Ever since my son went back to school this fall, I’ve been fighting off one germ after another. After suffering through several bouts of germ warfare, I realized that I better get busy boosting my immune system, so it would have a fighting chance to keep me in better health this winter.
I started out with some of my favorites- Echinacea, Ginger, Vitamin C, Raw Honey and Garlic and then started researching more ways I could go about strengthening my immune system with supplements. I discovered the wonders of Astragalus, Apple Cider Vinegar, Flax Seed Oil, Pau D’Arco, and Aloe Vera.
I am now feeling much healthier these days, after rebuilding my health with these healing elixers and don’t run away scared when I hear someone coughing or sneezing nearby.
If you want to stay healthy and create a strong defense against every germy bug that comes your way, keep reading…
The Best Immune System Boosters And Why They Work:
Why It Works: Strengthens the immune system by increasing the number of T Cells, macrophages, white blood cells and lymphocytes which fight off invading pathogens.
How To Take It: Only take echinacea when you are feeling those first telltale symptoms of a cold or if you’ve been recently exposed to other people who are sick. Do not take echincaea for more than 5 days in a row- it loses its effectiveness. The best way to take Echinacea is in tincture form. Just put the suggested amount of tincture drops in a cup of tea, juice or water. Make sure you test for potency by putting a drop of tincture directly on your tongue. It should give you a slight stinging sensation, which indicates that it’s potent. You can also take Echinacea in pill form or find it as a loose tea and make a healing tea at home.
Why It Works: It’s common knowledge that taking extra vitamin C when you’re sick decreases the length and intensity of your illness. It’s also a strong antioxidant, antiviral and acts as an antihistamine.
How To Take It: One of the most convenient ways of getting extra Vitamin C when you’re sick is to have some Emergen-C on hand. It’s a powdered, Vitamin C drink that comes in individual packets that turn into an effervescent drink when water is added to them. You can also take your C in pill form (be wary about chewable Vitamin C tablets- they damage your teeth!) or by drinking plenty of OJ or eating Vitamin C rich foods- citrus, papaya, strawberries, tomatoes etc…
Why It Works: Raw Honey contains 5,000 live enzymes, a full range of vitamins, 22 amino acids and 27 minerals. It is a powerful antioxidant, antiviral, contains natural antibiotics, stimulates the immune system into action and helps to fight respiratory conditions- especially when combined with apple cider vinegar.
How To Take It: There’s a wide selection of raw honey available at health food stores. (My personal favorite is Organic Hawaiian Lehua Honey by Garden Of Life- it tastes amazing!) If you suffer from frequent hay fever or allergy related illnesses, local raw honey will help. A teaspoon full of raw honey will keep keep your immune system and taste buds happy. If you add it to your tea, make sure that you wait until your tea is lukewarm, so you won’t get rid of the live enzymes, vitamins & minerals. Raw honey and lemon juice are an excellent cure for scratchy, sore throats.
Something Important To Remember: Raw honey is never clear, like that over processed honey that comes in those plastic honey bears. Be sure to hold the jar up to the light and take a look. If it is truly raw, it will be opaque and thick. Many beekeepers try to sell honey as “raw” even though they heated it up to 130 degrees, which kills off the live enzymes and most of the vitamins & minerals present in raw honey! Honey is at its best when it is truly raw.
Why It Works: Garlic not only keeps vampires (and boyfriends) at bay, but also effectively fights off invading viruses and bacteria, stimulates the immune system and increases white blood cell activity.
How To Take It: If you’re brave and don’t care if your breath stinks, then eat garlic fresh and raw- you will receive the greatest health benefit from ingesting it in this way. If you’re like most of us, you’ll want to peel and chop up several garlic cloves and sautee them in some olive oil a bit and add it to soup or use it as a salad topping. If you don’t like the flavor of garlic, there are plenty of garlic capsules available- look for odorless ones, so you won’t be burping up garlic fumes all day long.
Why It Works: Astragalus is an excellent immune system booster. It increases the production of T-cells and macrophages that scavenge the body looking for viruses and bacteria that don’t belong, they surround and kill it off. Astragalus also increases levels of interferon, which restricts the reproduction of viruses. Studies have shown that people who took Astragalus still have elevated levels of interferon even two months after they stopped taking it.
How To Take It: It is available in capsules and tinctures. Unlike Goldenseal and Echinace, Astragalus is safe to use on a daily basis, to rebuild and strengthen the immune system.
