Top 9 Evidence-Based Immune Boosting Supplements
*Please note, this is NOT a coronavirus specific article. For our COVID-19 supplement review, you can find it HERE.
Our immune system is a complex structure that involves itself in virtually every disease affecting the human body. From our gut to our cardiovascular and nervous systems, and all points in between, our ever-powerful immune system exerts a dominant role. [1, 2, 3]
As health optimizers, we use the blanket word “inflammation” as an all-inclusive label for diseases and their underlying causes. While inflammation causes oxidative stress as the primary cause of disease, it’s critical to make some key distinctions to better understand our diverse immune system. [4,5,6]
In locating 70% of our immune system in our gastrointestinal system, the focal point of current research is the vast gut microbiome and its regulation of inflammation and immune response. The possibility of solving the mystery of autoimmune conditions, where the immune system attacks itself, is closer to becoming a reality with this groundbreaking work. [7,8,9]
Our immune system, with elaborate security-minded intelligence, sends five liters of blood and a clear liquid we call lymph, to all tissues. Together these two transport all immune system components throughout the body, allowing our immune system to regulate efficient homeostasis in the body. [10,11,12]
Five types of microorganisms, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, viruses, and worms are assaulting humans with the threat of disease. Besides external enemies, our immune system serves to protect our bodies against the prevention and spread of cancer. [13,14,15,16,17,18]
Operating with two parts, the innate and adaptive, our immune system manages this defense system with its antibodies, blood cells, bone marrow, complement system, lymphatic system, spleen, and thymus. Protecting the body against disease, white blood cells (WBCs), exist to protect us against both foreign invaders and cancer. [19,20,21,22]
While asthma, eczema, and allergic reactions are conditions of overactive immune systems, the immune system can be in a state of autoimmunity, whereby it attacks itself, as with conditions such as lupus, type 1 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. We can be born with weak immune systems, while still over-activating it with allergic reactions, or even acquire a disease driven immune system deficiency, such as AIDS. [23,24,25,26,27,28]
It’s important to consider the various ways our lifestyle lowers our immune system, including excessive alcohol, smoking, poor diet, stress, and lack of exercise. Some with autoimmune conditions can even trigger a negative auto-immune response from the use of certain supplements. [29,30,31,32,33,34,35]
What are the Top 9 Evidence-Based Immune Boosting Supplements?
#1 Vitamin D
As health optimizers, many of us are asking the same question whether we need substantially more vitamin D to empower a strong immune system. While traditional guidelines tell us our target vitamin D blood levels should be 20–50 ng/ ml, we increasingly question whether 50 ng/ml should be the minimum and not maximum target blood levels.
According to Dr. Andrew Weil, “deficient levels of vitamin D levels have been linked to viral susceptibility”, as he recommends supplementing up to 5,000 IU per day. Dr. Rhonda Patrick, says “vitamin D3 is not just a vitamin, it’s a steroid hormone regulating over 5% of the protein-encoding human genome and is vital to our health.”
The skin produces this fat-soluble vitamin through the hormonal conversion of UV-B sunlight exposure. Various elements pose challenges to this critical need, as we believe 70% of Americans have vitamin D3 insufficiency, while we believe 28% are deficient.
The Endocrine Society states plasma levels of vitamin D, also known as Serum 25-hydroxy-vitamin D (25(OH)D), of less than 20 ng/ml and 30 ng/ml represent deficiencies and insufficiencies. We find older adults to be 63% more likely to be deficient and 46% more likely to be insufficient than young adults.
Also discovered is a 70-year-old produces four times less vitamin D than a 20-year-old. Because of melanin, non-Hispanics blacks experience 24.6 times higher rates of vitamin D deficiency and 3.7 times higher vitamin D deficiency versus non-Hispanic whites.
A recent CDC hospitalization survey of 14 states found that 48% of hospitalizations were those who were obese, whereas 33% were non-Hispanic blacks, who only make up 13% of the overall population. Non-Hispanic whites undergo hospitalization rates of 48% while representing 76% of the total population.
A similar study confirms similar results with Somalians, living in Sweden. If one is taking a vitamin D supplement, a combination product with vitamin K2 is a wise selection, as is 320–420 mg of daily magnesium to achieve basic vitamin D absorption.
Vitamin D3 supplementation alone may promote blood vessel calcification and heart disease, while vitamin K may help prevent it. Finally, vitamin D increases the expression of the ACE2 enzyme, believed to protect our lungs from coronavirus infection, which is increasingly making the science journals. [36,37,38,39,40,41,42,43,44,45,46,47]
Zinc is being used in hospitals as a frontline treatment for acute COVID-19, coronavirus cases in doses of 225 mg. Zinc lozenges have continued to be one of the top natural antiviral options for previous viruses.
While a deficiency will impair the ability of the body to fight off infection, taking extra zinc is not an effective strategy in the prevention of viral infections. We have shown zinc to be effective in treating previous respiratory tract viral infections.
A key symptom with coronavirus patients is the loss of a sense of smell, pointing to a severe zinc deficiency. The story of zinc gluconate lozenges began in 1984 when biohacker George Eby made headlines by showing that zinc gluconate lozenges, when taken every two hours at the beginning of symptoms, reduced the duration of the common cold from 11 to 4 days.
He later applied for and received a patent for zinc gluconate lozenges as the “cure for the common cold.” Since then, many manufacturers have offered zinc lozenges with elderberry, which is a proven compound for the flu.
Increasingly, elderberry, the common zinc lozenge additive, may not be optimal for the coronavirus respiratory infection, because of the activation of cytokines involved in cytokine storm syndrome. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, the daily dosage should be no more than 40mg and can be counter-productive to hydrochloric acid production in the gut and copper balance.
