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Honey, lemon, ginger: do they strengthen the immune system?

Honey, lemon, ginger: do they strengthen the immune system?

You probably know many folk remedies for colds and fortified foods that promise to “boost” immunity. Which advice is correct, and which are more like fairy tales? Let’s figure it out together with the book “Immunity”.

Echinacea – for the prevention of colds and flu

There is ample evidence of the beneficial effects of using echinacea for the treatment and prevention of colds. But scientists still have not come to a consensus. The difficulty is that there are 3 types of this plant, and each part of it contains different active ingredients. This means there are over 800 echinacea products out there with very little information available. There is also no consensus regarding the best formula for intake, dosage and course duration. In addition, the drug can interact with certain medications.

Echinacea purpurea has been shown to be the most beneficial to health, research shows, and it is a species that was recently approved by the German government as a preventative against colds because of its antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Spicy food helps sweat

Some believe that spicy food heals because illness comes out with sweat. Capsaicin, a component of chili peppers that causes a burning sensation, helps with nasal congestion and reduces inflammation by reducing symptoms. It is also clinically valuable as a pain reliever. In addition, the curry dish containing it helps with feeling unwell and saves you from blues, and spiced vegetables are a great way to get antioxidants, fiber and polyphenols at the same time.

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Elderberry strengthens the immune system

The anti-viral elderberry is beneficial in winter and has been used for thousands of years both as a medicine to reduce pain and inflammation and as a food. Research shows that elderberry syrup significantly reduces the duration and intensity of symptoms of respiratory infections. Moreover, when comparing elderberry extract and a well-known anti-influenza drug, the former proved to be more effective. Several components of elderberry help prevent viruses from entering cells.

However, the anti-infectious effects of elderberry are very minor and are greatly inflated by public relations funded by companies that produce commercial elderberry products. Of course, this does not negate the results of research and clinical trials, but creates some conflict of interest.

Honey, lemon and ginger: supertrio

This trinity has stood the test of time as honey, lemon and ginger have been used for generations. However, none of the ingredients cure colds, and there is little actual evidence that they speed up recovery.


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Although, if we talk about honey, then in the fight against cough in children, it turned out to be more effective than dextromethorphan (the active ingredient in most cough medicines). At the same time, the UK National Health Service recommends honey as a cough remedy, rather than antibiotics. In addition to scientific evidence, when combined with a hot drink, this ancient supertrio soothes and retains fluid in the body, so it has the right to exist as a cheaper alternative to OTC drugs. But do not expect a miracle from him.

Garlic – food and medicine

Garlic contains compounds that improve the ability of immune cells to fight germs and also help prevent infection. For centuries it has been used both as food and as a medicine. As early as 3000 BC, the Assyrians and Sumerians treated fevers, inflammations and injuries with garlic. Almost all studies support its benefits. It is a powerful antioxidant and antibiotic that fights staphylococcal strains – the microbes that cause staphylococcal infections.

However, many studies supporting the properties of garlic have not been conducted to the proper level, and it is still unclear whether you need to constantly eat garlic to see its beneficial effects. A recent study of the effects of eating garlic for 90 days showed that participants had significantly more T cells and NK cells – natural killer cells that play the role of heavy artillery in fighting infections. However, heat treatment changes the properties of garlic. To optimize all phytonutrients, let the fresh garlic sit for a while after chopping: this will allow the alliin to ferment into the beneficial allicin, the main active ingredient.

Turmeric – to fight infections

Turmeric is popular in the health media, but should you succumb to the hype? It does have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that have been shown to be clinically effective in treating certain conditions (such as some forms of arthritis). However, the media often exaggerate these claims, turning turmeric into a universal cure for all ailments. Most of the research has focused on curcumin, one of the active ingredients in turmeric, but this spice contains over 300 compounds, and curcumin-free turmeric is also clinically effective. And if you use this root for food, take it whole, whole. Interestingly, raw turmeric appears to have stronger anti-inflammatory effects, while cooked turmeric appears to have better protection against oxidative damage. In addition, it inhibits the entry of viruses into cells.

Regular addition of this spice to food helps prevent infections. However, the problem is bioavailability. Turmeric must be eaten with fats and a pinch of black pepper, then it significantly improves digestion.

Chicken bouillon

Chicken broth has been part of the human diet ever since humans learned to cook chicken. It was prescribed for colds in ancient Egypt; it was considered an effective medicine in the Middle Ages. The 12th century Jewish physician Moses Maimonides recommended it as a remedy for all diseases, from hemorrhoids to leprosy, so chicken broth is called Jewish penicillin. Until recently, there was no scientific evidence of the medicinal effect of the broth, nevertheless, it was recommended to everyone at the first signs of illness. Not technically a medicinal supplement, but in fact broth is one of the most effective wellness foods out there. This is likely due to a number of components, such as carnosine, which has the ability to modulate the immune response in human neutrophils, helping to clear mucus and reduce airway inflammation.

Boiling chicken produces a drug similar to acetylcysteine, which is usually prescribed for respiratory problems. Broth even lowers blood pressure because collagen proteins exhibit effects similar to ACE inhibitors; in any case, animal studies have shown it. In addition, chicken broth is calming, delicious with vegetables, herbs and spices, and helps the body maintain fluid balance.

Based on materials from the book “Immunity”

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