and cineole. Menthol is the primary compound in the mint plant, so this herb has similar health properties to mint. Tradition Chinese Medicine (TCM) used this herb to help reduce chills, treat common cold symptoms, stop bleeding, reduce fevers, and soothe headaches. Recent studies found that the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties in Japanese catnip may reduce common cold symptoms.
When it comes to immune function, the one herb you should know about is echinacea. This readily available herb comes in the form of supplements, tinctures, teas, or extracts. It is an immune-stimulating herb that is safe and effective against the common cold. A 2015 meta-analysis found that echinacea is beneficial for people with low immune function, and that it can reduce cold symptoms by 35 percent. Echinacea is most effective if you use it when you experience the first sign of a cold symptom.
Often referred to as green chiretta, andographis is a flowering herb that has historical use in Ayurveda and TCM. These forms of herbal medicine consider it to be an ancient healing herb that has a cooling and cleansing effect on the body. Two plant studies found that adographis contains antiviral and antibacterial properties, both of which are necessary to fight off common cold symptoms. One study found that andographis extract may increase a person’s white blood cell count to boost immune function. Another study found that it may help relieve upper respiratory tract infections and cold symptoms like runny nose or sore throat.
You may be less familiar with this herb, despite the fact that it is an excellent immune stimulant. Prickly ash was commonly used by the Native Americans to help boost lymphatic drainage and increase circulation. The branches and trunk of the plant have serious thorns, but the internal bark and leaves have myriad medicinal properties. Be warned that this herb has a strong taste, and it can even make your tongue feel tingly. It’s best to take this in small doses to encourage lymphatic drainage and stimulate circulation.
This flower pops if it contains too much air. Not really, but they bloom in late summer and have attractive, striking purple flowers. Used in TCM, balloon flower helps to boost immune function, strengthen lung power, rid the body of phlegm, and reduce the duration of cold symptoms. Experts attribute these abilities to the powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. The active compounds help to open the airways and maintain healthy mucus levels. This can be great if you are combating cold symptoms like coughing, congestion, or shortness of breath.