Worried about losing time at work or time with your family to cold season, flu season, or that stomach bug that’s been going around the office? Natural herbs and remedies for immune support can help you boost your body’s natural defense systems, keeping you healthy and safe from viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens.
The human immune system is a natural marvel of evolution. This incredibly complex set of cellular defenses allows your body to distinguish parasites and pathogens from its own organic tissues, adaptive naturally over time to increase immunity to diseases to which you’ve always been exposed.
Natural immune support comes from a proper diet, general health, and a lack of vitamin deficiencies that can impact your natural defenses against disease.
Although the immune system is robust and highly effective, certain factors like stress, aging, and medical illnesses can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to getting sick. To keep your immune system functioning properly, it’s important to stay mentally and physically healthy overall. Natural solutions for immune support can also help keep sickness away.
Along with a healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals, there are also natural herbal teas for immune support that can help boost your immune system.
Many plants naturally contain antioxidants and other compounds that can help protect your body’s immune system from the negative effects of stress, helping you ward off disease.
Common Causes of a Weakened Immune System
Other than serious medical immunodeficiencies and autoimmune disorders, many adverse health effects in your life can weaken your immune system, making you more likely to get sick when something’s going around. This includes stress, psychiatric problems, nutritional issues, and weight problems.
Psychological stress is known to weaken your immune system. Dealing with stress using healthy coping mechanisms and a positive outlook can help provide increased natural immune support for your body. The study of stress’s effects on immunity is known as “psychoneuroimmunology.”
According to recent lab studies, when you’re subjected to psychological stress over an extended period of time, your immune system goes downhill. You may have experienced this if you’ve ever gotten shingles during a stressful time in your life. The weakened immune responses associated with stress allow the chickenpox virus to thrive, coming out of dormancy and causing a painful rash.
Finding healthy ways to manage stress can help you fight off viruses and bacteria naturally, providing immune support as well as peace of mind. Meditation, exercise, hobbies, and other natural approaches can help relieve stress.
Anxiety & Depression
Along with generalized psychological stress, clinically significant mood disorders like anxiety and depression can also weaken your body’s immune system. Even milder forms of depression, when untreated for a long period of time, can wear down your body’s defenses and make you more likely to get sick.
Psychiatric problems like major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders are also associated with poor sleep and poor dietary habits, further exacerbating the effects on your immune system.
Lack of Sleep
Sleep deprivation or low quality sleep can also harm your immune system. Fixing your sleep schedule can help provide natural immune support, along with lowering stress and increasing your overall energy levels.
Many people work long hours, or have trouble sleeping due to stress or other problems. When you miss too much sleep, it causes a physiological stress response in you body. In one recent study, researchers found that white blood cells reacted almost immediately to sleep loss.
Scientists are still researching the physiological mechanisms behind sleep’s effects on immune support.
Like all of your body’s organ systems, the immune system requires certain vitamins and minerals to function. These natural compounds play important roles at a molecular and cellular level, and without them, you could experience a weakened immune system and a higher chance of getting sick. Eating a balanced diet can help provide natural immune support.
Losing weight has many benefits, and that includes natural immune support. Studies have demonstrated that significant obesity causes changes in the immune system, leading to a greater susceptibility to infectious diseases.
Adipose tissue, better known as “fat,” has endocrine functions, producing hormones and other molecules. Leptin, one of the molecules involved in appetite regulation, plays an important role in the immune system changes associated with obesity.
Drinking moderately can actually be completely healthy, and many people drink socially or enjoy the occasional glass of wine without any problems.
However, when alcohol use becomes too frequent and excessive, it can damage your immune system– to say nothing of the other effects of alcohol abuse on psychological health, liver health, and brain function.
Chronic alcohol abuse alters your immune system, leading to immunodeficiency and autoimmunity that can greatly increase your chances of getting sick. Current research indicates that the immune effects of alcohol abuse may stem from alteration of cytokines in the body.
If you struggle with alcohol abuse, seeking help can provide natural immune support, as well as psychological and spiritual recovery.
Vitamins & Minerals for Natural Immune Support
A balanced, vitamin-rich diet is essential for providing your body with natural immune support. These common vitamins and minerals are essential for keeping your immune system healthy and functioning properly.
Vitamin C accumulates naturally in many types of immune system cells, and they require it to function. While taking vitamin C won’t cure a common cold, this nutrient is still vital to your immune system. It’s recommended that adults consume about 60 mg of vitamin C per day. Good dietary sources of vitamin C include bell peppers, guava, green leafy vegetables, kiwi, broccoli, and strawberries.
Vitamin E is the most important antioxidant present in the body’s cells, and immune cells need it to function. In otherwise healthy people, a vitamin E deficiency can weaken the immune system significantly. Immune cells are particularly vulnerable to oxidative damage, making vitamin E important to protect them. The recommended daily value of vitamin E is about 30 IU.
Along with vitamin supplements, you can find vitamin E in foods including spinach, almonds, sunflower seeds, avocados, shellfish, and olive oil.
Natural metabolytes of vitamin A have an effect on the body’s adaptive immune responses, and vitamin A is a good source of natural immune support. You can get vitamin A from dietary sources including sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, kale, squash, and tuna fish. It’s recommended that adults get at least 5,000 IU of vitamin A per day.
