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  5. 22 Essential Vitamins & Ayurvedic Supplements To Boost Your Immune System

Are you falling ill frequently? There’s a chance that your immune system is not strong enough.

People with low immunity tend to fall ill more often than others. With fast-paced lifestyles, an increase in pollution and new infections and viruses threatening your wellbeing, the need for a strong immune system is now a priority.

The immune system is a complex unit and can be strengthened with the help of certain vitamins and natural Ayurvedic herbs. When consumed daily, these vitamins and supplements can keep diseases away or help your body fight them better. Let's find out what they are.

How Does Immune System Works In Our Body?

Your immune system is a complex network of cells and organs that help your body to fight any foreign invasion. The immune system is tuned to recognize and immediately respond to viruses, bacteria, germs and toxins to keep you healthy. Everyone is born with an Innate Immune System. As you grow, your body is exposed to other, unknown foreign objects. These new invasions develop your Adaptive Immune System.

Both innate and adaptive immune systems work hand in hand to remove microbes from your body. To understand what can aid your immune system to work better, let us first look at what it is made up of:

1. Physical Barriers

Your skin is the largest physical barrier that covers your entire body and protects it from various foreign invasions. It includes mucous membranes that cover your mouth, respiratory tract, intestines and urinary tract. Physical barriers are part of the innate immunity that you were born with.

2. Humoral Immunity and Cell Mediated Immunity

These are the two types of immunity functions performed by your adaptive immune system. Simply put, humoral immunity or that involving body fluids, removes antigens with the help of antibodies that circulate in the body fluids. ell mediated immunity fights pathogens mainly with the help of T-lymphocyte cells.

How Does Each Part Of The Immune System Work?

A. WBC or White Blood Cells

WBCs keep circulating throughout your body to locate the existence of microbes.

B. Antibodies

Antibodies are proteins that target antigens in order to remove them from your body.

C. The Complement Cascade

The Complement Cascade aids the antibodies in destroying microbes.

D. Spleen

The spleen is a lymphatic organ that filters your blood by removing old red blood cells and microbes.

E. Thymus

The Thymus is a tiny organ in your body which produces T cells that are very important in the adaptive immune system to fight new microbes that enter your body.

F. Bone Marrow

Your WBCs are produced in the bone marrow along with red blood cells and platelets that help in clotting your blood.

Can Vitamins & Supplements Help Boost Your Immune System?

vitamin supplement capsules to boost immune system

According to medical experts, vitamins [1] and supplements play an important role in promoting your body’s defence system and aiding its immune response to pathogens. According to research, a drop in vitamin levels can directly affect the body’s immune activities.

Vitamins A, B, C, D and E help in the formation of white blood cells and antibodies. B-complex vitamins and vitamins A, D and E foster the development of the innate and adaptive immune systems. Inadequate supply of vitamins can weaken the body’s ability to fight pathogens, thus making you vulnerable to viruses, bacteria and other infections.

Our busy lives often make it difficult to include all the necessary foods in our daily diet. The body’s nutrition requirement however needs to be fulfilled for the immune system and other organs to function properly. This is where supplements can help.

Frequent consumption of antibiotics especially for cold and fever is harmful for your immune system as it kills both good and bad bacteria in your gut. Most fevers and colds are anyway caused by viruses which cannot be killed through antibiotics.

What Vitamins Boost The Immune System?

fruits and vegetables for healthy immune system

1. Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a key component that strengthens the body’s immune response to pathogens. According to research, Vitamin A also helps in the production of white blood cells that protect the body against germs. Apart from WBC formation, it also aids in the multiplication of lymphocytes, when your body deals with infections.

Vitamin A is known to improve gut health, which plays a very important role in your body’s combined immune response. As per case studies, Vitamin A supplements helped children who were suffering from intestinal diseases.

Sources of Vitamin A

Vitamin A can be derived from both plant and animal sources. Colourful vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, squash, mangoes, sweet potato and kale are good sources. Best animal sources for Vitamin A include liver (lamb), fish oil, salmon, mackerel and tuna. Dairy products such as cheese and butter also contain some amounts of Vitamin A.

Amount To Consume

900 micrograms of Vitamin A for men and 700 mcg for women is considered the amount required to meet an adult’s daily need.

2. Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 plays a key role in regulating the amount of homocysteine (a type of amino acid) in your blood. An increase in homocysteine can lead to various heart conditions. Vitamin B6 improves immune response, promotes antibody creation and the proliferation of lymphocytes when the body is under a pathogen attack.

Sources of Vitamin B6

Best sources of Vitamin B6 are cereals, rice, onions, potatoes, meat, liver and fish.

