3 Powerful Immune Boosting Plants for Greater Health and Wellness
BY SORREL DAVIS
elderberry is one of the most potent antiviral herbs on the planet with a substantial body of research to back up its powerfully medicinal, virus fighting and immune boosting effects.
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) is a perennial flowering plant in the Fabaceae family that is native to the grasslands and mountains of central and western Asia, principally in China, Korea, and Taiwan. Also known as huang qi, which literally means “yellow senior,” astragalus is one of the fifty fundamental herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). This antiviral herb has been revered as an essential tonic for more than two thousand years.
Studies have shown that astragalus has natural antiviral properties and stimulates the immune system, suggesting that it may help prevent colds and similar viral infections. In addition to being one of the best antiviral herbs, astragalus is an adaptogen, an herb that increases the body’s endurance and resistance to a range of biological, chemical, and physical stressors. Adaptogens have been found to enhance the immune response, reduce inflammation, and stabilize blood sugar. They also help normalize the functioning of various body systems, particularly the adrenal and pituitary glands, by affecting the action of hormones.
The taproot of the astragalus plant contains antioxidants that protect cells from damage. It’s used medicinally to support the immune system and to help prevent upper respiratory infections, lower blood pressure, treat diabetes, and protect the liver. Along with being a natural antiviral herb, astragalus also has both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and is sometimes used topically in ointments to increase blood flow to a particular area of the body and to speed wound healing.
Researchers in the United States have been taking a look at astragalus, along with other antiviral herbs, as a possible treatment for patients whose immune systems have been weakened or compromised. Studies show that astragalus supplements may assist immunocompromised individuals with speedier recovery and improved longevity. Because astragalus is an antioxidant, it may aid in the treatment of heart disease, helping to lower cholesterol levels and improve heart function. It’s also a mild diuretic, meaning that it can assist the body with getting rid of excess fluid.
As one of the best natural antiviral supplements, astragalus is often used to treat symptoms of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), allergies, anemia, colds, fibromyalgia, flu, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and upper respiratory infections, and to strengthen and regulate the immune system.It’s also used in the treatment of symptoms caused by chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease. Some herbal practitioners prescribe antiviral herbs like astragalus to fight certain viral and bacterial infections, to protect the liver, and as a general tonic.
While astragalus is popular in the West primarily as a supplement to aid sleep, improve energy, and enhance libido, in TCM it is often combined with other antiviral herbs to strengthen the body and help prevent disease. Although astragalus has few side effects, especially at low to moderate dosages, it will interact with a number of other herbs and prescription medications. Because the herb may stimulate the immune system, if you have an autoimmune disease, you should speak with your doctor before taking astragalus.
Where to Get It:
Oregon’s Wild Harvest Organic Astragalus Extract
Oregon’s Wild Harvest herbs offers a high-potency organic astragalus extract for powerful immune boosting and virus fighting effect. Free of all preservatives, fillers and additives, this is pure, high-quality astragalus just as nature intended.
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is native to Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia, but it has become widespread in the United States as one of the most popular herbal antivirals. Sambucus canadensis, also known as American black elderberry, is a species of elderberry native to a large area of North America east of the Rocky Mountains and south through eastern Mexico and Central America to Panama. It is one of the most common natural antiviral herbs in the West.
Elderberry flowers and fruit (berries) have been used in folk remedies for centuries in North America, Europe, western Asia, and North Africa and are widely used in herbal medicine today. Often referred to as “nature’s medicine chest,” elderberry is most recognized for its immune-supporting properties and its ability to fight viral and bacterial infections, making it one of the best antiviral herbs. In the early 1990s, elderberry extract was used to effectively treat flu symptoms during an influenza epidemic in Panama. Currently no satisfactory medication is available that can cure influenza types A and B, but elderberry extract, with its promising clinical trials, low cost, and absence of side effects, could potentially offer a safe treatment as a natural antiviral.Elderberries are rich in vitamin C as well as anthocyanins, one of the most widely studied flavonoid categories. Anthocyanins, which have impressive antioxidant capacities and immunostimulant effects, are the water-soluble pigments responsible for the dark red-purple color found in certain flowers, fruits, and vegetables. The darker the berry, the more anthocyanins are present. Elderberries contain nearly four times the anthocyanins as other commonly consumed berries, outranking blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, and goji berries in total flavonoid content. The anthocyanins and other flavonoids in elderberry, including quercetin, are believed to account for the therapeutic actions of this antiviral herb’s berries and flowers.
Elderberry has been used for centuries along with other natural antiviral herbs to treat wounds when applied to the skin. Some evidence suggests that chemicals in the berries and flowers may have anticancer and anti-inflammatory effects and may help reduce swelling in mucous membranes, including the sinuses, thereby relieving nasal congestion. Herbal practitioners often prescribe elderberry antiviral supplements to treat the flu and other viral infections, reduce inflammation, and boost the immune system. The herb may also be prescribed to treat allergic rhinitis (hay fever), chronic fatigue syndrome, constipation, neuralgia (nerve pain), sciatica, and sinus pain, and to increase urine output and sweating. Elderberry is believed to help combat diabetes; research has shown that extracts of the flowers stimulate glucose metabolism and the secretion of insulin, which may help to lower blood sugar levels.
Sambucol brand products are based on a standardized black elderberry extract. These natural antiviral supplements have proven antiviral properties, especially against different strains of the influenza virus. In fact, Sambucol was shown to be effective in vitro against ten strains of the influenza virus. And in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study, Sambucol decreased the duration of flu symptoms to about three days. In addition to its natural antiviral properties, Sambucol elderberry extract and its formulations have been shown in studies to boost immune function by increasing inflammatory cytokine production, which benefits healthy individuals as well as people with a variety of diseases.Research also suggests that Sambucol could have immunoprotective and immunostimulant effects when administered to patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), cancer, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in conjunction with chemotherapy or related treatments.
