You’re familiar with the top-of-the-list herbal immunity boosters, but what about the lesser-known substances that have a positive effect on immunity?
It is well accepted that vitamin C and zinc can help bolster the immune system. And if you want to lower inflammation, garlic and curcumin are two top-of-the-list herbal immunity boosters.
But what about all of the other natural substances that are known to have a positive effect on immunity? Are there other options out there that can make your immune system even stronger, beyond the ones normally touted for their ability to help fend off the latest bug or virus?
Here are five that, though backed by science, have managed to stay in the background, making them good considerations for patients who are looking to strengthen their immunity as much as they can.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) shares that the root of the astragalus plant has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries among herbal immunity boosters. In addition to strengthening and regulating the immune system, some of the conditions astragalus can potentially help relieve include upper respiratory infections, allergic rhinitis, and asthma.
Research published in Aging and Disease in December 2017 adds that astragalus has a number of health-increasing properties. This includes acting as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antihyperglycemic. It also serves as a hepaprotective and expectorant. This not only leads to better immunity but can also help to elongate life.
Another herbal remedy with long-standing ties to Chinese medicine is berberine. A natural alkaloid derived from isoquinoline, berberine can be found in a number of plants. Goldenseal, tree turmeric, Oregon grape, and barberry are on the list, as are poppies, goldthread, and the Amur cork tree.
According to research published Nov. 1, 2020, berberine serves a few valuable immune-based purposes as a herbal immunity booster. One, it helps suppress the function of pro-inflammatory T helper cells. Two, it indirectly decreases inflammation in these same cells. This natural substance also assists by acting as an immunomodulatory agent.
One of the biggest drivers for people actively seeking immunity-strengthening remedies in recent years revolves around the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, better known as COVID-19. A study published in Pharmaceutical Sciences & Research suggests that following an epigenetic diet may help, which includes ingesting citrus bioflavonoids.
An epigenetic diet consists of foods containing bioactive dietary compounds that have been found to modify the epigenome, ultimately turning genes on or off for better immune function. The citrus bioflavonoids mentioned in this study include luteolin, hesperetin, and hesperidin.
N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC) is derived from the amino acid L-cysteine. Sometimes referred to by its shortened name of N-acetyl cysteine, NAC can be found in some over-the-counter immune-boosting supplements, primarily due to its antioxidant properties.
A 2017 study in Cell Journal adds that NAC is generally well-tolerated and works, in part, by moderating clinging mucous secretions. It also promotes detoxification and stimulates glutathione biosynthesis. This makes NAC helpful with conditions such as chronic bronchitis, ulcerative colitis, and asthma. It can also have positive effects on certain diseases, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), liver cancer, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s.
Olive leaf extract
Many people cook with olive oil or add it to their salads as a way to incorporate healthy fats into their diet. Olive leaf extract appears to help improve health as well, albeit in a different way.
In 2018, Endocrine, Metabolic & Immune Disorders – Drug Targets published a study conducted by Italian researchers which states that olive leave extracts appear to have the ability to modify the human immune response and potentially reinforce anti-tumor activity.
Can patients obtain the same effect simply by using olive oil? Not according to this study, as extra virgin olive oil doesn’t contain as many polyphenols as an olive leaf extract.
Patients and herbal immunity boosters
Suggesting that patients add five more supplements to their dietary regimen is likely to be met with more than a little resistance. However, there are some products available that contain all of these natural substances, making it possible to improve immunity without having to take a handful of pills.
To lead patients in the right direction, recommend that they only buy from a reputable supplement manufacturer. Explain the importance of product quality, third-party testing, and choosing a brand that adheres to important safety protocols.