Which vitamin boosts your immune system? We've found the best supplements to keep your immune defences strong against colds, flu and all that life throws at it
Taking supplements to support our immune system has been a thing we’ve become familiar with since the pandemic. Finding the best immune supplement for you is now easier thanks to the influx of new blends that include immune boosting vitamins and minerals, functional mushrooms and traditional herbal medicines.
“There didn’t use to be much in the way of supplements for immunity but people have cottoned on to the idea now," says cosmetic physician and biohacking enthusiast and host of a new Age Well podcast Dr Sophie Shotter.
With flu routinely bogging down the NHS in winter and Covid still lurking, Shotter feels we should all commit to supporting our natural defences, be that with exercise, keeping an eye on diet or taking supplements.
Don’t expect instant success though. Supplements take time to work, she cautions, so the sooner you start, the better. "If you start taking supplements when you’re already sick, they will still have a benefit but you will be late to the party. Starting when you’re well is a way to prepare your body for challenging times.”
Dr Johanna Ward, GP and founder of Zenii supplements formulated her own turbo-charged blend after nearly dying of Covid early on in the pandemic, when dedicated supplements for immunity were few and far between. She adds: “Your immune system relies on a good intake of micronutrients to remain resilient and robust. A well-formulated immune supplement will help support the immense work that the immune system does each and every day in the name of health.”
What to look for in immune-boosting supplements
These are the ingredients to look out for in your supplements, say our experts. Read on for the best buys.
Best vitamins and minerals for the immune system
“Boosts immunity on multiple levels,” says Dr Ward.
“It’s been shown catching a cold or infection may actually be a symptom of vitamin D deficiency; routinely doctors advise taking a minimum 2000IU daily,” says Dr Ward. See our edit of the best vitamin D supplements.
A potent antioxidant that helps the body fight infections. Quercitin is another anti-oxidant that features in many immune supplements.
Look for lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium, says Dr Ward.
Best adaptogens, medicinal mushrooms and herbs for the immune system
Dr Shotter advises looking for adaptogens such as ashwagandha, chisandra, medicinal or mushrooms (also known as functional mushrooms) and the ayurvedic herb andrographis paniculata, as they help regulate the stress response. “Stress, too, can impair our immune function,” she says.
"I am a great advocate of this herb for its safety and efficacy in helping to keep the immune system at its peak,” says pharmacist Shabir Daya of Victoria Health. “Astragalus works to increase white blood cell counts, which is vital to detect infection-causing bacteria and viruses.”
"Medicinal or functional mushrooms such as reishi, cordyceps, chaga and lion's mane contain powerful compounds called beta-glucans. They’ve been scientifically studied and found to activate the immune system through a variety of mechanisms, one of which is to bind to white blood cells and activate their ability to scavenge for invading organisms,” says Daya.
"Rich in several beneficial nutrients such as vitamins C and B, as well as flavonoids, numerous studies indicate that elderberry extracts help reduce the duration of infections. This may be due to their ability to inhibit viral replication,” says Daya. Black elderberry has been shown in multiple studies to dramatically improve recovery from flu.
“This pizza topping is one of the most potent antibacterial and antiviral compounds. It also helps suppress coughs,” says Daya.
Olive leaf extract
“Its active compound, oleuropein, has powerful antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties, helping to inhibit a variety of nasty organisms. It may also help reduce a fever.”
“Garlic has powerful antimicrobial and antiviral properties,” says Daya.
A bee resin with a broad spectrum of activity against bacteria. It is also the richest source of caffeic acid and apigenin, two very important compounds known to aid the immune response. Propolis helps to ensure the immune system responds quickly and efficiently."
The best immune-boosting supplements
The food-grown booster: Wild Nutrition Food-Grown Immune Support, £32 for a 30-day supply
A whole lot of immunity heroes, all food-grown so as to make them more bio-available and therefore easily absorbed by your system. There are vitamins C, D and A alongside zinc, chromium, selenium and copper, but also maitake mushroom, elderberry, bioflavonoids and probiotics.
