Now that we are headed into the colder months in the Northern Hemisphere, this is the time to think about how you can strengthen your immune system for the months to come. There are many herbs that are commonly used in cooking that have beneficial properties to your immune system. You may already be aware of the immune benefits of certain herbs and spices, such as garlic, ginger, turmeric, or cinnamon, but today we will share five herbs that you may not know have benefits to your immune system.
Basil has been found to improve the immune response to viral infections by increasing the production of natural killer cells. To get basil into your diet, you can season your food with dried basil leaves or use fresh basil. Basil is a wonderful addition to red tomato sauce or homemade soups. You can also make your own pesto from fresh basil. Pesto traditionally consists of garlic as well, so the combination of garlic and basil in a pesto sauce would be a powerful combination for your immune system.
Oregano contains compounds that have antibacterial and antiviral properties and is also high in antioxidants. You can add oregano to your cooking by using it to season meat dishes, adding it to soups or stews for flavor, or adding it to homemade sauces or salad dressings.
Sage is a wonderful herb that is very versatile to use in the kitchen. It has antibacterial and antiviral properties. Sage acts as a protective shield to the body by strengthening the immune system and can even help ward off a sore throat when you are already feeling sick. Sage is a great herb to use in a meat marinade. It also pairs well with butternut squash, whether it be roasted or in a creamy soup.
Fennel contains a powerhouse of nutrients and all parts of it can be eaten, including the bulb, the leaves, and the seeds. The stems, bulbs, and leaves are considered herbs. The seeds are also oftentimes ground into a powder and used as a spice. Fennel is great to add into your cooking. It contains nutrients that are important for a properly functioning immune system, such as selenium, zinc, and vitamin C. Fennel seeds, or ground fennel, is a common ingredient in sausage and can also be used to make a rub. The bulb can be cut up and used in soups or salads and the leaves, or fronds, can be used in stocks, vinaigrettes, or topped on seared meats.
Thyme is another great herb to utilize in the kitchen that has immune boosting properties. It has a direct antimicrobial effect, and one of its main compounds, carvacrol, has throat-soothing properties, making it a great choice if you are starting to come down with something. Thyme adds layers of flavor without being too overwhelming and pairs well with meat, beans, and tomatoes. You can get creative with using this herb in the kitchen, using it to season soups, sauces, or rice and vegetable dishes.