Which Vitamins and Supplements Work Best to Strengthen the Immune System?
Many people are aware of the importance of the immune system to health, but there are also a couple of points that many may not be aware of:
1. There are multiple parts/aspects to the human body’s immune system, and…
2. There are a number ways to address strengthening the body’s immune system and otherwise help it along through use of proper diet and supplements.
The point that will be addressed on this page is #2 above – specifically, different ways to improve health with ten of the best immune-boosting vitamins and supplements.
Who needs vitamins and supplements for the immune system?
There are quite a number of instances when vitamins and supplements for the immune system might be needed. The people who would be wise to take them include:
- People who are currently experiencing some kind of “bug” (i.e., cold, flu, etc.)
- Those who find themselves getting ill too often
- People with an immune deficiency disease
- People with autoimmune diseases (make sure to take care on which supplement you try – some of them carry cautions that do not “mix well” with autoimmune diseases)
- Anyone who wants to protect themselves (and their family) from the viruses “floating around” during cold and flu season
- People who want to maintain a strong immune system
- People with allergies
- Those who have asthma
In short, everyone could use a little immune system helping hand – at least once in a while.
But – which vitamins and supplements should you look for?
Top 10 Vitamins to Boost the Immune System
Here are the ten best of ’em – the vitamins (and supplements) to take that can give a nice boost to your immune system:
Probiotics are a favorite “go to” supplement to help with both the immune system and to assist with digestion.
What are probiotics exactly?
Basically (very basically), they are good bacteria.
Normally, when people think of bacteria, they consider them to be a bad thing – but in the human body there are both the “bad guys” and the “good guys.” Having the correct balance in the body is actually quite important to maintaining good health and fending off illness.
In short, probiotic bacteria are one of the most important and fundamental parts of the immune system, and when they exist in insufficient amounts, the body can become a sort of “walking target” for various types of problems, and one can become much more prone to catching colds, flu and having other types of problems.
Important note about probiotics and antibiotics:
I personally avoid taking antibiotics unless it is absolutely necessary.
Reason: Antibiotics, while they kill off bad bacteria, also kill off the good bacteria in the body. This causes the body to lose some of it’s “armor,” which can result in longer-term health problems.
But I have also found times when using an antibiotic was necessary, and when that is the case, it is recommended to take a good probiotic supplement during the time you are taking it, as well as (at least) right after finishing off the prescription. This helps to replace those “good guys” that have just been wiped out from the antibiotics.
One man who really knows his stuff when it comes to nutrition (and the importance of a good probiotic) is Dr. Axe. Below is a video in which he describes the importance of a good probiotic to the immune system and overall health:
Echinacea is a very common home remedy, and is one of the most known-about and used supplements to help with the immune system battle.
According to a major study, echinacea is known to give a sort of a “boost” to the functions of the immune system, including increasing white blood cells to kill bacterial and viral infections (including colds), and is also known to have positive effects for cancer patients, helping the body to battle it more effectively!
Probably most commonly used for treating the common cold, echinacea can be quite effective. But, there are a couple of important things to know if you are planning to take it:
- There are a few different kinds of echinacea – make sure that you are getting a supplement that contains echinacea purpurea, which comes from the purple cornflower (a member of the daisy family).
- Echinacea is most effective for battling colds and flu when you start taking it at the first sign of symptoms. The sooner you catch it, the better chance you have of knocking out the “bugs” before they really have a chance to latch on and make you sick.
Also, make sure to take enough – I use a good echinacea tea, and if I start noticing a cold coming on, I drink it several times throughout the day, which has worked great (for me) to prevent a cold from setting in.
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is one of the most looked-for solutions to boost the immune system. But there is something to be aware of when it comes to this “magic vitamin” – it would only be relevant when someone is experiencing a Vitamin D deficiency.
On the other hand, there are many, many people who do have a deficiency in Vitamin D. In fact, it is currently known as the most common vitamin deficiency today.
How do you know if you need Vitamin D?
Some Vitamin D deficiency symptoms include:
- Frequently getting ill (weak immune system)
- Regular tiredness and fatigue
- Feeling depressed
- Pain in bones and back
- Slow healing of wounds
- Hair and bone loss
- Muscle pain
Those who are most likely to have a deficiency in Vitamin D include:
- The elderly
- Dark-skinned people
- People who are overweight
- Those who have a low intake of milk or fish
- People who live in areas where there is little sun, or those who are in areas that go for long periods without direct sunshine (I live in the Pacific Northwest, which is a good example!)
- People who stay indoors most of the time
- People who use sunscreen too often when they go outside
Taking Vitamin D is a great way to supplement yourself and help keep your immune system working correctly around the clock. I highly recommend that you find one that is top-quality (also making sure that it is a Vitamin D3) and is known for its effectiveness.
Something else to know – rays from the sun stimulate the body’s natural production of Vitamin D, so spending some time outdoors every day is highly recommended (even if it is cloudy, rainy, etc).
