The immune system is our body’s own way of developing armor to ward off anything that tries to invade.
And just like some armor is better at protecting than others, your immune system can be made weaker or stronger depending on what you eat, your environments, and even your state of mind.
With that being said, there are many natural ways to boost your immune system, perhaps some that you’re already been living out in your day-to-day life.
Improving the state and function of the immune system isn’t an overnight process, either. These things take time, as your body pushes out the old and welcomes in the new.
By providing your body with the proper lifestyle tips and tricks, and taking certain immune-boosting antimicrobial and antiviral herbs, you can drastically reduce your chances of becoming infected.
But before we get into that, let’s delve a little deeper into how the immune system works.
How Does the Immune System Work?
Our immune system plays a vital role in protecting our bodies from harmful things that enter our body externally or harmful changes that happen internally. Its main tasks are to:
- fight disease-causing pathogens like bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites and to remove them from the body,
- fight disease-causing cellular changes in the body, such as those that might otherwise manifest as cancer, and
- identify and neutralize harmful chemicals and other substances from our environment
The immune system is comprised of a unique network of organs, white blood cells, and proteins that protect the body from foreign invaders.
More specifically, the immune system is comprised of:
- white blood cells
- complement system
- lymphatic system
- bone marrow
You can think of white blood cells (WBCs) as the fighters for your body. The ones out on the front-line of attack. They’re made in your bone marrow, and make up a good portion of the lymphatic system.
WBCs move throughout the body, searching out foreign invaders like bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi. Once they find them, they initiate an immune attack.
These cells include lymphocytes like T-cells, B-cells, and natural killer cells, and other immune cells not apart of this category.
Our antibodies are large Y-shaped proteins that stick to substances called antigens on the surface of bacteria and viruses. Antibodies then mark antigens for destruction.
The complement system is comprised of a series of proteins that interact with each other with an end goal of eliminating pathogens that were marked as destruction by antibodies.
The lymphatic system consists of a delicate network of vessels throughout the body that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. This system is made up of lymph nodes, which trap microbes, and lymphatic vessels, which carry white blood cells. The lymphatic system also regulates fluid levels in the body, and absorbs some fats from our diet from the intestine.
The spleen acts as a filter for the blood by removing microbes and destroying old or damaged red blood cells. The spleen also stores red blood cells, platelets, and white blood cells.
Bone marrow is the spongy tissue inside our bones that produces red blood cells, platelets, and white blood cells.
And lastly, the thymus filters and monitors your blood content. It produces and “trains” white blood cells called T-lymphocytes to fight infections in the body.
Why Is the Immune System so Important?
The immune system protects our bodies from harmful substances, microbes, and cell changes that could make you ill.
If we didn’t have an immune system, we would be incredibly sick and likely die at a very young age.
Keeping this in mind, you can see why it is so important to keep your immune system in check.
A robust and properly functioning immune system lowers your risk of disease and will also reduce your risk of contracting the common cold and flu.
While it can be easy to take the immune system for granted, that doesn’t mean you should ignore it completely. If you have a healthy immune system, look after it and it will look after you.
What Are Signs of a Weak Immune System?
Your immune system can become weakened by eating a diet low in nutrients, not getting enough sleep and being inundated with stress.
These things wear you down and make it difficult for the immune system to protect against harmful pathogens.
Other factors like underlying illnesses might be to blame, too. Autoimmune diseases, immunodeficiency (like HIV or cancer), or chronic disease (like diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease) all weaken the immune system.
If you suffer from any of the following, your immune system might need a little TLC:
- You’re always tired
- You always have a cold
- Your wounds are slow to heal
- You have ongoing digestive issues
- You experience repeated infections like pneumonia, bronchitis, or meningitis
- You deal with a blood disorder, such as anemia
- Your eyes are chronically dry
- You have chronic skin conditions that don’t clear (for instance, a rash)
- Your joints ache every day
- You are sensitive to the sun
- You deal with allergies that last all year long
If you have any of these signs, it could indicate that you have a weakened immune system.
The good news is, is that there are a plethora of natural ways to boost your immune system. In addition to utilizing different herbs and supplements, you can take part in some of my favorite immune-boosting practices to take your health to the next level.
15 Natural Ways to Boost Your Immune System
The best way to protect your body from pathogens and other harmful substances, your immune system needs to be in tip-top shape. The best way to ensure this happens is by investing in some herbs and supplements (which should always be on hand) and taking part in some key daily practices.
Here are 15 ways to keep your natural armor in great shape:
Immune-Boosting Supplements & Herbs
1. Chaga Mushroom
Chaga is a dark, woody fungus that inhabits dead tree trunks or decaying trees as parasites. This mushroom extracts its nutrients from the trees instead of the soil. This is why chaga is highly concentrated with betulinic acid, a compound that comes from birch trees themselves.
