The Ins and Outs of Immunity-Boosting Herbs

Ever wonder what is it about Echinacea that helps fight colds? Or why practitioners often recommend elderberry? Anne Salazar-Dunbar, herbalist and lead practitioner at our La Jolla store, tells us about these immune-boosting herbs.

Echinacea
Echinacea’s ability to boost the immune system’s performance has been extensively documented over the years. Research suggests that the presence of polysaccharides in echinacea help prevent viruses from entering the cells, and its alkaloids are active in fighting bacteria and fungal infections. According to the Mayo Clinic, some studies have shown a significant reduction in the severity and duration of cold symptoms when echinacea is taken in the early stages of a cold.

Elder
Most commonly seen as elderberry, a variety of preparations can be made from the elder plant. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, parts of the elder tree have long been used for pain, swelling, infections, coughs and skin conditions. Elder contains ursolic acid, which helps reduce inflammation in the body, especially with reference to the respiratory system. Different formulations can help tone the mucosal lining of the inner nose and throat—increasing resistance to infection in those areas of the body—or even help reduce the severity of allergic reactions.

Astragalus
Chinese medicine links astragalus to an ability to warm and tone the wei qi, or the protective energy that circulates in the human body just beneath the skin. As such, astragalus can help the body quickly adapt to external influences and changes in temperature, leaving it less vulnerable to the elements. Similar to ginseng, astragalus also helps energize the body, strengthening its ability to resist cold and flu. Astragalus has also been extensively researched in cancer patients, and seems to help patients recover more quickly from the side effects of chemotherapy.

Wild Indigo
This herb features anti-microbial and immune-stimulating properties, and is especially beneficial in quelling upper-respiratory infections. It’s also thought to help fight against lymphatic disorders, and in combination with an herb like Echinacea, to cure chronic viral conditions.

Speak with a practitioner at Pharmaca about how different herbal remedies can help you this cold and flu season.