Amount To Consume

The recommended amount of Vitamin B6 is 1.3 mg per day for adults.

3. Vitamin B9

Studies indicate that a deficiency of Vitamin B9 or Folic Acid [2] can affect how efficiently your body reacts to a microbe invasion. Folic acid is important for the production of blood cells, which also affects the body’s immune system.

Sources of Vitamin B9

Green leafy vegetables are great sources of Vitamin B9. Other good sources include beans, peanuts, sunflower seeds, lentils, asparagus, spinach, lettuce, avocados, oranges, fish, and seafood.

Amount To Consume

400 mcg of Vitamin B9/ Folic acid consumption will meet your daily requirement.

4. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is essential for cell metabolism. It also aids in the formation of DNA and amino acid metabolism. A deficiency of Vitamin B12 can affect the rate of immune cell division and also the production of healthy cells in your body. Hence, its contribution to a healthy immune system is undeniable.

Sources of Vitamin B12

Sources rich in Vitamin B12 include meat, fish, milk, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products.

Amount To Consume

2.4 mcg is the recommended dose for both adult men and women.

5. Vitamin C

Vitamin C or Ascorbic Acid is an irreplaceable vitamin that actively boosts your immune system. It plays an important role in lymphocyte multiplication during an infection. It also helps in the migration of Neutrophils (a type of WBC that fights pathogens) to the site of infection. Low vitamin C levels affect your body’s immune response and reduces its ability to fight microbes.

According to medical research, it has been observed that whenever your body is infected, Vitamin C levels reduce to take part in the immune response. When the body is back to its normal conditions, the level of Vitamin C is restored. Stable Vitamin C levels can help your body easily fight pathogens that cause cold, cough and fever related symptoms.

Sources of Vitamin C

Indian gooseberry, spinach, broccoli, green peas, citrus fruits, and kiwi are good sources.

Amount To Consume

90mg for adult males and 75 mg Vitamin C for adult females is the recommended dietary allowance.

6. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for bone health, but it also supports your body’s immune system to work better. A lack of Vitamin D in the body increases the risk of cancer, heart diseases, infections, rickets and other bone related conditions. Vitamin D is also associated with antibody-formation that helps your immune system combat a foreign invasion.

Sources of Vitamin D

The natural source of Vitamin D is sunlight. Other food sources include milk, yogurt, cheese, fish, cod liver oil, eggs, and orange juice.

Amount To Consume

15 mcg of Vitamin D is the recommended dose to be consumed daily.

7. Vitamin E

Vitamin E aids in the proliferation of T-lymphocytes, which help your body to fight infections. Vitamin E also helps remove free radicals from the cells of your body tissues. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant, and boosts your immune response against pathogens.

Sources of Vitamin E

Foods rich in Vitamin E include wheat germ oil, sunflower and soybean oil, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, kiwi, spinach, broccoli, tomato.

Amount To Consume

Your daily recommended intake is fulfilled by 15 mg of Vitamin E.

Which Ayurvedic Supplements Support & Boost Your Immune System?

herbs, spices, essential oil & supplement powders

Interestingly, modern medicine uses a variety of natural supplements [3] derived from plants to formulate pharmaceutical drugs. Ancient Ayurvedic texts have cited the use of specific herbs to boost the immune system. Benefits of these herbs on the immune system is now recognised after years of scientific research and is used in various drugs and dietary supplements.

According to Ayurveda, each body has a unique body constitution or Prakriti, determined by Tridoshas or Life energies of Vata, Pitta and Kapha. When in harmony, the body functions perfectly, while an imbalance causes the body to fall into a state of disease.

A Vata dominant body is more prone to Vata related ailments. Similarly, a Pitta or Kapha Prakriti body is more likely to be affected by their respective diseases. Hence, to boost your immune system, it is important to determine your Prakriti. Your Ayurveda doctor will then be able to guide you on the perfect combination of herbs that can build your immune strength and keep infections and diseases at bay.

Below listed are the wonder herbs of Ayurveda. These improve your immune response to diseases and help the overall health of your organs and gut. However, it is recommended that you consult your Ayurvedic doctor before taking them, in case you are already on antibiotic drugs.

1. Amla

Amla has been used in Ayurvedic medicine since the olden times. An excellent source of Vitamin C or Ascorbic Acid, Amla improves your body’s immune response during a pathogen attack. It is also rich in Vitamin A, flavonoids, tannins, antioxidants and phytochemicals which help in detoxing your body and liver and boost your immune strength.

