By Becky Starling


My daughter started Kindergarten this year. While I knew this would be tough on her immune system I wasn’t expecting a fresh batch of sniffles and coughs every month! Now, my kids can get onboard with elderberry syrup, or most honey-based remedies for that matter, but getting them to take immune boosting herbs on a regular basis is not always easy. Unless laced with sugar, herbal supplements are not always welcome with little ones (and husbands!). The easiest way I have found to give my family immune support herbs is to simply add it to our everyday foods. Incorporating herbs into food to aid our health is certainly not new and has likely been employed for as long as humans have existed on earth. So this quick immune boosting broth is super simple recipe that requires very little in the way of specialty ingredients and preparation and can be adapted to your families’ needs.


While there are lots of herbs that can provide support to our bodies by stimulating or modulating the immune system, there are a few that I feel lend themselves especially well to the long, slow cooking of broth and really enhance the flavor of the broth.


Astragalus is an herbaceous perennial in the bean family, native to Northern China, Mongolia, and Siberia. An adaptogen and immunomodulator with anti-viral actions, Astragalus is excellent when used as a daily tonic to build strength in the immune system over a long-term rather than used acutely during infection. The root is used as a medicinal and culinary food herb, making it safe for kids and elders alike. It is used traditionally to increase energy levels and as respiratory herb to support the lungs. I prefer to purchase astragalus in the form of the pressed root making it easy to toss into the stockpot and I love the flavor it brings to soups and stews!


Although renowned for its skin soothing properties, calendula is not just for skincare products! It has antiviral and anti-inflammatory actions, but it also helps to build immunity and prevent infections by kicking the lymphatic system into action. I use the dried whole flower, not just the petals, as it is the sticky resinous stuff found on the base of the flowerhead that contains the majority of the medicinal goodness. Note that calendula should not be taken internally in pregnancy.


An antimicrobial herb in the mint family and a traditional cold and flu remedy. It is an expectorant and help ease congestion and inflammation in the respiratory tracts during illness. It is also high in vitamin C which gives our immune system a boost. When I have the fresh plant, I’ll throw that it but dried works just as well too. Thyme is so beautifully aromatic and makes for a delicious addition to the broth with some great immune benefits.

Other excellent immune boosting additions include garlic, reishi, gotu kola, seaweed, and nettles.


  • 1 Cup Onion Peelings
  • 1 Cup Carrot Peelings
  • 1 Cup Celery Tops
  • 1 Cup Leek Tops
  • 4 Cloves Garlic
  • 12 Cups Water
  • 1/4 Cup Dried Thyme
  • 1/4 Cup Calendula Flowers
  • 4 Pieces Astragalus Pressed Root
  • 2-4 Reishi Root Slices
  • 1/4 cup Dried Nettles
  • Sea Salt To taste
  • Black Pepper To taste


  1. Gather your kitchen scraps in a large saucepan or stockpot. I gather them over a couple of days in a container in the fridge. Most vegetables can be used but it's probably not a good idea to use cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower as they can leave the broth tasting pretty funky!  If you can, use organic and never use any questionable vegetable scraps that look moldy. 
  2. Cover with water (you will want the water to be a few inches above your scraps and bring to a boil over a medium heat.
  3. Add your immune support herbs, I like calendula, thyme, astragalus, reishi and nettles plus sea salt and black pepper to taste. 
  4. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 6-8 hours
  5. Strain your broth. I then divide the broth into 2 cup portions and freeze ready to pull out and thaw as needed.
  6. Use your broth in place of vegetable stock in any recipe where it is called for.  I use this broth as a base for soups, stews and pie fillings. Note that this broth is already seasoned so you may not need to add as much salt in your recipes. 

Do you have a favourite herb you add to broths? Let me know!




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