With flu season and so many people falling prey to a variety of illnesses, you might want to bolster your immune system to keep viruses and diseases from taking hold. But did you know that some of your best forms of defense are sitting right there on your pantry shelf this instant?
I’m talking about herbs! And the wonderful thing about them is that they are versatile. You use them to add heaps or a subtle flavor to your meals. Otherwise, you can find these herbs in supplements or include them in your tea. As always, consult with your doctor before including them in your daily routine!
But they don’t just pack on the flavor! They also make your food home to nutrients that boost your immune system. While there are many with benefits, here are 5 immune system-boosting herbs you can add to your cooking:
1. Green tea
Many cultures have used green tea in their traditional medicine for thousands of years. This herb is a powerful antimicrobial and antioxidant agent thanks to the catechin compound called Epigallocatechin-3-O-gallate (EGCG). According to recent studies, this catechin compound could help boost your antiviral response to many RNA and DNA diseases thanks to its ability to shield against the first stages of a viral infection.
Unlike the rest of the more culinary-inclined herbs on this list, you can take green tea as a drink any time of the day.
Garlic is a culinary mainstay for a reason! Tons of recipes use this ingredient for the aroma and flavor, but it also helps your immune system get stronger with its antiviral, antibacterial (thanks to allicin, which fights off bacteria that lead to food poisoning such as E. coli), and antiprotozoal properties, which boost your defense against respiratory infections and infections in the chest.
So when that recipe calls for a measly two cloves of garlic, consider doubling it!
A type of mushroom, reishis are home to beta-glucans. Beta-glucans work by stimulating various cells in your immune system, such as the monocytes, which are natural killer cells, as we llas dendritic cells. These cells are then sharper at detecting and getting rid of infections!
Reishi mushrooms are taken via powder or capsule.
One study says that ginseng adds power to the hypothalamic, pituitary, adrenal axis (also known as the HPA axis). The HPA axis regulates the way chronic stress impacts your body and your immune system. In case you didn’t know, chronic or severe stress is linked to a weakened immune system- taking ginseng aids in the constant fight with stress.
Ginseng is typically taken via tea made out of fresh ginseng root or via capsules. Before you go and add it into your regimen, though, definitely consult a herbalist because ginseng can pack a punch. Also consider the astragalus, another adaptogen.
If you feel a cold or the flu coming up, reach for the ginger! Not only is ginger excellent for soothing upset stomachs, but it’s also handy for giving your immune system a much-needed boost. This wonder herb is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antibiotic.
The popular ginger can be consumed as a tea, downed as a fresh ginger shot, or incorporated into your cooking (it’s especially popular in Asian cuisine!) Do note though that it is recommended pregnant individuals take only up to 2 grams of dried ginger each day.