Winterize You: 6 Natural Ways to Boost Your Immune System
Now is the time to begin to prepare your body for the cold months where people are more likely to deal compromised health issues, such as the flu, colds, pneumonia, and various viruses. You can even start as early as August. For those of you that have kids, we all know how they seemingly have a knack of bringing home those little extra special surprises while they were having so much fun playing with sick little Jimmy or Kim. Since we can’t put our kids in a bubble to protect them like the movie “Bubble Boy”, or stay in our house like a hermit until it gets warm again; then we may want to consider a more balanced approach. We take certain measures to winterize our homes every year, why not do the same for our bodies? One of the best ways to do this is to boost your immune system.
First, let’s take a brief moment to understand some basics on how our immune system works. Our immune system involves parts of all of our other systems down to the cellular level in helping it keep us healthy.
It’s somewhat like our body’s superhero; always busy working to stop the bad guys to keep the good guys safe. But even Superman fell helpless when around kryptonite, as our immune system does when exposed to an overload of what it considers to be foreign elements, such as bacteria, viruses, and toxins. Let’s look at 6 natural ways to give our superhero system a boost of strength.
We all know that vitamin C is an immune booster, but so is elderberry. This deep, purplish fruit has been used for its medicinal benefits for centuries throughout the world. It has more Vitamin C than oranges, and is high in flavonoids and antioxidants. It also has Vitamin A and B, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, mildly laxative, antimicrobial, and antiviral properties. Viruses have spikes that help them penetrate cells to get in and multiply. Evidence indicates that elderberry’s potent antiviral properties may help to neutralize those spikes so the virus can’t invade the cell. Studies suggest that elderberry could shorten the duration of the flu or cold by around 3 days, may help relieve nasal congestion, break fevers by promoting sweating, promotes good circulation, and enhances immune function. There are several ways that you can use elderberry. Only use the fruit or flower of the black elder.
Tea: Steep 3 – 5g of dried elder flower in 1 cup of boiling water for 10 – 15 minutes. Strain and you may drink it 3 times per day.
Tincture: You may take between 20 – 60 drops, 2 – 3 times a day.
Syrup/ Lozenge/ Nasal Spray: You can also find elderberry in the ingredients of popular products.
We are familiar with using olive oil in healthy cooking, or hair and skin products. But the olive leaf extract is another beneficial part of the olive tree. Researchers have found it to have antioxidant, antiviral, antiseptic, antimicrobial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory properties making it a strong immune system enhancer. Studies suggest that olive leaf compounds such as oleuropein, interferes with a virus’s production. In other words, it has the ability to halt the virus’s activity to penetrate the cell, replicate, and spread. This is why olive leaf may be beneficial in fighting common colds, influenza, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) or known as Mono, and other viral infections. This herb is commonly taken in pill and liquid form.
This herb is most known for its immune enhancement abilities. It’s often used in Chinese medicine to build and strengthen the immune system. Research shows that astragalus has the ability to restore the activity of a suppressed immune system, improve T-cell activity (immune system soldiers so to speak), and be effective against the common cold and upper respiratory infections. It’s often combined with other immune boosting herbs such as Echinacea for a short-term, immune booster power punch. The root is the part of astragalus that’s used in tea, tincture, ointment, powder, and pill form. Here are some helpful guidelines for usage.
I know that these two herbs have been scrutinized over the years, but they have been used for centuries for their medicinal benefits. They are like the Batman and Robin of immune support. Both potent herbs are known for their antiviral, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antibiotic, and anti-inflammatory properties. Research has shown that echinacea may boost immune system activity resulting in faster recovery, fight a variety of infections, promote skin wound healing, and reduce inflammation. Studies suggest that a compound in goldenseal called berberine, has the ability to soothe infected or inflamed mucous membranes, boost the immune system, shorten the duration of colds, flu, and other respiratory infections, and inhibits bacteria from adhering to tissue surfaces.
They can be used individually, but are often used together because they complement each other so well. It’s better to use them at the onset of cold, flu, or other respiratory infections, rather than as an ongoing preventive method. Read more on usage tips and the variety of ways echinacea and goldenseal can be taken.
Colloidal silver was more commonly used as a natural antibiotic and disinfectant for many years until the modern antibiotic medications became more popular in the 1940s. It has been said to have exhibited antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiviral properties when used in its best form, very tiny silver particles (the smaller the better). It has been a controversial supplement, but I will only speak about what I know through research and experience. The International Space station and the Russian Space station, Mir, used colloidal silver to purify water, and the World Health Organization (WHO) uses it to disinfect drinking water in third–world countries. This has been a staple in my home for 15+ years. I initially began using it because my youngest son, a baby at the time, kept catching whatever my oldest two brought home from school. And my daughter would easily get ear infections every year. I was just tired of conventional medicine that was no longer effective. As parents, you know that you’ll search high and low for effective solutions when your kids are sick, for their sake and yours. You just want things to get back to normal. Colloidal silver helped my family do that. My son eventually stopped getting sick so often, and if an illness did sneak up on us, then it wouldn’t last long. The same went for my daughter and those dreadful ear infections. Since then, I’ve experienced positive results for its usage with pink eye, colds, flu, other viral and bacterial infections, aid in wound healing, acne (accidently stumbled across that one), irritated skin or rash, and sinuses. Colloidal silver hasn’t been a ‘cure-all’; no supplement, herb, or medication is, but it has been beneficial to my family and others that I’ve met in many ways. I’ll leave the door open for you to decide if it’s a good option for you and your family.
Garlic is a great way to utilize food as an immune booster. Of course you can use the supplement too. But garlic’s therapeutic power punch is more potent when the raw bulb is chewed, juiced, or crushed and consumed within 10–45 minutes. It’s known to have antioxidant, antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. Research has shown that one of garlic’s compound, allicin, blocks key enzymes that helps viruses and bacteria invade cells and damage tissues. Studies have also shown garlic to effectively be used as an immune enhancer, decongestant and expectorant for common colds, mucus regulator, improve circulation and much more. I know many of you may be intrigued by the information about garlic, but then think of the smell. Cut the bulbs up and add them last to a great tasting bowl of soup or other food. Parsley and real peppermint are also good counters for the strong odor, so you can still reap the benefits of a powerful superfood.
You may find that any of these or a combination of them may become one of your favorites in helping you to winterize you. So, after (or before) you finish with your trip to pick up your winter essentials from Lowe’s, Home Depot, or wherever you go, then stop on by House of Health and do the same.
Stay warm and healthy!
These statements are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information and these products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your physician before using these products.
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Barak V, Halperin T, Kalickman I. The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines. Eur Cytokine Netw. 2001 Apr-Jun;12(2):290-6.
University of Maryland Medical Center/ Elderberry
Panizzi L et al. The constitution of oleuropein, a bitter glucoside of the olive with hypotensive action. Gazz. Chim. Itla; 1960; 90: 1449-85.
Zhao KS, Mancini C, Doria G. Enhancement of the immune response in mice by Astragalus membranaceus extracts. Immunopharmacology. 1990;20:225-233
Shah SA, Sander S, White CM, et al. Evaluation of echinacea for the prevention and treatment of the common cold: a meta-analysis. Lancet Infectious Diseases. 2007; 7(7):473–480.