It can take decades for these mushrooms to grow, and because of that, their healing power is out of this world.
One of the most well-known chaga mushroom health benefits is its ability to selectively inhibit and destroy cancer cells. It has one of the highest antioxidant ratings, surpassing that of turmeric root, pomegranates, and wild blueberries.
When consumed, chaga promotes the formation of beneficial cytokines, which are essential for fighting off harmful bacteria and viruses.
The anti-viral activity of chaga has been studied on the herpes virus, as well as HIV.
A study from Russia published in 2014 showed that chaga mushroom extract protected a cell culture from the cytotoxic effects of a herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) infection.
Chaga’s antiviral effects are likely due to the strong presence of betulinic acid, which possesses both anti-inflammatory and antiretroviral properties.
The best chaga on the market, I’ve found, is by Bear Medicine.
A lot of the companies out there who thermally dry their chaga often create a product that is not immediately soluble in water and comes with a light-brown color (signifying a low level of chromogenes). On the other hand, Bear Medicine’s sublimated Multi-Super-Extract chaga is a fine, dark-brown or black powder with solid glistening black particles (not dusty) that has a pleasant taste, is 100% water-soluble (resembles instant coffee) and is odorless.
I’ve been using Bear Medicine chaga for months now, and the effect it has on my body is amazing. I love it so much that I’ve partnered with Bear Medicine to provide you with an exclusive discount: use the code LiveLoveFruit15 at checkout for 15% off any product!
2. Colloidal Silver
Colloidal silver is a water solution containing nanometer-sized particles of suspended silver. The silver particles are so small that normal filtering processes cannot remove them.
This supplement has been used for many years to help fight against pathogens. Before the advent of antibiotics, colloidal silver was the go-to treatment for everything from the common cold to tuberculosis.
Colloidal silver has been well-studied for its beneficial effects against viruses and bacteria.
One study used colloidal silver to treat children sick with the common cold and nasal congestion. The control group was treated with a saline solution. While both groups benefited from the treatment, 90% of the children in the silver group completely recovered.
Another study explored the ways in which silver nanoparticles inhibit the H1N1 influenza A virus. The researchers stated that the “inhibitory effects of silver nanoparticles on influenza A virus may be a novel clinical strategy for the prevention of influenza virus infection during the early dissemination stage of the virus”.
Always make sure your silver is of high quality. Never choose silver products made from silver protein or ionic silver. Colloidal silver or nanoparticle silver products are best. My favorites are Cymbiotika Silver and Sovereign silver.
3. Vitamin D3
While Vitamin D is named a ‘vitamin’ per se, it is actually a fat-soluble pro-hormone steroid.
This vitamin is essential to the health and functioning of your immune system. It also promotes calcium absorption in the gut, reduces inflammation and is involved in cellular growth.
Studies have found that vitamin D can actually modulate our innate and adaptive immune responses. Deficiency in the vitamin has been associated with increased autoimmunity as well as an increased susceptibility to infection.
This is concerning, given the fact that over 42% of people in the United States are vitamin D-deficient. Since the symptoms are subtle, not many people are aware of their deficiency.
Supplementing with vitamin D3 in the winter months is necessary if you live in the Northern Hemisphere. If you’re getting enough sun year-round, for at least 15 minutes each day, you won’t have much to worry about (that is, if you don’t block out the sun’s rays with sunblock or sunscreen).
Elderberry, or Sambucus, is a genus of flowering plants in the family Adoxaceae. The most commonly used variety of this plant, Sambucus nigra, must be cooked down before eating, as it can cause an upset stomach. Other cultivars, like Sambucus Canadensis (a Canadian cultivar), can be consumed fresh, as they do not contain the Sambunigrin toxin.
This medicinal plant has been traditionally used to treat everything from influenza to sciatica, dental pain, nerve pain, infections, headaches and more (10).
It is now well-studied for its immunostimulant effects, which can be attributed to its high concentration of chemical compounds called anthocyanidins.
The fruit is particularly great at attacking cold and flu viruses.
A recent study found that the unique phytochemicals present in elderberries immobilize the flu virus almost immediately upon contact. The authors explain that they do so by blocking the virus from entering or even attaching to, our healthy cells when taken preventatively during flu season.
The phytochemicals in elderberry were found to prevent the virus from replicating, even if the flu has already taken hold. Symptoms were found to be eliminated within 48 hours.
Another study showed that elderberry supplementation was able to reduce cold duration and symptoms in air travelers. Those who used the herb 10 days before and then 4-5 days after their arrival experienced a two-day shorter duration of their colds.
While fresh elderberries cannot be consumed unless they are from the specific cultivar, Sambucus Canadensis, most supplements are created by cooking the berry down. So this isn’t something you need to worry about if you’re taking tinctures.
