Wellness Nutrition Vitamins and Supplements What To Know About 'Immune-Boosting' Supplements There are better ways to support your immunity. By Ashley Mateo Ashley Mateo Ashley Mateo's Instagram Ashley Mateo's Twitter Ashley Mateo has over a decade's worth of experience covering fitness, health, travel, and more for publications including the WSJ, Men's Journal, Women's Health, and more. health's editorial guidelines Updated on February 3, 2023 Medically reviewed by Arno Kroner, DAOM Medically reviewed by Arno Kroner, DAOM Arno Kroner, DAOM, LAc, operates a private practice in Santa Monica where he specializes in acupuncture, herbal medicine, and integrative medicine. learn more Share this page on Facebook Share this page on Twitter Share this page on Pinterest Email this page During cold and flu season, you'd expect to see a few "immunity-boosting" products pop up in stores and your social media ads. But when COVID-19 entered the cold and flu season, companies, celebrities, and influencers praised things that claim to boost your immunity. You may have seen "immune-boosting" drinks, powders, and teas. Here's what you need to know about supplements that support your immune system and what you can do to stay healthy. Dietary supplements are minimally regulated by the FDA and may or may not be suitable for you. The effects of supplements vary from person to person and depend on many variables, including type, dosage, frequency of use, and interactions with current medications. Please speak with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before starting any supplements. The Effects of the Interest in Immune Boosting Supplements Google searches for "immune boost" and "immune boosting" jumped significantly in February 2020, right before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March 2020. The hashtag #immunebooster also increased on Instagram posts by over 46% between April to May of that year. The immune-boosting craze got a big push in May 2020 when Tom Brady launched a vitamin supplement called TB12. The supplement contains ingredients that allegedly "activate your immune system." Those ingredients include: Vitamin C Zinc Fiber-rich larch tree extract Antioxidant-rich elderberry powder However, as of 2023, the Food and Drug Administration has not approved TB12. Around that same time, many other people or companies were careful not to link their products directly to COVID-19. Still, the Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission had to send warning letters to at least seven companies advertising untrue cures and treatments for COVID-19. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) also released a statement regarding the increased interest in supposed remedies for COVID-19. Those remedies included: Herbal therapies Teas Essential oils Tinctures Silver products, like colloidal silver The NCCIH also explained that there was no scientific evidence that any of those remedies could prevent or cure COVID-19. Also, the NCCIH said that some of them might not even be safe to consume. Dr. Fauci Recommended Vitamin D and C To Boost Your Immune System What's the Issue With Immune Boosting Supplements? Your body has different immunity levels, including: Innate immunity, which you're born withAcquired immunity, which builds up after encounters with germsPassive immunity due to antibodies produced outside your body, like from a mother to a baby But you can't actually "boost" or "activate" your immune system. Simply put, that's not how your immune system works. "The only way to 'boost' your immunity is by creating a vaccine and letting your body produce antibodies against it," Rebin Kader, DO, an internist at the UCHealth Allergy and Immunology Clinic, told Health. Then, there's another big issue: Unlike medicines, laws and organizations don't regulate supplements. That means companies can make vague health claims based on indirect research. For example, research has shown that turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties. Still, that doesn't mean research has proven that turmeric helps COVID-19-related inflammation. What To Know About Zinc Supplements How To Help Your Immune System Instead of trying to "boost" your immune system, here's what you can do to support your immune system. Use Vitamin Supplements—If They're Right for You Your body needs certain vitamins and minerals to perform optimally. There are tons of supplements for nutrients out there that might help support your immune system. Some examples of helpful nutrients include: Vitamins A, C, D, E, and KB vitaminsBiotinFolic acid In particular, another type of supplement, adaptogens, can also have positive effects on the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems. For example, research has found that Ashwagandha, an herb, can support immunity and decrease stress, which also negatively impacts the immune system. Of note: if you consume more than what your body can handle when it comes to supplements, it'll get rid of the extra. Also, taking more than the daily recommended value can lead to dangerous side effects in severe cases. Too much vitamin A, for example, is toxic and can lead to liver damage. Everyone won't need to take supplements, nor will they be able to do so. Some supplements may mess with the way other medicines work or worsen a person's health conditions. Supplements can help fill in the gaps if someone doesn't have enough of certain nutrients, said Dr. Kader, "[b]ut there's nothing that you can overnight to have this superhuman immune system that will help you fight off infection." If you're interested in or think you might need supplements for immune system support, talk with a healthcare provider first to see if the supplements are right for you. Make Lifestyle Changes You can also help your immune system by eating foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Those foods naturally come with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, benefiting the immune system. But even a healthy diet can't make up for other factors that may mess with your immunity level. For example, stress and a lack of quality sleep can leave a person with a weak immune system. With that in mind, you'll want to find ways to reduce stress and get good quality sleep. Other ways you can help your immunity include: Getting regular exercise Managing a healthy body weight Quitting smoking Limiting alcohol https://www.health.com/mind-body/immune-system A Quick Review Even if immune-boosting supplements say so, there's no quick, packaged fix for protecting yourself against illnesses. However, there are ways to help support your immune system over time. You can change your eating habits to get more nutrients, like zinc or vitamin D, or make sure you get enough good sleep every night. But always talk to a healthcare provider if you have concerns about your immune system and how it works. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit 16 Sources Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Wagner DN, Marcon AR, Caulfield T. "Immune boosting" in the time of COVID: Selling immunity on Instagram. Allergy Asthma Clin Immunol. 2020;16:76. doi:10.1186/s13223-020-00474-6 TB12. TB12 protect. Food and Drug Administration. Coronavirus update: FDA and FTC warn seven companies selling fraudulent products that claim to treat or prevent COVID-19. 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