Vitamin D is also critical to immune system health, playing an important protective role for immune responses at the cellular level. You can find vitamin D in foods like oily fish, portobello mushrooms, whole grains, tofu, and caviar. The recommended daily value of vitamin D is about 400 IU for adults.
Vitamin B6 provides natural immune support through its role in several important enzymatic reactions in the immune system, and can help reduce chronic inflammation. Vitamin B6 is present in foods including sunflower seeds, pistachios, fish, poultry, and dried fruit. People ages 19-50 should consume about 1.3 mg of vitamin B6 daily.
Vitamin B9, also known as folate, helps regulate the immune system through its role in the digestive system. In the intestines, a mucosal immune system help maintain homeostasis, or balance, including effects of commensal bacteria. Vitamin B9, also known as folate, is required for the synthesis of proteins and nucleic acids, and folate deficiency can lower your immune response.
You can find vitamin B9 in foods like beans, lentils, spinach, lettuce, and avocado. Adults need about 400 mcg per day.
Iron is important for the body’s immune responses to bacterial infections. The bodies of humans and other mammals naturally maintain an iron homeostasis, but iron deficiency can impact intestinal inflammatory responses, increasing the growth of bacteria like salmonella. You can find iron in foods like lean red meats, poultry, seafood, spinach, kale, and whole grains. Most adults need about 18 mg of iron per day.
10 Herbal Remedies for Immune Support
Along with proper nutrition, healthy sleep patterns, weight regulation, and other measures to increase immune function, there are several herbal remedies for immune support that can also help boost your body’s defenses against infection and disease.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) has been used for centuries in Indian Ayurvedic medicine. This natural woody shrub is reported to increase energy, provide natural herbal immune support, and protect the body from the adverse effects of stress.
Ashwagandha is in a class of traditional medicinal plants known as “adaptogens.” Adaptogenic herbs promote natural homeostasis, the body’s balance between physiological processes. In Chinese and Indian natural medicine and herbology, adaptogens are used to ward off the harmful effects of physical and psychological stress.
In studies of rodents, ashwagandha was shown to help provide immune support by increasing white blood cell count. Ashwagandha also has a mild calming effect, helping reduce feelings of psychological stress that lead to negative physiological effects.
Like ashwagandha, schisandra (Schisandra sp.) plants are classified as adaptogens. Used for centuries in ancient Chinese medicine, schisandra is thought to increase strength, energy, and vitality. The dried berries can be incorporated into herbal teas for immune support, with effects deriving from natural compounds produced by the plants.
Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) is an adaptogen from traditional Scandinavian and Siberian herbal medicine. Rhodiola may act as an antioxidant, providing immune support by mitigating the effects of oxidative stress on the body’s cells. Rhodiola herbal teas or rhodiola extract can help reduce symptoms of depression, which impacts the immune system and can cause increased susceptibility to infections.
Garlic (Allium sativum) is one of the most common culinary spices in modern Western cooking. This pleasantly pungent bulb, related to onions and chives, has been used since 2,000 BCE to add flavor to various foods.
Garlic is more than just a useful cooking ingredient: it can also help provide natural immune support. Studies have shown that garlic extract supplementation can help boost the number of T-cells in the bloodstream, fighting off common illnesses like colds and the flu. It may also help attenuate the adrenal glands’ response to psychological stress, which can reduce the secretion of damaging stress hormones.
Echinacea (Echinacea sp.) are a group of related plants, also known as “purple coneflowers.” Echinacea products may have immune effects, making it a popular ingredient in herbal teas for immune support. There are several useful species of echinacea, including Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia, and Echinacea pallida. The juices, flowers, and extracts of these plants have shown promising effects for gently boosting the body’s immune responses.
Ginger is a popular culinary spice for both sweet and savory dishes, but it may also have effects on the body’s immune system. Ginger may have an antioxidant effect that protects against stress, as well as antibacterial and antiseptic effects that kill bacteria like salmonella.
Ginger’s anti-inflammatory effects were investigated in a 2008 study in the journal International Immunopharmacology, where it was found to reduce asthma symptoms through its effects on the immune system. It’s also an antioxidant, and may help to activate T-cells.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a plant closely related to ginger. In Asia, it’s been used for thousands of years as a culinary spice and in South Indian Siddha medicine.
Turmeric contains compounds that may have antifungal and antibacterial effects, making it a useful ingredient in herbal teas for immune support that are designed to help your body fight off infections. It’s also a good source of antioxidants.
Ginkgo (Gingko biloba) has been a popular tonic in Chinese herbal medicine for over 1,500 years. In modern times, it’s been investigated for its effects on cognition as a potential medicine for preventing memory loss and cognitive decline associated with aging.
Astragalus (Astragalus sp.) are a genus of plants in the family Fabaceae, related to legumes like lentils and beans. Traditionally, the species Astragalus membranaceus has been used in Chinese medicine and Persian medicine to strengthen resistance to disease and stress.
Today, astragalus is still used as an herbal remedy for immune support, due to its adaptogenic effects. This herb has both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, helping kill bacteria and mitigate the body’s natural defenses.
Cat’s claw is a vine native to Central and South America, used in traditional indigenous cultures for its immune-boosting effects. Cat’s claw may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, helping protect the immune system and body from stress while fighting off infections.
Cat’s claw is sometimes used for chronic conditions that involve inflammation, such as many types of arthritis. Cat’s claw has been shown to inhibit the activation of a compound called nuclear factor kappa beta, which acts as an inflammatory “switch” associated with disease.
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