Your immune system holds the key to your healthiest self. Keeping it in top condition is a priority year-round, and it’s especially important to pay attention to immune health during colder months when health concerns tend to be more common.1
Nutrition, exercise, sleep, weight and lifestyle factors all contribute to the health of your immune system.2 Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains is a great start. Getting at least half an hour of exercise most days of the week helps too, along with tried and true tips like washing your hands often, staying up to date on vaccinations, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle in general.
But there’s more you can do to boost your immune health. Clinical research has confirmed that certain nutrients are essential for the functioning of the immune system, and supplementing with these nutrients can help maintain adequate levels for optimal immune health.3,4,5 Also, certain herbs and other supplements support immune health too! Here’s a list of the 21 best immune health supplements to choose from.
Supplements for Immune Health
1. Probiotics for Microbial Balance
Experts say that as much as 70% of your immune health is in your gut.6 If the microbiome digestive tract isn’t as healthy and balanced as it could be, your immune system isn’t either. Probiotic supplements help ensure the good bacteria in your gut outnumbers the bad to promote both digestive and immune health. Try it in Swanson’s Immunobiotic Immuno-LP20, a probiotic supplement formulated to promote microbial balance and maintain immune health. To learn more about probiotics and their benefits, read Trust Your Gut: Build a Healthier Gut with Probiotics.
2. L-Lysine for Immune Support
L-lysine is one of the 9 essential amino acids the body can’t make on its own. You need amino acids like L-lysine for healthy muscles and tissues, but L-lysine may also help your body produce immune cells and speed up muscle recovery.7 Since stress weakens the immune system, L-lysine supplements support immune health from more than one angle.8
3. Antioxidant Astaxanthin
Astaxanthin is one of nature’s most potent carotenoid antioxidants. Antioxidants work to help neutralize free radicals—which can impact the health of cells and cellular signaling systems—to help keep immune cells healthy and responsive.9,10 Astaxanthin may also help support healthy retinas and skin.11 Try it in Swanson Ultra Astaxanthin to boost antioxidant activity and protect against free radicals. Learn more in Astaxanthin Benefits.
4. Colostrum for Immune Health
Colostrum supplements derived from cow’s milk, like Swanson Premium Colostrum, are highly nutritious, featuring immunoglobulin antibodies and lactoferrin that promote health.12 Bovine colostrum has been used in Ayurveda, an ancient health practice from India that relies heavily on herbs, roots and nature-sourced tonics, for thousands of years.12 Colostrum supports a healthy gut, promotes muscle health, and may enhance immune health by boosting T-cells and white blood cells.12 You can also try colostrum combined with the power of 5 botanical immune-boosters in Swanson Immune Essentials.
5. Essential Fatty Acids
Clinical research shows that long-chain omega-3 fatty acids may help enhance the function of immune B cells and promote antibody production, thus giving the immune system a helping hand.13 The long list of benefits of omega-3 fatty acids include heart and brain health too, so definitely put this one on your list of healthy must-haves. Try our award-winning Plant Based Omega-3, which was named 2018 Omega Product of the Year by NutraIngredients USA.
6. Beta Glucan for Immune System Function
Beta glucan is a type of soluble fiber found in oats, barley, and the cellular walls of fungi and yeasts.14 Additional studies are underway, but scientific researchers believe beta glucan may stimulate immune system function and support heart health.15 People who take Swanson Ultra BetaRight Beta Glucan, beta glucan derived from brewer’s yeast, rave about its benefits—check out the reviews!
7. EpiCore for High-Metabolite Immunogens
The broad-spectrum activity of Swanson Ultra EpiCore has made this supplement an immune-supporting favorite. Each capsule delivers high-metabolite immunogens from brewer’s yeast to nourish immune health, combined with a prebiotic to support digestive health. This is a different kind of supplement that defies classification to help strengthen resistance and maintain wellbeing.
Letter Vitamins & Minerals for Immune Health
8. Immune-Boosting Vitamin C
Vitamin C makes every list of top immune-supporting supplements because immune cells need vitamin C to carry out their intended functions.3 Researchers say a higher supply of vitamin C enhances several immune system parameters, especially if you have low vitamin C intake to begin with.3 If you don’t meet your daily needs of vitamin C from fruits and veggies, try a Vitamin C Supplement with Rose Hips for added antioxidant support.
9. Zinc for Immune Function
Like vitamin C, zinc is essential for immune system function. It plays a role in cellular signaling pathways and works as an antioxidant, but researchers are certain that isn’t the extent of its immune supporting superpowers.16 In fact, some have even dubbed it the “Gatekeeper of Immune Function,” and research to determine its exact mechanisms are ongoing.16 One thing is for sure when it comes to zinc—it’s a smart idea to get your daily fill. Reinforce your body’s defenses with an antioxidant combo in Swanson Premium Zinc & C Lozenges.
