“Let food be thy medicine…” said the famous Greek physician Hippocrates and he certainly knew what he was talking about. With a global pandemic at our doorstep, it is more important than ever to keep our immune systems strong and incorporate products with antiviral properties into our diets. Luckily, nature has quite a few tricks up her sleeve that can aid us in combating viruses and infections. From the garden to your plate, here are 5 plants brimming with health benefits to help keep your immune system strong and ready to fight off viruses, both during the pandemic and after.
Garlic – Mother of all Antivirals
Throughout history garlic has been used to treat various diseases, among which are the cold and flu. Specifically, fresh raw garlic contains allicin, which has proven antiviral and antibacterial properties. Eating a few cloves of raw garlic alongside your meals can not only prevent you from getting sick but researchers found that it also inhibits disease-causing bacteria in the mouth and may be valuable in fighting periodontitis, a serious gum disease. Eating raw garlic with your food is a common practice in Eastern Europe and various other parts of the world, and yes, it smells strong but the benefits are worth it!
Ginger – All Powerful Root
Specific compounds in ginger, such as gingerols and zingerone, have been found to inhibit viral replication and prevent viruses from entering host cells. It is also believed to help prevent viral infections by increasing the body’s temperature. Another benefit of ginger is that it flushes out toxins from your body. You can add ginger to your diet by making it into tea or simply chewing on a small piece of the root every day. Just like with garlic, aim for fresh over dried!
Echinacea – Medieval Medicine
Also known as purple coneflower, this plant has been used in traditional medicine for hundreds of years. Echinacea is known to boost production of the protein interferon (which helps to kill viruses) and of infection-fighting white blood cells. It contains alkylamides, thought to prevent bacteria penetrating the skin. Other benefits include lowering blood pressure, controlling blood sugar and managing anxiety. Echinacea is available in tablets, tinctures, ointments, capsules, extracts, and, of course, tea. If you’re opting for tea, the recommended dose of dried Echinacea is 4 grams two to three times a day to give your immune system a boost. You can have up to five servings (a total of 20 grams) if you’re already sick.
Bell peppers – Super Dose of Vitamin C
It is a well known fact that Vitamin C boosts your immune system. It is perhaps a less known fact that bell peppers are actually packed with it! Yellow and red bell peppers contain more Vitamin C than green peppers and even lemons! 100 grams of red bell peppers contain 213% of the Reference Daily Intake of Vitamin C and yellow bell peppers have even more – 306%. In comparison a quarter cup of lemon juice contains only 31 percent. That’s not to say you should turn your back on hot lemon water – that’s still a great immune booster. However, it does mean you should incorporate bell peppers into your diet for even better results!
Elderberry – King of Berries
The plant is native to Europe, it grows wild in forests near populated areas and is widely exported. Among other benefits, elderberries are believed to fight cold and flu symptoms, support heart health and fight inflammation and infections. They are rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin A and Potassium and have even been found to have some cancer-inhibiting properties in test-tube studies. Elderberry juice, syrup and tincture are some of the ways you can introduce the berries into your diet, the latter being the most concentrated and therefore the strongest.
Whilst these plants can have a positive impact on your health, you should not solely rely on them to keep you healthy. Implement as many of them in your diet as you can but also follow the recommended measures to help prevent the spread of this, and other viruses.
And whilst these natural boosters are now more important than ever, remember that what is true now is just as true for all times, because a strong naturally-supported corporal defence mechanism is the basis of all good health, wherever we are, whatever times we live in.
For The Yucatan Times Food and Drink
Bel Georgieva is a Bulgarian-born, world-bred environmentalist and explorer, writing about sustainable, Earth-focused travel and lifestyle. You can find her on www.sustainabel.com or on Instagram as @beatlebel