Here is another video from Dr. Josh Axe (can you tell I am a fan?) – here he discusses the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency, how important it is, and how to handle it:
4. Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
I only fairly recently became privy to the wonderful effects of organic raw apple cider vinegar. Originally I learned about it (and began using it) to help out my body’s pH balance, but also learned that it’s also great for the immune system!
In actual fact, organic raw apple cider vinegar belongs to the probiotic group (described above on this page), because it introduces good bacteria into the gut, and could be considered to be one of the better probiotic supplements out there.
Note: When shopping, make sure to only buy raw and organic cider vinegar, and it should say “with mother” or “with the mother” on the front label.
Well, the “mother” in question is actually a sediment that is found at the bottom of the bottle, which contains the most important part of the vinegar – the healthy probiotics (as well as some helpful digestive enzymes)!
How much and how often to take it:
I have seen a number of authority resources that recommend taking 1-2 tablespoons per day. (I personally have used 2 tablespoons per day, which seems to work for me beautifully.)
Personally, garlic is what I would refer to as the “WOW!” supplement. Every day I take a supplement, as well as give some to my child to ward off the bugs of cold and flu season.
But there is much more to garlic than just that – here are some important “fun facts” about garlic and its ability to help the body fight off illnesses:
- It increases the rate the body produces white blood cells, which are the body’s natural “killers” of the bad cells and bacteria of the body.
- Garlic is effective at combating yeast infections (candida fungus), which can help with many, many physical issues that may be happening as a result of having a candida infection.
- It’s great to take for colds and flu, since garlic is an antiviral agent
- It is known to reduce cholesterol levels
- Garlic helps blood move more freely through the body, helping to reduce blood pressure naturally.
- For those who have problems with hypoglycemia or Type 2 Diabetes – garlic helps to regulate blood sugar levels!
- There have been a number of studies that have shown that garlic has been effective in fighting cancer cells. It also has been proven to greatly help boost the immune system of patients undergoing conventional cancer treatments (chemotherapy and radiation).
As a note, while a garlic supplement is a good idea, and can indeed help to prevent colds, etc. from setting in, but the most effective way to take garlic is by eating it raw – or as close to raw as you can get.
My personal way to take garlic: On a regular basis I drink raw veggie juices (made with a good juice extractor). If and when I am feeling under the weather, I add a couple of cloves (or more) of raw garlic to the juice. This is a rather brave thing to do (if I do say so myself) because garlic is certainly not as tasty this way as it is known to be when added to food!
But does it EVER WORK!!
6. Colloidal Silver
Known well in the natural health community as one of the most powerful antibacterial and antiviral remedies, colloidal silver is absolutely fascinating and, while highly controversial among medical experts, has nevertheless proven itself time after time to be quite helpful in fighting off quite a number of virus and bacteria-related illnesses.
In an extremely informative and helpful article from Dr. Axe, it is explained in detail how it works, but I could sum it up to say that colloidal silver binds itself and sort of “smothers” both bacteria and viruses.
Perhaps it shouldn’t seem so incredible to me since this rather “new development” has actually been around for thousands of years in terms of its antibacterial properties. However, enter in modern medicine and its discoveries (penicillin and other antibiotics), and the concept of silver became outmoded in the medical community.
But I digress.
Yes, colloidal silver has some very useful and proven benefits when it comes to the immune system. But, there are a few things to know that you absolutely should be aware of before shopping for or using it:
- Rather than work to strengthen the body’s natural immune system in the long run, colloidal silver actually works to kill off micro-organisms and thus could simply be considered an antibiotic and antiviral agent. Considering that fact, it is important to remember to take an effective probiotic supplement when taking it internally in order to replace the good bacteria in your system.
- The most popular type of “colloidal silver” is actually not true colloidal silver at all, but instead is ionic silver and is not quite the “real thing.” Ionic silver costs less to produce, and is simply not as effective as true colloidal silver. When shopping for it, make sure to look for and buy a high quality, true colloidal version.
- There are some precautions to be aware of when using it, and based on what I have studied it is recommended to not take it for more than 14 days in a row.
I think of elderberry as a sort of counterpart to echinacea since they have rather similar functions – boosting the body’s natural immune system through stimulation.
In addition to the fact that it helps along the body’s ability to fight off various viruses and bacteria, it can actually help to ease the symptoms of cold and flu.
And – there are a number of other wonderful uses for elderberry including helping to lower blood sugar, improving skin health, for use as a natural laxative and more.
It can be purchased and used in a number of different forms, including teas, liquid supplements, capsules, powders, juice and a number of others. The most popular type when combating colds and flu is elderberry syrup – there are some very good ones that can be purchased, but there are also ways to make it at home.
Astragalus, in the world of herbal medicine, is what is known as an adaptogen – a natural substance with the ability to help the body to adapt to various types of stress. And – it helps greatly to boost the immune system.
