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Herbs & Spices to Help Support a Healthy Immune System
By Joe Boland
September 21, 2023
As summer fades and the new school year begins, everyone not only thinks about getting back to the everyday routine, but also how to help maintain a healthy immune system, which is important year-round.
The best way to do that is by having and maintaining a healthy immune system, and an overall healthy diet and lifestyle, including proper hygiene and more, are fundamental. You can also consume more herbs and spices in your diet, especially those that help support a healthy immune system.
Lucky for you, there is no shortage of spices and herbs that do just that thanks to the array of antioxidants and beneficial compounds so many of them hold. Keep reading to learn all about the top spices and herbs that support a healthy immune system.
Of course, you should always consult your healthcare professional prior to beginning any new dietary or lifestyle regimen, including herbs, spices and dietary supplementation.
The main way in which spices can support a healthy immune system is due to their antioxidant content. As we know, antioxidants help combat free radicals in the body, which in turn helps keep your body in tip-top shape.
In fact, research published in Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal concluded that "substantial evidence suggests that consumption of a healthful diet, inclusive of herbs and spices, may promote a healthy immune system."
This is because these herbs and spices contain a wide variety of bioflavonoids, phytonutrients and other bioactive compounds that can give them some healthy immune system-supporting benefits.
Like supplements that support immune system health, herbs that support a healthy immune system can offer other benefits as well thanks to their array of micronutrients they provide. They’re especially effective if you include some of the following spices for supporting a healthy immune system on a regular basis, making an effort to consume some combination of them every day if you can.
Here are top spices and herbs (including herbal supplements) for promoting a healthy immune system:
Researchers have identified at least 41 different beneficial compounds in cinnamon, which we all know as one of the most popular spices in the world. Thus it is unsurprising that, according to the former ORAC scale (which was used in the past to measure the concentration of antioxidants in foods), cinnamon is in the top 10 of all foods in antioxidant density.
Thanks to these antioxidants, which include polyphenols, phenolic acid and flavonoids, cinnamon is a powerhouse in supporting a healthy immune system.
There are myriad ways to add cinnamon to your diet, whether it’s adding it to coffee, using it to add a burst of flavor to dishes or including it in baked foods. For example, try this Raspberry Swirl Sweet Rolls recipe, a twist on the traditional cinnamon roll.
Another popular spice, ginger, is loaded with nutrients that support a healthy immune system. For instance, gingerol is a potent antioxidant that joins with the other bioactive compounds in ginger to provide an array of benefits. In fact, it's believed that ginger's warming effects help cleanse the body, which in turn benefits a healthy immune system.
Try this Ginger Turmeric Tonic recipe to take advantage of these healthy immune system-supporting compounds.
Speaking of turmeric …
One of the most powerful herbs on Earth, turmeric derives many of its benefits due to its main active ingredient, curcumin. Curcumin works like an antioxidant in the body and can even help with promoting healthy detoxification, making turmeric a remarkable herb that supports a healthy immune system.
In fact, research published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences reveals that turmeric has a major positive impact on a healthy immune system.
Echinacea is full of chemical constituents that have been shown to help promote a healthy immune system, according to some scientific research. The roots of the echinacea flower have high concentrations of volatile oils that offer their own health benefits, but the parts that grow above ground hold more polysaccharides, which are the main compounds thought to support a healthy immune system.
Some of the top compounds in this herb that supports a healthy immune system include oils, flavonoids, inulin and vitamin C. Drink a cup of echinacea tea, or add the extract to recipes to take advantage of this spice’s health benefits.
Good for more than just a pizza topper, oregano is definitely a spice that supports a healthy immune system, mostly thanks to its antioxidant compounds, such as carvacrol, limonene, terpinene and thymol. It also has an extremely high ORAC score, showcasing its antioxidant load.
You can use oregano in just about any recipe. Try some of the following:
Known as an adaptogen herb, holy basil supports healthy immune system function, as shown by some research. Its concentration of phytonutrients provide many of its benefits, namely:
It’s also good for the respiratory system and other bodily systems thanks to its compounds. Get the benefits of holy basil in this Vegan Smoothie Recipe with Plant Protein or Detox Drink Recipe with 6 Cleansing Ingredients.
Another adaptogen, ashwagandha has a long history of use as a spice that supports a healthy immune system. It’s been used for more than 2,500 years and has been extensively researched, unearthing its numerous healthy immune system-supporting properties, including:
All these compounds can help benefit the body. You can take Organic Ashwagandha to take advantage of ashwagandha supplement benefits, or you can try some decadent (but good-for-you) treats, such as Chocolate "Cookie Dough" Vegan Protein Balls, Vegan Fudge with Plant Protein and Superfood Homemade Fudgesicles.
Several scientific studies have verified that elderberry supports a healthy immune system, which is one reason why it's been used for thousands of years, and both its flowers and fruit offer beneficial elements.
Elderberry flowers contain an essential oils made up of free fatty acids and alkanes, and beneficial compounds like triterpenes alpha- and beta-amyrin, ursolic acid, oleanolic acid, betulin, betulinic acid, and a variety of other minor components have been identified in them.
The fruit, meanwhile, provides a healthy dose of anthocyanidins, quercetin, kaempferol, rutin and phenolic acids. Plus, elderberry nutrition offers vitamins C, A and B6, along with iron, potassium and other essential nutrients.
Taken together, these compounds make elderberry an herb that supports a healthy immune system. To enjoy elderberry supplement benefits, take an Ancient Herbals Elderberry + Probiotics supplement, make Immune System-Supporting Elderberry Tea.
Joe Boland is content manager and nutrition editor at Ancient Nutrition who has worked in journalism for more than 20 years with a background in sports, health, nutrition and fundraising.