Let’s say that you have no choice but to engage in air travel, or you or someone in your household works in an environment that either travelers or sick people pass through. In addition to conventional wisdom, is there anything more one can do?! Some herbs are called immune stimulants because they are believed to temporarily increase a non-specific response called surface immune activation.
Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) root is a great example of an immune booster. This herb encourages the immune system and reduces many of the symptoms of colds, flu and some other illnesses, infections, and conditions. It’s a particularly useful herb to add to your daily routine if you’re concerned that you’re at risk for viral infection—for example if you’re about to travel by plane, train, or bus!
Three species of Echinacea are used as herbal remedies:
- Echinacea angustifolia – narrow-leaved coneflower
- Echinacea pallida – pale purple coneflower
- Echinacea purpurea – purple coneflower, eastern purple coneflower
Garlic (Allium sativum) bulb is another familiar immune stimulant herb (Bergner, 1996). No matter where you are you can almost always find garlic, including if you are traveling abroad or stuck at home.
Elder (Sambucus nigra, S. canadensis, or S. cerulea) berry is a gentle antiviral herb that has been called upon as a longstanding folk remedy during outbreaks of the flu. Some consider it a preventive to be taken throughout flu season (Buhner, 2013; Zakay-Rones et al., 2007).
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) root teas, lozenges, or tinctures may also be a good idea in winter months for some of the same reasons. Licorice is an immunomodulant and antiviral, and it is moistening, supporting the mucosa of the mouth and throat. Additionally, licorice may have some anti-inflammatory activity. Those with high blood pressure should avoid this herb and choose from among the others (Buhner, 2013).