As summer slowly turns to fall and on into winter, I can’t help but looking glumly into the eye of cold and flu season. I thought that I should take a look at what herbs could help us build up your immune system and also which ones could fight off a cold or flu should you happen to get one.
When looking to boost immunity, the first place you should look is into your kitchen cupboards. Our first line of defense begins with the foods that we eat. Making a simple change to your diet is both easy and has none of the side effects of medicines – even over-the-counter products.
The diet of most modern Americans, containing refined, processed, and sugary foods, is a recipe for a lowered immunity. To build strong immune system, one must eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, which are high in essential antioxidants and nutrients. The immune system also needs high-quality protein and healthful fats, specifically monounsaturated fats, like those found in extra-virgin olive oil. These will help to repair tissues and create healthy immune cells. Also, a diet that includes at least one serving daily of good quality yogurt – which contains live cultures of beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus acidophilus – strengthens our immune system. You will also need to reduce your intake of all kinds of sugars – including the hidden ones, like glucose, dextrose, maltose, etc. – and fruit juices too, for they are high in natural sugars. It takes just one serving of sugar – in any form – to lower one’s immunity for several hours.
Regular exercise – but not excessive – of thirty minutes daily, most days of the week, has been shown by science to increase immune function. This moderate daily exercise increases the number of all kinds of white blood cells. It can also make those cells, which are natural disease and infection killers, better at their jobs. However, if one follows an excessive exercise program, such as marathon running, it can temporarily hinder one’s immune system’s functions.
Things that stress us emotionally – like depression and anxiety – will suppress the activity of the white blood cells and the thymus gland. But there are several simple ways to reduce the stress in our daily lives. Exercise, in addition to its ability to build your immune system, is one way to reduce your stress level. Additionally you can include meditation, deep relaxation exercises, and massage. Studies have also found that by simply keeping a journal and writing about the stressful events in our lives, we can improve the function of our immune systems.
Good Sleep Patterns
Lack of sleep will have negative effects on the immune system in some major ways. First, without proper rest, the body will slow it production of the white blood cells that fight infection. Secondly, without proper sleep, the activity of the body’s natural disease killers is impaired. And lastly, it is during our deep REM sleep sessions that the body releases powerful immune-enhancing compounds, such as interferon. So making sure that you and your family get enough restful sleep so that these natural immune builders work well in your bodies is a free and sure-fire way to help beat this season’s cold and flu battles.
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Chemical toxins can impair the functioning of your immune system and trigger the building up of cell-damaging free radicals. These toxins are found throughout our environment. Avoiding as many as you can is best for you and your family. One way of avoiding toxic chemicals is by choosing as many organic foods as you can for your family to consume. Fruit, veggies, meats, and dairy products that are produced without antibiotics and other chemicals are a great step toward eliminating toxins in our bodies and those of our families. I know that you may not be able to afford to eat totally organic – unless you grow it yourself – but you should choose as many organic foods as possible. You should also use natural alternatives to toxic cleaning products throughout your home, garden, and work environment whenever possible. Other places you find toxins would be exposure to radiation, including x-rays. Avoid them unless absolutely necessary, because radiation damage will build up throughout your lifetime. Each time you get an x-ray, you are adding more and more radiation to your body and thus creating more and more damage to your immune system. There are many herbal cleanses that will help eliminate or even clear your body from the toxins, but do not take an herbal cleanse while you are ill, as it may weaken your body and make it less effective in the fight to get well. But a yearly cleanse is a great way to keep the toxins at a low level in your body.
Studies have shown that those who frequently make love have higher levels of Immunoglobulin A (IgA), one of the body’s first lines of defenses against colds. Those who reported making love once or twice a week had the highest levels of IgA.
Immune Boosting Herbs
- American Ginseng (panax ginseng) – This herb has been respected for centuries as a tonic for health and vitality. Studies done recently show that when taken for several months it will help prevent upper respiratory infections. While traditional Chinese medicine also uses tonic herbs like American ginseng to strengthen the immune system, they are discontinued while one is acutely ill with colds and other maladies.
- Andrographis – This herb is sometimes called Indian echinacea, and it can reduce the severity and length of cold symptoms. Studies show it may also prevent upper respiratory infections. The compounds in andrographis appear to stimulate immune functions and halt the growth of viruses. Typical dosage of andrographis is 400 mg three times daily
- Echinacea – Hundreds of studies show that this herb is beneficial for preventing and treating colds, flu, and other infections. Echinacea stimulates immune cells that fight off infection and increases production of interferon and other immune compounds. It works best when taken frequently at the first signs of infection: Thirty to sixty drops of liquid extract or one or two capsules every two hours for the first twenty-four to forty-eight hours. Then following this same dosage four times daily for three days after your symptoms disappear.
- Eleuthero – This herb is well known as an adaptogenic herb in that it helps the body to adapt more easily to stressors. Eleuthero root has improved the immune function in clinical studies. It brings its best results when taken for at least three months to strengthen immune response.
- Elderberry – This dark berry, which is blue-black in color, is rich in compounds that disarm viruses and prevent them from taking over our healthy cells. Research has shown that elderberry offers help in preventing respiratory viral infections. Dosage for prevention is half to one full teaspoon elderberry syrup twice daily. To speed recovery, dosage is one to two teaspoons elderberry syrup four times daily.
- Green tea – building up a habit of drinking green tea daily can help strengthen immunity. It contains potent antioxidant compounds that will neutralize free radicals within our bodies and prevent damage to the immune system. Green tea also stimulates the liver to secrete interferon. To help build your immune function, drink three or more cups of green tea each day.
- Pau D’arco – This medicinal bark comes from the rain forests of Brazil and other areas of South America. It helps to nourish the body’s natural defenses and protect it against germs and viruses. It has been used for centuries by natives of South American countries to improve immune function, detoxify the body, and reduce pain throughout the body, especially in the joints. Studies show that it contains a natural antibacterial agent, has a healing effect on the whole body, cleanses the blood, and kills viruses. It has been used to treat many diseases, maladies, and infections.
- Suma – People from the jungles of the Amazon River regions have used suma for more than 300 years. It was introduced to modern man in 1975 when the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil tested it for effectiveness and side effects. It was shown helpful for preventing colds and flu, speeding healing, regulating blood sugar in diabetics, and combating fatigue, even that brought on by chronic fatigue and other low-energy conditions.
Disclaimer: Please be sure to speak to your health care provider before beginning any type of treatment. Also remember that products do vary in strength, so be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions for use very closely.
©2012 Off the Grid News