As the seasons change, so do our bodies. We experience so much stress in the winter months, not only with the typical juggle of work, clients and family, but all the precursors of the holidays When your body is chronically under stress, your immune system is challenged, according to a 2004 study in Psychological Bulletin, “Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry.” For thousands of years, herbs have been used to boost immunity year-round.
Many herbs provide support to the immune system. Echinacea, ginseng, garlic, ginger, turmeric, gingko biloba, astragalus and cat’s claw are all immunity-boosting herbs you should look for this winter. Between teas, supplemental capsules, tonics and raw herbs, there are many ways to get them into your diet.
Try these combinations to give your immune system a boost this fall:
Echinacea & Vitamin C Combo
A favorite of my mother’s while I was growing up, I often took an echinacea and vitamin C combination supplement to help with colds, paired with a warm, soothing cup of chamomile tea. Research, including a 2005 study in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics (“Echinacea intake induces an immune response through altered expression of leucocyte hsp70, increased white cell counts and improved erythrocyte antioxidant defences”), suggests echinacea stimulates production of white blood cells, whose primary function is to fight invading organisms. By increasing the number of white blood cells in the body, this little herb can help raise your core body temperature and stimulate the immune system. When paired with vitamin C, also known to help immune system deficiencies, the chance of that cold lingering is slim.
Ginger, Turmeric & Honey Tea
A traditional Chinese remedy for illness is ginger tea. The recipe is simple. Boil, then simmer sliced ginger in water, then add brown sugar and honey; it is said this tonic helps boost immunity and rid the body of a cold. Ayurvedic medicine has a similar formula that includes turmeric. Ginger has antibacterial properties, while turmeric is a well-known anti-inflammatory agent. Together, this homemade remedy, tradition suggests, can help boost your immune system and kick out whatever bug you have.
No matter what your plans are as the seasons start to change, make sure you take care of yourself. By keeping your body healthy with these natural herbs, you will be able to handle whatever is thrown your way.
Morgan O’Donnell is the brand ninja at HERBTHEORY (www.herbtheory.com), an herbal supplement company that offers condition-specific herbal products, including the formulas Hair, Skin & Nails; Stress & Sleep; and Mental Agility. She has a degree in nutrition communication from Arizona State University.