What type of supplements can boost your immune system?
Published on May 15, 2020
By Dr. Surya Bhagwati
Chief In- House Doctor
BAMS, DHA, DHHCM, DHBTC | 30+ Years of Experience
As Ayurvedic experts point out, supplements are not a substitute for healthy eating. However, not all supplements are the same. Nutritional supplements like multivitamins can be used to treat deficiencies and increase nutrient intake, while herbal supplements can be used for therapeutic benefits. Both play a role in supporting immune function. In these times of crisis, every little thing you can do to boost immunity counts. Strong immunity is not a complete defense against COVID-19 infection, but it lowers your risk of infection and improves the chances of recovery. To help you choose the right supplements to boost immunity, we’ve compiled a list of nutritional and herbal supplements that you can consider using.
The Best Supplements to Support Immune Function
1. Vitamin Supplements
Vitamin C is best obtained from citric fruits and amlas, but supplements can help boost intake. It is regarded as the most important nutrient for immunity as studies prove its efficacy. Several studies have demonstrated improved immunity and quicker recovery from respiratory infections with vitamin C supplementation. It is not the only vitamin needed for immune system however. This is why Ayurved stresses the importance of balanced nutrition. Other vitamins that play a vital role include vitamins D, E, and the B vitamins. Vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to a higher risk of upper respiratory tract infections like influenza and most like COVID-19 too. Similarly, research indicates that vitamins like B12 and B6 are important for strong immune function.
2. Essential Minerals
Deficiencies in micronutrients like zinc, magnesium, and iron are also associated with weakened immune function. Inadequate or poor dietary intake of these nutrients should therefore be remedied with supplementation. While many foods are fortified with iron, zinc is often lacking in vegetarian diets. This makes it important for us to take supplements that contain this mineral too. Zinc is vital for the development of immune cells and a healthy inflammatory response. Not surprisingly, some studies show that zinc supplementation could enhance protection against respiratory infections. When supplementing with zinc, dosage should be below 40mg a day.
The health benefits of dahi have been widely touted in Ayurved for decades. These benefits are only now recognized in modern medicine because of a growing understanding of the role of probiotics. If you cannot get your probiotics from fresh foods like dahi or curd, probiotic supplements are a good option. Probiotics are vital for immune function, as the role of the gut microbiome is extremely important for immunity. A study that appeared in Current Opinions in Gastroenterology points to several compounds produced in the body through probiotics – these compounds enable immunoregulatory effects.
Yashtimadhu/jyesthimadhu, known to much of the world of licorice is highly valued for its medicinal properties. The herb has been a staple ingredient in Ayurvedic medications for millennia and is also regarded as an important herb in global folk medicine. It is an important ingredient in Ayurvedic supplements for immunity and can increase protection against various conditions. Studies have confirmed these benefits, showing that the herbal extract exhibits antiviral activity against respiratory infections like SARS, which is also a type of coronavirus.
Commonly referred to as haldi or turmeric, haridra is one of the most important of all Ayurvedic herbs. It is often used to treat wounds, skin infections, and other disease because of its strong anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties. All of these benefits are linked to the presence of a bioactive compound called curcumin. Studies show that the powerful anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin can also improve immune system. Supplements with haridra can boost immunity as the herb can also improve antibody responses, which helps fight infections.
Kalmegh may not be as widely known as haridra, but it is just as effective at boosting immunity. The herb has been widely used in Ayurvedic medicine since ancient times and was also adopted in western folk medicine, where it is better known as Echinacea. While different species of the plants exhibit different therapeutic benefits, kalmegh is known to improve immune function. This is why it is often used as an ingredient in Ayurvedic immune boosters and supplements. Studies show that the herb may help fight viral infections, especially those cause respiratory disease.
No herb is as revered as Tulsi in Indian culture. Aside from its spiritual significance, however, tulsi is also ascribed with medicinal properties. It is an important ingredient in various Ayurvedic medications, including natural supplements to boost immunity. Tulsi is believed to help regulate immune function, increasing protection against common infection. These immunomodulatory benefits have been linked to the herb’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Ashwagandha has gained immense popularity in recent years for its effectiveness as a natural muscle growth booster. However, this Ayurvedic rasayana herb offers a lot more than benefits for bodybuilders and athletes. It can treat a wide range of conditions and is also used to boost immune function. The herb has proven adaptogenic effects, which means it can lower stress levels. Studies suggest that it also reinforces immunity by supporting thyroid and adrenal gland activity. These effects of ashwagandha can increase antibody response in the body, which is vital for fighting off any infection.
We’ve already mentioned amla as a good source of vitamin C. However, amla’s health benefits extend beyond its high vitamin C content. It is packed with natural bioactive compounds or polyphenols and antioxidants. These organic substances give amla powerful detoxifying and hepatoprotective properties, improving metabolic processes and digestion. All of these effects are beneficial for immunity. Additionally, studies show that the herb acts as a natural immunomodulator, making it an important ingredient in Ayurvedic medications for immunity.
Ginger is known to offer a wide range of therapeutic benefits. These benefits can vary depending on the form of ginger being used. In Ayurvedic medications, ginger is often used in a dry and concentrated form called sunth. Ayurvedic supplements that contain sunth are regarded as effective at boosting immune function. The effectiveness of ginger is linked to the presence of its unique organic compounds called gingerols. These compounds display both inflammatory and antioxidant effects and may be most helpful for lung function. The herb is also notable for its potent antimicrobial properties, which can support the immune response to defend against infections.
When it comes to supplements, these days most of us think only of vitamin C. As we’ve explained this is not the only nutrient needed for healthy immunity. It should also be pointed out that most nutritional supplements contain synthetic ingredients. If you want to rely on natural immune boosters, you need to dig deep into India’s rich Ayurvedic tradition. Most of the herbal supplements used to boost immunity like amla, sunth, haridra, and kalmegh also have complex nutritional profiles. This means that they provide you with nutrition as well as therapeutic benefits. Moreover, as they are completely natural, you don’t need to worry about side effects if you follow dosage instructions.
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