Three botanicals combine to knock out infectious microbes.
By Lisa James | Edited by Amanda Mauceri
As any fan of boxing can tell you, the sport requires a set of highly refined skills, including the ability to throw punches in combination –such as a left jab followed by a right uppercut. Similarly, your immune system fends off infections with a combination of cells and chemicals designed to put harmful microbes on the ropes.
Sometimes, however, even the best fighter meets a fierce opponent. That’s where natural immune boosters come in. Like a boxer’s cornerman, boosters get their man ready for the next round. And if you’re that boxer, you want a team of top-notch assistants (such as arabinogalactan, olive leaf and andrographis), which can aid your immunity by attacking the problem from different angles.
Your immune system possesses an arsenal of punches to match that of any ring champion. The basic unit of immunity is the white blood cell (WBC). Some, such as macrophages and neutrophils, are big cells that gobble up microbes. Other smaller cells are known as lymphocytes. They include natural killer (NK) cells, tiny but ferocious predators: B cells, which secrete proteins called antibodies; and T cells, which become sensitized to individual immune threats. Antibodies are only one of several classes of chemicals produced by the immune system. One of the largest is the interferon group. As the name implies, these substances help keep viruses from multiplying.
The fact that colds, influenza and other infections develop despite the immune system’s best efforts means that immunity doesn’t win every bout. That’s where botanical immune boosters come in. These natural compounds have shown a remarkable ability to help the immune response stay strong.
Healthy digestion helps strengthen all bodily systems, including the immune system. A fiber taken from the Western larch (Larix occidentalis) called arabinogalactan (ARA) feeds the friendly probiotic bacteria that call the intestines home, thus helping to shut out hostile germs. What’s more, ARA boosts NK cell activity and stimulates phagocytosis, the process by which large WBCs “eat” microbes.
Olive leaf – From the same tree that produces the beloved fruit, this leaf has been used since antiquity to reduce fevers. Today, scientists have isolated a substance called oleuropein from olive leaf that has shown an ability to overcome many fever-causing microorganisms (including the viruses responsible for colds and the flu). In one study, olive leaf extract reduced a virus’ ability to induce infection by 30% (Antiviral Research 6/05). Like ARA, this extract spurs phagocytosis, and it also neutralizes the sort of free radical damage that can harm WBCs.
Andrographis paniculata is an herb that has been credited with helping to stop the spread of influenza during an Indian epidemic in 1919. Its key components – the andrographolides – have been discovered to boost WBC production and effectiveness, as well as promoting interferon release. No wonder andrographis has been found to reduce upper respiratory symptoms (Planta Medica 4/04).
Your best bet is to look for whole-herb products standardized to the key chemical compounds, which helps ensure consistent potency. Extended-release forms allow for longer-lasting benefits. Getting the better of bacteria, viruses and other maulers can be a difficult fight. But with ARA, olive leaf and andrographis in your corner, you can become an “immunity champ.”