Ashley Adamant at Practical Self Reliance has compiled a list of twenty immune-boosting herbs and mushroom to help stave off illness.
Natural immune-boosting herbs work to support a healthy immune system, ideally preventing illness or speeding recovery. Staying healthy starts well before flu season, and all of these herbs for the immune system can play a helpful role.
Immune-boosting herbs are a big part of my families’ wellness routine, and we need all the help we can get with a doorknob licking toddler and extra snuggly preschooler in the house.
Even before children, natural immune boosters were a regular part of our lives. I worked in a hospital, and my husband flew cross country regularly for work. While handwashing and other preventative measures are obviously the first step, sometimes you need a bit of extra help when you’re surrounded by sick people on a day to day basis.
Just recently, I found myself making a batch of our favorite herbal immune booster…elderberry syrup. I’d harvested fresh elderberries in our garden that we’d grown from cuttings, and I started looking around for other herbs for the immune system to add into the mix. A short walk around the garden and nearby woods and I’d picked more than 20 different immune-boosting herbs, flowers, roots, mushrooms, and lichen.
Add in a stop at the spice cabinet for immune-boosting spices like ginger, black pepper and garlic and I had quite the spread to choose from…
(Note: I am not a clinical herbalist or healthcare provider. This is based on my own experience and research, but I encourage you to verify it with other sources. Please consult a healthcare provider before beginning any health regimen, herbal or otherwise.)
Herbs for the Immune System
Herbs for the immune system generally fall into three categories:
- Immune Stimulants ~ Generally used for a short period of time, immune stimulants are best used on a short term basis. The best time is right as you’re starting to get sick, or anytime you’ve been exposed to an illness. Those times when someone coughs right on you, or you’re about to go on a long flight where there may be extra pathogens in the recirculated air. Examples include Echinacea and usnea lichen.
- Herbal Immunomodulators (or Immune Tonics) ~ Often used over a long period of time, immunomodulators are tonics for the immune system. They’re not meant to be overtly healing during acute illness, but rather to help balance your system and promote a healthy immune response. Examples include tulsi (holy basil) and reishi mushrooms.
- Anti-Microbial Herbs ~ While they may not directly impact the immune system, they’re helpful in treating illness and maintaining health. While prescription antibiotics have their place, minor illnesses (or injuries) can be treated with anti-microbial herbs instead. Some are specifically antifungal (for topical issues) while others are more generally antimicrobial. These disserve an article in their own right, and I’ll cover them briefly at the end.
While these three classes of herbs are somewhat different from each other, the terminology often gets mixed, even in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Some, in fact, fall in multiple categories. The main thing to keep in mind is that not all herbs are for long term use and not all herbs for the immune system will have a direct impact if you’re already sick…(continued)