Phil Harris, Owner and formulator, LifeBuild Health Formula's
Can Herbs Boost Your Immune System?
As a certified herbalist for over 20 years, and after formulating a lot of products in that time span, this question has popped up many times. It's relevant at any time, but especially now.
And it’s an important question, because if some herbs can actually boost your immune system, it opens up some possibilities.
Your immune system is the gatekeeper of your health. And it usually does a great job of protecting you. So you want it to be operating at the highest level because your life may literally depend on it.
Many things come into play in determining optimal immune function. What you eat in general but especially sugar consumption, which is seriously detrimental to the immune system, whether you exercise or not, how you manage stress and more all determine how well your immune system operates.
But can you boost your immune system with herbs? It would be a big help if you could.
So let’s find out what science and the research has to say.
The three herbs we're looking at below are Echinacea, Olive Leaf Extract, and Cat's Claw, and are all featured in the ImmuniPak, our premium immune support formula that has 7 immune support herbs plus Zinc and Selenium.
The bottom line is yes, the research confirms that herbs can indeed boost the immune system. You can can call it 'stimulate,' 'enhance,' or boost. They all mean about the same thing.
So that's really good news for anyone looking for an edge during the cold and flu season or any other time where there might be a higher risk like air-travel or other enclosed spaces such as indoor work environments. You'll find the link for each study at the bottom of the page if you feel so inclined.
If you’ve ever looked into antiviral and immune boosting herbs, Echinacea almost certainly comes up. Echinacea is one of the most widely used and researched herbs on the planet and is one of the top-selling herbs of all time.
I found a good study on PubMed entitled 'Echinacea: A Miracle Herb against Aging and Cancer?' by Sandra C Miller. Her research focus was on its cancer and anti-aging properties. But she also keyed in on Echinacea as an immune booster as well. She says:
“Many of its ingredients are powerful immune system stimulators…… Our results have shown that daily consumption of Echinacea is indeed prophylactic”1
While this study was done on mice, you can most likely apply her conclusions to humans since we are a 97% genetic match to mice. Many people simply dismiss research done on mice and rats. But lIke it or not, we have a lot in common as our genetics attest to and cannot simply dismiss mice or rat studies as not relevant. Here’s what she has to say about that:
"Given that humans are 97% genetically common with mice and that virtually all our basic physiology is identical, it is neither unjustified to extrapolate these observations to humans nor would it be an arduous task to perform many of these studies in humans..."1
Another excellent Echinacea study from the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology said this:
“Evidence from preclinical studies supports some of the traditional and modern uses for Echinacea, particularly the reputed immunostimulant (or immunomodulatory) properties.”2
Here’s another study from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, PubMed, that found that three different species of echinacea:
“demonstrated significantly higher T cell proliferation.”3
This same study also said:
"Echinacea [increased] immune cell populations and their biological functions.”3
CONCLUSION: ECHINACEA DOES BOOST THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
The benefits of Echinacea go way beyond stimulating the immune system, from helping in the fight against cancer and even showing some major anti-aging benefits and more. However, that is for another day and another article. Stay tuned for that one:)
Olive Leaf Extract
Olive leaf extract is most commonly used for the immune system, but also shows anti-fungal properties, as well as a natural hypotensive and hypoglycemic. Definitely shines for the immune system though.
This study distributed by Ingenta Connect, a content distributer with an enormous research database, came to this conclusion about Olive Leaf Extract:
“Both [olive leaf] extracts increased absolute numbers of CD8+[a type of immune cell] and natural killer (NK) cells. In addition, an increased production of interferon (IFN)-γ by both extracts as an expression of T helper (h)1 activation was observed. Finally, both extracts enhanced NO[Nitric Oxide] release.”4
This same study goes on to say:
“OLEs (olive leaf extracts)….. are able to in vitro modify healthy human immune response by increasing IFN-γ production which seems to be associated to the higher absolute numbers of CD8+ and NK cells and this may suggest a reinforcement of the anti-tumor activity. Furthermore, increased levels of NO may indicate the potential cardioprotective effects exerted by OLEs in virtue of their vasodilation dependent activity. Finally, OLEs are able to maintain the equilibrium between T regulatory cells and Th17 cells as evidenced by unmodified levels of interleukin (IL)-IL-10 and IL-17, respectively.”4
Based on the research we have to conclude that Olive Leaf Extract is able to boost and enhance the immune system(and more).
