To clarify that, the immune system is not an organ rather a composition of certain specialized cells and chemicals that act like frontline workers when a harmful foreign substance enters the body. The foreign substances (referred to as antigens) can be microbes such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi or harmful environmental contaminants like heavy metals, allergens etc. Once the body recognizes the antigens, the immune system takes appropriate action by generating an immune response to either eliminate or neutralize the antigens.Interestingly, the immune system is subdivided into two categories based on the function: innate and adaptive immunity. It is believed that both types are closely integrated and work together to trigger an immune response. The innate immunity (non-specific) generates an immune response irrespective of germs or other substances that have entered the body. It mainly uses immune cells like natural killer cells and phagocytes (eating cells) to battle against any antigens. On the other hand, the adaptive immunity (specific or learned) produces antibodies to fight against the antigens that had already been encountered by the body. In other words, the immune system makes memories of the previous attack and the antibodies easily fights off re-entering antigens (4). By understanding the mechanism of immune system, it is time for all of us to focus on maintaining a powerful immune system to combat deadly infections and major diseases within ourselves.
The familiar ones…
Many of us are familiar with the terms cold and flu. Have you ever noticed how long they last or what caused it? The pathologists say cold and flu are usually caused by respiratory viruses like rhinovirus and influenza virus in humans. Most people are estimated to recover within 7-10 days with or without treatment. Although both illnesses have similar symptoms but flu symptoms are often worse than the common cold. This is the reason behind getting a flu shot or any antiviral treatments at least once a year to prevent the infection. There are times when people misuse antibiotics as a cure to viral infections. The antibiotics are effective only towards bacteria, not viruses. Mishandling of antibiotics is one of the major causes of developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria (1). To avoid all these confusions, how about we choose nature’s medicine or less invasive options to fight off infections?
Herbs as medicine
A few centuries ago, modern medication wasn’t the scenario. Our ancestors greatly relied on medicinal herbs to treat themselves. Several thousands of medicinal herbs have been identified to treat various types of illness. This blog will particularly focus on some herbs that are useful in boosting the immune system to combat infections in a natural way.
Remedies with ancient history
We are slowly heading towards winter. Due to seasonal changes many of us have already experienced cold or flu. Several researchers from the past were focused on using medicinal herbs like elderberries, echinacea and even medicinal mushrooms as natural alternatives to treat symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections and to boost the immune system. This is because of the fact that these plants and their parts are packed with beneficial bioactive compounds that have the ability to modulate and enhance the immune system. Let us discuss more details about them in the following section.
Elderberry, Echinacea, and Medicinal Mushrooms
Several clinical studies have shown that elderberries have the potential to strengthen the immune system by reducing the duration and effects of cold & flu. Elderberries are highly composed of flavonoid glycosides, phenolic compounds, and anthocyanins. These bioactive compounds act as antioxidants and regulate the production of cytokines such as interleukin 1, interleukin 6, TNF ⍺ (Tumor Necrosis Factor-Alpha). The cytokines are the chemical messenger molecules that signal the immune system to generate an immune response when there is a threat. For example, a study was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of elderberry extract in 312 air travelers. The elderberry treatment groups were given 2 capsules/day for 10 days before and after travel and others were given placebo (inactive look-alike substance). The results showed that the treated group has a shorter duration of the cold episodes and less average symptom scores than the placebo group (2, 6, 7).
Echinacea, another herb, is traditionally known to treat common colds, coughs, bronchitis, upper respiratory infections, and urinary tract infections. Studies revealed that echinacea contains bioactive substances like alkamides, phenolic compounds, polysaccharides that are necessary to activate the phagocytosis (cell eating) process of foreign cells entering the body. It is suggested that they also have the potential to enhance the immune system by performing immunomodulatory activities like fighting against oxidative free radicals (damage the cells) and cancer cells (5).
Likewise, mushrooms are much appreciated for culinary purposes but traditionally have been used as medicine to treat several infections and diseases especially cancer. They are rich in biologically active compounds like polysaccharides ⍺ & 𝛽 glucans, terpenes, proteins, phenolic compounds and many others which are involved in modulating the immune response, fighting against free radicals, and tumor cells (8). They are also known to inactivate and block the multiplication of the virus entering the body. Several clinical studies showed that they are effective against upper respiratory tract infections like cold and flu. Therefore, the higher the intake of mushrooms, the lower the pathogens attacking the immune system (3).
Immune boosters by Grand Health®
From the above discussion, we now know that the immune system plays a potential role in maintaining a healthy life and it is necessary for all of us to take care of this wonderful system. Next time when you get a cold or flu, just don't worry, “Grand Health® Super Immune Complex and Echinacea + Elderberry Tincture will be your best solution. Grand Health® Super Immune Complex contains a cocktail of beneficial mushrooms like Agaricus blazei, cordyceps, maitake, red reishi, shiitake, turkey tail, Antrodia cinnamomea, whereas the Echinacea + Elderberry Tincture contains the extract of organic echinacea and elderberry complex. These products are formulated with all-natural, organic and fully vegan ingredients, which will enhance your immunity. Moreover, these products also provide support to people with weakened immune system, assist those involved in chemo and radiotherapy treatments, and of all others to maintain a healthy immune system. Try these products to get the maximum benefits out of it and enjoy the holidays infection free. For more information, visit https://www.grand-health.com/.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Common cold: Protect yourself and others. https://www.cdc.gov/features/rhinoviruses/index.html. Accessed November 29, 2021.
- Curran, K. Fending Off the Common Cold with Black Elderberry April 14, 2016| In Nutritional Therapy, Nutrition, Chinese Herbs, Blog, Seasons, Health, Western Medicine, Plant Based Medicines. https://www.chinesemedicineliving.com/blog/fending-off-common-cold-black-elderberry/. Accessed November 30, 2021.
- Gut, A. H (2021). Immune-Boosting Properties of Medicinal Mushrooms. https://www.lifeextension.asia/magazine/post/immune-boosting-mushrooms. Accessed December 03, 2021.
- org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. How does the immune system work? [Updated 2020 Apr 23].Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279364/
- Kumar, K. M., & Ramaiah, S. (2011). Pharmacological importance of Echinacea purpurea. International Journal of Pharma and Bio Sciences, 2(4), 304-314.
- Mahboubi, M. (2021). Sambucus nigra (black elder) as alternative treatment for cold and flu. Advances in Traditional medicine, 21(3), 405-414.
- Tiralongo, E., Wee, S. S., & Lea, R. A. (2016). Elderberry supplementation reduces cold duration and symptoms in air-travellers: A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Nutrients, 8(4), 182.
- Venturella, G., Ferraro, V., Cirlincione, F., & Gargano, M. L. (2021). Medicinal mushrooms: bioactive compounds, use, and clinical trials. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 22(2), 634.