Astragalus has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for thousands of years. It is most widely known for its benefits in protecting and supporting the immune system.
Some studies have shown that astragalus may increase your body’s production of white blood cells, which are essential for protecting your body from harmful pathogens.
The herb has also been found to off-set the effects of chemotherapy like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Astragalus can be made into a tea with dry herb or can be taken in tincture form.
6. Lemon Balm
One of my all-time favorite herbs, lemon balm, also happens to be great at stimulating the immune system.
Lemon balm is a well-known nerve tonic, meaning it calms and soothes the nervous system particularly in times of stress.
When we’re stressed, our body releases cortisol. In short spurts, cortisol can actually boost your immunity by lowering levels of inflammation. But if your cortisol levels remain spiked over a long period of time, inflammation levels actually rise.
Higher levels of inflammation in the body lead to an overworked, over-tired immune system that can’t properly protect you.
Stress also decreases your white blood cell count, the very same cells that are used to help fight off infection. The lower your white blood cell count, the more you are at risk for contracting viruses.
Using lemon balm to keep your nervous system and stress levels in check just might be enough to ensure a strong immune system.
This herb is great when made into a tea, or it can be taken in tincture form.
7. Licorice Root
When it comes to anti-virals, licorice root is a top contender. It contains more than 20 triterpenoids, and nearly 300 flavonoids, making it an incredible plant to help boost the immune system.
Among these triterpenes, glycyrrhizin (GL) and glycyrrhizic acid (GA) have been reported to have the strongest antiviral effects. They weaken viruses by inhibiting gene expression and replication, reducing adhesion force and stress, and reducing HMGB1 (a type of protein) binding to DNA.
For example, recent studies suggest that GL may inhibit the hepatitis C virus (HCV) by targeting the release step in which hepatitis C viral particles infect cells.
That’s not all. The triterpenoids in licorice root also possess anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, and anti-allergic effects. As previously discussed, by reducing chronic inflammation in the body, you give your immune system a much-needed break so it can focus on protecting the body from invading pathogens.
My favorite way to take licorice root is in tincture form, but it can also be made into a tea from the dried root.
Did you know that 70-80% of the body’s immune cells are found in the gut?
Under normal conditions, the immune system promotes the growth of beneficial microbes and helps maintain a stable microbial community. In return, a healthy microbiota triggers molecular signals that support the development of immune cells and fine-tune our immune response.
Not having strong gut flora can lead to a host of problems – one of them being a weakened immune system.
One of the best ways to heal a leaky gut or other digestive complaints? Probiotics!
But not just any probiotic will suffice.
One of my favorite probiotics, SEED probiotics are leading the way in how probiotics are designed and administered. Their probiotics contain a prebiotic outer capsule that withstands the harsh acid in the stomach, and then reveals the probiotic inner capsule, which gets released into the intestine.
The SEED probiotic inner capsule contains strains of probiotics to target and enhance the following:
- Digestive health / gastrointestinal immunity / gut barrier integrity
- Dermatological health
- Cardiovascular health
- Micronutrient synthesis
I partnered with SEED to offer you a 15% discount off the first month of your Daily Synbiotic subscription. Just use the code LIVELOVEFRUIT at checkout!
I also love that the company actively reduces the amount of waste they produce. Their welcome kit comes with a compostable mycelium tray and recyclable FSC-certified shipping box. All following monthly refills come in a compostable bio-based pouch protected by soluble corn foam!
9. Zinc Sulfate
Another natural way to boost your immune system is zinc!
Zinc supplementation has been found to not only boost a weak immune system but prevent damaging inflammation.
According to ScienceDaily, “Scientists determined in human cell culture and animal studies that a protein lures zinc into key cells that are first-responders against infection. The zinc then interacts with a process that is vital to the fight against infection and by doing so helps balance the immune response.”
Other research shows that zinc can interrupt the process that
Research shows that zinc may also interfere with certain strains of rhinovirus by attaching to receptor sites lining the nasal passages. This inhibits bacteria from building up and reduces mucus production in the nose.
It’s always good to keep zinc on hand. Always be sure to choose a brand made from ionic zinc sulfate (like the company Goodstate).
Zinc is best when taken months in advance to protect from the body from pathogens, but it can also be taken at the first signs of illness to reduce the duration of symptoms.
Echinacea is one of the most well-known immune system boosters. You might be wondering why it’s at the bottom of the list, but I ordered these in no particular reason – echinacea is just as beneficial as all of the previously mentioned herbs and supplements!
Echinacea is loaded with beneficial antioxidants, phytonutrients, and nutraceuticals. This is the main reason why it is often used to prevent and treat the common cold – and there are studies to back it up.
Countless studies have investigated the ways in which echinacea bolsters the immune system to help your body better combat infections and viruses.
One review of 14 studies found that supplementing with echinacea may lower the risk of developing colds by 58% and reduce the duration of colds by 1.4 days.
