Boost Your Immune System with 3 Powerful Plants

Tired of dealing with the late-winter sniffles? Meet your new best friends: elderberry, reishi mushroom, and echinacea purpurea.

By Allison Jones February 24, 2015

It may be unseasonably warm for Portland in late winter, but it is still cold and flu season. We sat down with Amanda Furbee of The Herb Shoppe Pharmacy on North Mississippi to get the scoop on some super-safe herbal supplements that can really give your bug-fighting cells, tissues, and organs an upgrade.

Elderberries: Sambucus nigra (Elder or Black Elder)

This member of honeysuckle family grows well in the Pacific Northwest. Its berries and flowers are used to treat colds and flus in the Herb Shoppe Pharmacy's immune boosting tea, winter wellness glycerite, and elderberry syrup. According to the Herb Shoppe, these tasty berries can help treat sinus infections, lower cholesterol, improve vision, boost your body's levels of Vitamins A, B and C, and can even serve as a mild laxative and diuretic to get things moving. Preliminary studies show that elderberries have a measurable effect in treating flu, alleviating allergies, and boosting overall respiratory health. Important note: "You want to cook most varieties of elderberries to rid them of poison. Sambucus nigra (or black elder) is the only variety that is considered non-toxic when not cooked, but I still recommended cooking the berries to enhance flavor."

Reishi Mushroom: Ganoderma lucidum

According to the Herb Shoppe, this hord and woody super-powerful fungus has been used medicinally for over 2,000 years and is often referred to as “the mushroom of immortality.” While it's possible to find reishi mushrooms locally, it's Chinese mushrooms that are typically used medicinally. This mild ingredient can be taken daily and acts as an adaptogen, which means "it can register in your body whether you need energy or calming" and it's an "immune modulator, regulating and fine tuning the immune system." Water-soluble polysaccharides are the most active element, and the liver-protecting mushrooms may inhibit the growth of tumors, lower blood pressure, prevent asthma, and even prevent the development of new fat cells.

Echinacea Purpurea

Also known as  black-eyed susan or purple coneflower, this non-toxic, safe flower boosts the immune system, purifies the liver, helps aid digestion, increase hyaluronic acid in joints, and may reduce the lengths of colds with its infection-fighting anti-microbial properties—in fact, it's one of the oldest herbal remedies used throughout the world. Other uses include treating upper respiratory infections, viral and bacterial infections, bois, vemonous bites, and cold sores. The Herb Shoppe taps its power in Immunity Acute Tinctures, Elderberry Immune Boosting Syrups, and Immunity Teas to increase the number of white bloods cells and treat UTIs, candida, ear infections, athletes foot, sinusitis, hay fever, and cold sores.

In addition to promoting time-honored herbal knowledge and top-shelf herbs, Amanda Furbee and Herb Shoppe founder Dr. JJ Pursell oversee a full commercial kitchen in the back of the pharmacy for community classes and production of The Herb Shoppe products, including immunity boosting tonics, syrups, and ciders. Want to learn more? Check out the full calendar of classes and events on the Herb Shoppe website. Dr. Pursell is also releasing a beginner's guide to herbal medicine, which will be released in the fall of 2015. Stay tuned for more information!

What's your go-to cold and flu remedy? Tell us in the comments!

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