Boost Your Immune System: Tried-and-True Remedies from Around the World


Boost Your Immune System: Tried-and-True Remedies from Around the World


"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food," Hippocrates said. Since ancient times, humans around the world have looked to nature for both fue

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“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” Hippocrates said. Since ancient times, humans around the world have looked to nature for both fuel and healing. Modern research shows many of the foods and herbs that people originally used as medicine—from South African hibiscus to Indian turmeric to Panamanian dark chocolate—still have immune-boosting health benefits today. Try integrating some of these tried-and-true remedies into your lifestyle, and eat to beat those winter flus.

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Papayas growing on a tree
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This fruit promotes good digestion, reduces inflammation and has strong antioxidant properties. Fermented papaya—available in powdered form—is especially impressive: it has been shown to reduce oxidative stress in the elderly and in those with hypothyroidism and liver disease, and another study found its extract can lower biomarkers linked to cancer.

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Whole and cut orange
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Nature’s Botox? Along with providing a rich source of immunity-boosting vitamin C, oranges also help increase the body’s natural supply of collagen, which keeps skin smooth and supple, and hair and nails strong. Collagen also has a hand in aiding healthy digestion, and one study showed it can improve joint pain after exercise.

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These little fruits have become synonymous with “antioxidant” for a reason. Studies have shown that eating blueberries can help reduce DNA damage, potentially protecting against cancers, as well as helping lower cholesterol levels and improving cognitive function. Another study showed that supplements can help children with executive functioning, and older adults with coordination and dexterity.

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Dark Chocolate


Cocoa contains compounds called flavanols that have been linked to heart health and might also reduce the risk of diabetes. One study of the Kuna people—an isolated tribe in Panama who drink around five cups of cocoa per day—showed almost nonexistent rates of high blood pressure. Looking to replicate this? Stick to dark chocolate, which contains two-to-three times more flavanols than milk chocolate.

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Button Mushrooms

Button Mushrooms


A rare food source of vitamin D, button mushrooms help keep bones strong. Mushrooms are also rich in potassium and compounds that can protect against chronic disease, and one study showed that the fungus could help people prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.

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Sliced pomegranate
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These pink or red multi-seeded fruits hold deep symbolism in many cultures. They’ve also been used for centuries for their antibacterial properties; the ancient Egyptians used the fruit to treat various infections and intestinal worms. Modern research on pomegranate juice shows it could help fight viruses like the flu.

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Hibiscus flower


South Africa

The versatile plant part has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes from combating high blood pressure to treating liver issues. There are over 50 different species of hibiscus. It’s often steeped in water for tea, made into jams or dried and folded into doughs for muffins and bread.

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The standout star of nuts, almonds are indigenous to Iran. Along with being good sources of protein and fiber, almonds have high levels of vitamin E, which has antioxidant properties and protects cells from damage. Almonds have also been shown to bolster the immune system, providing an extra layer of armor against illnesses like the flu.

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For thousands of years, this bright orange spice has been used for both flavor and medicinal purposes. Its main compound, curcumin, gives turmeric its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. One study showed that people with ulcerative colitis who supplemented their traditional medicine with turmeric were more likely to stay in remission. Feeling forgetful? Another study showed it can aid memory.

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Miso soup



You’ve likely had this Japanese favorite in soup, but the fermented soybean paste can also be added to sauces, salad dressings, tofu and vegetable dishes. Like yogurt, miso contains probiotics, the “good bacteria” that promote gut health. They are also thought to promote cognitive health, including alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression.

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Larissa Veronesi/Getty



This salty succulent found along southern Australia’s coastline is chock-full of vitamins A, B and C, and it’s thought to help regulate sleep, promote tissue repair and detox the body. Samphire can be served fresh in salads, or roasted in olive oil or butter, similar to asparagus.

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