Top 5 Common Herbs to Boost Your Immune System

by Dr. Fiona Smulders, ND

The cold and flu season is almost at an end, but for those of you who are still struggling to fight off the last remnants of your cold or flu, here are some common herbs that help boost your immune system, speed the healing process and help prevent you from getting sick again.

Herbal medicine is an ancient healing art with profound effects on the human body. Plants contain unique constituents that can both boost and balance your immune system. They can either stimulate the immune system by directly fighting against viruses, bacteria and fungi or they can modulate and nourish the immune system to enhance the body’s own natural defenses.

Here are my top 5 picks of common plants that can help you through the end of this winter season and boost your immune system into the Spring.

1. Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)

Elderberry is a wonderful herb that helps increase circulation and improve oxygenation of tissues to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to fight off infection. Elderberry is also considered a relaxant and helps relieve spasmodic coughs, making it an excellent remedy for croup and coughing in children. The berries and flowers are high in flavonoids, which have an antimicrobial action within the body and helps strengthen cell membranes to prevent viruses from sticking around.

2. Peppermint leaf (Mentha piperita)

Peppermint leaf contains vitamin C, calcium, B vitamins and potassium to help give your immune system an extra boost. Peppermint is traditionally used as a remedy for fever and chills, which may be partially explained by its paradoxical cool taste and its stimulating and warming after-effects within the body. It also fights against microbes and helps sooth the digestive system, making this tea ideal for the flu.

3. Thyme leaf (Thymus vulgaris)

Although thyme is native to the Mediterranean, it grows very well here and has become a common addition to any local herb garden. Thyme leaf tea is an excellent cough remedy. It helps the lungs expel excess mucus and helps to sooth inflamed lung tissue. Thyme has a powerful detoxifying and penetrative effect due to its volatile oils, which helps to open pores and thin mucus.
It is also considered an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory for the lungs, and has shown to be an effective traditional remedy against powerful infective organisms like typhoid and diphtheria. Today, thyme is used for postnasal drip, whooping cough in children, sore throats, common colds and bronchitis.

4. Sage leaf (Salvia officinalis)

Sage is also native to the Mediterranean region and grows well in BC herb gardens. Sage leaf tea is the ultimate sore throat remedy. It has a specific action towards soothing inflammation of the throat, and helps to break up mucus formation. It also contains thujone, a potent antiseptic and antibiotic, which fights against common viruses, bacteria and fungi to assist your body’s immune system and help you recover faster.

5. Osha root (Ligusticum spp)

Osha typically grows in high altitudes along the rocky mountains and cascades, but a less potent relative, the Ligusticum scoticum species, can be found in the forests of BC. The resins within the root relieve congestion by expelling mucus from the lungs and sinuses, and reduce inflammation by naturally increasing your own cortisol production. Osha is best used for cold, flu, sinusitis, influenza, sore throat, and bronchitis. Osha should be avoided during pregnancy.

How to make Medicine at Home

Leaf: the medicinal part of sage, peppermint and thyme are their leaves. In order to make medicine out of the leaves of a plant, you must soak 2 tsp of dried leaves, or a small handful of fresh leaves, in 1 cup hot water for at least 15-20 minutes, just as you would do for any tea.

Root & Berry: the medicinal part of elder is the berry and for Osha is the roots. In order to make medicine out of these parts, you must put 2 tsp of finely chopped roots/berries into 1 cup of water, bring this to a boil, and let simmer for at least 20 minutes. since roots are tougher than leaves, they need to be boiled, this process is refer to as a decoction.

If you feel that you need additional support, I would love to work with you to help boost your immune system and help you reach optimal health and wellness! You can find me at Local Health Integrative Clinic on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Yours in Health,

Dr. Fiona