10. Vitamin D for Immune & Bone Health
Your body uses vitamin D to keep bones strong by enabling calcium absorption, but did you know your immune system needs vitamin D too?17 It contributes to immune cell modulation and response, and studies show vitamin D supplementation may have beneficial effects on immune function.5 The benefits don’t stop there—learn more in The Importance of Vitamin D & How to Get It in Your Diet.
11. Vitamin B-6 for the Immune System
You need every B vitamin to support overall wellbeing and energy production, but one of them is particularly beneficial for immune health. Vitamin B-6 supports biochemical reactions in the immune system, making it our top B-vitamin pick for immune health.18 Vitamin B-6 is also known to help reduce stress and fatigue.19 Try it in Swanson Premium Vitamin B-6 Pyriodixine, or get full-spectrum support from B vitamins plus vitamin C in our Super Stress B-Complex.
12. Antioxidant Vitamin E
Vitamin E was the very first supplement Swanson Health offered in 1969, and its antioxidant prowess and popularity haven’t lost momentum today. Vitamin E is a strong antioxidant vitamin with the ability to modulate immune functions.18 Vitamin E supplementation has been shown to have various benefits for the immune system, and researchers say it’s an important nutrient for maintaining immune health.20 Get your daily dose in Swanson Premium Vitamin E Mixed Tocopherols.
Top Herbs for Immune Health
13. Echinacea for Immune Support
Echinacea is an herb that’s native to North America and was used as a health tonic by Native Americans.21 There are 9 known species of this antioxidant-packed plant. Taking echinacea may reduce your risk of some health concerns, and it may stimulate the immune system.21 More research is needed to determine its mechanism of action, but this herb remains an immune-health staple across the country.
14. Elderberry and Immune Health
As one of the most commonly used health tonics in the world, elderberry’s popularity dates as far back as ancient Egypt.22 Elderberries have been used for many health purposes since then, but in modern times it’s used as a potent immune-supporting tonic. Elderberries are high in vitamin C and a good source of antioxidant flavanols and phenolic acids, among other health-supporting substances. It’s so popular that it often sells out! Try elderberry and echinacea together in Swanson Elderberry Echinacea Goldenseal Complex.
15. Turkey Tail Mushroom
This wild-sounding mushroom gets its name because, as you might have guessed, it’s shaped like a turkey tail. Turkey tail mushroom is a common mushroom with uncommon benefits for immune health. Research shows it may boost immune health by modulating cytokine production, a substance made by immune cells that influences the health of other cells.23 Try it for yourself in Swanson Superior Herbs Turkey Tail Mushroom.
An adaptogenic herb with a long history of combatting stress and promoting wellbeing in many aspects, reishi mushroom, also known as Ganoderma lucidum, contains several molecules that promote health—triterpenoids, polysaccharides and peptidoglycans.24 Reishi mushroom has been scientifically proven to boost the immune system and it may positively influence the genes in white blood cells, a critical component of immune health.24 You can enjoy it in Certified Organic Ganoderma Coffee, or try Swanson Premium Reishi Mushroom.
17. Black Cumin Seed
Black cumin seeds are the seeds from the plant Nigella sativa. As a supplement, black cumin seed nourishes your body from head to toe. This botanical is most often taken to maintain immune health, support microbial balance and promote respiratory health.25 Try it in Swanson Premium Full Spectrum Black Cumin Seed.
18. Olive Leaf Extract
The same olive plant that gives us healthy Mediterranean staples like olive oil and delicious olives also contains an antioxidant substance known as oleuropein in its leaves.26 This is no modern secret—olive leaves have been used in Greece, Morocco and Tunisia as a health tonic for centuries, and modern wellness-seekers are catching on to its immune-boosting benefits, which you can get from Swanson Superior Herbs Olive Leaf Extract - Extra Strength.26
Another feature of the healthful Mediterranean diet is humble garlic. You may have tried it in your favorite pasta dish, but if you’re looking for a health boost, you might want to consider trying it in a concentrated supplement. Garlic supplements are a wellness trend worth trying. It boosts the immune system by producing more natural killer cells in the blood.27 Try it in Swanson Best Garlic Supplements Odor-Controlled Garlic to get the benefits without the smell of garlic.
