Although you can get sick any time of the year, cold and flu season typically lasts from as early as October through as late as May. Each year, millions of people contract these two common viruses, with the average adult getting around 2-3 colds annually.
We can all recognize the symptoms — runny nose, sore throat, coughing, sneezing, and body aches — as soon they start appearing. With the weather changing, it’s essential to stay in good health and keep our immune system strong. Luckily, there are ways to support your immune system so that you are less susceptible to getting sick.
Your Immune System
The immune system is responsible for protecting your body from bacteria, viruses, and other toxins that may enter the body. Though the immune system functions automatically, there are ways we can weaken it or boost its ability to defend us against germs.
- A few ways to boost the immune system are:
- Eating a nutrient dense diet
- Committing to a more consistent sleep schedule
- Staying active with exercise and body movement
Stress also plays a significant role in weakening our immunity. When the body is stressed, its ability to fight off pathogens is reduced. Normal levels of day-to-day stress are manageable, but chronic stress can significantly impact immune function and can cause headaches, ulcers, and other conditions.
Finding ways to reduce stress in your life is a good place to start, but if you find it difficult, then incorporating plant-based foods and supplements may be useful. Certain herbs and plants help boost your immunity system by helping your body respond better to stress. These types of substances are called adaptogens.
What Are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are a class of herbs and mushrooms that support the body’s physical, chemical, or biological ability to adapt to stress. There are some that you can take as supplements and others you can eat, or that can be brewed to make tea or tinctures.
These herbs have been consumed by various cultures throughout history to help prevent and fight off illnesses. Studies have shown that adaptogens offer a stress-protective effect. This aids our central nervous system by encouraging neuroprotective, anti-fatigue, and even antidepressive activity.
Adaptogens also influence hormone production and other physiological responses to stress, including energy levels. Similar to adaptogens, cannabis may provide cold and flu relief via immune system modulation system along with other plant medicines like mushrooms
How Cannabis May Help the Immune System
Many studies have demonstrated cannabis’ potential to support the immune system. Both THC and CBD have been shown to possess antiviral and antifungal properties. Antiviral substances work by inhibiting the development of target pathogens instead of merely killing them, like antibiotics.
CBD in particular, can help with bacteria that are not responding to medication and studies have even shown CBD can address antibiotic resistance. Cannabis may also have immunosuppressive power. A recent study showed that phytocannabinoids “deeply influence immune functions, thereby regulating inflammation, autoimmunity, antitumor...responses.”
Cannabis can also manage stress and anxiety. One study found that cannabis may help regulate stress and depression symptoms, which helps improve your immune function. In another study, scientists demonstrated that inhaling cannabis can positively impact your body’s stress response.
Research has revealed that patients inhaling cannabis experienced a notable reduction in their stress symptoms in 89.3% of sessions. The study also found that women perceived a more significant reduction in symptoms of anxiety than men.
Medicinal Mushrooms Role in Immune Support
Medicinal mushrooms have been used throughout history in traditional and folk medicines to aid in treating many ailments. These non-psychoactive powerhouses have found their place in modern science, as they have shown to improve the body’s immune response.
Mushrooms work in the body by modulating the immune system to fight against viral, bacterial, and parasitic pathogens. Some of the best mushrooms for boosting your immune system include maitake, cordyceps, shiitake, reishi, turkey tail, and lion’s tail.
These mushrooms can be included in your diet and eaten off the stem or you can look for products, such as capsules and powders, that contain them.
Other Plant-Based Supplement
Other adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha, Siberian ginseng, rhodiola, and schisandra may also help reduce stress levels and help to modulate stress responses. There’s also research that shows holy basil or tulsi is an immunomodulating herb that may play an important role in supporting cells involved in immune defense. This herb can be added into recipes when cooking or made into a tea.