Spring is here and that means so are stuffy noses and annoying coughs. With seasonal changes we are more susceptible to becoming ill. A good way to avoid being under the weather is to keep the immune system strong. The immune system is the line of the defense for the body and is what keeps us healthy. There are many ways to boost immunity from essential oils to minimal exercise. Keeping the immune system healthy isn’t a one time job, it takes work and requires different methods to keep it in top shape. Great ways to boost your immunity include essential oils, herbs, food and vitamins.
Using essential oils to boost immunity is an excellent way to ensure you stay healthy through seasonal changes. These essential oils are some that have great immunity properties; Spearmint, Balsam Copaiba, Sweet Orange, Rosalina, Clary Sage, and Tea Tree. Of course there are more oils that can improve immune system but these six oils have specific properties which are for the immune system.
Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
This essential oil has a great scent but also contains the chemical carvone. Carvone is part of the ketone functional group and possesses antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Carvone is abundant (62.85%) in Spearmint. Using a little Spearmint (1 drop per 5 ml) in a massage oil or 3-4 drops in a diffuser for 20 minutes twice per day is a great way to boost the immune system as it helps to loosen and expel mucous and cool and reduce fever.
Copaiba Balsam (Copaifera langsdorfii Desf., Copaifera officinalis)
Copaiba Balsam is rich in β-caryophyllene (65.7%), a chemical with biological activity that helps improve immunity. β -Caryophyllene is part of the sesquiterpene functional group and can be useful immunostimulant as well as having antiviral properties. It is also used to relieve general aches and pains that accompany illness. It can be used in massage oil and diffuser blends and pair well aromatically with Roman Chamomile, Cedarwood, and Jasmine.
Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis)
When it comes to boosting immunity d-limonene, a monoterpene gets the job done. Sweet Orange essential oil is rich in d-limonene (96%) containing more than Lemon essential oil (65%). Limonene-rich oils are an excellent general tonic for the immune system. They are also wonderful decongestants, are antibacterial and effective antioxidants making very efficient for boosting immunity. The aroma of limonene-rich oils is bright and pleasant and can add a little sunshine to the otherwise gray outlook that comes with illness.
Rosalina (Melaleuca ericifolia)
Rosalina is in the Melaleuca family and is also known as Lavender Tea Tree. Rosalina is rich in linalool (35-55%), a monoterpenol. Linalool is commonly found in Lavender in smaller amounts (approximately 37%). Linalool is wonderful in combating airborne microbes making it a useful addition to air mists/spray and for blends used in vaporizers and diffusers. Linalool also helps to relax the nervous system encouraging much needed rest. Consider blending the pleasant-smelling Rosalina with Lavender, Lemon, and Tea Tree. Blending these oils and using in a diffuser for 20 minutes twice per dayis an excellent way to boost the immune system.
Clary Sage (Salvia sclerea)
Rich in linalyl acetate (50-75%), an ester, Clary sage essential oil is great for balancing the body and allowing it to function properly. The bioactive properties of linalyl actate include, but are not limited to, reducing pain and inflammation, fighting bacteria, relaxing the nervous system and stimulating the immune system. This essential oil is also nice for improving mood by lifting the spirits. Clary Sage blends well with Lavender, Cedarwood, and Bergamot.
Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)
Tea Tree essential oil contains terpinen-4-ol (30-80%), a monoterpenol that is highly antibacterial and antiviral. Terpenin-4-ol also helps to boost white blood cells, hence improving immunity making Tea Tree essential oil a “must have” in the medicine cabinet. Use the oil during seasonal changes in a diffuser or environmental spray mist.
Essential oils aren’t the only way to help the body to help itself improve immunity. Another great way to improve the immune system is through the use of herbs.
We have been using herbs to improve immunity for centuries. Plants are one of the oldest and purest ways to improve the body. Two herbs that can improve the immune system are Ginseng and Echinacea.
Ginseng (Panax Ginseng)
Ginseng root is known for its immune building properties. Extracts from the stems, leaves and mostly the root have shown to maintain homeostasis of the immune system. The root of the herb also increases resistance to illness and microbial infections. The way Ginseng does this is by boosting the immune system functions. Macrophage activity increases when Ginseng is consumed. Macrophages are a type of white blood cell that will consume foreign substances. Increasing macrophage activity will put the body on alert allowing it to combat foreign substances more efficiently. Ginseng can be consumed in many forms, pills, powder, and tea. When buying Ginseng products it is important to note what parts of the plant are being used and what percentage of the product is actually Ginseng. Looking for a product label to ensure that the whole plant is used. If the whole herb isn’t being used then the benefits of Ginseng may not be as effective.
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)
Echinacea is one of the most popular herbs, especially in the United States. Echinacea, when used preventatively is great for reducing cold symptoms. The herb itself is great for boosting immunity, as it contains chemicals derived from the root; such as polysaccharides, flavonoids, chicoric acid, polyacetylenes and alkylamides. The root contains high levels of volatile oils which are odorous compounds. An example would be isobutylamide, an alklymide that provides taste and smell of Echinacea. As for the plant portion it has polysaccharides which set off activity in the immune system. Polysaccharides release TNF (tumournecrosis factor) which will increase the levels of macrophage interlekin-1 and interferon beta-2. Alkylamide and chicoric acid will also boost immunity by stimulating phagocytosis. The chemicals in Echinacea stimulate phagocyte activity improving the body’s health and wellness.
These are just two of many herbs that improve immunity, however they are the two that are most readily available.
Food and vitamins
Incorporating certain foods and vitamins into the diet is another way to increase immunity. Great foods to introduce into the diet would be garlic, red bell peppers, broccoli, and ginger. Garlic helps increase immunity by having sulfur-containing compounds such as allicin. Allicin is a organosulfer compound that has antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiviral activity. Red bell peppers are high on vitamin C and is a great source of beta-carotene. Vitamin C maintains skin health and prevents colds, while beta-carotene helps maintain proper eye health. Broccoli is a great food with vitamins A, C and E. This vegetable is also loaded with antioxidants which helps prevent certain types of cell damage. Finally ginger has similar effects as it contains vitamin C. In addition, ginger has the added benefit of helping the body to reduce cholesterol. This plant contains many vitamins and minerals such as; thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, iron, and magnesium. The combination of these vitamins and minerals allows the body to reduce cholesterol and maintain a balanced immune system.
Vitamins provide a great impact when comes to supporting the immune system. The foods listed above have the necessary vitamins to help boost the immune system, but they can also be consumed in pill form as well. Some of the best vitamins for boosting immunity are vitamin A, C, E and B12.
Using a combination of essential oils, herbs, food and vitamins can be a very effective way way to improve immunity. Keeping a strong immune system is a year long task and requires many different ways to keep it healthy.
By Bryant Hernandez, Student Health Administration