Have you ever been shopping for cold syrup or another medicine when you’re sick and noticed that there are herbal remedies available for the same symptoms? Maybe you’ve read about the medicinal properties of echinacea and thought the author was on to something.
Herbal medicine, also called phytotherapy, is a traditional form of medicine that has been used in various cultures for centuries. After all, herbs are plants, which provide us with the chemical basis for most of the medicines you see on the shelves of your local pharmacy. You’ve probably heard of the most common form of herbal “therapy”—the dietary supplements that fall under the phytotherapy category like ginkgo or St. John’s wort.
In this blog, we’ll review the best natural herbs to boost your immune system and how they work, plus what else you can take to strengthen your immunity.
Types of Practices
When it comes to immune system herbal supplements,there are three different types of natural herb practices to be aware of.
1. Traditional Practice
This form of herbal medicine is rooted in tradition. It uses the known properties of plants to achieve specific therapeutic aims. This form of herbal medicine is common in many places all over the world, though the practice varies across cultures. However, despite its history of success, traditional herbal medicine has not passed the systematic clinical trials that more modern forms of medicine have undergone. Therefore, it is still considered to be unconventional.
2. Practice Based on Scientific Research
Herbal medicine based on scientific research is the practice of using specific, active plant extracts that have been clinically proven. The active plant extracts are standardized and often become the basis of pharmaceutical drugs or phytomedicines. This form of plant-based medicine is called pharmacognosy, also known as pharmaceutical biology. According to the regulations of each country, the medicinal products are subject to sales authorization and other requirements. For example, in France the AMM and MPUP are responsible for keeping these herb-based medicines up to a strict standard. In the U.S., herbal remedies are regulated by the FDA, and by the Natural and Non-prescription Health Products Directorate in Canada.
3. Practice of Prophylaxis
The practice of prophylaxis includes the use of ancient plant-based medicinal remedies. Prophylaxis is often used preventively to prevent the onset of disease rather than to cure people who are already infected. Prophylaxis treatment includes the consumption of certain foods and beverages like fermented foods and herbal teas. These treatments have been shown in studies to have several health benefits, including improving the health of gut bacteria, which in turn boosts the immune system.
Precautions for Herbal Medicine
Herbal medicine can be great, but proceed with caution: Like any other form of medicine, there can be unintended consequences.
Some herbs contain active ingredients that can be extremely potent, while others can be toxic if too much is consumed. They can also interact with your medications. Just being plant-based does not mean a remedy is necessarily safe. It’s important to practice caution and make educated decisions when working with herbal and plant-based medicine.
Though pharmacology uses the benefits of certain plants and extracts with particular chemical components for the use of medicine, the "raw" consumption of the plant also includes consumption of other chemical components. This makes it difficult to figure out the exact dosage that will result in the desired effect. An example of this is the distillation of lavender. The process results in more than 200 different molecules, including ketones and coumarins, which can be toxic if combined with the wrong substance.
While it’s obvious that chemical composition varies from one plant species to another, it also varies between individuals within one species to a lesser degree. This is due to minute differences such as the terrain and other conditions—humidity, temperature, sunlight exposure—in which the plant was grown. As a result, consuming one plant may have a slightly different effect on the immune system than another of the same kind.
We highly recommend that you do not consume herbs that come from dubious origins. Pollution factors, collection and methods of conservation, environmental conditions, and storage and transportation can alter the properties of the herb. Dry plants sold in transparent bags should also be avoided, as sunlight can impair their properties.
Different Categories of Herbs
There are four different categories of herbs used in immune system herbal supplements. Depending on what you hope to accomplish, your health history, and your genetics, some herbs might be better suited for your needs than others. As herbs can be toxic if not used properly, we recommend you speak with a professional practitioner before trying any of these treatments on your own.
1. Herbal Immunostimulants
These herbs are used on a short-term basis to fight off acute infections and work by stimulating white blood cell activity. Immunostimulants (immune stimulants) help the body resist developing the symptoms of an infection during its initial stages. They also help decrease the negative effects of the infection once symptoms have already developed. Examples include echinacea, garlic, and Japanese honeysuckle.
