Herbs to Boost Your Immune System in the Winter
Sun-filled summer days have drawn to a close and we are now faced with preparation for the long winter months. We spend hours preparing our homes and farms for winter. We dig out sweaters and scarves, fill coops with straw, and cut and stack wood. But are we preparing our immune system for winter?
Sure, we all are on high-alert for washing hands and covering those sneezes, but what can we do to lessen the illness or prevent it altogether? A few simple implements could make a big difference. Help boost your immune system naturally with our list of herbs this winter.
Does winter lower the immune system?
The short answer: Yes!
Our bodies were created to be in nature. We were fully fabricated to take in the needed nutrients from our surroundings, and one of the things that we must have to thrive is sunshine. When winter creeps in, we tend to hibernate and not soak up those rays like we did in the summer. The consequence? Our immune system suffers. Without sunshine, our bodies struggle to make enough vitamin D. Vitamin D is a must-have for fighting infection, and we become more vulnerable without it.
Eating Well to Boost Immune System
Another hit we take is the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables. We spend our summer knee deep in fresh produce, and work non-stop to can, dry, and freeze our bounty for the winter. Unfortunately, it does lose some beneficial properties. If you are looking for a way to continue to get fresh produce through the winter months, consider raising cold tolerant vegetables. Vegetables can also be grown in a greenhouse, or even in pots in the house through the winter!
Does Staying Warm Increase the Immune System?
Remember Grandma telling you not to go outside with wet hair or you’d catch a cold? Well, while Grandma might have been wise – there is still a lot of gray area on what impact temperature actually has on our immune system. What we do know is that our bodies have amazing internal temperature regulation. Our bodies also know what parts are the most critical to sustain life.
When we expose ourselves to extreme cold for long periods, our body moves the blood inward, to keep our internal organs warm. While this seems trivial, it actually can hurt our immune system, by triggering a stress response. We are forcing our bodies to distribute heat to keep us regulated and it takes away from the ability to fight infection. Insulating yourself by bundling up reduces work the body must do, allowing it to battle away germs.
Staying warm will also help fight infection. When we are sick, and we stay warm – our bodies speed up on a cellular level. It allows us to battle sickness more quickly. This is one reason our body kicks up that internal thermostat and we get a fever. Viruses and bacteria thrive at body temperature – but not much warmer.
How Can I Strengthen My Immune System?
The easiest way to boost your immune system is self-care. A balanced diet, plenty of water, rest, and managing stress have proven to be effective ways to help your body fight off infection.
Sometimes we need a bigger boost. Life gets busy, and we get a bit run-down. It can make us more susceptible to infection. Our world is filled with natural options to help us fight off those nasty colds.
Herbs to Boost Immune System
Cold and flu season if the perfect time to use these Immune Boosting Herbs. Because viral infections can’t be treated with antibiotics like respiratory infections can. It’s important we focus on our immune health and do what we can to support our immune function.
Herbal Medicine dates back thousands of years and the herbs we’ve listed have multiple uses. From physical and emotional support to culinary uses and more.
When it comes to fighting on your behalf, this is a front line herb. It works quickly, so if you bumped into that buddy with a cold, it’s a great one to grab out of the cabinet. It also can reduce severity of illnesses, and aid in heading off infection all together. Filled with antibacterial and antibiotic properties, it’s a win-win.
Household favorite! It is the most kid-friendly immune booster we have found. It grows all along the ditches leading to my farm, and is an absolute hero when it comes to battling colds. We start taking elderberry in the fall, and keep it going daily until spring rolls around. It can also be used once an illness has started.
The options for elderberry are endless – but we prefer syrup and gummy form. Both can be easily made from the harvested berries. There are precautions to take when harvesting and preparing the berries, as the stems, leaves, and unripe berries are toxic. Elderberry is becoming more popular and can be found on more store shelves than it was before. Try to avoid the brands that add in extra junk. Just elderberry and a little sweetener go a long way.
Elderberry Recipes for You to Try
- How to Make Elderberry Syrup for Immune System Support ~ Mountain Rose Herbs
- Elderberry Jelly Recipes ~ Common Sense Home
We enjoy consuming garlic daily for immune support. Not only is it great for your overall health, but it tastes amazing in recipes.
A powerful antibiotic and antiseptic vegetable that is easy to work into your diet. Fresh garlic can be added to most any meal. It is easy to grow, harvest, and store. Garlic also can be pressed and added to carrier oil, which adds to its versatility. Also act as a blood thinner.
Essential Oil Herbs to Boost Immune System
Eucalyptus, Tea-Tree, & Peppermint are my go-to essential oils for supporting the immune system.
Essential oil fans, this is the immune boosting trio. Diffused or rolled on, these oils can help fight and prevent infection. Also work well as household disinfectants. Peppermint tea is another option for a warm pick-me-up.
While this one is the least palatable, it also boasts some of the strongest antioxidant properties. Oregano is a warrior when it comes to preventing and fighting infection. Bonus: It’s a great anti-inflammatory.
Before You Use Herbs to Boost Your Immune System…
Naturally boosting your immune system is an easy preparation for the cold winter months. However, it may not be for everyone and there are reasons to speak to a medical professional before altering diet or adding in herbal supplement:
Interactions can occur between prescription pharmaceuticals and herbs. Herbs can also increase or decrease the effectiveness of certain drugs. Your pharmacist should be able to answer any questions you may have.
Pregnant or Nursing Women
As you know, when pregnant, your baby has a direct line to most everything that enters your bloodstream. After birth, if nursing, your baby will still receive some of what enters your body, but though milk. Always speak to a midwife, obstetrician, or medical professional before altering diet or using any herbal supplement (including teas), as they may have adverse effects on pregnancy and infants.
If pregnant or nursing, you’ll enjoy my article The Best Herbs For Lactation And Increasing Milk Supply
While this might sound contrary, those who suffer from autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, should always speak to a medical professional prior to doing anything which might stimulate the immune system.
Herbs to Boost Your Child’s Immune System
With kids going back to school after the holidays and again after winter break, they always seem to bring home the sniffles and cooties. Here are some ways you can help your children stay healthy.
Kill the Airborne Bacteria
During winter when our house is locked up the air gets stagnant, especially if someone in the house is sick with the common cold or flu. With just a couple minutes of your time, I can show you how to make a herbal smudge stick to help kill airborne bacteria.
This is a Guest Post
by Aleshia Garrison
I am a real-life rural housewife, with four amazing children. I am a homeschool momma, a hobby-farmer, and serve as volunteer firefighter in rural southwest Missouri