Although there are several species of elderberry with antiviral properties, Sambucus nigra and Sambucus canadensis are the ones typically used for medicinal purposes as herbal antivirals. Always use trusted preparations of elderberry because the raw and unripe fruit, as well as the bark, leaves, and seeds, contain a chemical related to cyanide, which is poisonous.
Where to Get It:
Sambucol Black Elderberry Extract
Sambucol offers a research-backed, scientifically tested extract of the antiviral herb elderberry in a convenient, tasty syrup form for easy dosing and maximum bioavailability. Sambucol brand utilizes a unique extraction method for increased medicinal effect and potency.
3. Siberian Ginseng
Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), also known as eleuthero ginseng or eleuthero, has been used for centuries in Eastern countries, including China, Korea, Japan, and Russia, and is one of the most widely used antiviral herbs in the world. Despite being in the same botanical family as American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), and having a similar name, Siberian ginseng isn’t the same plant and doesn’t have the same chemical components. Siberian ginseng’s active ingredients are a complex group of chemicals called eleutherosides, which differ from the ginsenosides found in the Panax varieties of ginseng. This variance in their active ingredients has sparked debate among herbalists about whether Siberian ginseng should even be considered a true ginseng at all. Nevertheless, there’s no debate that it’s one of the strongest natural antivirals.
Siberian ginseng antiviral supplements are made from the root of the plant because the root contains the richest concentration of eleutherosides. Eleutherosides are reported to stimulate the production of interferon (a protein that inhibits virus replication) and enhance natural killer cells and antibody activity. Among the antiviral herb’s other constituents are chemicals called polysaccharides, which have also been found to boost the immune system and lower blood sugar levels in laboratory tests.
Siberian ginseng has been one of the best antiviral herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine for over two thousand years to treat respiratory and other infections, including colds and flu, and increase energy, vitality, and longevity. The herb was also used as a folk remedy for hundreds of years in Eastern Europe. However, it was not until the 1940s that Siberian ginseng became popular in Russia and in other parts of Europe.
Until recently, most scientific research on the antiviral herb had been done in the former Soviet Union. I. I. Brekhman, a Russian physician, is credited with popularizing Siberian ginseng. After studying Korean ginseng in the 1940s, he documented some of its effects on the body and determined that the plant was an adaptogen. But because Korean ginseng was so expensive, Brekhman decided to explore the Russian forests to seek a less costly alternative. He discovered that Siberian ginseng was also an adaptogen and offered some of the same benefits as Korean ginseng, even though it had a different chemical composition.
Over the next thirty years, Siberian ginseng became the focus of many studies on antiviral herbs performed by scientists in the former Soviet Union. Many of the study results are still unavailable in English. However, those that have been translated, as well as more recent studies, have corroborated the benefits of Siberian ginseng as one of the most powerful herbs and natural antivirals known. In the Soviet studies, the herb was found to increase the endurance and performance of athletes, and many famous Soviet Olympic champions included Siberian ginseng as part of their training regimens. In fact, the benefits of Siberian ginseng were so highly touted that Soviet astronauts took the herb into space with them instead of the amphetamines the American astronauts carried. Soviet scientists discovered that Siberian ginseng strengthened the immune system, and it was dispatched to highly stressed workers as herbal antiviral support. Siberian ginseng was also given to individuals who had been exposed to radiation after the Chernobyl nuclear accident.
Siberian ginseng is credited with having antiviral and immune-stimulating properties. It has been shown in several studies to reduce the severity and duration of colds when taken within seventy-two hours of the onset of symptoms. One study found that healthy people who took Siberian ginseng for four weeks had more T-cells, which may indicate that their immune systems were stronger. In a double-blind study of people with the herpes simplex virus type 2, which can cause genital herpes, participants had a reduced number of outbreaks when taking Siberian ginseng antiviral herbs, and outbreaks that did occur were less severe and didn’t last as long.
In many studies Siberian ginseng has been shown to improve physical endurance, oxygen uptake, recovery, and overall performance in a broad range of athletes, from runners to weight lifters. In patients with either low or high blood pressure, Siberian ginseng has been documented to normalize blood pressure. It has also been shown to reduce the general symptoms of stress, protect against gastric ulcers, boost immune system response, increase the activity of lymphocytes and killer cells in the immune system, enhance the body’s overall resistance to infection, and fight the effects of toxic chemicals and radiation on the body, including the side effects of radiation used in the treatment of cancer. All of this, makes it one of the best natural antiviral herbs on the planet.
Siberian ginseng is recommended as an overall strengthener for the body and the immune system. It is considered an effective herbal support for exhaustion, fatigue, and stress. Beyond that, the herbal antiviral is used as an immune and energy booster for people suffering from chronic diseases, such as acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and lupus. Siberian ginseng is also used to assist patients with recovery from anxiety and depression.
Where to Get It:
Gaia Herbs Wildcrafted Siberian Ginseng (Eleuthero Root)
Gaia herbs offers an ultra-high quality, high-potency Eleuthero root (siberian ginseng) extract for maximum immune boosting effects. This is a powerful antiviral herbal formula to rejuvenate the body and mind.
This piece on the best antiviral herbs is excerpted from the book Herbal Antivirals: Strengthen Your Immunity Naturally by Sorrel Davis.
About The Author
Sorrel Davis is a longtime advocate of the healing properties of herbal remedies and a proponent of the adage “let food be thy medicine.” She is also a fan of kite flying, horror films, spicy cuisine, little league baseball, and dancing as if no one is watching.