This is the time of year where colds and flus start to go around. It's cold out; we're inside a lot; we get less sunlight and, therefore, less vitamin D. One of the best ways to reduce your chances of getting sick is to incorporate immune-boosting herbs and spices into your routine. Most immune-boosting herbs are anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and/or antiviral. They are generally high in antioxidants and good for your health in so many ways! You can try cooking with them, drinking them as teas, or taking supplements. It's also wise to make sure you're getting enough vitamin C and vitamin D this time of year, as they, too, help strengthen the immune system.
Here are some of the most common immune-boosting herbs and spices (that are likely already in your kitchen)!
- Garlic: Cooking with garlic is a great way to get more anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial goodness into your diet, but the health benefits are multiplied if you eat garlic raw. If the taste (and smell) of raw garlic don't agree with you, try a garlic supplement.
- Onion: Onion makes just about any savory dish taste better! Cook with it as often as you can.
- Ginger: Another delicious and healthy way to flavor your food! Ginger is great in curries, soups, and stir-fries. Ginger tea is another great way to enjoy its benefits. As a bonus, ginger is also great for digestion, and it can help alleviate stomach pain.
- Echinacea: The classic immune booster! Echinacea is particularly effective if you take it at the first sign of a cold. Try it as a tea, tincture, or supplement.
- Turmeric: When I think anti-inflammatory, I think turmeric. Try it in curries, soups, on chicken, and (this may surprise you) on eggs! Turmeric tea and turmeric supplements are also great options.
- Oregano: Oil of oregano is one of the most powerful plant-based antibacterial/antiviral supplements. As such, it should be used with care. The herb itself, however, can be used liberally to strengthen the immune system and flavor your food! Both fresh and dried oregano add great flavor to chicken, meatballs, sauces, and soups.
- Thyme: Both fresh and dried thyme add a pleasant, almost-lemony flavor to most savory dishes. Thyme also blends really well with lemon, olive oil, and garlic to make a salad dressing or marinade.
- Rosemary: Rosemary essential oil is commonly used as an antibacterial. Using rosemary in your food is a great way to enjoy its health benefits and its delicious flavor. Try it on chicken, lamb, or in soups.
- Cayenne: Add a kick to your food while strengthening your immune system! Cayenne is anti-inflammatory, so if you like spicy food, eat as much cayenne as you can! I especially like cayenne on eggs, beans, and fish.
- Cinnamon: Another great anti-inflammatory spice, cinnamon can also help regulate blood sugar levels, and it's generally soothing for the body. Cinnamon tea is delicious, and warm water with a tablespoon of honey and a teaspoon of cinnamon is an excellent way to treat a sore throat or cough. Cinnamon also adds a richness to savory dishes like lamb, curries, and other middle-eastern inspired recipes.
- Honey: There is some argument as to whether honey is really a good thing for the immune system or not. It does have immune-boosting properties, and it feels great on a sore throat, but it's also high in natural sugars which can weaken the immune system. Still, honey is full of vitamins and minerals, and a little bit is likely beneficial despite the sugar content. Just make sure you use raw, unfiltered honey to make sure all the good stuff is still in there.
- Lemon: Speaking of sugars, lemon is special because it has a lot of immune-supporting vitamin C without the sugar content of other vitamin C rich foods like oranges, strawberries, etc. Lemons are detoxifying as well, so they're great to incorporate into your daily diet. If you have a cough, mix the juice of one lemon with a teaspoon of honey and drink it slowly. It tastes like very sour lemonade, and it soothes the throat.