7 Immune Boosting Foods and Herbs for Back-To-School

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Immune Boosting Foods

Immune Boosting Foods for Back to School

We’re just a few weeks into the school year and my son is already sniffling. It reminds me that the transition from fall into winter is just around the corner and it isn’t too soon to begin thinking about both my kids’ immune systems.

In our house we have a number of go-to plants that get worked into the daily regimen. As the weather begins to cool we switch to more warming foods, steamed greens, bone broths, and warm grains. We move away from the fresh salads and cold, raw veggies of summer. Here are a few of my favorite plants that we work into our diet.

7 Immune Boosting Herbs for Back to School

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Ginger root is easy to pick up fresh at your local grocery, but in a pinch you can also use dried. (It is much more “hot” and “sharp” when dried.) Ginger is a warming herb that quickens and tonifies the immune system. It is often all that is needed at the first sign of an illness, encouraging the body to “cook” out the culprits.

Stir fry or chicken soup are favorite evening meals that are heavily seasoned with ginger as the weather turns cold around here. Of course, ginger tea is an old-standby as well, but many children find it too spicy. If that’s the case, you can either mix it with a much larger amount of honey and drink it as is, or use the resulting ginger syrup to make ginger-ale. Ginger-ale can be easily made this way by next adding soda water.

Elder (Sambucus nigra)

Elderberry syrup is a favorite in this house. We use it for scratchy throats and night coughing. In clinical studies, elderberry has been shown to lessen the symptoms of cold and flu and to cut in half the time it takes to get over them. If you have an elder shrub nearby, the berries can be used in pie, crumble, jelly, juice and more. (Learn how to make Elderberry Cough Syrup and Elderberry Glycerite.)

Garlic (Allium sativum)

Garlic can be a tough sell for a small one. We use at least a clove a day in our cooking at this point, but sometimes you may feel like boosting its benefits. Numerous studies support its folkloric use as a natural antibiotic and immune booster. When we hear that something is going around at school, we use a traditional fire cider recipe in the morning in our bone broth. (Learn to make Homemade Fire Cider.)

Echinacea (Echinacea spp.)

We don’t use echinacea as a daily immune tonic, as it is not appropriate for daily use. Its best use is in cases when someone in the house is dealing with some sort of festering illness or infection. I mix up a batch of tea and put it into a spritzer bottle with a bit of honey when someone has a sore throat. This works better than most of the over-the-counter sprays for soothing and healing. (Find organic dried echinacea here.)

Acerola (Malpighia emarginata)

One of the best boosts for the immune system can be a good shot of Vitamin C. Acerola is the richest known source of this vitamin in the world. We order the powder and add a tablespoon to morning smoothies. (Find acerola powder here.)

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

There are so many things we can do for our kids and ourselves during the school year to remain healthy. A good diet, immune boosting herbs, and lots of exercise are so important. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is make certain that the family is able to rest properly. In sleep, the body is able to build up its defenses and focus on healing any infections or illnesses.

Chamomile may not be at the top of the list as a specific for the immune system but, when given in a tea before bed, it should not be overlooked as a great tool to support a healthy body. (Find organic dried chamomile here.)

Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

For a healthy immune system, you must be able to support a calm emotional state. Anxiety and frustration often accompany a child, or a parent, as they navigate homework, tests and new friends. Catnip is a great calming herb and is specific for anxiety that sits in the solar plexus. We often welcome our children home with a cup of catnip tea, a cookie, and a good conversation about all they experienced in their day away. (Find organic dried catnip here.)

Are you prepared to fend off illness this fall and winter?


Here’s to your health and the health of your child! Who knows what kind of ick will come down the pike this year. Are you and yours are prepared for it?


About Dawn Combs

Dawn is a wife, mother, farmer, author, ethnobotanist, professional speaker, and educator. She has over 20 years of ethnobotanical experience, is a certified herbalist, and has a B.A. in Botany and Humanities/Classics. Dawn is co-owner of Mockingbird Meadows Farm. Her books include Conceiving Healthy Babies and Heal Local.

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