20. Essiac® Tea
Essiac® tea is an herbal blend traditionally comprised of four ingredients: slippery elm, sheep sorrel, Indian rhubarb root, and burdock root. Essiac® was popularized by Rene Caisse, a Canadian nurse, in the 1920s, but it originated long before then with Ojibe healers.28 This combination of herbs is often used to support immune health. We’ve taken the traditional Essiac® herbs and combined them with four additional synergistic herbs for wellbeing. Try it in Swanson Organic Organic Essiac Tea or Swanson Ultra Essiac Eight Herb Complex.
21. Vitamin A
This nutrient is found in foods such as spinach and garlic and can give your immune health a boost.29 Since we cannot synthesize vitamin A on our own, it’s important to get this nutrient through our diet.30 A deficiency in vitamin A can lead to a weaker immune system and damaged white blood cell function.31 If you’re trying to build up a healthy immune system, this vitamin is great addition to your antioxidant arsenal.
22. Sleep Supplements
Nothing wears you down quite like missing out on sleep. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, the effects go much deeper than simply feeling fatigued. Lack of sleep suppresses immune function and has been linked to a long list of health concerns.32 If you have trouble sleeping, try a sleep-promoting supplement like melatonin or magnesium, and check out Sleep Better with Trendworthy Sleep Essentials for more ways to sleep well and help keep your immune system healthy.
Better Health Starts with Nutrition
Modern life can be hectic, leaving us with less sleep, more screen time, and diets that don’t meet our needs for optimal wellness. Supplements can’t replace healthy eating and healthy habits, but they can help you fill in gaps and give you much-needed support where you need it most, like boosting your defenses with immune health supplements.
If you enjoyed this article, you might also like Holiday Hacks for Your Health and Immune Support for All Seasons. Sign up for Swanson Health emails to be the first to know about new articles and our best promotions.
About Lindsey Toth, MS, RD
Lindsey is a nationally-recognized registered dietitian and nutritionist with a soft spot for ice cream. She empowers people to take charge of their health by finding the balance between the pleasure and nourishment in food. Her philosophy is that you should take care of your body because it’s the only permanent home you have. It’s what inspired her to pursue a career in nutrition.
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7 4 Impressive Health Benefits of Lysine. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/lysine-benefits#section2 (Accessed 11/05/2018)
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11 ASTAXANTHIN. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1063/astaxanthin (Accessed 11/05/2018)
12 Bovine Colostrum 101: The Gut-Healing Supplement That Should Be On Your Radar. Mind Body Green. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/bovine-colostrum-101 (Accessed 11/05/2018)
13 Omega-3 backed to boost immune response, not just battle inflammation. NUTRA Ingredients. https://www.nutraingredients.com/Article/2013/04/02/Omega-3-backed-to-boost-immune-health-not-just-battle-inflammation# (Accessed 11/05/2018)
14 Beta Glucans. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1041/beta-glucans (Accessed 11/05/2018)
15 Beta Glucan: The Heart-Healthy Fiber. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/beta-glucan-heart-healthy (Accessed 11/05/2018)
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17 Vitamin D Fact Sheet for the Health Professional. National Institutes for Health. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/ (Accessed 11/05/2018)
18 3 Best Vitamins for Boosting Immunity. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/3-vitamins-best-boosting-immunity/ (Accessed 11/05/2018)
19 Reducing occupational stress with a B-6 focused intervention: a randomized clinical trial: study protocol. PubMed. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290459/ (Accessed 11/05/2018)
20 Vitamin E and immunity. PubMed. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10714244 (Accessed 11/05/2018)
21 Echinacea. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/echinacea/ataglance.htm#hed1 (Accessed 11/05/2018)
22 Elderberry Health Benefits. Healthline.https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/elderberry#health-benefits (Accessed 11/05/2018)
23 Immune Modulation from Five Major Mushrooms: Application to Integrative Oncology. PubMed. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684115/ (Accessed 11/05/2018)
24 6 Benefits of Reishi Mushroom (Plus Side Effects and Dosage). Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/reishi-mushroom-benefits (Accessed 11/05/2018)
25 How much do you know about health benefits of Black Cumin? ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/post/How_much_do_you_know_about_health_benefits_of_Black_Cumin (Accessed 11/05/2018)
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29 Stock up on these 9 healthy foods. CNBC Make It.
https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/03/stock-up-on-9-healthy-foods-to-boost-immune-system-during-coronavirus-doctor-dietitian.html (Accessed 04/22/2020)
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31 Stephensen, Charles B. "Vitamin A, infection, and immune function." Annual review of nutrition 21, no. 1 (2001): 167-192 (Accessed 04/22/2020)
32 Can Better Sleep Mean Catching Fewer Colds? WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/immune-system-lack-of-sleep#1 (Accessed 11/05/2018)
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