By Cher Zavala
Sometimes, it feels like I never escape flu season. Whether it is the dead of winter or a bright summer day, I can just as easily develop a spate of the sniffles and a nagging cough. However, I recently came to realize that it wasn’t the weather but rather my fast-paced, stress-filled lifestyle was likely draining my body’s resources and preventing me from becoming well.
In an effort to slow down and be more mindful of my body’s needs, I pledged to drink a warm, rejuvenating glass of tea every evening—and to kill two birds with one stone, I discovered a wealth of delicious infusions that boast immunity-boosting properties, as well. If you also struggle with sickness, here are eight teas to help you relax and restore your immunity.
You probably drink chamomile tea when you want to relax, but you probably didn’t realize why chamomile is so effective at soothing your stressed body and mind. Chamomile promotes the production of white blood cells (macrophages and B-lymphocytes) in your body. These cells are the biggest infection-fighters of your immune system, so keeping them plentiful is key to feeling strong and healthy.
You might not realize that the pesky yellow-flowered weeds that take over your yard every spring could help you fight off your cold. In truth, dandelions were revered as medicinal plants for centuries; only recently has humanity forgotten that the flowers have powerful immunity-boosting benefits. Researchers believe that the chemical compounds in dandelions flush toxins out of your system, aiding the immune system’s fight against infection. However, dandelion is a strong diuretic—it makes you need to urinate—and it may impact other medications, so you should talk to your doctor before drinking it regularly.
This Asian root has been revered in China since about 3000 BCE, and in that time, it has nearly become a cure-all in that culture. Herbalists claim that ginseng increases the lifespan, counteracts erectile dysfunction, and even fights cancer. Though these wondrous effects are yet unproven, researchers do know that ginseng encourages white blood cell production as well as the development of interferon, a crucial protein that prevents virus replication. It is worthwhile to have a bag of this earthy-tasting tea around, even if it doesn’t make you a libidinous nonagenarian.
Once again, green tea proves to be one of the most magical substances on Earth. Green tea, and Japanese macha in particular, is rich in polyphenols, specifically a group of natural chemicals called catechins. The catechins in green tea (the most powerful of which is epigallocatechin, or EGCG for short) was found in research to be at least 25 times more potent than vitamins C and E.
Hyssop, which is an uncommon herb that sprouts stunning purple blooms, is a well-known nourisher of the blood. The Bible mentions hyssop as a cleanser and protector, and indeed, hyssop boasts several antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. Though hyssop tea does not boost your immune system, it works alongside it to banish harmful invaders from your body.
6. Holy Basil
If you grow cooking basil in your herb garden, you shouldn’t expect to find an immunity remedy growing there. Though the two are related, holy basil is a completely different herb with completely different qualities, including look, feel, taste, and effects. Those who follow ayurveda are abundantly familiar with holy basil as a medicinal plant. Holy basil, also called tulsi, is overloaded with antioxidants that work against invading viruses, bacteria, and fungi.
The subtle sweetness of honeysuckle should be enough to convince you to sip on honeysuckle tea, but the small orange flower has plenty benefits besides delicious flavor. In one study, researchers found that a diet rich in honeysuckle fosters faster growth and stronger immune systems than a diet without. Though the research team is not yet certain what compounds in honeysuckle encourage such effects, it is clear that adding some honeysuckle tea to your regular diet isn’t bad, especially during cold and flu season.
Usually reserved for dads and grandpas, black licorice probably isn’t your favorite flavor—until you learn about its help to your immune system. The herb is a strong anti-inflammatory, which means it slows painful, unproductive swelling that can occur during a bout of flu. Licorice is also beneficial in treating inappropriate immune responses, like those of osteoarthritis, lupus, and other autoimmune disorders.