Many factors can upset the immune system, which then plays its role less effectively. In this case, several options are available to give the body a boost: vitamins, minerals, plants, essential oils, products from the hive, etc.
Vitamins are organic substances that play a part in vital exchanges and are a true reference for well-being and vitality. They are mainly provided by food, but it is possible to take cures when the immune system is at risk of being weakened. For optimal action, you can opt for complexes combining vitamins with minerals such as selenium, zinc, copper and iron. Sometimes probiotics can be added to support the intestinal flora. Finally, note that there are vitamins for children and others for seniors, to meet their specific needs.
Phytotherapy is based on plant extracts and the natural active ingredients they contain. It is attracting more and more interest, particularly to strengthen the immune system but also to treat oneself.
Echinacea. There are several species, the most widely used being Echinacea purpurea. Native Americans used this plant to fight respiratory infections, sore throats and fevers. Today, numerous studies have highlighted its immunomodulatory action, which comes from the alkylamides and polysaccharides present in its roots. These substances activate the immune cells (monocytes, granulocytes) so that they can eliminate infectious agents. Echinacea is therefore traditionally indicated to support the immune system.
- Spirulina: Super food, nutritional bomb, best food for humanity… many praises are given to spirulina (Spirulina platensis). This blue-green micro-alga was first used for therapeutic purposes by the Aztecs and the Incas. It contains many nutrients: proteins, trace elements, vitamins, antioxidants and essential fatty acids. Due to its composition, spirulina helps to improve tone and vitality, reduce fatigue and feel more energetic. Its antioxidants help protect the body from oxidative stress, a phenomenon that can weaken immunity. In addition, spirulina stimulates immune cell activity and promotes the body’s resistance.
- Grapefruit seed extract: Grapefruit seed extract (GSE) is becoming increasingly popular and is available in drop or tablet form. It is extracted from the Citrus x paradisi plant and is an important source of vitamin C and bioflavonoids. According to studies on its properties, EPP helps combat colds, promotes resistance and supports the immune system. Thanks to the vitamin C, it helps to reduce fatigue and protect cells from free radical attacks and oxidative stress. In addition, several scientific publications present EPP as a natural antimicrobial and highlight its antiviral action, in particular on the flu virus. In food supplements, EPP can be present alone or combined with essential oils (e.g. orange, thyme or tea tree).
- Ginseng: Ginseng (Panax ginseng) is considered to be an adaptogenic plant, i.e. it helps the body to react to aggressions and possible imbalances it may face. In phytotherapy, ginseng is traditionally used to support the immune system. Its roots contain ginsenosides, substances that stimulate certain immune cells to produce agents that can destroy viruses. The stimulating action of ginseng on the immune system has been observed mainly in the face of typical winter respiratory tract infections such as the common cold.
- Eleutherococcus: Eleutherococcus senticosus is a shrub from the same family as ginseng which is nicknamed “Siberian ginseng”. Like its cousin, it is an adaptogenic plant, used for its energizing and strengthening effects. Eleutherococcus derives its properties from its content of eleutherosides, substances similar to those found in ginseng. It has a regulating effect on certain organs and physiological functions, helps to improve physical performance and strengthen the immune system. The intake of Eleutherococcus as a food supplement is recommended in case of temporary fatigue and convalescence.
Used by the Incas, the Chinese, the Romans and the Egyptians, apitherapy is one of the most popular natural medicines. It is defined as the therapeutic use of products of the hive such as honey, propolis and royal jelly.
- Honey: Honey is the mainstay of apitherapy, prized for its fortifying, protective and antioxidant properties. It contains methylglyoxal, which makes it a natural antibiotic, as well as components with a prebiotic action that stimulate the growth and activity of probiotics. In the long run, honey therefore helps to support and strengthen the immune system. In addition, its osmotic effect is conducive to the proper development of immune cells, and its acidic pH helps to stimulate the immune response. Methylglyoxal is present in all honeys, but Manuka honey has the highest concentration.
- Propolis: Propolis is also considered a natural antibiotic. This substance, produced by bees, is intended to sanitise, disinfect and protect the hive from aggression and pathogens. It contains organic acids, flavonoids, trace elements and vitamins that help to strengthen the immune system. Propolis can be taken in different forms (chewing gums, capsules, lozenges, syrups, ampoules), alone or combined with other active ingredients such as vitamin C, thyme or echinacea.
- Royal jelly: produced by worker bees and reserved for the queen and her larvae, completes the apitherapy offer. It is characterised by its high nutritional value, which is believed to be the reason for the queen’s longevity. Royal jelly contains water, B vitamins, trace elements, amino acids and saturated fatty acids. It also contains defensin-1, also called royalisin, a peptide that modulates the immune response to bacteria. Toning and energising, royal jelly can be consumed by adults, adolescents, children from the age of 6 and pregnant women.
Responsible for defending the body against pathogens such as viruses or bacteria, the immune system is a set of complex physiological mechanisms, both innate and acquired over time. Certain factors can weaken it and reduce its effectiveness. In this case, it is essential to ensure a healthy lifestyle, based on a healthy diet, regular physical activity and avoidance of smoking. For an extra boost, it is possible to turn to food supplements and natural medicines. Probiotics, vitamin and mineral complexes, phytotherapy and apitherapy are interesting tools to help strengthen the immune system. The most well-known plants in this field are echinacea, spirulina, grapefruit seed extract, ginseng and eleutherococcus. In apitherapy, honey, propolis and royal jelly can be taken to support immunity. Whatever your situation, remember to seek the advice of your doctor or pharmacist before taking a food supplement.