Whether you are in perfect health or not, you have good reason to be mindful of the health of your body’s immune system. Here is a look at the value and means by which to bolster your immune health, and some of the best herbs and supplements best suited to aid the immune system.
Why You Need a Healthy Immune System
Your body’s immune system is the system which protects your body against harmful invading agents, keeping you healthy in the process. The immune system is responsible for defending the body against infection as well as healing tissues damaged by infection.
The immune system is a network of organs, cells, proteins, and chemicals. It has two distinct aspects: the innate immune system and the adaptive system. The innate system is just that – innate – and is made up of the skin, elements in the respiratory and digestive tracts, and certain white blood cells. On the other hand, the adaptive immune system is made up of lymphocytes and other cells which learn to combat certain invaders; it can “remember” these invaders if they ever return again.
An immune system that is weak can make a person more susceptible to infection. Conversely, the immune system can be overactive, by reacting too strongly in response to an invader . . . or when there is no invading infection at all. This can be damaging to the body. If it persists, it can be a sign of an autoimmune disorder.
Supplements for Immune Health
The immune system is supported by the nutrient content of the foods that you consume. Certain vitamins, herbs, and nutrients are a big help to the immune system. Here are some of the best herbs and supplements which can generally strengthen and support your immunity:
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient which is necessary for healthy immune functioning. This applies to both innate and adaptive immunity. It helps in many ways. Vitamin C has antimicrobial and antiviral properties, and also enhances the proliferation of various immune cells including B cells, T cells, phagocytes, and cytokines. Studies over multiple years have shown vitamin C supplementation effective in reducing the incidence and duration of the common cold, and other infections. Vitamin C supplementation can be most effective for those deficient in this vitamin, as well as those engaged in rigorous outdoor exercise.
Andrographis, scientifically known as andrographis paniculata, is an herb traditionally used for treating respiratory tract infections in Eastern medicine. Modern-day studies have confirmed its use in reducing cough, sore throat, and other symptoms in those experiencing an infection. Supplementing with andrographis is effective because it has natural antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and immune-stimulating properties.
Zinc is a trace mineral which is necessary for cytokines and other cells in the immune system to work effectively. Taking zinc can help the immune system to fight off viruses, as well as reduce the length of the common cold. Zinc also helps protect cells from damage done by free radicals. Zinc deficiency is fairly common, and it is present only in some foods. For these reasons, many people can benefit from supplementing with zinc.
Echinacea is an herb which has been most studied for its ability to support the immune system in preventing infections. Studies show that taking echinacea is correlated with reduced risk of contracting an upper respiratory infection and reduced risk of the common cold. There is evidence to suggest that it helps in a few other ways, such as supporting killer immune cells and inhibiting virus binding to host cells.
Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric, and it can support immune health in a few ways. Curcumin, when taken in concentrated supplement form, can support immunity by improving the condition of the gut microbiome. Separately, curcumin inhibits inflammation, including that which occurs due to autoimmune disorders. It does so by blocking the action of immune cytokines.
The immune system is an indispensable bodily system, and one which you can bolster by regularly ingesting certain nutrients and herbs. Consider how the above supplements could help your immunity, and talk to your doctor before trying one of these supplements for the first time.