A healthy immune system is essential in a world filled with viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi. It’s also necessary for cellular health and wound healing. One meaningful way to maintain a healthy immune system is with immune support supplements.
There are two main kinds of immunity: 1) acquired immunity, also known as adaptive or specific immunity, and 2) innate (natural) immunity.
Acquired immunity isn’t present when you’re born. It’s learned. The body encounters foreign invaders, and those invaders are associated with an antigen. These antigens act as flags to alert the immune system that a foreign substance is present. In this way, the immune system learns the most effective way to fight each antigen. Later, when it encounters that antigen again, it remembers what method worked. White blood cells (T cells and B cells) are the warriors that fight the foreign antigens and are some of the primary players in acquired immunity.
Innate immunity, on the other hand, is an immediate response to an antigen. It’s the first line of defense against an invader. At the first sign of trouble, the innate immune response sends cells to fight off the invader or to repair the damage. It also communicates with the adaptive immune response. Key players in the innate immune response include physical barriers such as the skin as well as chemical substances in the blood and immune system cells. Unlike acquired immunity, innate immune responses aren’t specific to a particular foreign pathogen.
There are a lot of factors that can affect immune system health. These include:
• Lack of sufficient sleep
• A diet such as consuming too much sugar
Ideally, keeping all these factors under control can support healthy immunity. However, in today’s fast-past world, lifestyles are often hectic, and sleep problems and stress are common. Therefore, turning to immune-supplements, especially those that contain botanicals, is one way to maintain health at a time of year when our immune system needs the most support.
Botanicals are plant-derived substances. There are a large number of botanicals studied for their immune-supporting abilities. Three of the best include Echinacea, Elderberry, and Astragalus.
What Is Echinacea Good for?
Echinacea is one of the most widely used immune-health-supporting botanicals. In human studies, it has promoted upper respiratory health, when combined with zinc, selenium, and vitamin C.(1) Also in humans, it supports the function of immune cells known as T cells.(2)
The body’s mucous membranes produce secretory-IgA (s-IgA), which is an antibody. It serves as a shield coating mucosal surfaces to stop foreign invaders from penetrating the mucosal surfaces. Heavy exercise causes a decline in s-IgA, but Echinacea supplementation prevents this drop in s-IgA levels.(3)
Elderberry Extract Benefits for Immune Support
This botanical has been used for centuries as a promising respiratory, sinus, and immune health supplement. Several double-blind clinical studies have supported the use of elderberry as an immune supplement. In a survey of 312 airline passengers traveling from Australia to an overseas destination, participants consuming elderberry had better immune function compared to a placebo.(4) The participants using elderberry were healthier for a more extended period compared to those taking the placebo.
In another randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, researchers gave elderberry or a placebo to 60 people ages 18 to 54 four times a day for five days in the fall and winter when they were exposed to seasonal challenges.(5) Immune health has improved an average of four days sooner in the subjects taking the elderberry compared to the placebo. Elderberry can support healthy immune health within two days after beginning supplementation compared to six days in control subjects taking a placebo.(6) It is commonly combined with echinacea to support seasonal respiratory and immune health.(7)
Also known as huang qi or milk vetch, astragalus is derived from a type of legume. Astragalus acts as an antioxidant and is an immune-supporting botanical. It has beneficial effects on levels of CD4 and the CD4/CD8 ratio.(8) CD4 and CD8 are white blood cells known as lymphocytes. The CD4/CD8 ratio is an indicator of immune system health. Astragalus also strengthens the mucosa to protect against foreign invaders.(9)
Botanical Immune Support Supplements
Vital Nutrients conveniently combines elderberry and astragalus in Berry Well Immune Support, a delicious, xylitol-sweetened drink mix. Astragalus and Echinacea are also found together in the Immune Support supplement or sold as standalone products. These immune-health supplements are designed to support optimal health during seasonal challenges, as well as sinus health all year long.