The immune system defends the body against infection and disease. Growing plants proven to boost this protective response is the latest gardening trend. And although the obvious choice is to grow vitamin enriched vegetables there are other plants that fulfill the per-requisite of what an immunity garden is. Many thrive planted in containers on small balconies or grown from seed on a kitchen windowsill. Here are six, easy-to-grow immunity-boosting plants, plus their benefits, how to cultivate and use them. Even a few carefully chosen herbs can reap rewards. —Jennifer Cole
thyme. Thyme is versatile—easy to grow in a backyard herb garden, container on a balcony, or a sunny windowsill. Part of the mint family it’s packed with vitamins C and A. It contains carvacrol that boosts feelings of well-being, provides liver protection and has anti-inflammatory properties. All essential to a strong immunity. A few sprigs in a salad or mixed into a stir fry add health and goodness.
rosemary. Rosemary’s a sun lover. It likes six to eight hours a day and can be grown in a container or as part of a perennial garden. It has powerful antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties that help the immune system fight off colds and other viruses. Add it fresh or dried to any dish.
wheatgrass. One ounce of wheatgrass juice equals two pounds of fresh vegetables. Generally, grown indoors from seed wheatgrass prefers filtered sunlight and is packed with vitamins A, C and E, calcium, magnesium and amino acids. Regular consumption reduces acidity in the body, which contributes to diseases such as cancer. Its antibacterial properties help in combatting infections. In a blender, puree 1/2 cup wheatgrass with 2 tbsp water, drink as is or thin with liquid to preference.
lavender. Lavender doesn’t like having wet roots but can be grown in a container on a balcony or by a front door as long as it has good drainage. The sweet scent of lavender relieves stress by inhibiting the flow of the hormone cortisol known to lower the body’s natural immune defences. Place fresh sprigs of lavender in a vase on your work desk and around the house.
aloe vera. The gel of an aloe vera plant is full of immune enhancing polysaccharides and antioxidants. Typically grown as a houseplant harvesting the elixir to make juice is as simple as cutting a large leaf, rinsing and letting it stand in a tall glass cut side down while the yellow resin drains out. After it has, cut the leaf in half to remove the clear gel. Make sure not to get any green rind mixed with it. Puree in a blender with water adding honey or other juices as desired.
garlic. This herb is generally planted outside in the fall and harvested in the spring. One clove of garlic contains calcium, potassium and over 100 sulphuric compounds that contribute to immunity by lowering blood pressure, and cholesterol that contributes to heart disease. Eat raw or cook and add to any dish.