Recent medical research claims Amla’s benefit in fighting and treating cancer. Consuming Amla is recommended for patients undergoing chemotherapy to fight the harmful effects of chemo radiation. It is effective against respiratory tract conditions, bronchitis, tuberculosis, cough, cold and asthma. Daily consumption of Amla can easily fulfil your Vitamin C requirements and keep your immune system healthy.

How To Consume

Amla can be directly consumed or had as juice with honey for better taste.

2. Shunti

Commonly known as ginger, Shunti is a common herb found in most Indian kitchens. Ginger is a Kapha Dosha balancing herb. Both dry and wet ginger has medicinal properties that boost your immune system. It helps fight off conditions like chronic cough, bronchitis, asthma and other chronic respiratory disorders.

It improves your gut health and relieves constipation. Its anti-inflammatory properties help the body to heal swellings.

How To Consume

Fresh juice of ginger is effective against cough or sore throat. The herb can also be added to tea or mixed with milk or hot water and honey.

3. Triphala

This [4] combination of 3 fruits add individual benefits, making Triphala a super immunity booster. Triphala is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat various health conditions such as diabetes, chronic fever, constipation and other gastrointestinal diseases.

Triphala is a rich source of tannins, flavonoids, vitamin C and phytochemicals. It also exhibits anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties and removes free radicals from your body cells. Consuming Triphala improves your body’s ability to stimulate antibodies during a foreign invasion.

How To Consume

Triphala is available in powdered form in any Ayurvedic store. You can consume Triphala with hot water. Triphala and Yastimadhu are a great combination that can be taken with honey.

4. Vidanga

Vidanga is used to relieve worm infestations in the body. It is also very effective against bacteria and fungus related diseases and helps your body fight pathogens better. Consumption of Vidanga energizes the body, purifies blood and keeps the gastrointestinal tract healthy.

A good pacifier of Vata and Kapha Doshas, Vidanga is used in treating chronic cough, tuberculosis and fever.

How To Consume

Vidanga powder can be consumed after food with either lukewarm water or honey.

5. Pippali

This age-old medicinal herb is used in Ayurvedic medicine to relieve respiratory tract diseases. The use of Pippali to improve immune response and prevent various virus and pathogen attacks has been cited in several Ayurvedic texts. Pippali is also effective against diabetes and possesses anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

How To Consume

Using a mixture of Pippali, Yastimadhu, Vacha and Honey to treat cold and cough for both children and adults is a common home remedy. Pippali can be powdered and consumed. You can also boil Pippali in water for about 2-3 mins. When the water changes colour, strain and drink it to prevent sore throat or congestion.

6. Yastimadhu

According to recent medical studies, Yastimadhu [5] is an excellent immunomodulator [6]. Consumption of this easily-available and variedly-used herb can reduce chances of getting an infection and enhance your body’s response to microbes. This herb is commonly used to treat cold, cough and other respiratory conditions.

It is also very effective against digestive disorders. Being a potent antioxidant, it hunts down free radicals and prevents damage to body cells.

How To Consume

Yastimadhu can be boiled in water and its extract consumed as a herbal drink. You can also mix Yastimadhu powder in lukewarm water and drink it. Add honey for added benefits.

7. Kalamegha

This powerful medicinal herb is used to relieve liver or intestine related disorders. Very recently, western medicine has recognized its immunostimulating properties and its use in keeping cold and flu away. Kalamegha also acts as an anti-oxidant and helps to detoxify the body of harmful toxins.

How To Consume

Kalamegha is available in both powder and syrup form. The herb is bitter in taste, hence, you can combine it with honey and consume.

8. Guduchi

Ayurvedic texts refer to Guduchi or Giloy as nature’s boon to mankind. With several health benefits, Guduchi is widely used in Ayurvedic as well as modern medicines and supplements. Guduchi’s immunomodulator properties make it an essential immunity booster.

It effectively builds your body’s immunity against fever, respiratory tract diseases, and gastrointestinal conditions such as jaundice, fatty liver and worm infestations. Regular consumption of Guduchi keeps respiratory ailments away by soothing the mucous membrane that layers the respiratory tract. Guduchi is also beneficial for the digestive tract and promotes liver functions.

How To Consume

Guduchi juice is easily available in Ayurvedic stores. Mix Guduchi juice with water and consume daily in the morning.

9. Krishna Tila

Rich in vitamin B and E, magnesium, iron and copper, Krishna Tila or black sesame seeds are a powerhouse of nutrients that boosts your immune system. Flavonoids and tannins in Krishna Tila make it an effective antioxidant that reduces free radicals in your body.

Due to its medicinal properties as recorded in ancient Ayurvedic texts, Krishna Tila is used in various disease treatments and to make Ayurvedic Rasayana. Consumption of Krishna Tila keeps conditions like osteoporosis away. It promotes bone health due to the presence of minerals like calcium and zinc. The herb has also shown effects against colon cancer and keeps your intestine in good health.

