Taking care of our immune system has been a number one priority these past couple of years. There are many things we can do to give it a little boost and improve overall health: eat fruits and veggies, get at least eight hours of sleep, stay active, and stress less (we know it’s hard!). But sometimes our traditional remedies come in handy. Even researchers have started to look into the benefits of traditional medicine as it relates to wellness. One study found that the antioxidant activity found in canela was higher than that of superfoods like garlic and oregano. Including herbs like yerba buena and manzanilla in our wellness routines has always been part of our Latin American culture but you obviously don’t want to use it without doing your research first. Here are 11 science-backed herbs widely used throughout Latin America that may help boost your immunity.
Our culture has incorporated sage burning or smudging for ages to clear the environment of any negative energy and improve over-all wellbeing. But it also packs a healthy dose of antioxidants you need to stay healthy. One study found that sage contains hundreds of distinct polyphenols, which are compounds that act as antioxidants in your body. Drinking about one cup of sage tea twice a day can significantly increase antioxidant defenses in your body.
Yerba buena, or peppermint, is an herb in the mint family. Although the herb is native to Europe and Asia, it has grown in popularity in Mexico and other parts of South America. Yerba buena has antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. Evidence suggests it may fight clogged sinuses that you may get from infections, the common cold, allergies, and it’s also reportedly a side effect of the Omicron variant.
Besides being a staple in many of our households, it’s also a popular tea in Mexico. Studies have found that oregano may help fight viral and bacterial infections. In one study, the compounds in oregano fought against norovirus, an infection that causes diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain, within one hour after consuming the herb. Another study showed that oregano essential oil helped block the growth of several infection-causing bacteria.
Chances are there is manzanilla (chamomile) in your kitchen cabinet ready for use to help with sleep. And we’re talking fresh manzanilla, no tea bags. Manzanilla plays a significant role in boosting your immunity, relieving stress, and improving sleep. Studies have promoted te de manzanilla as being a great way to prevent and treat the common cold and soothing sore throats.
We love cumin as a seasoning but it has medicinal qualities that have been used for decades. Cumin appears to have components that may reduce certain kinds of infectious fungi. When it is digested, a component called megalomicin is released and acts as a natural antibiotic in the body.
Yerba mate is a South American staple especially in Argentina and Uruguay where it’s often consumed on its own or with juice or sugar. Yerba mate contains natural, anti-inflammatory compounds. This herb provides small amounts of vitamin C, E, selenium, and zinc to help strengthen your immune system and promote good health.
Dried Hibiscus Petals
Hibiscus, also known as jamaica, is one of Latin America’s favorite herbs. You can find hibiscus in Mexican street food, Argentinian coffee, and even Brazilian chocolate. There have been studies done on how beneficial hibiscus is for fighting bacteria in the body. One particular study found that hibiscus extract fought against eight strains of bacteria and was as effective as some medications that treated bacterial infections.
Epazote (epazo¯tl in Nahuatl word) is native to Mexico and Central America and aside from being used for medicinal purposes it’s also used to add flavor to moles and soups. Epazote has high levels of vitamin A and other antioxidants which can be very helpful for your immune system. Drink it as a tea to aid with congestion or other similar issues like bronchitis or you can even buy it as an essential oil and massage it onto your skin to help with arthritis.
Canela, or cinnamon, is used in many Latin American dishes. In Mexico, it’s often added to tomato sauces, used in mole, and is an essential ingredient in Mexican hot chocolate. Aside from being widely available and affordable, cinnamon’s high levels of antioxidants protects your body from free radicals. One study compared antioxidant activity of 26 spices and found that cinnamon beat out “superfoods” like garlic and oregano!
In Latin America, rue is primarily used to treat muscled cramping but studies have shown that this herb may help protect you from bacterial infections as well. Evidence suggests that is could possibly fight infections like UTIs and colon infections.
Calendula is widely used for its therapeutic properties. It does have a bitter taste but you can buy it as an essential oil. Calendula is anti-inflammatory and packed with so many antioxidants that can improve heart health. If you purchase the extract, you can massage a few drops onto your temples for instant relief.