11 Herbs You Need to Know for Immune Support

Published on April 04, 2022

There are many excellent herbs to support immune health and function.* From Astragalus to Goldenseal, Olive Leaf to Oil of Oregano, learn from Gaia Herbs Formulation Manager, Susan Hirsch, about the immune system and how these 11 herbs can support it.* 

What Is the Immune System?

Unlike many other systems of the body, which have distinct, easily identifiable organs and tissues, the immune system is complex. It contains numerous cells and tissues that reside in other tissues and circulates throughout the body. A multi-layered shield for the body, the immune system is incredibly hard-working.

The immune system's tissues perform diverse roles: The skin serves as a barrier to invaders, lymphatic fluid (lymph) continually circulates to rid cells of everyday toxins, and lymph nodes serve as filters for the body. While technically part of the circulatory system, the immune system's tissues comprise parts of the digestive, endocrine, respiratory, and skeletal systems. While no system of the body operates autonomously, the immune system has an especially symbiotic relationship with the body's other systems. The immune system knows no boundaries; its cells go everywhere.

Keeping the immune system balanced is of the utmost importance in all stages of life. As the natural defense system, its design is to spring into action to support every area of the body. If your body is your castle, your immune system acts as the soldiers patrolling the perimeter and every corridor within the walls. 

Herbal medicine has been used in traditional medicine worldwide. Herbs contain potent antioxidants that help protect against free radicals, which can damage cells and weaken the immune system. A meta-analysis of research on herbal remedies has shown that some herbs may soothe a scratchy throat and combat the symptoms of respiratory infections.REF#1170 You can support a strong immune system with a tincture, syrup, powder, or capsule from the following herbs. 

11 Herbs To Help Maintain Immune Health*

Before starting any new herbal regime, we recommend consulting your healthcare practitioner to determine which herbs are right for you and will work well in conjunction with any current treatments or medications that you may be using.


Bitter tonic to support immune health*

Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata) leaf is primarily studied to support immune system health by supporting healthy levels of immune cells in the blood and healthy body temperature.*REF#1171 In Ayurveda, Andrographis is known as the "king of bitters," and in Traditional Chinese Medicine, bitter and "cold." Andrographis traditionally support healthy microbial flora and gastrointestinal function, supporting healthy immune function.*REF#1171

We use Andrographis leaf in both Quick Defense® and Turmeric Supreme® Immune Support.


Provides immune support while assisting the body in adapting to daily stress*

Astragalus root (Huang Qi) is a foundational herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine that supports healthy resistance from occasional physical and emotional stressors and healthy immune function.* Astragalus contains complex sugars called polysaccharides that interact with and educate the immune system and microbiome residing in the gastrointestinal tract.REF#1172 In studies, Astragalus has been shown to support the integrity of mucous membranes and epithelial cells in the intestinal tract, which supports immune function in the respiratory tract.*REF#1173 Because building a healthy defense takes time, we encourage you to think about your immune system all year. We include it in many immune formulations such as Immune Shine®, Everyday Immune Mushroom & Herbs, Astragalus Supreme, and Whole Body Defense®.

Black Elderberry

Daily immune support*

Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) provides immune support, both as a daily tonic and at the start of an immune challenge.* Black Elderberry is unique in providing both antioxidant and immune support due to its natural concentration of anthocyanins (the antioxidants that give it that deep purple color) and other flavonoids.* Black Elderberry supports overall immune health, especially during flu season.*REF#1174

Highly revered, the very name reflects the respect given to the elder shrub. Native Americans used the branches of Black Elderberry to make flutes, so it is sometimes called "the tree of music." Often used to flavor jams, syrups, and wine, this tart, bright purple berry provides delicious daily immune support for year-round use.* 

We source the Black Elderberries used in our syrups and other products from a European growing cooperative based in Austria. Established in 1965, this cooperative has over 450 growers dedicated to preserving the traditional growing of herbs for supplements. One of our growers, the largest producer of organic Elderberries in Europe, has cultivated these beautiful berries for over 40 years with care. We are honored to work with this family and to feature their Black Elderberry in our delicious syrups, Quick Defense, and Immune Shine.


