Beyond Vitamin C & Zinc: The Best Herbs for Your Immune System

Jul 31, 2020

by Carolyn Meers

As we all work to stay healthy in the face of a global pandemic, strengthening our immune system is more of a priority than ever before. But how can you do so naturally?

Here, we discuss why some popular immunity supporting supplements might be better found in your diet than in pill form, and which herbs (and mushrooms) can provide natural, powerful protection against infection and viruses. 

Vitamin C and Zinc: Easy Ways to Get Them From Your Daily Diet

While both vitamin C and zinc are frequently recommended immunity-boosters, their prevalence in a range of foods makes it easy to work them into your daily diet without additional supplements. 


Vitamin C

A significant amount of research — including this study from 2017 — has found that vitamin C “contributes to immune defense by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system.” Adults should aim to get between 72 and 90 milligrams of vitamin C each day and to not exceed 2,000 milligrams. 

But take note: It’s best to keep your levels of vitamin C consistent through diet instead of spiking your intake via powders and pills when you feel a cold coming on. “It's better to get vitamin C from food, because you also get other important nutrients,” advised Dr. Bruce Bistrian, chief of clinical nutrition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in an article from the Harvard Health Letter. “Eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day for general health, and you'll get enough vitamin C.”

Here are a few foods rich in vitamin C to deliver your daily dose, fast: 

  • Oranges 
  • Strawberries
  • Lemons
  • Papayas
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Red cabbage
  • Kiwis
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Mustard spinach
  • Kale
  • Yellow peppers
  • Cherries


Zinc plays a key role , including cellular metabolism, immune function and wound healing. Like vitamin C, zinc cannot be stored in the body, and you must ingest steady levels of the mineral from outside sources. 

The recommended daily dose is between 8 and 11 milligrams and can be gained from the following foods: 

  • Shellfish (oysters, crabs and mussels) 
  • Beef
  • Milk 
  • Cheese
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Pine nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Cashews
  • Almonds
  • Dark chocolate

Five Immunity-Boosting Herbs and Supplements 

In addition to the vitamin C and zinc readily available in foods, there are a number of powerful natural herbs that support a range of immune functions and can help strengthen the body’s response to infections and viruses that are not typically in the average diet. 


This flowering herb is touted as having the ability to lessen the duration and intensity of cold symptoms. Plus, it is rich in anti-inflammatory agents and antioxidants. It also supports the production of white blood cells, which help fight infection and protect against viruses. 


Native to North America, elderberry has gained popularity for its reported immune-modulating, antioxidant, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory and antidepressant properties. A study out of Australia’s University of Sydney suggests that the herb has considerable antiviral benefits as well. "What our study has shown is that the common elderberry has a potent direct antiviral effect against the flu virus," noted lead researcher Dr. Golnoosh Torabian. “It inhibits the early stages of an infection by blocking key viral proteins responsible for both the viral attachment and entry into the host cells."

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Shiitake Mushrooms

Flavorful? Yes, but nutrient-rich shiitake mushrooms are also a potent source of immune-supporting elements including B vitamins, vitamin D, free-radical neutralizing selenium, niacin and seven essential amino acids. 

Maitake mushroom 

Think of maitake mushrooms as an additional kick-starter for the body’s immune response. 

This mushroom stokes the activity of the body’s immune cells, particularly helper T cells. Helper T cells stimulate virus-fighting B cells to make antibodies and help killer T cells develop. Killer T cells attack cells that have been infected by a viral invader. 

Reishi mushroom

Reishi mushrooms are anti-inflammatory powerhouses — they battle inflammation often caused by an infection. They also help accelerate the production of white blood cells that rev up the body’s anti-tumor response. Plus, this mushroom, also known as Ganoderma lucidum, helps fend off fatigue

For a comprehensive combo of all these natural immunity boosters — plus a dose of system-enhancing premium hemp CBD grown in the New Mexico Valley — add FOCL Immunity to your daily routine.

For more on how to boost your body’s immunity and keep your mind and body resilient, check out FOCL’s blog posts 5 Ways to Be Resilient During Tough Times and 4 Wellness Tips to Keep You Healthy All Year Round

Carolyn Meers is an editor and copywriter based in Los Angeles. She has more than a decade of experience in the luxury lifestyle realm, specializing in health and wellness. She has contributed to publications including CSQ, C Magazine, Robb Report, 805 Living and The Knot. 

Vitamin C and Immune Function
Can Vitamin C Prevent a Cold? 
Zinc Fact Sheet
Mushrooms Boost Immunity, Suggests Research
Immune-Enhancing Effects of Maitake

Study of a Ganoderma Lucidum Polysaccharide Extract in Neurasthenia

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