Whether it’s as a result of a head cold, flu or other contagious illness, we always want to support our immune system so that we can get back to feeling healthy again more quickly.
Cooking with a variety of herbs for immunity support is an easy and natural way to infuse your diet with health-promoting ingredients. It’s also a great way to enjoy delicious food! Keep reading to discover the best herbs for immunity to add to your diet.
Exercise, Diet, Stress, and Immunity: How Your Immune System Works
Understanding how your immune system works is an important part of keeping it healthy. The immune system works to protect the body from foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. When something threatening enters your body, your immune system kicks into gear to fight off the threat.
When trying to maintain a strong immune system, there are three key things to focus on: exercise, diet, and stress. Let’s take a closer look at how each of them impacts your immune system.
- Exercise: One of the best things you can do for your immunity is to be physically active. Regular exercise helps to increase the production of infection-fighting cells and reduces inflammation throughout the body.
- Diet: The foods you eat have a big impact on your immune system. Be sure your diet includes lots of whole grains, organic fruits and vegetables, and spices and herbs for immunity protection as these foods are full of nutrients—including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants—that help keep your immune system strong. Avoid processed, packaged, and sugary foods as much as possible as these can weaken immunity.
- Stress: Stress, and especially chronic stress, hinders your immune system by causing inflammation throughout the body. Make sure to find ways to manage stress in your life in order to keep your immune system functioning properly.
By taking care of yourself and following these simple tips, you can keep your immune system strong and healthy!
Increasing Your Immunity Naturally with Herbs and Spices
A healthy diet plays an important role in your health—both your physical and mental health—and in keeping your immune system strong. Nutritious foods can reduce your susceptibility to infections and provide the nutrients you need to maintain a powerful and protective immune system.
Plants are an essential part of a healthy diet. In addition to vitamins and minerals, many plants are rich in compounds such as antioxidants and polyphenols which have a range of health benefits. In general, herbs and spices are obtained from plants and contain many plant parts, such as leaves, roots, stems, seeds, or berries.
Throughout history, herbs and spices have been used not just for flavoring, coloring, and preserving food, but also for numerous nutritional and medicinal purposes. As a result of their many health-promoting properties, herbs and spices have proved valuable in the treatment of viral, bacterial, and fungal infections, inflammatory diseases, wound healing, and even cancer.
Generally, herbs and spices contain little or no calories, sodium, fat, or cholesterol. A diverse and balanced diet that contains spices and herbs for immunity protection is one of the keys to a healthy and active lifestyle.
A List of the Must-Try Spices and Herbs for Immunity Support
Herbs are nature’s way of helping to keep our bodies healthy and our immune systems strong. Many different kinds of spices and herbs have been shown to be helpful in boosting immunity, and each one has its own unique benefits.
Here are some of the best spices and herbs for immunity:
Spices for Immunity: Garlic
Garlic has long been used to fight colds and flu. Garlic is especially effective in boosting immunity as it contains allicin, a compound that has been shown to increase the production of white blood cells to help fight off bacteria and viruses.
Add garlic to your cooking in almost any dish for a burst of flavor and great health benefits!
Spices for Immunity: Ginger
Ginger is a spice with potent anti-inflammatory properties. It can help to ease nausea and vomiting and may also help to reduce inflammation throughout the body. Ginger can also help increase your immunity by stimulating immune cell activity. It also contains compounds that can help to fight off viruses and bacteria.
Ginger tastes great in soups and stir fry and makes a delicious tea.
Spices for Immunity: Turmeric
Turmeric is a warm and flavorful spice that has been used traditionally in Indian and Chinese medicine for centuries. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and antioxidant effects. It can help to improve your immune function and fight off infections helping your body produce more white blood cells.
Turmeric tastes wonderful when added to chicken and lamb dishes, rice, quinoa, or couscous, or as a tea.
Spices for Immunity: Cayenne Pepper
The active compound in cayenne pepper is capsaicin, an ingredient with powerful medicinal properties. Capsaicin has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and immunostimulatory effects. It can help to ease pain, break up congestion, and boost your immunity.
Cayenne pepper will add an explosion of flavor to dishes as varied as meatloaf, tacos, fish, pasta, and many more.
Spices for Immunity: Ceylon cinnamon
Cinnamon has a long history of being used as a spice to flavor food. Cinnamon also has powerful anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal properties that naturally help your immune system fight off illnesses. While there are several types of cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon is the one to look for because of its great flavor and lower level of coumarin, which is toxic in higher doses.
Cinnamon is easy to add to your diet in a variety of ways. Sprinkle cinnamon on your favorite foods, add it to your baking, or mix it into your oatmeal.
Herbs for Immunity: Echinacea
Echinacea refers to a group of flowering plants that have numerous health benefits. Echinacea has been used for centuries to treat the common cold, respiratory illnesses, and coughs. It is thought to help stimulate the immune system and fight off infections. Studies have found that when taken as soon as cold symptoms develop, echinacea extracts can help decrease the duration and severity of those symptoms.
Echinacea can be added to soups and is often made into a tincture or tea.
