As we come into the colder, winter months our bodies start to encounter colds and flu viruses. And the only way to stay in tip-top health is to have a strong immune system that can fight off everything from coughs and colds to sneezes and sniffles. 

We look at some of the most powerful herbs that help boost our immune systems. Whether you add them to your dinners, drink them as tea, or take them in supplement form, be sure to include some of these flu-fighting herbs to your diet over the next few weeks if you want to reach the party season without as much as a headcold. 

Here are our top five powerful immune boosting herbs: 

1. Echinacea 

You may have turned to echinacea when you were already suffering from a cold or flu to help you recover. Recent studies have found that taking echinacea supplements when you first start to feel a cold or flu coming on can help reduce the symptoms and also speed up your recovery time as it works to reduce inflammation within the body and boosts activity among the cells that are responsible for fighting off infections. It has also been linked to treating respiratory infections and gum disease. 

2. Curcumin 

Curcumin is part of the turmeric family but is very rarely used in our modern diets. However, if you're looking to improve your immune response, consider adding it to your dinner recipes. Research in the US found that curcumin worked to activate a protein called cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide (CAMP) which can help fight off bacteria, viruses and fungi in the body. Like echinacea, it also has anti-inflammatory properties, but curcumin boasts antioxidant powers making it ideal for improving your health over the winter months. 

3. Astragalus 

Astragalus has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for hundreds of years to treat a variety of different ailments.Today it is recognised as a powerful herb to aid your immune system. For people who feel their immune response is low, and they regularly suffer from coughs and colds, a daily supplement of astragalus could help improve their health. It works like echinacea to increase the number and the activity of immune cells within the body, and it can be taken all year round. 

4. Ginseng 

Another popular herb for fighting off illness, ginseng has been used in Asian remedies for thousands of years. There are different types of ginseng available - Korean, Siberian and American - and all have different health-enhancing components, but it was the Koreans that first started using it as a tonic to help the immune system recover after illness. 

5. Barberry 

Barberry has only recently become popular in the realms of immune-boosting supplements. A study by Maryland Medical Center in the US found that the herb contains the active chemical berberine, which has shown positive results in fighting off bacteria growth. It is this berberine that could help our immune systems function better. Other studies have found that barberry has helped improve immune-related skin conditions like psoriasis, so it has plenty of positive indicators to being a good immune-booster.