A girl's quest to live on the greener side.

10 Natural Immune Boosters (+Elderberry Syrup Recipe)

natural immune boosters

By: Ariana Palmieri


It's so important to stay healthy when the cold weather comes around. Our immune system can take a serious beating during this time of year, and with all of us crammed inside, germs spread like wildfire. That's why I decided to create this list of 10 natural immune boosters: These natural remedies are sure to keep you healthy all winter long. As an added bonus, I've also included the recipe for elderberry syrup (a powerfully delicious immune booster) at the bottom of this article. Feel free to check it out immediately by scrolling all the way down.


You can try one, or a combination of them, depending on what you like. I'm no doctor, but I have learned a lot about natural living through thorough research and experience. With that said, make sure you are living a balanced life: One immune system booster won't do anything for you if you're stuffing sugary sweets down your throat and sitting on the couch all day. On top of incorporating one or two immune boosters into your life, be sure to stay on a healthy diet, squeeze in some exercise and wash your hands often. This will help you avoid getting sick all the better. Also, make sure you get in plenty of rest and relxation: Believe it or not, too much stress can lower your immune system! Now without further ado, here are 10 natural immune system boosters your body will love.



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1. Fire cider

Ah yes, fire cider. This potent (and I do mean potent) herbal tonic is designed to produce natural antibiotic, anti-fungal, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory activity in the body. I've written about it on my blog in-depth before (check out my fire cider recipe), so I won't get too into it here. That said, I will warn you: It needs to be fermented so it takes a while to make. That, and it's very smelly (I told you it was potent!), so it's not for everyone. Still, it's one of the most powerful natural immune boosters on this list!


2. Elderberry syrup

Elderberries have been used for thousands of years to prevent colds and flus. Even Hippocrates himself (labeled the "father of medicine") used elderberry because of its wide array of health benefits. Nowadays, people take it most in syrup form, though you can also drink elderberry tea. Elderberry syrup is an easy, tasty way to get vitamins A, B, and C into your body. It's also great for kids, seeing as it's delicious and sweet. Want to try creating your own? Check out my elderberry syrup recipe at the end of this post. Scroll down now if you want it ASAP (I'll understand)! 


3. Rosehip tea

One of my personal favorites, rosehip tea is what I start to drink when I feel a cold coming on. That's because rosehips are loaded with 50% more vitamin C than an orange! As many of us know, taking high amounts of vitamin C regularly can help reduce the severity and frequency of colds. Since rosehip is a potent source of vitamin C, it only makes sense that it helps keep sickness at bay. It's also a great source of vitamin A, which is another immune system booster (protects you from bacterial and viral infections). My suggestion? Start sipping that rosehip tea every morning! It's slightly tangy, but mild and delicious.


4. Reishi mushroom

This mushroom is often referred to as the "queen healer mushroom". That's because it's great for not only your immune system, but longvity and stress relief. As mentioned in my introduction, stress can seriously take a toll on your immune system, so keeping it down is vital for your health. According to Chinese medicine, reishi is an essential ingredient to a healthy life: It promotes calmness, balance, inner awareness and inner strength. Its been used to improve meditative practices and attain both a healthy and long life. As far as immune support goes, reishi mushrooms contain beta-glucans, one of the most effective and powerful natural immune boosters we know of. By increasing the amount of beta-glucans in your body, you can ward off a vast range of potential diseases. You can eat regular, whole reishi muhrooms in meals, or try taking it in powder form. If you take it in powder form, try adding it to hot chocolate, milk, tea, or even plain old warm water. You can also add powdered reishi into soups, stews, smoothies and raw chocolates as a "secret" healthy ingredient.


5. Echinacea

Echinacea is revered for its powerful immune system protecting properties. I love taking it in tea form (Yogi makes some amazing teas that use echinacea in them - always helps me ward off a cold). One time, when both my parents were sick I drank two cups of tea infused with echinacea in order to make sure I didn't get sick either. Low and behold it kept my immune system strong and healthy enough to ward off whatever my parents had (thank gosh). That's because echinacea cuts the chances of catching a common cold by 58 percent. It also reduces the duration of the common cold by almost one and a half days. So if you are currently sick, it can help you feel better a lot sooner (and who wouldn't want that?). Try taking 1 to 2 cups of echinacea tea a day as soon as you feel a cold coming on, during a cold, or as a preventative measure altogether.


6. Essential oils

Did you know certain essential oils can actually help ward off sickness? It's true: Some to consider investing in are oregano, orange, tea tree, frankincense, and eucalyptus. Each essential oil is good for a specific ailment. Oregano essential oil is known for its anti-fungal, antibacterial, antiviral and anti-parasite compounds. Pure (not diluted with a carrier oil) orange essential oil is loaded with vitamin C (try putting a drop under your tongue when you're sick).  Tea tree essential oil is anti-microbial, anti-viral, and a great decongestant. Frankincense is an expectorant as well as anti-microbial. Eucalyptus is also an expectorant and decongestant that's anti-viral and great at fighting colds and flus. When you're feeling sick, try adding one (or a combo) of these oils to a humidifier and breathe it in to enjoy the benefits. You can also combine a few oils in a dark blue or amber bottle and waft the bottle under your nose, inhaling deeply three to four times a day. 


