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Life can imperil our health in innumerable ways but we have a vital defence against these threats – the immune system. The immune system protects the body from harmful substances, germs and cell changes that could make you ill. It is made up of various organs, cells and proteins.
Against the current climate, maintaining a robust immune system is more important than ever.
As an article published in the journal Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care points out, without an immune system, we would have no way to fight harmful things that enter our body from the outside or harmful changes that occur inside our body.
Living through a global pandemic is not the only appealing argument to strengthen our immune defences.
Maintaining a robust immune system can also help to fight disease-causing changes in the body, such as cancer cells.
Research suggests you can intervene to bolster your immune system and reap the health benefits of doing so.
One of the most widely publicised solutions is to take echinacea, also called purple coneflower.
The ancient herbal remedy, native to North America, is found in tablets, tinctures, extracts and teas.
Numerous studies have found that this plant may help your immune system combat infections and viruses, which could help you recover faster from illness.
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That’s one reason why echinacea is often used to prevent or treat the common cold.
A review of 14 studies found that taking echinacea may lower the risk of developing colds by more than 50 percent and shorten the duration of colds by one and a half days.
Test-tube studies have shown that echinacea extracts may suppress cancer cell growth and even trigger cancer cell death.
In one test-tube study, an extract of Echinacea purpurea and chicoric acid (naturally found in echinacea plants) was shown to trigger cancer cell death.
In another test-tube study, extracts from echinacea plants (Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea pallida) killed human cancer cells from the pancreas and colon by stimulating a process called apoptosis or controlled cell death.
Researchers believe that this effect occurs due to echinacea’s immune-boosting properties.
There was some concern that echinacea could interact with conventional cancer treatments, such as doxorubicin, but newer studies have found no interaction.
General tips to promote longevity
Echinacea should form only one part of your overall approach to healthy living and your commitment to a healthy, balanced diet is what counts.
According to the NHS, fruit and vegetables are a good source of vitamins and minerals and fibre, and should make up just over a third of the food you eat each day.
It’s recommended that you eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day.
There’s evidence that people who eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers.
You should also engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, adds the NHS.
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