by increasing the activity of NK cells, macrophages, and T-cells. Taken during cold and flu season, it may help prevent colds and other upper respiratory conditions. The herb also has powerful free radical fighting capabilities. Echinacea is well known for its ability to turn on the body’s innate immune response and for stimulating the production of antibodies called immunoglobulin M. A review at the University of Connecticut found that echinacea decreased the odds of developing the common cold by 58 percent. There are several types of echinacea on the market, including Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea pallida, and Echinacea purpurea, with immune-boosting properties. But the secret to the effectiveness of any of these varieties is to take the herb at the first sign of the sniffles. Note: Because echinacea is considered an immune stimulator, consult with a healthcare provider knowledgeable in dietary supplements if you have an autoimmune disease. Medicinal mushrooms, such as maitake, reishi, shiitake, agaricus, and poria cocos, have been used for centuries throughout Asia to enhance immune function and restore vitality. Modern research shows that these mushroom superstars are rich sources of lentinan, which helps fight infection; maitake D-fraction which stimulates cancer-fighting immune cells; beta-glucan, a unique fiber that enhances the immune system’s rapid response to bacterial infection; and active hexose correlated compound (AHCC), an immunomodulating compound that also increases the body’s antibody response to the flu vaccine, making it even more effective. While some varieties like maitake and shiitake are delicious cooked, others like reishi are used strictly for medicinal purposes. For immune balancing, look for a mushroom supplement that includes several types of culinary and medicinal mushrooms. Adapt with Adaptogens Adaptogens get their names from the adaptive properties the plants exhibit in nature, meaning the plants respond and adapt well to stressful environmental conditions, making them hardier and stronger. Fortunately, these herbs have the same effect on us. The following adaptogens can help to improve your stress response and mitigate the negative impact stress has on your immune system. As a result, these adaptogens help restore balance to your entire body. Ashwagandha is a calming adaptogen that supports healthy adrenal function. It is often used to relieve anxiety and fatigue, and to help balance the immune system by reducing cortisol levels. During one randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involving 64 people with a history of chronic stress, those taking ashwagandha twice a day for 60 days showed significantly reduced stress-assessment scores. Serum cortisol levels were also substantially lower and more normal in the ashwagandha group compared to those in the placebo group. Holy basil is commonly used to reduce the effects of stress, while improving memory. But more recent studies show that this herb also contributes to a healthy immune response thanks to the active constituent eugenol. It’s so powerful, holy basil has even demonstrated antimicrobial effects against Streptococcus mutans, the pathogen responsible for tooth and gum disease. Rhodiola is best known for its ability to enhance energy, endurance, alertness, and memory while reducing fatigue. However, recent findings in the Archives of Virology suggest that this adaptogenic herb also boosts NK cell levels and produces an antiviral immune response for stress-free protection.