Coronavirus fears are widespread, and with good reason. The virus is growing at what feels like an exponential rate as each person with it passes it along to two or more others. In fact, the rate of infection is between 25% and 35%. And while scientists are working around the clock to contain the virus, now is the time to boost your immunity as best you can since as far as the scientists are concerned, the best defense is your own immune system.

To put your immune system in high gear, there are certain plants, nuts, drinks and vitamins that you can take or eat to fight off any invader, novel coronavirus included.  Check out these immune-boosting herbs, mushrooms, vitamins and yes, supplements (though in general, The Beet believes you should try to get your nutrients from whole foods whenever possible). And just to reiterate the best advice: The best way to prevent the spread of infection is to continually wash your hands!

Full Frame Shot Of Tree Trunks In Winter
Getty Images/EyeEm

1. Chaga mushrooms

Never heard of these? Well, now you need to know about them since they are an age-old immune booster that has appeared in folk medicine for centuries. No lesser modern science institution than Memorial Sloan Kettering has published a paper outlining the power of the Chaga mushrooms.

These little numbers are powerful fungus pods that grow on birch trees and offer super-immune boosting compounds that work to mobilize the body's fighting cells to take on any foreign agent, including cancer. They are so powerful that they come with a warning label that in high doses they can be toxic, and they can also negate the drugs you might be taking according to experts at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, so check with your doc if you have reason to be concerned.

This Northern Hemisphere mushroom (also called the birch conk or the cinder conk) appears to stimulate the immune system and even fight cancer cells according to research studies on lab animals. More research on humans is needed but early data shows the Chaga may also reduce fatigue and inflammation, and increase mental sharpness. With a rich history of use throughout Siberian and Russian folk medicine, Chaga mushrooms have recently been studied for their ability to selectively kill cancer cells, reduce inflammation, and boost immunity.

Chaga mushroom on a white background
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Chaga mushrooms (Inonotus obliquus) grow as a type of fungus on the bark of birch trees in cold climates, such as Northern Europe, Siberia, Russia, Korea, Northern Canada, and Alaska. They look like clumps of burnt charcoal in the trees, but inside they are soft and burnt orange in color.

The Chaga mushroom comes with some other benefits as well, like increased mental performance. But be sure to check in with your doc before taking, especially if you take any medications that are high in oxalates. Want to give Chaga a try? Check out what the folks at Four Sigmatic are up to. The company mixes Chaga (and Astragulus, another immune-booster) into coffee so you can get the benefits right in your morning cuppa.

Red, yellow and green Bell Peppers
Getty Images

2. Vitamin C from Citrus, Peppers & Supplements

Chemist Linus Pauling was convinced vitamin C was a cure-all. He spent decades researching and testing the nutrient in large doses on himself. And while taking “megadoses” may not be necessary even in the face of coronavirus fears, you can boost your immunity with an increase of vitamin C.

First, get it from fruits like citrus, papaya and veggies like red bell peppers and dark leafy greens like spinach. If you are still feeling that you could use a C boost, find the most natural supplements your can, like sucking on vitamin C lozenges (Whole Foods sells them in big bottles) or check out Emergen-C. These are great little packets that turn into fizzy drinks once you mix with water. Perfect for airplanes or in the office.

Getty Images/Onoky
Getty Images/Onoky

3. Green Tea for Its Specific Antioxidants

Green tea carries a special anti-oxidant, Epigallocatechin Gallate, or EGCG. A number of studies point to EGCG as having super immune-boosting properties. Green tea is also loaded with L-theanine, an amino acid that helps the body fight off germs. Green tea’s been touted as a cancer preventative and may also be your ally in protection from novel coronavirus or other infections.

Substitute your afternoon coffee or latte for a clean, unadulterated green tea, and make sure it's green, or chamomille, but not black tea, since the way black tea is processed kills the active ingredient that makes green tea so uniquely powerful as an immune booster. Even if there is just a placebo effect, drinking green tea will signal to your body: I am taking care of myself. That has calming effects of its own.

For the 13 Best Foods to Boost Your Immunity, read The Beet's guide here.  For foods that fight your anxiety about coronavirus, and everything else, read The Beet's mood-boosting foods that cure your anxiety.

4. Elderberry Wine

The berries and flowers of this potent plant are packed with vitamins and antioxidants that shield and boost the immune system. A 2014 study by Natural Standard Research Collaboration found that subjects who took elderberry while sick recovered faster and had less severe symptoms than subjects who were administered a placebo.

The berry can be found in many vitamins, lozenges, teas, and syrups. You can also buy it in bulk, or as dried fruit, ensure you know how to handle the fruit because the seeds, roots, bark and leaves since they are all toxic and will need to be handled properly.  Read up on the dangers associated with the berry here before you order the berry in bulk,

And of course, we all know The Elton John song Elderberry Wine makes us think this would be a delicious way to get your antioxidants, but before you go and make Elderberry Wine, hoping it will be a an immune booster our suggestion is to opt for a store-bought elixir or gummy vitamin to reap the benefits.

Elder berries in the Vale of Evesham, Worcestershire, UK.
Getty Images

5. Zinc to Block and Bust the Virus or Any Cold

Zinc is an essential mineral that boosts immune system response by building T-lymphocyte cells, which protect the body from infection. Zinc can be found in a range of plant-based foods, including legumes, seeds, nuts, whole grains and vegetables such as potatoes, kale and green beans. It can also be taken in supplement form.

Since the most bioavailable forms of zinc are found in meats and seafood, a person on a plant-based or vegan diet may want to consider adding this mineral into their routine with a supplement, which is widely available in pharmacies and grocery stores.

Butternut Squash for vitamin E
Getty Images

6. Vitamin E is More Than For Great Skin

Vitamin E is widely regarded for its skin benefits, but it is also an important nutrient to maintain and protect your immune system. In a 2014 study by the Department of Internal Medicine, it was concluded that the "supplementation of vitamin E significantly enhances both cell-mediated and humoral immune functions in humans, especially in the elderly and animals."

The best ways to up your vitamin E intake are by eating more nuts and seeds like peanuts and sunflower seeds and upping your intake of vegetables like avocados, beets, butternut squash, and swiss chard.

7. Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is known to increase immune responses, especially in individuals who are critically ill. The vitamin also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant and shown in studies to help immune system functions. B6 is involved in 150 enzyme reactions in your body, which help process nutrients.

To hit your recommended B6 intake, women need around 1.2mg per day, whereas men need 1.4mg per day. In order to boost your intake naturally, whole grains, carrots, spinach, bananas, peanuts and sweet potatoes are all great sources.

Spirulina powder in a wooden spoon
Getty Images/iStockphoto

8. Spirulina For Inflammation

Spirulina is a biomass of cyanobacteria that grows in fresh and saltwater and is a blue-green algae and one of the world's most popular supplements. This protein-dense microbe helps reduce inflammation, promotes cell regeneration and also boasts powerful antioxidant content.

The ancient Aztecs used spirulina for health benefits, and NASA scientists proposed that it could be grown in space for use by astronauts. Its protein is considered a "perfect" protein since it has all the essential amino acids your body needs, and most comparable to eggs.

Studies suggest that spirulina may have antiviral and anticancer properties, as well as helping fight inflammation, so load up on this powdered superfood which can easily be added to smoothies, oatmeal or juices, or opt for a capsule supplement to get your daily dose.



More From The Beet