How To Consume

It is available in different forms such as seeds, powder, oil. You can consume the seeds directly or add it to your dishes.

10. Haldi

Haldi or Turmeric is an indispensable spice in almost every Indian kitchen. Popularly known for its antiseptic and immunity-boosting properties, regular consumption of Haldi keeps many infections at bay. Both raw and powdered Haldi are beneficial to health.

It is rich in nutrients such as calcium, iron, zinc, flavonoids, vitamin C and curcumin. These lend Haldi its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. Consumption of raw turmeric every day helps your body fight cold, cough and congestion causing pathogens.

How To Consume

Boil raw turmeric in water and consume it with a little ghee. You can also mix Haldi powder in your milk for better immunity.

Vedix Tip: While cooking, use both Haldi and Black Pepper in combination to enhance Haldi’s immune boosting, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

11. Neem

Known for its benefits in enhancing immunity, Neem is used in many traditional medicines and even in beauty products. Neem effectively purifies blood and removes harmful toxins from the body. Consumption of neem improves your body’s immune response to various infections and pathogens. Apart from providing immunity, neem helps regulate blood sugar levels, cholesterol and benefits your digestive system.

How To Consume

Neem leaves are bitter to taste. To consume the leaves directly, pick out the new leaves that are usually reddish in colour. Fried neem leaves or neem leaves cooked with brinjal is a traditional Bengali dish consumed at the start of a meal.

12. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine for its many health benefits. Ashwagandha [7] improves cell mediated immunity and increases the body’s resilience towards disease causing agents. Having antioxidant properties allows it to remove free radicals from your body and prevent cell damage.

How To Consume

Available in Ayurvedic stores, you can consume Ashwagandha powder/ churna with lukewarm water.

13. Tulsi

This popular home-grown herb is commonly found in most Indian households. Benefits of Tulsi against fever, cold, cough, sore throat, congestion are well known. It is also considered safe for children. Rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, calcium, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, Tulsi imparts many health benefits.

Rich in ascorbic acid, Tulsi aids the proliferation of T cells when your body is infected. An excellent immunity booster with no side effects, daily consumption of Tulsi increases immune strength and prevents bacterial and virus infections. Tulsi is good for organs such as liver, heart and kidneys and helps control blood sugar levels.

Recent medical research claims Tulsi’s antioxidant properties to reduce chances of cancer cell development in the body. 

How To Consume

Tulsi leaves can be directly consumed. You can also add them to your tea along with some honey for added taste and health benefits.

14. Vacha

This age-old herb is used to cure cold and cough related symptoms. Usually consumed together with Pippali and Yastimadhu as a herbal concoction, it helps to prevent respiratory diseases. Recent medical research confirms Vacha’s contribution towards antibody formation during a pathogen attack.

Consumption of Vacha increases the body’s resistance to microbes that cause respiratory tract conditions.Vacha is highly recommended for children who have a weak immune system and low resistance to diseases.

How To Consume

You can boil Vacha in water for 2-3 mins and drink the water. Vacha is also available in Ayurvedic stores as Vacha Churna which can be consumed with lukewarm water and honey.

15. Parnayavani Or Karpooravalli

This medicinal herb is also commonly grown at home. It is effective against cough, cold, sore throat, asthma, chronic cough and diarrhea. As per medical research, extracts from this herb are shown to be effective against certain strains of bacteria such as Salmonella typhi, fungi and microbes.

Consuming Parnayavani 2 to 3 times a week can keep cold and cough related conditions away. Karpooravalli is considered safe for children and is often given as a home remedy for cough and cold.

How to Consume

You can buy this herb from any plant nursery or get its extract from an Ayurvedic store. Wash and grind the leaves and extract the juice. Directly consume it or make a concoction with other herbs and honey for added benefits.

Karpooravalli or Omavalli chutney is a delicious dish prepared in Tamilian households and served with a hot rice meal.

Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix says, “Immune system strengthening is an everyday process, not an overnight miracle. Choosing healthy food, resorting to sufficient restful sleep, following proper dietary rules and exercising regularly, all aid the immune system along with the herbs.”

The Last Word

As disease-causing agents like bacteria and viruses increase, building a strong immune system is vital. Vitamins and immunomodulating Ayurvedic herbs thus play a critical role. With zero to negligible side effects, these natural sources have proven to increase the body’s ability to fight and resist the effect of pathogens. These vitamins and Ayurvedic supplements can be consumed daily to increase immunity and ward off pathogens for a healthy lifestyle.

Know Your Dosha Now