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Boost Your Immune System with these Herbs
Every day we learn new information about what helps to keep us healthy and how to boost our immune system. But did you know that there are certain herbs all around us that have helpful antiviral properties? Many of these herbs help boost the immune system, which allows it to attack invading viral pathogens while also providing other health benefits such as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Blair Doucette, from Woodside Farms, Cornerstone’s active adult community in Hanover County that is anchored by this 10 acre farm, give us her expert insight into her favorite herbs. Blair is the Workshare Manager at Woodside Farms and is also our in-house Holistic Nutritionist. She uses food as functional medicine to treat and prevent chronic illnesses.
Blair"’s favorite herbs:
Echinacea is one of the most widely used medicinal herbs, especially during cold and flu season. This is because echinacea contains phytochemicals that are both anti-microbial and immune-boosting, as well as phenolic compounds that work to block bacteria and viruses from hijacking healthy cells. Echinacea has been predominantly used in traditional medicine for immune support but has also been found to be helpful with treating wounds, burns, coughs, colds, sore throats, stomach and joint discomfort, cases of flu, ADHD, and has been used as a natural cancer treatment.
Echinacea can be found over the counter as a pill, tincture, and tea. The National Institute of Health (NIH) recommends taking 10mg of echinacea per one kilogram of body weight for cough and cold support as soon as symptoms begin, and taken daily for up to 10 days. It can also be taken daily as preventative support. I personally like to supplement with echinacea as a tea with local honey!
Garlic is not only delicious, but it’s also highly nutritious. Lab studies show that it contains both anti-bacterial as well as anti-viral properties. It’s been studied as a powerful medicinal herb in the treatment of coughs, colds, influenza, and herpes, among many many others. This is because of its main health-promoting compound, allicin. Allicin has been found to help with infections, heart health, cancer treatments, oxidative stress, and inflammation. Allicin is produced by an enzymatic reaction that occurs from crushing and/or chewing garlic, so it’s recommended to crush garlic and let it sit for about 10 minutes before consuming it. It has also been found that heat often destroys allicin so it’s best when consumed raw.
Supplementation with garlic can be taken as a pill, oil, or whole clove. You can simply swallow a whole garlic clove (making sure to bite down at least once to start the conversion of allicin). Garlic can be very difficult for some people with digestive issues, so a garlic-infused oil is always a nice alternative. You can make this at home by crushing up a few cloves of garlic and adding them to olive or avocado oil and allowing it to sit for at least 1 day. The recommended dosage of garlic oil is 2-5 grams a day. I like to make a larger oil infusion with garlic, rosemary, and thyme. It’s medicinally beneficial and so tasty!
Elderberries have been used in traditional medicine dating back to Ancient Egypt. Their most well-known benefit is their ability to support the immune system. Elderberries are rich in anthocyanins, which are strong immunostimulants as well as provide powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral properties. Studies have shown elderberry’s ability to shorten the duration of colds and flu. One 2004 study found that taking an elderberry extract within the first 48 hours of the first flu symptoms shortened the duration of flu symptoms by an average of 4 days! Their supplements are plentiful and diverse and can be easily found at your local grocery store. I prefer elderberry syrup or tea and drink a little bit of it every day as a part of my breakfast. There are also gummies, juice, and wine!
Lemon balm is a common plant that can be used to make tasty teas and infusions. It’s also been found to be effective in supporting the immune system and treating many viruses! It’s most well known as a treatment for cold sores when applied topically as a cream. It also works as an anti-bacterial and has been shown to be highly effective at treating candida, a common yeast infection that causes digestive issues, brain fog and weakened immune systems. Lemon balm supplementation can be found as teas, balms, creams, and even in toothpaste.
There are so many different types of medicinal herbs available all around us with so many different overlapping benefits! What are some of your favorite folk medicine remedies? Many of these beneficial herbs are grown at Woodside Farms, along with vegetables and fruits, fresh eggs and much more. Check out the Woodside Farms website and be sure to stop by the Farm Stand every Wednesday and Saturday. Social distancing rules apply!