Flavorful Immune System Boosters!

Five herbs for immunity support
Caption

Successo images/ Shutterstock 

Herbs come by the hundreds and are extremely versatile for their culinary and medicinal application. Immune system boosting is just one of their virtues. Today I will highlight five of my favourite culinary herbs that you absolutely must start using this winter if you haven't already!

Astragalus

Extracts of astragalus root improve the function of white blood cells and can even increase the antibody levels in healthy people. It may also increase the interferon’s immune activating proteins that fight viral infections and tumours. This is especially helpful for anyone susceptible to cold and flu infections. Astragalus root can be purchased in many health food stores. Simply add a couple pieces of dried root to any soups, stews, or tea decoctions.

Garlic

Garlic has a long historical connection to medicine and cooking. Garlic is antimicrobial, antifungal, and suitable for a wide range of infectious conditions--just what your immune system needs! It is renown for cardiovascular support, regulating cholesterol and reducing high blood sugar. Additionally, it helps support the immune system and has been shown to prevent the common cold. Eat up to six fresh cloves daily during infections. If you worry about the smell, chew on fresh parsley, as it will neutralize the odour.

Ginger

Ginger has been used as a medicinal herb in the West for around 2,000 years. The fresh root can be used to promote sweating and as an expectorant for colds, chills, and flus. Use the fresh root to make a decoction for phlegmy colds or sore throat. Use 1-2 slices to a cup of water and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour decoction through a sieve into a glass,  then add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and tsp. of honey. Delightful! 

Thyme

Thyme is a fragrant herb, regarded for its antibacterial and antiviral properties. It’s aromatic compounds, also known as volatile oils, help to relieve coughs. Thyme is an antispasmodic and an expectorant, meaning the herb can calm a cough, by helping to clear bronchial mucus. For chest infections, infuse the fresh herb in boiled water. Alternatively add 5 drops of essential oil to 1 ounce of water and gargle like mouthwash. It is not recommended to drink thyme infusions during pregnancy. 

Shiitake mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms although technically considered fungus, are a beloved cooking ingredient because of their meaty, robust flavour and texture. They also have long-dated medicinal uses, praised by the Chinese for over 6,000 years. Recently, the medicinal benefits are attributed to a compound called lentinan. It has demonstrated to strengthen the immune system and increases the body’s ability to fight infection and disease.

You may face the challenge of how to incorporate all these ingredients in one simple recipe. Sweat not, here it is!

Immune boosting cream of mushroom soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 bulb garlic (approx. 10 small cloves), minced
  • 1 2-inch piece of fresh gingerroot, grated
  • 4 cups homemade broth
  • 5 pieces sliced dried astragalus root (found in most health food stores)
  • 3 cups fresh, sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp. dried thyme (4 tbsp. fresh)
  • 1 tbsp. sherry
  • ¼ cup organic cream (or substitute with coconut cream)

Directions:

  1. Heat coconut oil and sauté onions until translucent, approximately 5-7 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic until aromatic (approximately 1 minute). Add the sliced shitake mushrooms and sauté until softened, approximately 4 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce to a simmer and add the astragalus and thyme. Cover and simmer for 2 hours.
  3. Remove from heat and pick out the astragalus root.
  4. With a hand emulsion blender puree the mixture.
  5. Add organic cream or coconut cream.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste and a splash of sherry.

*Originally published February 10, 2016

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