The main function of the immune system is to protect the body against invasion of foreign microorganisms. It is the most essential asset for maintaining one’s overall wellbeing.
A weakened immune system slowly allows invasion of foreign bacteria, viruses and parasites, creating an environment for propagation of a variety of chronic conditions.
The immune system forms various antibodies that fight against bacteria. The main constituents of the immune system include bone marrow, thymus gland, spleen, lymph nodes, antibodies, chemicals, and the tonsils.
There are many foods that help with strengthening the immune system, including nutrients and herbs. Some of these foods not only strengthen the immune system but increase energy, balance your mood and helps maintain a healthy weight.
Some very important foods for the immune system include:
- Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale and cabbage
- Mushrooms: shiitake and maitake and cordyceps
- Fresh herbs: ginger, garlic, rosemary and thyme
The three herbs that are highly beneficial for immunity enhancement are:
1. Amla: It is the richest natural source of vitamin C. It is considered a versatile and powerful antioxidant that may protect the body against all types of cancer and fights against viruses in the body.
Amla is packed with amino acids and minerals. It is helpful in raising protein levels and body weight. Its antimicrobial properties make it a powerful herb that helps fight against various infections, thus making the immune system strong. In Ayurveda it is considered a cooling refrigerant, diuretic, laxative and has an anabolic effect.
Other benefits of amla are:
- Helps with iron absorption from dietary sources.
- Strengthens the musculoskeletal system
- Helps in increasing food absorption for optimal digestion
- It can prevent premature greying of hair
- It strengthens the liver and helps with removal of toxins
- Can strengthen the hair, nails, bones and teeth
- May assist in lowering blood pressure
- May lower blood cholesterol
- It provides nourishment to the brain and heart
- Strengthens the nervous system
All these benefits make amla a strong immune enhancer!
2. Ashwagandha: Is considered an adaptogen which enhances the immune system and supports the brain, including memory and concentration. This herb contains anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, anti-oxidant, and anti-stress properties, increases energy, vitality, and helps with mood stabilization and immune support.
Ashwagandha can protect and nourish the nervous system. It is considered a powerful remedy for the lungs and the heart, and can help regulate heart rate and control blood pressure. Not only does ashwagandha lower cortisol (stress) levels, but it can also increase white blood cell count within the body, protecting against various infections and allergies.
Other benefits of ashwagandha are:
- It has been shown to reduce inflammation of the joints, ease arthritis and increase energy levels.
- It is also considered an herb that increases libido for both men and women.
- It may prevent miscarriages in pregnant women by balancing the hormones that stabilize pregnancy.
- Can help in maintaining sugar and cholesterol levels.
- It has been used as a longevity herb, improves overall health, enhances mental function, increases fertility and libido, boosts energy, and prevents infections.
3. Astragalus: Another herb that can assist in strengthening the immune system if you suffer from autoimmune or other chronic conditions is Astragalus. It’s root has medicinal properties that help with diabetes and kidney disease, strengthening the immune system. It may protect the liver and help fight bacterial and viral infections. It can be taken by mouth as a liquid, herbal tea or capsule form.
Other benefits of astragalus include:
- May be used as a topical ointment for wound healing
- Research suggests that if given intravenously it can help side effects of chemotherapy
- Helps improve menstrual cycle regularity
- Strengthens the cardiovascular system
- Alleviates nausea and vomiting
- May improve liver function
- Can improve hearing and vision
- Research shows it can improve HbA1C in diabetics
The very best way to support the body is through the foods that you allow into your digestive system. The body needs various ways to support the immune system, especially if you suffer with an autoimmune or other chronic condition. By supplementing with the above herbs, you can lessen the inflammatory response in the body, allowing your immune system to re-equilibrate.
Women are always looking for safer, more effective and gentle ways to overcome many of their chronic symptoms. Supporting the body in these ways can give the body a natural defense to fight against chronic disease.
Camille McClellan, MD, DNM, MBS
McClellan Natural Health, Wellness & Nutrition
Free Naturopathic/Homeopathic Consults Available