Supports a healthy immune response*

Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia and purpurea) supports continual immune health.* Known as purple coneflower, Echinacea is the name of a group of flowering plants in the daisy family native to North America and Europe. Both species of Echinacea have been used historically by Native Americans and Europeans to treat various ailments, and Echinacea remains one of the most popular immune herbs today. In late summer at the Gaia Farm, we have both species of Echinacea in full bloom in all their bright, inspiring pink and purple glory.

Echinacea is unique in that various parts of different Echinacea species are active in different ways. Some preparations, such as the early spring tops, are rich in polysaccharides, helping to maintain foundational wellness.* This preparation of Echinacea is featured in Quick Defense.* Fall-harvested Echinacea roots and seed heads are rich in alkylamides, responsible for this herb’s tingly sensation and ability to support a healthy immune response at the onset of illness such as the common cold.* These alkylamide-rich preparations are featured in Echinacea Supreme, Echinacea Goldenseal Supreme, Quick Defense, and Turmeric Supreme Immune Support.*


Warming and circulating support*

Ginger root (Zingiber officinale) supports healthy digestion, and blood circulation, which supports a healthy immune response. This deliciously spicy herb grown in tropical climates is one of the most widely consumed aromatic species on the planet.* Ginger root contains pungent compounds called gingerols and shogaols, which help to stimulate the circulation of blood and benefit all areas of the body.* Ginger is featured in Immune Shine, Quick Defense, Turmeric Supreme Immune Support, and many of our other favorites. Nothing beats a hot cup of ginger tea with lemon and honey when feeling chilled.


Tonify and support*

Goldenseal became popular (Hydrastis canadensis) root after local medicine makers learned about the plant from the Native Americans in the 19th century. They believed that the herb tonifies and supports the mucous tissues of the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts while supporting the digestive process.* Goldenseal root is a natural source of berberine, which has recently enjoyed popularity.

During heavy harvesting around the 1800s, the population of Goldenseal significantly decreased, leaving this plant endangered and almost to the point of extinction. We have long supported United Plant Savers (UPS), whose mission is to protect native medicinal plants of the United States and Canada and their native habitat while ensuring an abundant renewable supply of medicinal plants for generations to come. 

We ethically source the Goldenseal root used in our products to protect this essential species. Our formulations, such as Echinacea Goldenseal Propolis Throat Spray and Echinacea Goldenseal Supreme, often pair the root with Echinacea. We encourage you to use this plant only when necessary to support mucous membrane function and your body’s defense barrier.* 


Helps maintain a healthy mucous layer in the respiratory tract*

Another herb commonly used by Native Americans, Grindelia has traditionally been used to support the respiratory system and provide support to an irritated respiratory tract.* Grindelia flowers exude a sticky sap, and modern herbalists use this herb to support the lungs and surrounding tissue.* We include Grindelia in our Bronchial Wellness and Black Elderberry Nighttime Syrup.


Cellular immune support*

Traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine highly value Maitake (Grifola frondosa) mushroom for supporting the immune system. As a fungus, Maitake perennially grows on hardwoods in the same place if undisturbed.* The Japanese refer to it as "Hen of the Woods" and appreciate its delicate texture and earthy flavor in cooking. Like its cousin Reishi, Maitake fruiting bodies contain beta-glucans, commonly used to help sustain overall wellness.* Maitake mushroom fruiting body is featured in Immune Shine and Everyday Immune Mushrooms & Herbs.

Olive Leaf

Supports immune function while also offering antioxidant support*

Throughout history, people have revered the Olive tree (Olea europea), with the ancient Egyptians and Greeks recognizing it as a symbol of wisdom, peace, and longevity. Olive Leaf also provides antioxidant support to help support the body’s natural defenses against free radicals.*

 As an evergreen, the leaves of the Olive tree must produce antioxidants to withstand the radiation from the sun. Historically, people used Olive Leaf to support cardiovascular, glycemic, and immune health by supporting healthy body temperature and healthy levels of immune cells.*

We use fresh-picked whole Olive Leaf, gently concentrated to support a healthy immune response.*


Supports healthy respiratory function and is a natural antioxidant source*

In Greek, Oregano (Origanum vulgare) means "joy of the mountain," as the herb prefers higher elevations in the Mediterranean region. In addition to centuries of use in kitchens across Europe, Oregano leaf has enjoyed a long history of supporting a healthy immune response.* Our supercritical CO2 extract of Oregano contains pungent volatile oils, including carvacrol and thymol, which support maintaining healthy respiratory function and a healthy immune response.* 

