5 Easy, Natural Ways to Boost Your Immune System
This delicious bulb is a staple in nearly any savory dish – but it’s also an anti-microbial powerhouse. A 2014 review compared a placebo group and a group of people supplementing with garlic during cold season, and the results were hard to dispute: nearly three times as many people in the placebo group ended up with colds. Most likely, the active element here is allicin, an organosulfur compound found in garlic that boasts some impressive antimicrobial qualities. While more data is needed before we can call garlic the cure to the common cold, adding some roasted garlic to your pasta sauce isn’t exactly a burden on your taste buds. If you just can’t stand garlic, oregano oil has been shown to have similar properties.
Avoiding illness doesn’t just mean taking care of your sinuses and gut. It also means taking care of your skin—especially any broken skin, where infections can take root and compromise your immune system. Naturopath, Lia Sonnenburg, is a huge fan of medical-grade Manuka honey applied topically for treating beat-up skin, and research backs her up. A 2011 review explains that honey has antimicrobial and wound-healing properties. “The healing property of honey is due to the fact that it offers antibacterial activity, maintains a moist wound condition, and its high viscosity helps to provide a protective barrier to prevent further infection,” the authors Manisha Deb Mandal and Shyamapada Mandal explain. Research published in 2012 showed that honey can help inhibit Streptococcus pyogenes, which is how most skin-related infections begin.
Tea tree oil is another topical antibacterial option for those looking for something a little more natural to keep skin in check—and infections at bay. A review of studies on tea tree oil’s applications explained that when applied topically, tea tree oil is both antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. Use sparingly to help dry out acne, ingrown hairs, or even fungal infections like athlete’s foot.
Echinacea is often disputed as a potential cold-cure, but many studies provide evidence for its cold-preventing and fast-healing properties, and it’s one of the most recommended herbs for staying healthy throughout the year. The University of Maryland Medical Center city studies, explaining that a review of 14 clinical trials found that echinacea reduced chances of catching a cold by a whopping 58 percent, and decreased the duration of a cold from four days to one. Just watch where you’re buying your herbs: it’s been shown that many cheaper versions often don’t contain the herbs the claim to!
One of the best ways to avoid getting hit hard by a cold is by keeping your gut flora in tip-top shape, and for many of us, a probiotic can help. A 2012 study conducted on mice showed that in order to boost the immune system, a specific set of microbiota in the gut was necessary; otherwise, the immune system was compromised. And in 2013, one study showed certain strains of probiotics have been shown to reduce the number, duration, and severity of upper respiratory tract infections and gastrointestinal distress in athletes. So those people who never get sick? They might just be making friends with bacteria. You can find probiotics in fermented food and drinks and yogurt—or in a convenient pill form.