2. Herbal Immunomodulators
These herbs are traditionally used as tonics to support the immune system. Their effects develop more slowly, but are longer-lasting than those of the herbal immunostimulants. Also known as “deep immune tonics,” they are used for longer periods of time and function as balancing rather than stimulating.
Therapeutically, these herbs are used to combat low immune resilience, such as in people who have a weak immune system and experience frequent infection. Herbal immunomodulators also help fight against the effects of an overactive immune system, as in the case of allergies and certain forms of autoimmune disease. Ashwagandha, astragalus, ginseng, and licorice are all types of herbal immunomodulators.
3. Herbal Immune Tonics
Traditionally, these herbs have been used as immune tonics for long-term use. They possess immunomodulating effects, meaning they are used for cancer therapy and prevention of certain types of cancers. Some common herbal immune tonics are calendula, elder, maitake, and lion’s mane.
4. Herbal Antimicrobials
Antimicrobial herbs are compounds that deter pathogens—bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoans. They fall into a broad category of herbs that can serve many different medicinal functions, namely to fight off various pathogens. You’ll find you already have a lot of herbal antimicrobials in your kitchen cabinet like black pepper, cinnamon, thyme, rosemary, and cayenne pepper.
Best Herbs to Boost the Immune System
With so many herbs to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are some of the best herbs for the immune system.
1. Astragalus: Astragalus has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine, often in combination with other herbs. Astragalus strengthens and regulates the immune system and has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
2. Black cohosh: This shrub-like plant originated in North America and derives its name from the Native American word for "rough" (referring to its root structure). It is generally used to treat menopausal conditions, painful menstruation, uterine spasms, and vaginitis.
3. Echinacea: Echinacea is used to boost the body's immune system and to help prevent common illnesses like the cold and flu. This U.S.-native plant is also called the purple coneflower.
4. Calendula: An herb used for stimulating the lymphatic system, calendula can treat acute or chronically swollen lymph nodes that result from sustained respiratory infections, localized infections, and tonsillitis.
5. Cayenne peppers: Originally grown in Central and South America, cayenne peppers were brought to Europe in the 15th century by Christopher Columbus. The capsaicin in cayenne peppers has properties that boost metabolism and immunity.
6. Ginkgo biloba: In addition to its stress-relieving properties, this herb is used to treat many of the conditions associated with aging, including poor circulation and memory loss.
7. Ginseng: Ginseng has long been used to treat infections and bronchitis. It’s considered helpful in elevating energy levels and improving resistance to stress.
8. Goldenseal: This herb, native to America, is popular for its healing and antimicrobial properties. Goldenseal is often used to fight the cold or flu and to soothe a sore throat.
9. Green tea: Green tea is used to combat fatigue and prevent atherosclerosis. It also lowers cholesterol, aids in weight loss, and may even help prevent certain types of cancer.
10. Shiitake: Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most popular mushrooms worldwide. Compounds in shiitake may help fight cancer, boost the immune system, and promote overall health.
There are many more plants that can benefit your immune system and help prevent the onset of certain conditions. Depending on what you want to achieve, some herbs may work better for your individual needs than others. Please make sure to ask a professional practitioner before using any of these herbs as they may be toxic. There are also several other forms of naturopathy that may end up suiting your needs if herbal medicine does not seem to be worth the risk.
Essential oils and other all-natural supplements can often achieve similar results. For more on this topic, check out our blog on essential oils.
Give Yourself a Natural Boost with Organic Edible Essential Oil
Essential oils are the perfect supplement to use alongside herbs that boost the immune system to give you total immune protection. With Teramune immune support, your body gets an organic and all-natural boost straight from edible essential oils. Plus, it’s easy to use—simply add 20 drops to your favorite 4oz drink. Strengthen your immune system from the inside out when you shop Teramune today.
- https://chestnutherbs.com/blog-herbs-for-the-immune-system/ **