Immunity refers to our body’s ability to fight off infections, illnesses, and viruses. Having a strong immune system not only makes you less likely to get sick, but it also means that if you do get sick, it is likely to be less severe.
Immune responses are controlled by the immune system, which is made up of cells, receptors, and organs throughout the body. The strength of a person’s immune system is determined by a number of factors, including age, genetics, sleep patterns, lifestyle, exercise and more. One very important factor – and one that we are more able to control – is diet. Many scientific studies have shown that altering what we eat – from reducing salt or processed foods to increasing fresh fruit and vegetables and certain herbs – can have quantifiable effects on our immune responses.
In this article, we focus on 5 super herbs long used in ancient natural medicine for their immune-boosting properties (and happen to be key ingredients in our products).
Cordyceps sometimes called a “super shroom” is a genus of fungus – in fact, a parasitic one that feeds on insect larvae. While this may sound a bit gruesome, this fascinating mushroom is actually highly sought-after in traditional Chinese medicine, where it has been used for hundreds of years to treat conditions such as lethargy, kidney and liver complaints, and low libido. Nowadays, it is popular with athletes as it is thought to help improve performance and the body’s ability to deliver oxygen and energy to muscles.
New research is underway to discover more about the effects of cordyceps in humans, but some studies suggest that it could have powerful immunomodulatory and antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help to prevent damage to cells by combatting free radicals, which could otherwise cause disease and aging.
Immunomodulation, in turn, refers to the process by which the body determines an appropriate immune response: too little, and illness or infection occurs, but too much can lead to allergies, inflammation, or autoimmune diseases as the body starts to attack itself. Immunomodulators act as a checks and balances system for immunity, boosting it when it is low, and mitigating it when it is too high.
Another super-fungus, lion’s mane is a large, white mushroom that looks like – you guessed it – a lion’s mane. Fun fact: the scientific name for Lion’s Mane is Hericium Erinaceus, which comes from the Latin word for hedgehog! In South-East Asia, these ‘shrooms have a long history as both a delicious ingredient (they have a similar texture to the ever-popular shitake mushroom) and a traditional medicinal ingredient, especially in relation to the brain, heart, and gut.
Studies suggest that lion’s mane aids in nerve protection and regeneration, which could help to reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Altzheimers, as well as facilitating recovery from brain trauma and injury.
Like cordyceps, lion’s mane is a potent antioxidant. Another interesting effect is its apparent effect on boosting gut health and intestinal immunity, which in turn helps to fight off any pathogens (like bacteria or viruses) that enter the body through our mouths.
Ginger is almost certainly the most well-known ingredient on the list, both as a spice in cooking as natural anti-nausea medicine, but did you know that ginger has also been used in Ayurvedic medicine for nearly 3,000 years, especially as an anti-inflammatory?
Ginger is naturally rich in a variety of nutrients, but probably the most important one is gingerol. Despite sounding like a delicious soft drink, gingerol is actually a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
What’s more, studies suggest that gingerol also has antibacterial properties, even against drug-resistant pathogens, and is especially effective against periodontal bacteria, which can cause gum disease. It could also help to fight off certain types of viruses.
Here at PurePower, we’re pretty obsessed with ashwagandha – it was even one of the first adaptogens that co-founder Don began to experiment with back in the early days of the company. A perennial shrub that is also known as Indian ginseng, the name ashwagandha actually comes from the Sanskrit for “the smell of a horse” – and it’s true that this adaptogen is not as fragrant as ginger. However, what it lacks in aroma it makes up for in potency, as it has long been prized in Ayurvedic medicine for its ability to help the body deal with stress.
Stress is a huge factor in immunity, as anyone who has found themselves always getting sick around the time of big deadlines can confirm. Managing stress reactions in the body, therefore, can have a big impact on the strength of our immune systems. What’s more, studies show that ashwagandha, like many of the other adaptogens on this list, has strong antioxidant and immunomodulatory actions.
Found in: PowerUp
A strong immune system is important for all of us, but one group that may be damaging their immunity without realizing it is athletes, especially those who consistently train hard and compete often. That’s where eleuthero can come in. Colloquially known as Siberian ginseng, this woody shrub has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years as a stimulant and natural stress-reliever.
In recent years, it has become popular with athletes thanks to these same stimulant effects, yet it is also thought to help boost the immune system. This could be thanks to its effect on increasing blood flow, allowing both more oxygen and, in the case of infection, more white blood cells to travel around the body.