I commonly take this herb in combination with goldenseal, as goldenseal has its own immune-boosting benefits too. Nature’s Answer created a supplement that includes both echinacea and goldenseal, and I used it regularly during the winter months to keep colds and other illnesses at bay.
If you’re not into taking tinctures, you can also opt for echinacea flower tea.
Immune-Boosting Daily Practices
11. Consume an anti-inflammatory diet
Consuming an anti-inflammatory diet is essential for anyone wanting to naturally boost their immune system. It is actually one of the most important things you could do in turning your health (and your immunity) around for the better.
By swapping out old food choices with healthier ones, you can easily reduce the triggers that set off a negative immune response.
Anti-inflammatory foods heal, nourish and keep the levels of inflammatory markers circulating in our blood at a minimum.
This is also the number one reason why I created my recipe eBook ‘Freedom from Inflammation’: to help free you from chronic inflammation and restore your health.
These recipes are all meant to turn down the dial on the number one health problem over 90% of the population deals with: chronic inflammation.
Learning to manage it with the foods we eat is essential for helping cleanse, restore, detox and heal the body. Most importantly, it will ensure your immune system remains strong all year long.
All of the recipes in this book are free from animal products, soy, wheat, refined sugar, and other foods that would otherwise trigger inflammatory cascades in the body.
So if you want to build delicious meals while building your immunity and avoiding common pain triggers, you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of this book!
12. Cold Showers
Cold showers are a great way to naturally boost the immune system, and they’re free to boot!
Exposure to cold water has been studied for its effects in lowering levels of inflammation in the body while also increasing white blood cell production.
One study found that adults who regularly showered in the cold for 30 days experienced a 29% reduction in sickness and absence from work compared to a control group.
This may be due to the fact that cold water therapy helps to pump the lymphatic system. It forces the lymphatic vessels to contract, allowing built-up waste to be effectively carried via lymph fluid. This triggers a response from the immune system, whereby white blood cells come to attack and destroy foreign invaders that are carried in the dislodged fluid.
To take a cold shower, turn on your shower to a medium-cool temperature to get your body used to the water. Start slowly reducing the temperature until it is in the cold water-only setting.
Stand in the cold water, breathing deeply, for as long as you can (about 30 seconds), and then switch back to a warmer setting.
Continue cycling between warm and cold water for 30-second intervals. Do this for 3-4 minutes. Eventually, you will be able to stand in the water for 5 minutes straight, with cold water only.
Rebounding on a mini-trampoline (also called a rebounder), is another way of stimulating the lymphatic system to strengthen your immune defenses.
The lymphatic system regulates immune responses by transporting bacteria, foreign antigens, particulate matter, exosomes, and immune cells to our lymph nodes and lymphoid structures. It modulates immune responses both directly, and indirectly (24).
When the lymphatic system isn’t functioning at an optimal level, our immune system can take a hit, along with exacerbating inflammatory disorders , infectious diseases and more.
Keeping your lymphatic system healthy by rebounding, dancing, doing yoga, or swimming, are all great ways to keep your immune system in check.
14. Reduce stress
Stress plays a major role in determining the strength of your immune system.
The hormone cortisol is released when we’re stressed. Under normal circumstances, this isn’t much of a problem. But when the stress becomes chronic, cortisol does more damage than good.
Chronic stress boosts levels of inflammation in the body, which makes us susceptible to disease. It also interferes with the infection-fighting ability of your white blood cells, increasing your chances of falling ill.
Normally, inflammatory leukocytes are the body’s defense system against infection and disease. However, when stress becomes chronic and triggers the production of too many leukocytes, they contribute to a disease known as atherosclerosis. If not controlled, this condition can lead to heart attack and stroke.
Some great ways to help reduce stress include deep relaxation techniques like yoga, deep breathing, meditation or massage.
You can also manage stress by taking time for hobbies, exercising regularly, supplementing with nervous system-calming herbs like lemon balm and ashwagandha, and reducing caffeine intake.
15. Get long hours of sleep
Lack of sleep can definitely affect your immune system.
Studies show that people who don’t sleep enough or get enough quality sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to viruses like the common cold.
Poor sleep quality and lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.
There are a few fundamental steps to help improve your sleep if you’re not getting enough already. These include things like turning off the lights and electronics 1-2 hours before sleep, reducing caffeine intake, not eating at least 2-3 hours before bed, and more.
The Bottom Line
Your immune system acts like armor for your body. It protects you from pathogens, cellular changes and harmful substances like chemicals and other toxins.
If your immune system is functioning properly, you won’t even notice it. But if it becomes compromised, it won’t be able to protect you as well, and you’ll increase your chances of falling ill.
Including more immune-boosting supplements in your diet and engaging in some lifestyle changes and shifts can be used to prevent and fight infections.