Over the past few days we’ve been getting quite some questions about the supportive properties of some of our products on the immune system. That’s why we’re happy to provide you with some additional information below. However, we would like to emphasize once again that our supplements are neither drugs nor panaceas that guarantee 100% immunity to anything. Just as wearing a seatbelt or bicycle helmet reduces the risk of physical damage, but does not eliminate the risk of accidents or falls, some of our supplements also support and promote a healthy and powerful immune system.
Food alone can greatly strengthen the immune system. Below is a list of some nutrients that are immunomodulating or, in other words, can support your immune system.
Chlorella is a single-celled green algae. Researchers at Yonsei University* in Korea studied the effect of chlorella on our immune system. What did they discover? Chlorella greatly increased the activity of natural killer (NK) cells. These cells belong to the immune system and attack pathogenic (causing disease) and foreign substances. Also interferon-gamma and interleukin-1-beta, two proteins connected to our immune system, increased in activity. Chlorella is therefore also attributed with strong immunomodulatory properties. But among green algae, it is not only chlorella that exhibits such properties. Spirulina is another single-celled green algae that has a similar effect on our immune system.
Ginger is the underground rhizome of a ginger plant. German and, more recently, Italian and Australian scientists have shown* that ginger contains several immune-supported substances, in addition to the better-known anti-inflammatory effects of the ingredient gingerol. On the other hand, Taiwanese researchers have shown* that ginger has significant antiviral activity against the respiratory syncytic virus. This virus is seen as one of the causes of a cold.
Ginseng is the name given to preparations from the roots of species of the genus Panax in the ivy family Araliaceae. Ginseng is able to give the immune system a powerful boost by regulating and stimulating various immune cells, in particular macrophages, natural killer cells, dendritic cells, T cells and B cells.
In addition to its antioxidant effect, green tea also has an immune modulating effect. EGCG, a polyphenol from green tea, can bind with a glycoprotein to a flu virus (haemagglutinin), making it more difficult for this virus to infect other cells. L-Theanine from green tea activates and then helps in the production of a white blood cell called ‘gamma-delta-T lymphocytes’. These are fast-acting immune cells that attack flu viruses, for example. L-Theanine would also help in the production of interferon-gamma, a signal protein of our immune system with antimicrobial properties. Other compounds from green tea, according to a recent study from Indonesia*, would stimulate the expression of certain interleukins and human beta-defensin-2. All involved in an adequate immune response.
Garlic of course does not need an introduction and the immune-stimulating properties are known to more people. Most of the effect of garlic on the immune system is attributed to the substance alliin present in garlic*. When the cell wall is broken (e.g. by crushing or cutting garlic) part of that alliin is converted to allicin, which is responsible for the typical garlic smell. It is to this allicin that most of the resistance-increasing properties are attributed. The effect is stimulation of macrophages, lymphocytes, natural killer cells, dendritic cells and eosinophils, among others. This stimulation takes place through various mechanisms including modulation of cytokine release, activation of macrophages and a few other mechanisms, which we save you from creating an overload of difficult words*.
“Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients, which selectively stimulate the growth and/or activity of one or more types of bacteria in the large intestine, thereby promoting the health of the host,” accordingly to Wikipedia. Prebiotics are generally indigestible carbohydrates and thus forms of what most people call fiber. Researchers in Malaysia and Iran, among others, have shown that prebiotics can have a powerful effect on the immune system*. This can be done in a direct or indirect way, by increasing good organisms in our intestines. If you know that most of our immune system is in our intestines, you might be less surprised that improving or supporting the intestinal flora has a beneficial effect on your resistance.
Natural vitamin C
Now we come to perhaps the most well-known immunostimulating nutrient: vitamin C. One of the ways vitamin C supports our immune system is by stimulating the production of lymphocytes and phagocytes, 2 types of white blood cells*. Vitamin C can be found in many fruits and vegetables, of which the alma or Indian gooseberry contains one of the highest natural concentrations.
Finally, in addition to these, there are many other nutrients with a strong link to the immune system, such as vitamin D and zinc. Especially of that first vitamin many people have a deficiency, especially in winter or spring, when the sun still contains too little UV-radiation.
All these nutrients, together with many other vitamins, minerals, vegetable and fruit extracts, can be found in many of our products.
* Kwak JH, Baek SH, Woo Y, et al. Beneficial immunostimulatory effect of short-term Chlorella supplementation: enhancement of natural killer cell activity and early inflammatory response (randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial). Nutr J. 2012;11:53. Published 2012 Jul 31.
Qorbanpour M, Fahim T, Javandel F, et al. Effect of Dietary Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe) and Multi-Strain Probiotic on Growth and Carcass Traits, Blood Biochemistry, Immune Responses and Intestinal Microflora in Broiler Chickens. Animals (Basel). 2018;8(7):117. Published 2018 Jul 14.
Zhou, Hua-li & Deng, Yang-mei & Xie, Qiang-min. (2006). The modulatory effects of the volatile oil of ginger on the cellular immune response in vitro and in vivo in mice. Journal of ethnopharmacology. 105.
Chang, Jung & Wang, Kuo & Yeh, Chia & Shieh, Den & Chiang, Lien-Chai. (2012). Fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale) has anti-viral activity against human respiratory syncytial virus in human respiratory tract cell lines. Journal of ethnopharmacology. 145.
Kang S, Min H. Ginseng, the ‘Immunity Boost’: The Effects of Panax ginseng on Immune System. J Ginseng Res. 2012;36(4):354–368.
Rahayu RP, Prasetyo RA, Purwanto DA, Kresnoadi U, Iskandar RPD, Rubianto M. The immunomodulatory effect of green tea (Camellia sinensis) leaves extract on immunocompromised Wistar rats infected by Candida albicans. Vet World. 2018;11(6):765–770.
Taylor PW, Hamilton-Miller JM, Stapleton PD. Antimicrobial properties of green tea catechins. Food Sci Technol Bull. 2005;2:71–81.
Arreola R, Quintero-Fabián S, López-Roa RI, et al. Immunomodulation and anti-inflammatory effects of garlic compounds. J Immunol Res. 2015;2015:401630.
Kyo, Eikai & Uda, Naoto & Kasuga, Shigeo & Itakura, Yoichi. (2001). Immunomodulatory Effects of Aged Garlic Extract. The Journal of nutrition. 131.
Nantz, Meri & Rowe, Cheryl & Muller, Catherine & Creasy, Rebecca & Stanilka, Joy & Percival, Susan. (2012). Supplementation with aged garlic extract improves both NK and γδ-T cell function and reduces the severity of cold and flu symptoms: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled nutrition intervention. Clinical nutrition (Edinburgh, Scotland). 31. 337-44.
Shokryazdan, Parisa & Faseleh jahromi, Mohammad & Navidshad, Bahman & Liang, Juan. (2016). Effects of prebiotics on immune system and cytokine expression. Medical Microbiology and Immunology. 206. 1-9.
Carr AC, Maggini S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017;9(11):1211. Published 2017 Nov 3.