10 Best Herbs for Improving the Immune System
Using natural substances is often the best option for advancing one’s health
The human immune system is complex; it watches for invasive microorganisms and parasites and then acts to destroy or neutralize them. And if the human body lacks the tools to defend against these intruders, then the immune system helps the body adapt so these tiny enemies can be defeated or at least weakened for a period of time.
Fortunately, nature is filled with plants, specifically herbs, spices and foods, many of which contain substances that can help the human immune system work in an optimal way, and the following list identifies what could be the 10 best.
The list is in no particular order and is written by a skeptic, not an herbalist, yet should provide some help in advising people how to help defend their bodies against destructive microorganisms and tiny pests.
Please keep reading!
Native Americans such as the Cherokee used goldenseal as a cancer treatment, and so did the Eclectics in the latter nineteenth century (they used whatever botanical remedies that seemed effective). Moreover, since goldenseal has so many beneficial aspects, including antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, it is often considered a multi-purpose remedy, similar perhaps to ginseng, and perhaps for this reason seems to possess the capability of boosting the immune system. In fact, combined with echinacea, goldenseal is often used for treating colds and influenza, as goldenseal helps soothe inflamed mucus membranes.
Ginger is another herb that has been consumed for centuries and considered a delicacy, food and/or medicine. And, because of its many medicinal applications, including use as an analgesic, sedative, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, antispasmodic and/or antibacterial agent, ginger seems able to treat just about any malady. Perhaps ginger’s greatest claim to fame is that it may halt the progression of cancer, though further clinical trials need to be done. To conclude, if ginger didn’t help the immune system, this would truly be sensational news!
American colonists used bayberry to make candles because bayberry leaves have a pleasing fragrance, which has come to be known in North America as the Christmas scent. The Creek and Seminole Indians also used bayberry in their “spirit ceremonies” and to ward off disease or treat illnesses once they occurred. Bayberry also has antibacterial and antibiotic properties and can also be used to treat fevers. It also makes a great tea. Again, bayberry has so many uses that it likely has value as an herb that can enhance one’s immune system.
Ganoderma is a genus of wood-eating mushrooms that grow throughout the world. Several species of Ganoderma contain therapeutic properties that may prove useful in anticancer drugs, as well as antibacterial, antifungal or antiviral medicines. It may also lower blood cholesterol and relieve allergy-related inflammation. Interestingly, the species Ganoderma lucidum is a valuable herb used in Asian medicine. Proponents of Ganoderma claim it enhances the immune system and clinical tests in this area seem promising, as it seems to increase the growth of disease-fighting T-cells.
Astragalus is a genus of herbs and shrubs growing in temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Various species of this plant have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. Recent studies show that Astragalus may have antiviral and anti-aging benefits, as it may boost the production of telomerase, an enzyme that allows for the replacement of telomeres, which are bits of DNA that play a major role in cell replication, cancer prevention and aging. Moreover, Astragalus membranaceus, in particular, has the reputation as an anti-aging herb.
6. Cat’s Claw
Scientifically known as Uncaria tomentosa, cat’s claw is a liana that grows in the tropical forests of Central and South America. Used as curative medicine by the indigenous people of South America for hundreds of years, much research has been undertaken to test the effectiveness of cat’s claw as an immunostimulant. It may also contain antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agents. Cat’s claw may also be used as a treatment for HIV/AIDS and other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Spirulina is made from two species of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), Arthrospira plantensis and Arthrospira maxima, which form a supplement that can be consumed by people and animals. As described by Hernando Cortez in the sixteenth century, Aztecs and other Mesoamerican people consumed spirulina, as it is loaded with protein. Interestingly, studies have shown that spirulina can help detoxify the body and can also help boost the immune system against diseases such as AIDS and also help regulate blood pressure. Incidentally, because spirulina is cheap and easy to produce and full of nutrients, it could also help end world hunger!
Turmeric is a perennial plant grown in South Asia and Indonesia. For thousands of years, turmeric, whose major ingredient is curcumin, has been used in ayurvedic medicine in India. Turmeric is generally used in food preparation but also has apparent medicinal properties. Specifically, the phytochemicals found in turmeric are being investigated because of their potential for enhancing the immune system and for fighting various forms of cancer, as well as Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, lupus and multiple myeloma, among others.
9. Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo biloba is a species of tree that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years and has many medicinal applications, particularly for memory enhancement and also for use as an anti-vertigo agent, as well as a vasodilator. Some proponents of its usage think it may help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s dementia, but clinical trials for this usage have been inconclusive. As Ginkgo’s uses seem just about limitless, it could also have beneficial effects on the immune system.
Elderberry, from the genus Sambucus, is a flowering plant found throughout temperate and subtropical regions of the world. Also used in traditional Chinese medicine, elderberry has many uses in alternative medicine. Specifically, it may have a measurable effect in treating influenza and colds, and also alleviate problems associated with allergies and may also boost overall respiratory health. It is also believed to provide anti-inflammatory, diuretic and immunostimulant benefits. Of course, elderberries are also used to make excellent pies and beverages!
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© 2013 Kelley
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