The everyday immune formula: Nutri Advanced Immune Protect, £21.50 for a 30-day supply
The immune-support classics (vitamins C and D, zinc, selenium and antioxidant quercetin) in high and bio-available dosages, plain and simple for year-round support.
Immune support for better energy: The Herbtender Peform & Recover, £35 for a 30-day supply
A performance-enhancing and energising (take it in the morning) blend that supports the immune system. With beta glucan-rich reishi and cordyceps mushrooms, rhodiola, vitamin C from acerola cherry, and two types of energy-boosting ginseng.
The complete immune system primer: Cytoplan Immune Complete 1, £27 for a 30-day supply
A complete and bioavailable multivitamin-and-mineral at optimum levels, boosted with a load of antioxidant-rich phytonutrients (resveratrol, beta-glucans, cysteine, lysine, oregano) for multi-pronged virus defending and immune system priming.
The double-whammy: Artah Immune Essentials, £52 for 120 capsules
Instead of creating a separate immune formula, Artah makes these two existing ones as a set, making sure you don’t skip your vitamin D3 with the powerhouse vitamin D3 and K2 blend and a second jar called Cellular Defence, whose ingredients read like a roll call of all the essentials listed above, including zinc, selenium, quercitin, olive leaf extract, astragalus root, vitamin A and reishi mushrooms to provide anti-viral support.
The liquid multi: Zenii Immune Defence+ £60
Formulated by Dr Johanna Ward this tasty low-sugar liquid shot has a gigantic roster of ingredients that make it your daily multi combined with amino acids and adaptogens such and ginseng and ashwagandha protective antioxidants, an impressive 500mg of vitamin C, 30iu of vegan vitamin D3 and all the B vitamins. It contains a small amount of caffeine (15mg – a cup of coffee is 80-100mg).
The one with a high-dose vitamin D: Inessa Immunity Complex, £24.99 for 60 capsules
This combines healthy doses of the right vitamins and minerals including 2000IU of D3 (cholecalciferol, derived from lanolin, so not strictly vegan) selenium, zinc and vitamin C, along with black elderberry, and beta glucan-rich reishi and chaga mushrooms.
The affordable mushroom blend: Healthspan Immunovit Mushroom Complex, £13.95 for 60 tablets
Healthspan's Immunovit range of five vegan immune-supporting supplements includes this one, which is rich in adaptogenic and immune-enhancing mushrooms - reishi, maitake, and shiitake. Vitamin B12 has also been added as a proven immune health nutrient that provides benefits for the nervous system and energy levels.
The high-strength herbal heroes blend: JS Health Immune, £31.99 for 60 tablets
Nutritionist-formulated, this includes all the herbal heroes oregano, olive leaf, andrographic paniculata, echinacea for recovery from viruses and ginger, plus vitamin C and zinc for an all-round immune system handhold.
The one to help your sleep when you're ill: The Organic Pharmacy’s Immune Boost Kit, £84
A combo of vitamins and herbs proven to help with the immune system and specifically the respiratory system. The day supplement contains vitamins A, D and C and antioxidant quercetin while the night one is a mixture of magnesium and herbs (camomile, red poppy, lemon balm) to reduce anxiety and allow the body to recover through a deep night's sleep.
The all-rounder with garlic: Victoria Health Daily Immunity, £26 for 60 capsules
If you don't like garlic in your food, these vegetarian capsules make sure you get your fix of the antiviral and antimicrobial root, as well as everything else that pharmacist and co-founder of Victoria Health Shabir Daya rates for immune support. The powerhouse ingredients include astragalus to help enhance white blood cell production, functional mushrooms, antiviral oregano, probiotics to produce immune-enhancing compounds in the gut, vitamin D3, C and zinc and of course garlic.
The immune supplement for kids: Chapter one Immunity Gummies, £20 for 60 gummies
Recommended by pharmacist Shabir Daya as a good option for children, these gummies include a blend vitamin c, zinc and much-lauded immune booster black elderberry for flavour and flu-busting potential.