BBC radio asked my opinion on at-home remedies to boost the immune system. Take a look at some of the insights I shared. Which tips will you try?
Since the pandemic, there has been a real focus on immune health and how we can each optimise this. BBC radio asked me to discuss what nutritional remedies people can implement at home to enhance natural immunity. As this is something many people want to know, I thought I would put my recommendations down in writing too.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet with a large variety of plants is a great way to actively help your immune system. But if you’re looking for specifics, give these foods a try!
Supporting the immune system
I love the elderberry tree as it delivers immune-boosting berries just in time for winter and flowers ready for spring (scroll down). Elderberries are packed with antioxidants, which support your immune system and reduce inflammation. They can be very helpful in fighting cold and flu symptoms.
Elderberries are easy to make into a syrup to then take directly or add to hot water for comfort. Many recipes for syrups recommend adding sugar, however, I suggest avoiding that step and adding ginger or cloves for extra immune support.
From the same Elder tree, elderflowers that arrive in spring are a natural antihistamine. Isn’t nature amazing! Histamine is a chemical made by the immune response; it triggers inflammation and can be the driver of allergy symptoms – runny eyes, sniffly nose anyone?
Elderflower is a natural remedy to help reduce histamine levels in the body and support a reduction in symptoms too. You can dry and steep elderflowers to make yourself an immune-boosting tea. Make sure you shake off any bugs and avoid collecting in heavily polluted (roadside) or sprayed (non-organic farm) locations.
Not only is manuka honey an antioxidant, but thanks to a compound called methylglyoxal (MGO), it has antimicrobial properties too – fighting bacteria, viruses and fungi.
The amount of MGO in manuka honey is shown by the honey’s Unique Manuka Factor (UMF). The higher this rating, the higher the antimicrobial properties. Look for manuka honey with a minimum rating of 10 UMF. Manuka honey is great for sore throats, upper respiratory infections, fungal infections, and dressing wounds. However, it’s important to note that children under one should not be given manuka or any other honey.
This is a species of flower commonly called Coneflowers. It is thought to positively impact the immune system and fight infections such as a common cold. To get the full benefits, it’s important to use echinacea at the first signs of illness – tickly throat, itchy nose – as it’s less impactful once symptoms begin to develop. The compounds that give Echinacea its immune-boosting properties are mainly found in the root of the plant, so make sure you get the benefit of this part of the plant.
Inflammation from immune responses
Turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon (my favourites)
Spices are great to add to meals to enhance the flavours. Although turmeric has a strong colour the flavour is actually mild in comparison.
One of my favourite ways to enjoy the benefits of these spices is as a latte with an unsweetened nut or coconut milk. I recommend these specifically as dairy can be inflammatory. Oat milk can be sourced locally but often have inflammatory oils added and are higher in sugar.
Rosemary, oregano, chamomile and yarrow
Whether they are fresh or dried, include more of these herbs in your cooking to get the most out of their anti-inflammatory and immune-supporting effects. As we tend not to use many herbs at one time we can often overlook their potent potential but they really do pack a punch in flavour and health benefits – all year round!
Immune remedy wives tales
The BBC radio host asked me to shed some light on a few old wive’s tales around foods for the immune system. With any home remedies, there is a lot of debate about what actually works. While some ingredients (as listed in this blog) are genuinely helpful to your immune system, there is definitely some slightly rogue advice out there!
- Vicks Vaporub on your feet and wrapping them in aluminium foil. This is thought to help cold symptoms. Vaporub might help decongest your airways when applied to your chest but on your feet? Aside from the fact it contains petrolatum (which makes it a no from me) I’m also not keen on using aluminium need the skin either.
- A slice of onion and socks on during the night. Anecdotal evidence says this can be helpful in fighting cold or flu symptoms. It could be worth a try but the BBC host and I agreed it was a bit of a passion killer so I’ll be sticking to the ideas I’ve provided in this blog.
If like me you do find the night times during an illness are the worst part, I use a diffuser with added essential oils such as cedarwood for soothing a dry throat, and eucalyptus oil for blocked noses.
So, can home remedies really help your immune system fight an illness? Absolutely!
What we put into our bodies ultimately feeds how they function, and that includes immunity. Aside from this advice take a look at my previous blogs on seasonal fruit and vegetables as this is a great consideration when supporting overall health and at times of illness.
If you are seriously ill, always seek professional medical advice.