6.Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
Why It Works: Raw Apple Cider Vinegar balances out your body’s ph levels to be in a healthful, alkaline state. Colds and viruses thrive in a body that has acidic ph levels…and have a hard time getting a foothold in a body that is alkaline. Raw Apple Cider Vinegar has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties and is rich in vitamins, minerals and trace elements.
How To Take It: Do NOT purchase regular, grocery store apple cider vinegar! It has been overly processed ,exposed to harsh, toxic chemicals and has no therapeutic value. Buy the Organic, raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar- the best brand is by Bragg. Put 1 to 2 tsp. into an 8 oz glass of purified water. If the sour flavor is too intense, you can mellow it out with a tsp. of pure maple syrup or honey. Drink this 3x a day- morning,noon and night.
7.Flax Seed Oil
Why It Works: Flax seed oil is rich in Omega 3 oils which help maintain good health in almost every part of the body. It has 50% more Omega 3’s than fish oil, without the fishy aftertaste. It also contains Omega-6 and Omega-9 essential fatty acids, B vitamins, potassium, lecithin, magnesium, fiber, protein, and zinc.
How To Take It: It’s important to purchase a high quality, organic, unfiltered, cold pressed Flax Seed Oil, for the greatest health benefits. My favorite brand is Barlean’s- it has a light, mild taste compared to other brands. Take 1 to 2 tsp flax seed oil per day. You can add it to salad dressings or put it on top of cottage cheese or popcorn. You can also take it in capsule form. Make sure you purchase it in a dark amber or black bottle, that protects the capsules from being exposed to light, which can make the oil turn rancid. Refrigerate both the capsules and flax seed oil after opening to increase shelf life.
8.Aloe Vera Gel
Why It Works: Strengthens the immune system, is a powerful antioxidant, detoxifies and cleanses the bloodstream and digestive tract, is anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal, stimulates the production of white blood cells, is anti-inflammatory, promotes liver health, helps to put the body back into an overall state of balance, enhances absorption of medication, vitamins and minerals, contains six antiseptic agents, nineteen amino acids, twenty minerals and twelve vitamins.
How To Take It: There are several brands of Aloe Vera Gel you can find at health food stores. DON’T buy the aloe gel that is used on the skin for sunburns though-it has chemicals added to it and is NOT meant for internal use. Look in the supplements section and purchase a pure, organic brand- my favorite is LILY OF THE DESERT. Take 1-2 ounces of it either straight, mix it with some juice or blend it into a smoothie.
Why It Works: Pau D’Arco is a powerful natural antibiotic, a potent antioxidant, an immune system builder, fights off viral and bacterial infections, cleanses and detoxes the blood.
How To Take It: You can find it in health food stores as tea (loose and in tea bags) in capsules or tinctures. The tinctures are the easiest way to take it- just add the recommended drops to some tea or juice. Take it for up to 3 days when you’re feeling sick.
Why It Works: Ginger is a strong antioxidant, anti-microbial, a natural anti-biotic, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, helps ease the pain of a sore throat, decreases congestion, gets rid of chills and fever, promotes circulation, cleanses the blood, relieves indigestion and nausea, contains Vitamins A, C, E, B Complex, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Sodium, Iron, Zinc, Calcium, Beta-Carotene and Potassium.
How To Take It: You can find fresh ginger root in the produce section of most grocery stores. Peel and grate a section and boil it in a pot of purified water for 15 minutes. Add some honey and fresh lemon juice and you will have a great tasting medicinal tea. Ginger is also available in a candied crystallized form and in capsules.
One last but not least thing- taking supplements to boost your health is not some magic ticket that allows you to abuse your body with poor food choices without consequences. Lucky Charms for breakfast, McDonalds for lunch and pizza for dinner is going to make your body weak and vulnerable to disease, no matter how many health supplements you take to try and counteract it. It is far easier to stay healthy when you eat a nourishing diet of whole grains, lean protein, fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, remember to take a daily multi-vitamin and limit your intake of alcohol, sugar and processed foods, if you want your immune system to be running in tip top shape.
- Dr. Andrew Weil, 2006, Eight Weeks To Optimum Health, updated edition, New York, Knopf
- James A. Duke Ph.D., 1997,The Green Pharmacy, Pennsylvania, Rodale Press