Herbs for Immunity: Ginseng
For many centuries, ginseng has been used in traditional Chinese medicine. This herbal root is thought to improve energy levels and help fight off infection.
Ginseng can be grated and added to soups and stir fry, or powdered ginseng can be added to baked recipes or teas for a boost of flavor and health benefits.
Herbs for Immunity: Rosemary
Rosemary is an herb that has also long been used in traditional home health remedies. Rosemary contains antioxidants and compounds that have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and immunostimulatory effects. Rosemary can help to protect against infections while also boosting your immune system.
Rosemary is a very versatile herb and can be added to all sorts of main dishes and sides. It pairs well with chicken, fish, lamb, and beef, potatoes and rice, biscuits and other baked goods, and many kinds of hot and cold drinks.
Herbs for Immunity: Oregano
Oregano is a powerhouse immune booster. Oregano contains potent essential oils, which are known for their antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. One study found that oregano oil is effective in fighting clinical strains of E. coli and P. aeruginosa bacteria, supporting the use of oregano oil in treating bacterial infections.
Oregano is an all-purpose herb that tastes great added to soups, pasta dishes, any type of meat, and all sorts of side dishes and vegetables.
Herbs for Immunity: Mint
Mint is full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that keep you healthy. It is especially rich in vitamin C which helps your immune system produce more white blood cells and fight infections. Mint is also one of the great herbs for immunity which are easy to grow. Plant some in a pot and keep it on a sunny windowsill to have fresh mint year-round.
Like rosemary, mint is an herb that can be added to many types of recipes. From main dishes to desserts, you’ll find lots of ways to include mint into your diet.
Herbs for Immunity: Thyme
Thyme is another one of the best herbs for immunity support. Known for its antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties, thyme is great at fighting off infections and colds. Thyme is also known for its calming properties and for easing an upset stomach.
To get more thyme in your diet, try adding it to vegetables, soups and stews, and all kinds of meat dishes.
Herbs for Immunity: Chamomile
Chamomile is an ancient medicinal herb that contains many antioxidants and other compounds which help boost your immunity. It’s been used to help treat a variety of illnesses and conditions including hay fever, insomnia, pain, inflammation, and muscle spasms.
Chamomile has a delicate flavor and is frequently added to desserts, candies, and teas.
Herbs for Immunity: Sweet Basil and Holy Basil
Basil is one of the best herbs for immunity and is easy to grow as well. Basil is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and is rich in antioxidants which boost your immune system and keep you healthy. It also aids in digestion, keeps your gut in balance, and supports liver function.
Basil is a mainstay of pasta and tomato dishes. Grow a pot of basil on your windowsill and you’ll have plenty of fresh leaves to add to all your cooking.
Herbs for Immunity: Sage
Sage is loaded with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants making it a potent herb to boost your immunity. Sage’s anti-inflammatory properties help with a myriad of ailments from preventing Alzheimer’s to lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Studies have also shown that sage can boost your immune system and increase your response to viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens.
Sage pairs perfectly with poultry of all kinds. Add it to chicken and turkey dishes, stuffing, potatoes, and fall vegetables such as butternut squash and pumpkin.
Easy-to-Grow Herbs for Immunity
Many of the herbs for immunity on our list come from the same plant family. The Lamiaceae plant family is also known as the mint family. These plants can be found worldwide and have a common characteristic of aromatic foliage.
Many of the easiest-to-grow herbs for immunity come from the mint family. These include:
All of these plants do well in pots on a windowsill. They tend to grow quickly and need little more than regular watering, well-drained soil, and full or partial sunlight. These plants don’t require fussy care and will fill your rooms with fresh scents and be ready for you to pinch off a handful of leaves to add to your cooking.
Cooking with Herbs: Tips for Including Herbs in Your Diet
Herbs are great for adding flavor to your food and improving your health at the same time. Including herbs for immunity in your diet is easy, and there are many ways to add them in. Here are some tips for cooking with herbs:
- Use fresh herbs whenever possible. They have more flavor than dried herbs and can really brighten up a dish. Additionally, fresh herbs have a better vitamin content.
- If you’re using dried herbs, rehydrate them before adding them to your dish by soaking them in water for a few minutes
- Chop or crush herbs before using them, to release their flavor.
- Add herbs at the end of cooking, so they don’t lose their flavor and retain more of their nutrition.
- To store fresh herbs, wrap them in damp paper towels and keep them in the fridge. Most herbs wrapped this way will last for a week or two.
- Freeze fresh herbs if you want to keep them longer. Chop them up and put them in an ice cube tray with a little water, then freeze.
Herbs for Immunity: The Bottom Line
Herbs and spices are a great way to naturally boost the immune system. By including them in your diet, you can help keep your body healthy and fight off illnesses and infections.
Our guide has included just a few of the many different herbs that can be helpful in boosting immunity. A diet rich in plant-based foods is key to a healthy and holistic lifestyle. By incorporating more herbs in your cooking you’ll not only explore wonderful and delicious flavors, but you’ll also be adding numerous health benefits.
If you’re looking for more ways to strengthen your immune system, we’ve created a list of twenty-one of the best immune-boosting foods to include in your diet.