Essential Herbs To Boost Immunity, According To Ancient Practices
The primary goal of traditional Chinese medicine is to create inner harmony by helping the body’s qi, or energy force, flow unimpeded. This qi consists of five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, water. When balanced, these elements promote health. A qi imbalance in the body can lead to lethargy, muscle pain, high stress levels, and a tendency to catch the flu easily.
A holistic traditional Chinese medicine healing plan typically involves herbal therapy, acupuncture, dietary changes, and lifestyle shifts. These eight herbs and ingredients are the ones TCM practitioners rely on to bring balance to the body, support the immune system, and promote overall health. It is important to note that while these herbs have been use traditionally for many generations, there is limited clinical research to prove their effectiveness and you should always consult with a physician if you're feeling unwell before starting on a herbal regimen.
This antibacterial and antiviral herb contains polysaccharides that might increase the body's production of white blood cells, which fight infection.
In one in vitro study, echinacea extract interfered with viral entry into cells. That said, other studies haven't shown positive effects.
Echinacea is available in an extract or tablet form, making it simple to get a daily dose of this immune-supporting flower.
In traditional Chinese medicine practices, adaptogenic astragalus is thought to combat stress. Add this herb to soups to fight fatigue and boost your immune system during cold and flu season.
3. Yin Chiao (Honeysuckle Forsythia)
Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners often prescribe this nine-herb formula, which contains soothing licorice, nasal-clearing peppermint, perspiration-stimulating Jing Jie, and Lu Gen, which soothes the lungs and stomach.
Garlic is a powerful antioxidant, and its main compound, called allicin, is said to have several health benefits, including antimicrobial activity. It's also a natural decongestant.
Some studies have shown that shown garlic extract may have antiviral activity1 against various viruses, including influenza and rhinovirus.
Bonus: It's so versatile, you can work it into pretty much any meal.
Elderberries are packed with quercetin, an antioxidant with antihistamine and anti-inflammatory effects. They've also exhibited "mild inhibitory effect" during early stages2, and the potential ability to stop a virus from getting into a body and replicating, as well as boost immune response.
According to traditional Chinese medicine practices, a teaspoon of elderberry syrup can combat flu symptoms and help people with sinus pains or chronic fatigue find relief.
Andrographis is a plant commonly used in Asian countries to prevent influenza and soothe digestive issues, liver conditions, fever, and sore throats. This herb may have anti-inflammatory properties3, and is believed to cleanse the blood and strengthen the immune system to fight infection.
Ginger is a powerful antihistamine and decongestant that delivers a one-two punch against cold symptoms, and may have antimicrobial effects. Research has shown that ginger may prevent the growth of viruses4 (as well as bacteria and fungi).
Add it to stir-fried dishes or boil it to make a cup of ginger tea with some added lemon and honey for a healing hot drink.
8. Medicinal mushrooms
Chinese and Japanese herbal medicine practitioners have used medicinal mushroom for centuries. Look for blends containing shiitake, reishi, and maitake mushrooms to potentially strengthen the immune system5.
Always keep in mind that formulations and dosages may vary from one patient to another, depending on the severity of the symptoms, and whether they are being consumed for prevention purposes or as treatment. It’s best to consult with a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner to create a treatment plan that’s best for you.
Scott Ling, LAc, M.A., Ph.D., received his Ph.D. in Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture from Guangzhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, his Masters of Medicine from University of New South Wales, and a Bachelor of Medicine in Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine from the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. He is also a Registered Chinese Herbal Medicine Practitioner of the Chinese Medicine Registration Board (CMRB) and a Registered Acupuncturist of CMRB. He lives in Melbourne, Australia.