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10 Best Herbs for Improving the Immune System

Updated on June 5, 2013
Kosmo profile image

Natural treatments and remedies have been some of Kelley's big interests since the cost of healthcare has skyrocketed in recent years.


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!

1. Goldenseal

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.

2. Ginger

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!

3. Bayberry

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.

4. Ganoderma

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.

5. Astragalus

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.


7. Spirulina

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!

8. Turmeric

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.

Ginkgo leaves
Ginkgo leaves

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.

10. Elderberry

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!

Please leave a comment.

© 2013 Kelley


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    • profile image

      John vanDusen 4 years ago


    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      Very interesting...We use a few of these. Always good to learn something new. Voting up and pinning.

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley 4 years ago from California

      Thanks for the comment, carol7777. Writing about natural remedies is a can't miss endeavor, right? Later!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      An interesting list of herbs some of which I had no idea of for example the Ginkgo Biloba, Spirulina, and the . Goldenseal, thanks for sharing such helpful information.

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley 4 years ago from California

      Thanks for the comment, DDE. Technically, spirulina is not an herb, but it is a natural substance, which is close enough , right? Later!

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 4 years ago from Southern California

      Very good hub. As I am into natural healing I know about all but two of these, Ganoderma and Astragalus, glad to know about them and their preventative properties.

      Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley 4 years ago from California

      Thanks for the comment, fastfreta. Ganoderma and Astragalus (I love that name) seem to have great promise for enhancing the immune system. In fact, everything on this list does. Later!

    • tebo profile image

      tebo 4 years ago from New Zealand

      Great hub Kosmo. You have mentioned some herbs that I have not heard of these being the same as one of the previous comments Ganoderma and Astragalus. Very useful hub.

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley 4 years ago from California

      Thanks for the comment, tebo. Until I wrote this hub, I hadn't heard of ganoderma or astragalus. You learn, you write, what a deal! Later!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 4 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      This is a great, informative and very well written hub. So glad I came across this and voted up, useful, awesome, beautiful, interesting and will share, pin and pass along to friends. Good health!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Very informative and useful hub! We use many of them in India but some of them, I have not heard before.

      Thanks for this useful guide about nature's wonderful herbs.

    • Imogen French profile image

      Imogen French 4 years ago from Southwest England

      You have put together a great list here, some I knew about, but others are new to me. Nature has certainly provided us with all the things we need to stay healthy, but it would be interesting to know what quantity of these herbs and spices is necessary to have a notable beneficial effect?

      I much prefer natural and preventative medicine, so the more information like this the better - many thanks for some new food for thought!

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley 4 years ago from California

      Thanks for the comments, Imogen French, chitrangadaSharan and vocalcoach. I really enjoy writing about the use of natural substances to cure what ails a person and without spending much money. Later!

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