CONCLUSIONS: OLIVE LEAF EXTRACT CAN BOOST THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Cat’s Claw is a well known herb from the Amazon rainforest that has a strong traditional reputation as an antiviral and anti-inflammatory as well as for digestion, even showing that it supports DNA repair. The research does support its traditional uses.
In the first study, Cat’s Claw effectively increased the number of Lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, in the body by actually enabling them to ‘significantly’ survive longer. In the second study, white blood cells were “significantly elevated.”
“The increased number of lymphocytes was most likely not due to increased production….. [but to] significantly prolonged lymphocyte survival in peripheral lymphoid organs, without increasing their proliferation rate.”5
Another study said this:
“In a human volunteer study, C-MED-100[Cat’s Claw water extract] was given daily at 5 mg/kg for 6 consecutive weeks to four healthy adult males. No toxicity was observed and again, WBC[White Blood Cells] were significantly elevated (P < 0.05) after supplement.”6
The first study showed Cat’s Claw actually improved the survivability of lymphocytes. In the second study they saw an actual increase in white blood cells, which shows once again that Cat's Claw can boost the immune system.
CONCLUSION: CAT'S CLAW CAN BOOST THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
There you have it. Three important herbs showing that each can and do boost the immune system. When you look at the research and the evidence, and not the evening news or other questionable sources of information you will clearly find strong evidence from quality research.
So the next time that you're watching the evening news and they have an 'expert' on saying that you can't boost the immune system, send them this article.
Now that you know herbs can boost your immune system, head over to our ImmuniPak page.
The ImmuniPak not only has the three herbs reviewed here but 4 others as well including elderberry extract as well as Zinc and Selenium for maximum benefit. It's a premium immune support formula that not only boosts your immune system, but directly helps fight viruses and bacteria. Click here for more!
1. Echinacea: A Miracle Herb against Aging and Cancer? Evidence In vivo in Mice. Sandra C. Miller. Evidence Based Complement Alternat Medicine. 2005 Sep; 2(3): 309–314
2. Echinacea species (Echinacea angustifolia (DC.) Hell., Echinacea pallida (Nutt.) Nutt., Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench): a review of their chemistry, pharmacology and clinical properties. Joanne Barnes, Linda A. Anderson,Simon Gibbons, J. David Phillipson. (February 18.2010)
3. Enhancement of Innate and Adaptive Immune Functions by Multiple Echinacea Species. Authors: Zili Zhai,Yi Liu, Lankun Wu, David S. Senchina, Eve S. Wurtele, Patricia A. Murphy, Marian L. Kohut, and Joan E. Cunnick. J Med Food. 2007 Sep; 10(3): 423–434.
4. Olive Leaf Extracts Act as Modulators of the Human Immune Response. Source: Endocrine, Metabolic & Immune Disorders-Drug Targets (Formerly Current Drug Targets - Immune, Endocrine & Metabolic Disorders), Volume 18, Number 1, 2018, pp. 85-93(9)
5. C-Med 100®, a hot water extract of Uncaria tomentosa[Cat’s Claw], prolongs lymphocyte survival in vivo. Phytomedicine. Ch.Akessona, R.W.Perob, F.Ivars. Volume 10, Issue 1, 2003, Pages 23-33
6. Enhanced DNA repair, immune function and reduced toxicity of C-MED-100, a novel aqueous extract from Uncaria tomentosa[Cat’s Claw]. Sheng,Y., Bryngelsson,C., Pero,R.W.(2000). J Ethnopharmacol, 69,115-26.