Not only does it boost the body’s own immune system, it also helps to directly combat illnesses – some of which are quite serious.
Admittedly I have known quite little about astralagus until recently – and I am quite glad that I decided to dig into and study this wonderful remedy!
What is it?
Astralagus is a member of the family of beans or legumes, and is long known in Chinese medicine as an adaptogen – and is quite an effective one at that.
The medicinal properties of the plant come from only the root, and have quite a number of uses. In addition to its immune system benefits, it can help to combat illnesses as serious as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and much, much more.
It can be found in various forms including a liquid extract (tincture), tea, capsules, tablets, powders and can often be found in combination with other herbs and plants in supplement form.
Note: There are some cautions on taking the Astragalus supplement, probably the most important one is that it should not be taken by a woman who is pregnant. It is also recommended that anyone experiencing an autoimmune disorder consult their doctors before using. Finally, it is recommended to start with a smaller dosage and increasing it gradually to help prevent possible side effects.
There are some very interesting ways that ginger works to help out the body’s immune system. It has a sort of “multi-pronged” approach that gives a direct boost as well as having some secondary effects that also give a helping hand.
The direct role that ginger plays for the immune system is to activate certain types of white blood cells – the “good guys” in the body that protect it from disease and foreign substances.
The other major role that ginger plays is to help detoxify the body and keep the immune system in balance. This can help prevent an “overactive immune system” and keep it functioning properly.
There are a number of other health benefits that come from taking or eating ginger, including helping with nausea or other digestive issues and to increase insulin sensitivity that can be a great help to diabetics.
There are a number of forms that ginger as a supplement, any of which will give some benefit:
- Raw or pickled – This is my personal favorite way to take ginger. The root can, of course, be purchased in a grocery store. I take a chunk off the root (about 1/4″ to 1/2″) and add it to my vegetable juice. (Of course, it can also be eaten – a good example of this is with Chinese food. If you are a sushi fan, you will recognize a pink slice of ginger as part of your meal.)
- Supplements – Generally you will find ginger in capsule form, but it can also be found as an extract powder or tablets.
- Ginger essential oil – This is the strongest form of ginger, and works quite well since it can be added to just about anything quite easily and can also be used topically to ease pain.
- Tea – Ginger tea is commonly used as a tummy soother, but can also be used as an immune system booster.
- Ginger ale – Another personal favorite of mine. I love the taste of ginger ale (and it can be found quite easily among brands such as Zevia that do not add processed sugar).
- Seasoning powder – This can work for any recipe that calls for ginger (or would benefit from the taste).
Here is yet another helpful video that I came across from Dr. Axe, which can give you a bit more info on the benefits of ginger:
Ginseng’s approach to helping the immune system is two-fold – it helps to regulate or normalize immune cells of the body, as well as stimulate the production of antibodies (type of blood protein that neutralize micro-organisms such as bacteria and virus).
Ginseng can come from different sources, and can have different forms. Therefore, it is important to know exactly what to look for when searching for a supplement.
What to look for:
The original type of ginseng – and the one that is known most for its health benefits – comes from the Panax family of plants. It is also known as “Red Ginseng.” The best type that I know of is a liquid extract form that comes in vials, and the brand that I use personally – and love – is the Prince of Peace (Ultra Strength).
While other forms of the Red Panax Ginseng are not known to be quite as effective, they are nevertheless available and quite popular. Probably the most purchased type are capsules, and a popular (and highly rated) brand is Nutra Champs.
Final Note on the Immune System, Vitamins and Supplements
It never ceases to amaze me what can actually be one with the right vitamins and other supplements. I have reversed a number of my own physical conditions by using the correct nutrition – alone.
I regularly promote the use of immune-fighting nutritional supplements to both family and friends, and they seem to help a great deal in the way of preventing colds, flu and other illnesses. And – when an illness has already set in, they also help to get rid of those “nasties” much faster and go a long way in helping the body to heal itself naturally.
The list of the ten best immune-boosting vitamins and supplements on this page comes from a good amount of research that I have done on the subject. That research has unearthed some ideas that I have not personally tried, but in the research I also came across methods that I have used and have found to be extremely effective.
In general, I chose the immune-boosters that have consistently shown up from authoritative resources that I know and trust, regardless of my personal preferences.
If you have the need to try some natural immunity boosters, I highly recommend bookmarking this page and referring to it – use it as needed to find one or more supplements you want to try.
Some other excellent articles on the subject are out there, but my most recommended read is an excellent article from Dr. Axe on immune system boosting.
Let Me Hear From You! Do you have any other tips on immune boosters, or do you have any questions or comments on this article? I would love for you to leave your thoughts in the comment section below!
Author: Tonya B.
Tonya is the founder and creator of The Vitamin Gal.
With her long history of learning and experience on health, vitamins, supplements and nutrition in general, she enjoys sharing her knowledge and tips with her friends, family and with you, our visitors.