Zinc deficiency affects 2 billion people and is very common amongst the elderly. Medical doctors and researchers advise the use of zinc lozenges at the first sign of symptoms.
Daily RDA, depending on the individual, has ranged from 15 to 30 mg, which a multivitamin adequately covers. While hospitals are administering zinc sulfate, we have found zinc picolinate to be the most bioavailable oral form of zinc in previous studies. [48,49,50,51,52,53,54,55,56,57]
In offering a wide array of health benefits such as cardiovascular improvement, this common and widely studied plant delivers profound immune system support. Specifically, for the common cold and flu, garlic shines like a superstar.
Containing compounds assisting the immune system’s defense against germs, garlic contains a compound called allicin. In conversion to allicin, a sulfur compound, when we crush or chew it, and then diallyl disulfide along with other sulfur-containing compounds, giving garlic its unique taste and smell.
Studies tell us the disease-combatting response of white blood cells in the body can be strengthened by garlic. Of particular note, garlic enhances the white blood cell response viruses, which cause the common cold or flu.
The technology of garlic supplement production offers us a solution for those who cannot handle the taste and smell of raw garlic. Odorless aged garlic extract products removing the garlic odor continue to grow in use as science-backed garlic supplements. [58,59,60,61,62,63,64,65,66,67]
#4 Oregano Oil
As the general name for a variety of herbs, oregano exists in the origanum genus as part of the mint family. Besides being a cooking herb, oregano delivers some potential medicinal benefits.
Polyphenols, carvacrol, and thymol are the most medicinally active properties from amongst an array of oregano essential oil compounds. With its potent anti-pathogen actions, we believe it to be most effective against parasites along with an effective treatment-resistant anti-bacterial agent that appears to destroy bacterial biofilm. [68,69,70,71,72,73,74,75,76]
#5 Black Seed Oil (Black Cumin)
Black seed oil or black cumin oil can protect cells from damage, with Islamic historical records showing black seed is, “a cure for every disease (except death).” Pressed from the seeds of Nigella sativa shrub, black seed oil is a plant loaded in thymoquinone, a phytochemical compound we believe to possess anti-cancer properties, along with an array of other benefits.
Used for thousands of years for medicine, food, and even cosmetics, many use black seed oil in the same way as aspirin or ibuprofen. Black seed oil is being researched as a believed COVID-19, coronavirus inhibitor, because of the demonstration of similar effects on previous viral respiratory infections. [77,78,79,80,81,82,83,84]
#6 Medicinal Mushrooms: (Chaga, Cordyceps, Lion’s Mane, Maitake, Reishi, Shitake)
As an Eastern medicine staple for thousands of years, medicinal mushrooms are now gaining attention in the western world. As we are finding these higher-end fungi in a variety of forms, they are undeniably gaining widespread popularity as nootropic supplements to even boutique lattes.
Whether taking reishi for relaxation, lion’s mane for cognition, shitake for circulation, Chaga for antioxidants, cordyceps for energy, or turkey tail for cancer, all 6 of these medicinal mushrooms offer meaningful immune support amongst the 270 total immune-stimulating mushroom species. We believe with cordyceps protection against bacterial, lung infections, and turkey tail to be the two most potent species within these mushrooms.
Containing an immune-stimulating compound, polysaccharide-K (PSK), turkey tail increases survival rates of specific cancers. Approved as a prescription anti-cancer medication in Japan, we can see PSK with a history of defending against leukemia cells while improving the immune system of individuals undergoing chemotherapy. [85,86,87,88,89,90,91,92,93,94,95,96,97,98]
#7 Bee Products: (Raw Honey, Manuka Honey, Pollen, Propolis, Royal Jelly)
Bees offer us a variety of products to enhance our immune response. Whether in the form of raw honey, manuka honey, pollen, propolis, or royal jelly, we cannot ignore the benefits of these products.
We see evidence of raw honey, or unpasteurized honey with its phytonutrients being able to deliver antioxidant, antibacterial, and antiviral immune protecting actions. Manuka honey seems to deliver even more support in the form of treatment-resistant antipathogen effects.
We believe black elderberry is a potent immune booster capable of reducing viral infection symptoms. Included in zinc lozenges, elderberry is quickly becoming a popular cold and flu immune-boosting supplement.
In various studies, elderberry performs well against influenza-A. And in other in-vitro or test-tube studies, elderberry lowered upper respiratory symptoms caused by viral infections.
Commonly thought of as only a gym supplement, glutamine is actually best understood to repair and support the gut lining, especially while under stress. In Japan, glutamine is the most popular anti-ulcer medication prescribed by doctors in dosages of 20 grams a day or more.
As seen in the improvement of gut permeability, it can improve the growth and survival of enterocytes, or intestinal cells. This finding alone leaves us with further and more important connections to make on overall stress, inflammation, and immune response.
The active polyphenol compound found in turmeric, curcumin, is a member of the ginger family and has a gastro-protective mechanism of action according to several studies. Curcumin relaxes the intestinal tract for more efficient digestion, supports healthy gut microbiome bacterial balance, protects the stomach from inflammation, and finally supports the liver and storage of blood fats, by increasing bile secretion.
As curcumin kills a wide variety of cancer cells in the petri dish, it still kills specific cancers in vivo, but meanwhile has a problem of low absorbability in the human body. Curcumin continues to perform against cancers, leaving the hope of researchers continuing to improve upon these newer enhanced delivery formulations to eventually deliver a true anti-cancer compound.
Being a group of plant species, echinacea has 9 different species of plants. Eastern medicine uses echinacea extracts in treating the common cold, bacterial infections, and blood poisoning.
While echinacea might be useful for enhancing immunity, it is a proven supplement for the common cold. We will typically see echinacea as an active ingredient in cold formulas.
“Originally posted on Optimize Better”