Gardening For Health

Plants to Support Immune Systems 

By Maria Price 

The increase in the number of coronavirus cases this winter seems rather bleak. We need to wear masks and practice social distancing and this will be especially hard with the holidays. If you grow herbs and have harvested vegetables, you can support your immune system with help from your garden. 

Today’s standard American diet is grossly deficient in hundreds of important plant-derived immunity building compounds. Phytochemicals are plant-derived compounds that cause biological activity. Human immune systems have evolved to be dependent on these phytochemicals for optimal functioning.  

Phytochemicals found in foods such as green vegetables, mushrooms and onions fuel the self-healing and self-protective properties already built into the human genome, together resulting in “super immunity.”  

Rosemary, sage and thyme have antioxidant, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Rosemary also has anticancer properties. Thyme has expectorant properties good for chest congestion for coughs and bronchitis. Oregano and marjoram are antiseptic and strongly antioxidant. Turmeric is loaded with beneficial properties, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiviral, anticancer and it boosts insulin activity in diabetes. Garlic has anti- microbial, cardio-protective, anti-carcinogen and expectorant properties. Ginger has anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and expectorant properties. Parsley acts as a mild diuretic, is a rich source of vitamin C and a lot of minerals. Mushrooms are loaded with immune boosting properties. They increase the body’s resistance to bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infections. Astragalus can also be added for its immune stimulant and antimicrobial properties. 

For a delicious way to get all these plant compounds working, make a Super Immunity Soup. Debone or use a leftover turkey carcass, covered with water to make your broth or use a whole chicken boiled until the meat falls off the bone. Remove all the bones. Add one large chopped onion, one knob of garlic (crushed), ½ cup chopped celery, a 3-inch long piece of fresh ginger grated, six chopped carrots, one chopped parsnip, one chopped turnip with greens, three red potatoes (cubed), two sticks of astragalus root, 1 cup sliced shitake mushrooms, 1 cup chopped fresh parsley, 1 tablespoon turmeric powder, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, ½ cup barley, ½ cup lentils, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 2 to 3 finely chopped chili peppers, one chopped red bell pepper, one medium zucchini (chopped) and 1 cup chopped spinach, cabbage, kale or collard greens. Add 2 tablespoons each of rosemary, thyme, sage, marjoram and oregano. Make sure water covers all of your ingredients and simmer until tender. 

If you don’t want meat in your soup, sauté the onion and garlic in some olive oil and then add three quarts of water to simmer. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer until tender. Add more water as needed. Enjoy.