We find ourselves becoming more confined indoors once again, searching for activities out of the cold. The cold and flu season is not over yet, so it’s time to think about an easy way to boost your immune system throughout this season and all that follows.
This can be done in a number of ways, but during cold weather, wrapping frozen fingers around a hot cup of tea tends to be more appealing than a cold smoothie out of the fridge. Of course, the downside of brewing tea is that only the water-soluble compounds are extracted into the water, while none of the fiber or oil-soluble compounds and very few minerals and dietary nutrients will be present. A hot cup of tea won’t contain any vitamin C either, since it is destroyed by the heat.
Despite this, a hot water extraction i.e. brewing a cup of tea contains compounds such as polysaccharides which are thought to regulate your immune response due to their effect on macrophages. Herbal teas also contain tannins, polyphenols, and amino acids which are strong anti-inflammatories and anti-oxidants.
Brewing a cup of tea is particularly useful when a plant has an intense or unsavory taste. In most cases, a few mint leaves, a teaspoon of honey, or some cinnamon will help to hide any unpleasant taste.
Suitable Plants For Making Immuni-Tea
There are a number of plants that have been specifically studied for their ability to improve your immune system, and what you choose will depend on what you have around you and what the season is. You can use fresh leaves and flowers when they are available, and dry them in preparation for the colder months ahead. For example, in the colder months, it’s easy to head out to the garden to grab some fresh pine needles and rosemary leaves, but I only have dried sweet potato leaves during this time.
The point is to use what’s available. My aloe vera plant is in need of a trim, so I plan on using aloe vera gel, pine needles, mint and rosemary leaves because that’s what I have available to me right now in this season, and the combination makes for a nice taste. But if you have some turmeric or ginger in the cupboard, or perhaps a cinnamon stick, then play around with the taste that you like so that you form a habit of drinking at least one cup of immuni-tea per day.
Aloe Vera stimulates T and B cell production, probably due to the presence of the water soluble acemannen. FYI: eating aloe vera gel will also provide you with the insoluble aloctin A which is also a strong immunomodulator.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita L.) and Basil (Ocimum sp.) are strong antioxidants and have numerous immune benefits, especially for the airways and are considered immunomodulators.
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum spp.) contains numerous compounds such as cinnamaldehyde which decreases inflammation and regulates the immune system.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) contains rosmarinic acid which helps trigger your immune response.
Ginseng (Panax ginseng) contains saponins which regulate the immune system.
Pine (Pinus spp.) needles and bark have numerous health benefits, and new research shows that drinking pine tea can protect the immune system during radiation therapy, and used topically to treat atopic dermatitis.
Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas) roots and leaves activate macrophages. If you plan on boiling some sweet potato for dinner, it’s easy to drink the left-over water as tea. Otherwise, use fresh or dried leaves to brew your tea.
Western Juniper (Juniperus scopolorum) needle tea also activates macrophages, but there are limited studies performed on humans for other species of juniper.
Brewing Your Immuni-Tea
When brewing herbal teas, the length of time to brew will depend on a couple of factors, personal taste being the most important! But in general, the longer you steep your tea, the more bitter it will become. On the other hand, the larger and tougher your plant material is, the longer it needs to be steeped. For example, fresh mint leaves only need about 5 – 10 minutes of steeping, whereas pine bark or sliced ginger will need at least half an hour.
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- 1 tablespoon of aloe vera gel (optional)
- 1 tablespoon of fresh pine needles or 1 teaspoon of dried needles
- 1 tablespoon of fresh mint or 1 teaspoon of dried mint
- 1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary leaves
- Place all of the ingredients into a small pot with 1.5 cups of water. Slowly bring it to a boil, then allow it to simmer gently for 10 – 15 minutes.
- Strain and drink on a daily basis.
The Bottom Line
Drinking a daily cup of tea is already beneficial for your health, but if you want to ensure your immune system is ready this cold and flu season, then consider making your own tea from any of the plants listed above. By adapting it to your own taste, you are more likely to form a daily habit and enjoy your own personalized immuni-tea.
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