7. Chaga mushrooms

Remember when I mentioned the beta-glucans present in reishi mushrooms? They're present in chaga mushrooms too: The beta-glucans in chaga help to activate our immune cells or macrophage defense systems. This helps both the surface immune system as well as the stem cells deep within the bone marrow reserve. Pretty cool, right? This only further supercharges and activates various other immune cells such as natural killer cells (NK cells) and T cells. Think of chaga as a weapon station for your soldiers (aka immune cells) inside your body: It buffs them out and makes them even more formidable than before. I've never tried chaga myself, but I know several people who swear by it (including several of my Instagram followers!). It's definitely on my list of natural immune boosters to try.


8. Honey lemon garlic ginger tonic

I cannot recommend this combination enough: Honey, lemon, garlic and ginger work so well together! Obviously I don't advise taking it if you're vegan, but all of these ingredients together make one powerhouse of an immune booster. It's great if you need a really quick immune booster that has a similar potency to fire cider, but you don't have the time to make fire cider. Try it and you will not be sorry. Just take some warm water, and squeeze some lemon into it. Then, add some grated  (or powdered) ginger and a pinch of garlic powder to it. You don't need much, trust me. Add in some honey for sweetness (I recommend at least 3 to 5 big spoonfuls) and drink up! This stuff is amazing for dealing with colds. If you have a cold, down this at least once a day to help shorten the duration of your cold.


9. Ginseng

Ginseng is one of the most powerful herbs for immune support around. Did you know the Asian varieties of ginseng can fetch as much as $1,000 or more on the market? My father is close friends with someone who practices Chinese Medicine and he says for a really good ginseng root, you might even be paying $25,000 or more! That's because there is such a huge demand for it, but only so much ginseng in the world. Ginseng is widely renown for its immune boosting properties. It's an adaptogenic herb that supports physical endurance, mental clarity, and has antioxidant properties that suport heart health. It's completely safe to consume (as long as you don't overdo it - my dad emphasized this because he speaks from experience!) and you should always look for the Asian variety, Panax Ginseng, for the best quality. Make sure to buy from a trusted, well-respected company, as there are many disreputable manufactures who may sell adulterated ginseng or less than was advertised.


10. Water

Plain old water is one of the often overlooked natural immune boosters. While water is "nothing fancy", it's certainly not to be taken for granted. Drinking plenty of water helps flush toxins out of our bodies. When toxins stay trapped in our bodies (either from external exposure or ingesting them), we are more prone to getting sick. Our defenses are down and our body can only handle so much. That's why it's important to get at least 8 cups of water in a day. That said, everyone is different, and you may need more or less water per day. Here's one way to tell if you're drinking enough: Look at your pee. It may seem weird, and kind of gross, but your pee can actually tell you a lot of things. If your pee is dark or bright yellow, you need to drink more water. If it's a pale yellow, or completely clear, you're well hydrated. If it's cloudy, that could be a sign of infection. Make sure you use this as a guide to how well hydrated you are throughout the day. The better hydrated you are, the less likely you are to get sick! 

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Elderberry Syrup Recipe

natural immune booster

This recipe is absolutely delicious and oh so simple to make. All you need is dried elderberries, honey and cinnamon for a tasty immune boosting syrup. It totally beats nasty over the counter syrups for colds and flus. Kids love it too! You can use it medicinally or drizzled over pancakes, desserts or waffles. 


Ingredients:
  • 2/3 cup of dried black elderberries
  • 3 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 cup of raw honey (can be subbed with favorite natural sweetener to make vegan)
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder (can be subbed with cloves)

Directions:
  1. Pour water into a medium saucepan and add the dried black elderberries and cinnamon.  Bring it to a boil and then cover it and reduce it to a simmer. 
  2. Let it sit for 45 minutes to an hour until the liquid is reduced to almost half. Then, remove it from heat and let it cool. 
  3. Mash the berries using a spoon (be careful and don't burn yourself) or other flat utensil. Pour it through a strainer and into a glass jar (mason jars work well). 
  4. Compost the elderberries and let the liquid cool before adding the honey (or other natural sweetener such as maple syrup or agave) to it. Stir it well and store it in the fridge.

How to use: For the best results, take at least one spoonful daily for an immune boost.  For kids, let them have 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon. For adults, 1/2 tablespoon to 1 tablespoon is fine. If you catch a cold or flu, take the normal dose every 2-3 hours instead of once a day to promote a speedy recovery. 

What are your favorite natural immune boosters? Let me know in the comments below!

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