Oregano essential oil also has antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties.REF#1175 The antifungal and antibacterial properties can also be beneficial in skincare. Oregano leaf can be used daily in culinary amounts to support health and in concentrated Oil of Oregano form to offer increased support when you need it most.*


Adaptogenic support for immune function*

For over 2,000 years, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has used Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum),  known as “Ling Zhi,” or “spiritual mushroom.” Grown on hardwood trees, it was once rare in the wild and reserved for the emperor and his court. Today, cultivation is much easier. TCM considers Reishi a tonic and adaptogen, capable of supporting a healthy stress response and balancing various organ systems in the body.* Historically, people revered Reishi for nourishing the heart, calming the spirit, supporting respiratory health, and maintaining healthy liver function.*

In modern times, people still use this mushroom for various purposes. Reishi contains polysaccharides called beta-glucans, primarily found in its fruiting bodies, which contribute to its immune-supporting properties.* Reishi is featured in Everyday Immune Mushrooms & Herbs.

What Are Some Other Herbs for Immune Support?

While the above herbs are commonly used to help support the immune system, there are some other lesser-known herbs that can also offer immune support. Here are a few honorable mentions that we like to keep in our herbal cabinet.


Supports immune function and is an antioxidant*

For thousands of years, people in India have relied on Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) as a powerful adaptogenic herb in Ayurvedic medicine. Known as "Indian ginseng," Ashwagandha supports overall wellness and balances the body.* 

Ashwagandha helps soothe stress, supports sleep quality, and maintains a healthy thyroid.*REF#1170 Its active compounds, including withanolides, are believed to contribute to these effects. In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, people also used Ashwagandha to support healthy fertility.REF#1176 

In recent years, Ashwagandha has become increasingly popular due to its versatility and effectiveness. You can take it as a capsule, powder, or extract and find it in our Ashwagandha Gummies and Thyroid Support.


Supports immune function with antioxidant properties.*

Used in traditional Indian and Chinese medicine, Turmeric (Curcuma longa) has potent medicinal properties. This bright yellow root, related to ginger, is hailed for its ability to support overall health and wellness.* Turmeric's active ingredient, curcumin, is responsible for its powerful antioxidant effects.REF#1177

Turmeric supports a healthy inflammation response, maintains joint function, and nourishes a healthy digestive system.* People have been using Turmeric to flavor dishes and enhance their health benefits, as well as in supplements and skincare products. Get the benefits of Turmeric from our Turmeric Supreme and Golden Milk


Supports stress reduction and immune function.* 

Ginseng (Panax ginseng) is a powerful adaptogenic herb in traditional medicine. Known as "Asian ginseng," this herb supports wellness and balances the body.* 

Ginseng helps soothe feelings of stress, supports healthy energy levels, and helps maintain a healthy immune system.* Its active compounds, including ginsenosides, are believed to contribute to these effects on the body. In traditional medicine, people also use ginseng to support cognitive function, healthy digestion, and healthy skin.REF#1178

Holy Basil

Adaptogenic herb with antimicrobial properties and supports the immune system. 

Holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), or Tulsi, is believed to support physical and mental health and is considered an adaptogen, meaning it can help the body manage stress and maintain balance. In addition to its use in traditional medicine, holy basil is also used in Hindu religious ceremonies and symbolizes purity and prosperity.

The compounds in Holy Basil leaves, including eucalyptol, camphor, and rosmarinic acid, give the plant antioxidant effects. It also boasts nutritional qualities, with vitamin C and iron. Holy Basil may assist in normalizing glucose, blood pressure, and lipid profiles.REF#1179 One gram daily of Holy Basil may also help support healthy LDL cholesterol levels.REF#1180

It provides internal benefits and soothes and protects the skin when used in skin care products. It may decrease the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles, support healthy skin elasticity, and brighten the overall complexion.

Bottom Line

Beneficial herbs can help protect against various pathogens, viral infections, and other harmful substances. Whether you prefer to drink herbal teas, make soups, or take a tincture, incorporating herbal remedies into your daily routine can help support a robust immune system and overall health and well-being.


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