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5 Spices to Boost Your Immune System

The ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates, often referred to as the father of Western medicine, once said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”

5 spoons with spices, vegetables, herbs

Unfortunately, conventional over-the-counter cold and flu treatments are known to cause unwelcome side-effects that disrupt your digestion, energy levels and sleep. Prolonged use of some of these medications can even contribute to liver damage.

The good news is there are many viable and centuries-proven alternatives that can give your immune system the boost it needs to combat the seasonal sniffles. Spices are wonderful because, unlike drugs, you don’t need to “take” them. Instead, you can add them to your favorite dishes for a kick of flavor and increased immunity.

Here are five of the best spices to help your body bolster immunity levels and fight off viruses, infections and inflammation:

1. Turmeric

bowl of tumeric, honey dropper, flowers

You’ve likely seen turmeric showing up on the labels of today’s trendiest foods ― for good reason. This powerful and flavorful ancient spice gets its vibrant color from curcumin, a potent anti-inflammatory compound with properties rivaling that of ibuprofen, without the side effects.

Turmeric comes from the root of a flowering plant of the ginger family and has been used medicinally for more than 4,500 years. Turmeric remains a staple treatment for skin conditions, digestive issues and bodily discomfort in Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient Indian healing system still practiced today.

The active ingredient, curcumin, boosts the body’s antioxidant capacity by being highly effective against free radicals. Turmeric has also been shown to inhibit fungal growth and suppress tumor cell growth.

2. Ginger

ginger tea with lemon

A ubiquitous ingredient in kitchens around the world, ginger is filled with nutritional properties that greatly benefit your health. Originating from China, ginger contains chemicals called sesquiterpenes that target cold viruses. This immune-boosting spice also has antibacterial properties that can help prevent nausea.

Other functional chemicals include gingerols, shogoal and paradols that have the potential to prevent various cancers. The spice’s anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties help control the process of aging, aid digestion and demonstrate the potential to treat degenerative disorders, as well as cardiovascular disease. Ginger also contains antimicrobial compounds that allow it to help in treating infectious diseases.

Make your own ginger tea by combining fresh ginger root, lemon juice and honey with 12 ounces of boiling water. Our quick and easy go-to recipe is as follows:

  • two tablespoons of lemon juice
  • two three-inch pieces of raw ginger
  • one tablespoon of raw honey

We love this tea because it’s quick to prepare, soothing to drink (especially during flu season), and infuses the body and immune system with powerful immune-boosting compounds.

3. Cayenne Pepper

cayenne peppers

The distinguishing ingredient in some of your favorite spicy dishes, cayenne pepper is a member of the Capsium family, also known as the chili peppers family. Cayenne peppers contain a high amount of capsaicin that suppresses a neuropeptide involved in inflammatory processes called substance P.

According to a 2015 study, the pepper contributes to digestive health by fighting gastrointestinal pathogens, ulcerations and cancer. It also regulates appetite and digestive function.

Modern herbalists also use cayenne to activate the circulatory system as a cold and flu treatment. In one tablespoon (5 grams) of cayenne pepper, there is 44% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A.
In addition to its potent immune-boosting nutritional composition, the spice is also an excellent source of beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant. Whatever you decide to use it for, cayenne pepper can be a staple for boosting your health and immunity.

4. Garlic

cloves of garlic

Boost your immune system while enjoying your favorite pesto. Major civilizations, such as the Egyptians, Greeks, Babylonians and Chinese, have been using garlic for medicinal purposes since ancient times.

A 12-week study found that, compared to a placebo, garlic reduced the number of participants with the common cold by 63%. Garlic supplements have also been shown to increase antioxidant enzymes in humans, in addition to notably reducing oxidative stress in individuals with high blood pressure. High doses of garlic have also demonstrated the potential to protect the body against heavy metal toxicity.

5. Cinnamon

bowl of cinnamon powder

The key ingredient in snickerdoodles and your favorite Starbucks lattes, cinnamon has also been used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years. Made from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum tree, its use has been dated as far back as ancient Egypt.

Cinnamon fights inflammation and helps ward off infections and heal damaged tissue. Containing large amounts of polyphenol, cinnamon outranked “superfoods” like garlic and oregano in a study comparing the antioxidant activity of 26 spices. Some studies have shown that Cinnamon may have anti-diabetic effects and help cut the risk of heart disease.

A Little More Spice in Your Diet

While you should first consult your doctor in the event of any abnormalities to your health, these immunity-boosting spices may help bolster a healthy immune system and prep your body for a higher immune response while fighting off infections. If you haven’t already, maybe it’s time to spice up your life.

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