We hear more and more about the adverse effects medicines have on our body. They clear and heal one thing, but then upset the balance on another. With this in mind, we try to figure out ways to stay as healthy as we can: we eat a balanced diet; we exercise; we develop a social network for our spiritual, emotional, and intellectual well being; and we steer away from dangerous situations.
What else can we do?
We can turn to natural remedies to strengthen our immune system and heal our body when necessary.
Our immune system is a conglomerate of cells, proteins, organs, and tissue that work together to keep our body safe from germs and other organisms that cause illnesses. The white blood cells are the fighters in this grand system. As a faithful army they “combine to seek out and destroy the organisms or substances that cause disease.” http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/body_basics/immune.html
However, at times, this army needs reinforcements. There are natural ways to help our immune system regain strength. As nature provided us with an immune system, nature has also provided us with herbs that can help it gain strength and remain strong.
The following are five teas that have been recommended to boost our immune system:
Echinacea (Echinacea): this herb has been thought to be a strong stimulant of the immune system for a long time. It works by activating chemicals, found in our body, that reduce inflammation. To use, pour a cup of boiling water on an Echinacea tea bag. Let it sit anywhere between 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the bag and drink. There are no known effects during short term use; however, there are not enough studies on use over an extended period of time.
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus): there are no known side effects accompanying the usage of this herb. As with Echinacea, this herb as been associated with improved function of the immune cells. Take one bag and let it sit in hot water for about 3 to 5 minutes. Discard the bag and enjoy the tea.
Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng): this tea seems to work by protecting the body from free radicals’ damage. There are several types of ginseng, so make sure you use the Panax ginseng. This herb is known to affect positively numerous organs of the body.
Cat’s Claw (Uncaria tomentosa): this tea is also know for working as an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant. As with the other teas, there are no known side effects when used for a short period of time. The suggestion is to use 1 gram of tea in one cup of boiling water and letting it sit for about 20 minutes.
Kombucha Tea (Fungus Japonicus): known for its immune system boosting properties, this tea is actually brewed after a week of fermentation in a solution of vinegar, apple cider, water, black or green tea, and sugar. One word or warning: this tea needs to be fermented and brewed in absolute sterile conditions and using the correct containers. Please follow the link and educate yourself on possible side effects this tea may have http://www.anahatabalance.com/kombucha_warning.html.
Note that although these are herbal teas, they might interact with any medicine already in use. Also, there are certain teas that are not recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing and individuals with certain medical conditions.
Before starting to use any of the above mentioned teas, check with your family practitioner. Many are knowledgeable about herbal teas and herbal remedies to give proper advice.
You can also visit the following website http://www.rxlist.com/supplements/article.htm. It lists alphabetically herbs and other natural supplements, giving information to origin, uses, side effects, and dosages.
Robert Somerville, ed., The Alternative Advisor (Alexandria: Time-Life Books, 1997)