As flu season gets into full swing, you might be on the lookout for new ways to boost your immune system. Most of us know about flu shots, but there’s another type of shot that could help you stave off sickness—and it doesn’t involve a needle.
We’re talking about immunity shots.
Convenient, tasty, and packed with micronutrients, these little drinks are making a big splash in the wellness community. On TikTok alone, the hashtag #ImmunityShot has a whopping 15 million views.
Popular? Yes. But can immunity shots really strengthen your immune system? We did a deep dive into this wellness trend to find out.
What Are Immunity Shots?
Immunity shots are small (usually 2-3 ounces) servings of fruit juice with high concentrations of nutrients that help your body fight infections. They can contain a wide range of ingredients, such as herb oils, plant extracts, spices, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
You can buy ready-to-drink immunity shots at health food stores, juice bars, or from countless online sellers. In recent years, homemade immunity shots have become popular, largely because of wellness influencers on social media.
Immunity shots really made their way into the zeitgeist during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many people started taking their health—specifically their immune health—more seriously.
Internet hype aside, what do immunity shots actually do for your body?
Do Immunity Shots Have Real Health Benefits?
Generally speaking, immunity shots can be a healthy addition to a balanced diet. So far, there haven’t been any scientific studies involving immunity shots, but they’re still worth looking into as a dietary supplement.
Many ingredients shown to boost immunity (such as wheatgrass and ginger root) aren’t very pleasant to consume on their own, especially in high concentrations. However, juicing can be a convenient, streamlined way to increase your intake of essential nutrients.
To be clear, taking immunity shots can’t compensate for an otherwise unhealthy lifestyle. If you eat in an unhealthy way, don’t get enough sleep, and rarely exercise, a shot full of vitamins and nutrients likely won’t spare you from a cold or flu virus if you come in contact with it. Further, some store-bought immunity shots contain needless ingredients like sugars and preservatives that offer no assistance to your immune system—or your body in general.
Consuming essential micronutrients lays the foundation for a robust immune system, and adding immunity shots to your daily routine can do just that. The health benefits of these shots depend heavily on what ingredients they contain, which leads us to an important question…
What Are the Best Immunity Shot Ingredients?
Inspecting ingredient labels should be your top priority when you’re deciding which (if any) immunity shots to buy or make. Some core ingredients are backed by decades of scientific research, while the more trendy ingredients are iffy at best.
Let’s take a look at six popular immunity shot ingredients—and why they’re important.
Ginger root (Zingiber officinale) has been used to treat and prevent illness for thousands of years, and recent research suggests our early ancestors were onto something.
A 2013 study found that fresh ginger has anti-viral effects against human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV), which causes respiratory infections. Another study from 2006 determined that ginger improved cell-mediated immune response and increased the proliferation of T cells, a type of white blood cell that attacks antigens.
Further, ginger is loaded with antioxidants that reduce inflammation and are essential to fight off chronic diseases.
Most people know turmeric for the vibrant yellow color and earthy flavor it brings to food like curry. But this spice is also a superfood.
Turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, is a powerful antioxidant that reduces inflammation, fights infections, and heals damaged cells. A 2007 study cleverly titled “Spicing up the immune system by curcumin” notes that the spice activates the body’s natural killer cells and enhances antibody response.
The downside of curcumin is that it’s difficult for your body to absorb. However, you can increase its bioavailability by consuming it with black pepper (more on this later).
Orange, Lemon, and Other Citrus Fruits
Oranges might be the most popular immune-boosting food—and for good reason. A single orange is packed with 83 mg of vitamin C—that’s nearly 100% of the daily recommended intake for adult males.
Vitamin C is responsible for activating white blood cells and has been shown to prevent and treat respiratory infections.
Lemon is another citrus fruit that’s loaded with vitamin C. Plus, its antioxidant properties protect your cells from disease-causing free radicals.
Aside from the health benefits of citrus fruits, the tangy flavor can mellow out the taste of less pleasant ingredients like raw ginger and turmeric.
If you thought black pepper was only good for spicing up your caesar salad, think again. Black pepper contains piperine, a natural substance that decreases inflammation and enhances the absorption of certain nutrients, especially curcumin (which we mentioned above).
Research shows piperine increases the bioavailability of curcumin by 2,000% (no, that’s not a typo). Now you know why so many immunity shots add black pepper to their formula.
How to Make Your Own Immunity Shots
With so many options, browsing stores for immunity shots (whether in person or online) can be overwhelming. Not to mention, these pre-made products may contain unnecessary sugars, preservatives, and additives.
If you want to channel your inner chef/nutritionist and make your own, we’ve got you covered. All you need is five minutes and a few common ingredients.
This recipe makes two shots:
- 1 medium orange, peeled
- 2 small lemons, peeled
- ¼ cup chopped turmeric
- ¼ cup chopped ginger
- ⅛ tsp cracked black pepper
- Squeeze the juice of the orange and lemons into the blender
- Add the chopped turmeric, ginger, and black pepper into the blender
- Blend until smooth
- Optional: strain the mixture with a thin cloth to remove the pulp
- Divide the mixture into two “shots” and enjoy!
Make Immune Health a Habit, Not a Hobby
Immunity tips and techniques always start trending in the fall, but it’s important to remember your body needs these nutrients every day, all year round. It can take weeks or even months for vitamins to build up in your system.
Lastly, don’t overlook the health benefits of whole fruits. Juicing is certainly convenient (and tasty) but many fruits and vegetables have skins that are packed with fiber and vitamins that you may not get from juice alone.