No one likes uninvited guests at their place to rest or stay. Similarly, even the human body does not approve of foreign bodies or pathogens like bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites resting inside it.
Most of the time the body tries to reject the foreign bodies from entering but sometimes the body is not capable of doing so and hence these enter inside it and give rise to some infections.
One such system in our body that helps to fight against the entry of such organisms is the Immune system. The immune system guards our body against harmful organisms from the external environment and is important for survival.
The immune system is comprised of different organs, cells, tissues that work together to protect our body from these foreign organisms.
Without the presence of the immune system, the human body would be easily exposed to harmful pathogens present in the environment and could lead to crucial or life-threatening diseases.
Our immune system needs to carry out some responsibilities so that a human being can live a healthy life. The responsibilities are as follows:
- Recognize the harmful substances and organisms from the environment.
- To neutralize these harmful pathogens like bacteria, fungi, viruses, or parasites that have entered the body and eliminate them from the body.
- Fight against the body’s cells that have altered due to a certain illness like the cancerous cells.
As our immune system is constantly keeping an eye on these foreign organisms there are fewer chances that a person may fall ill. But every human being does not have the same kind of immune system. Some people may never fall sick as they have a good immune system, whereas some seem to fall sick all the time due to a poor immune system.
Immune systems are of three types:
- Innate Immunity: Every person is born with this type of immunity and it’s natural. This type of immunity is for overall protection.
- Adaptive Immunity: This type of immunity is active and matures throughout our lives. The lymphocytes are involved in this process and develop when a person gets exposed to a disease or immunized against disease through vaccination.
- Passive Immunity: This type of immunity as the name suggests is borrowed from other external sources. This kind of immunity does not last for a long time.
Most importantly, the cells which help in destroying the disease-causing organisms are the white blood cells (WBCs) also known as the leucocytes.
How do these help in fighting foreign organisms?
As soon as an antigen (a foreign substance that enters a body) is identified numerous types of cells start working together to spot and respond to them. All these cells trigger the B-lymphocytes to produce antibodies that are specialized proteins and lock onto the specific antigen. Once these antibodies are produced they remain in the person’s body forever.
If the person encounters an attack of the same antigen again the antibodies which were already present in the person’s body will start to react and remove that particular antigen from the body.
As everyone has different immune systems, some people can suffer from various disorders of the immune system. These disorders fall into these four categories:
- Immunodeficiency disorder (this is a primary disorder or it’s acquired).
- Allergic disorders (the immune system reacts excessively in response to the antigen).
- Autoimmune disorder (The body’s immune system attacks its tissues treating it as foreign matter).
- Cancers of the immune systems.
In spite of being a complex system most of the time the immune system protects the body from harmful infections but some people have a weak immune system and are prone to frequent infections. Some people suffer from immunodeficiency disorders which can range from mild to severe, can be present from birth or may fall prey to environmental factors. For example HIV, certain types of cancer, malnutrition, etc.
People whose immune system is weak often get infected by pneumonia, bronchitis, meningitis, autoimmune disorders, diarrhea, inflammation of the internal organ, etc.
Autoimmune disorders include rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and systematic lupus erythematous.
Looking at the above difficulties or complications related to the immune system one should always try to boost their immune system to stay away from all these infections caused by some external organisms. Boosting the immune system is not an easy task as it’s not a solo entity. It needs complete balance to function well. Well to boost our immune systems, nowadays there various supplements available in the market which has the ingredients that can improve the immune response.
More commonly Ayurvedic supplements are available more as the contents present in them are natural and do not cause any side-effects. Herbal ingredients are always safe to administer and show a decent result for the same.
Let’s have a look at some herbs that help in boosting the immune system:
Immune Boosting herbs
1. Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)
These are brightly pigmented berries that provide both antioxidant and immune support, due to the natural concentration of Anthocyanins. Anthocyanin is a flavonoid that is found even in raspberries, blueberries, and bilberries. The supplement contains this fruit and it’s consumed in the early phases of the seasonal changes to support the immune functions. A teaspoonful of Elderberry syrup can fight flu-like symptoms and help people with sinus pains and provide relief.
2. Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)
It is also known as purple coneflower. Most commonly the aerial parts of the plant are known for their immune promoting properties. Echinacea is an antiviral and antibacterial herb. This herb contains polysaccharides which increase the body’s production of white blood cells which in turn fight the infections. It is mainly used to support acute and continual immune health. Echinacea is available in extract and tablet form so it becomes easy for daily consumption.
3. Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous)
It is the most well-known herb in Chinese medicine that provides good immune support while helping the body in adjusting to daily stress. The root of this shrub helps to boost the resistance to infections and also regulates the body’s immune response. This powerful medicine is sweet and delicious and useful during cold and flu season. If this herb is added to a bowl of soup it can help fight fatigue and boost the immune system. Tincture of this herb is also available and can be used daily.
4. Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata)
This plant is used to avoid influenza and calm digestive issues, liver conditions, sore throats, and fever. This herb also has detoxifying properties that cleanse the blood and strengthens the immune system to combat infections.
5. Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
The root of this plant reduces inflammation and its antimicrobial property fights against bacteria and fungus making it a key immune-boosting food. Ginger root helps to soothe nausea and motion sickness that is experienced during chemotherapy sessions. Ginger also aids in circulation and heat generation in the body. Freshly grated ginger is used to make tea during cold climates and acts as a perfect cold and cough remedy. Ginger is easily available as ginger ale, capsules and candy form. Ginger should be avoided if a person is consuming blood thinners or aspirin.
6. Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
It is a natural antioxidant and a powerful antimicrobial herb. It contains some phytochemicals that support the body’s natural resistance. Oregano is effective in treating bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections and makes it a great immune-boosting herb. Oregano is used as a seasoning in Italian dishes like pizzas and minestrone. Volatile oils from oregano help support the healthy microbiome in the intestines.
7. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
It is the most important and beneficial herb that is used for treating different health conditions. It boosts and modulates the immune system. When consumed, it increases the number of pathogen-fighting agents and also reverses the ill-effects of the anti-cancer drugs on the immune system.
8. Sage (Salvia officinalis)
It is an aromatic plant that has green leaves that are a bit fuzzy to touch. When fresh, it is fragrant and flavorful. It has been learned that this herb has memory-enhancing effects and may also be capable of boosting mood. It also has anti-bacterial properties which can be useful when the body is fighting off unwanted bacteria. Most commonly used to garnish vegetables, pork, or poultry.
9. Garlic (Allium sativum)
The bulb is the most common cooking ingredient found in every household. It is readily available and can be added to every diet and compliments many flavorful dishes. It is considered a powerful fighter for the immune system. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities are supported by Allicin which is a potent sulfur compound that is found in garlic. Garlic can help in reducing the severity of cold and flu symptoms which in turn stimulate the immune system and help to produce more cells that fight off invading bacteria and viruses.
10. Medicinal Mushrooms
Mushrooms are being used for thousands of years to increase longevity. The medicinal mushrooms have strong immune-building properties. The most commonly used medicinal mushrooms include Shiitake (Lentinula edodes), lingzhi (Ganoderma lucidum) and Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris). The mechanism of action of mushrooms is different from other immune-boosting tonics. Instead of energizing the immune system, the mushrooms help to organize and trigger the specific immune cells to function better. When the mushrooms are dried they are hard to digest and blend in and so are recommended to be taken as a strong broth or tea.