IN DEPTH DESCRIPTION
Pomegranate is one of the natural sources of vitamin C in Immune Power. It also contains a host of other potentially active compounds including anthocyanins (compounds responsible for its brilliant red colour), ellagitannins – including specific compounds called punicalagins, catechins (like those found in green tea), and quercetin . These substances are likely to be responsible for pomegranate’s reported antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity .
Another confirmation of pomegranate’s antioxidant activity is its ORAC value. ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity – a measurement of the antioxidant content of foods that was originally developed by the National Institutes of Health in the US. Raw pomegranate has an ORAC value of 4479, which is comparable to blueberries and raspberries, and higher than strawberries and goji berries! 
Pomegranate may also support immunity by directly influencing immune cells. In an early animal study, pomegranate rind powder was found to stimulate the immune response in rabbits . And in a human study on dialysis patients, those given 100ml of pomegranate juice three times a week for a year showed reduced incidence of infections (indicating improved immunity) as well as reduced markers of inflammation, when compared to the patients given a placebo .
In Ayurvedic medicine (Indian herbal medicine), pomegranate juice is used as an anti-parasitic too .
Pomegranate juice may also be beneficial for heart health. Research suggests, for example, that pomegranate juice supplementation could reduce damage to LDL cholesterol, reduce thickness of the blood vessel walls and lower blood pressure  – all of which help to reduce risk of heart attack and stroke.
Elderberry has a long history of use for its immune-supporting and anti-viral activity, including against cold and influenza (flu) viruses [7–9].
The efficacy of elderberry for colds and flu has been reported in several studies. For example, a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial in 2004 looked at the effects of elderberry on 60 patients who had had flu symptoms for 48 hours or less. It was found that those taking elderberry syrup (15 ml four times a day for five days) had reduction in symptoms on average four days earlier than the people taking a placebo .
In another study on 64 patients with flu, half the patients were given an elderberry extract four times a day, and the other half a placebo. Within 48 hours, 28% of the patients in the elderberry group had complete relief from symptoms, with another 60% showing only one or two mild symptoms. In the placebo group, by contrast, no patients showed complete recovery, and only 16% had only one or two mild symptoms remaining. 
In vitro (lab/test tube) studies have found elderberry to be effective against 10 strains of influenza viruses.  And it’s even been found that elderberry extract can inhibit the H1N1 ‘swine flu’ virus, by binding to the virus and preventing it from infecting cells. 
Blueberries are high in anthocyanins, the plant pigments that give them their brilliant blue colour. Anthocyanins have long been considered potent antioxidants; although more recent research/opinion suggests that polyphenols compounds in plants (including anthocyanins) may actually act as mild toxins that stimulate the body’s own powerful antioxidants to be produced . To demonstrate blueberries’ effect on antioxidant status in humans, a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that that participants who ate 75 grams of fresh blueberries (equivalent to a much smaller amount of blueberry powder) had a significant increase in their blood antioxidant capacity for the next two hours. They attributed this effect to the polyphenols in the blueberries, as the equivalent dose of vitamin C and sugar had no effect .
The anthocyanins in blueberries also have anti-inflammatory effects [14, 15]. This gives them potential to help prevent disease in which chronic inflammation is a key factor – which is the case for most chronic conditions, from arthritis, to heart disease, to Alzheimer’s disease.
In addition, blueberries and blueberry extracts may also have a more direct effect in supporting immunity and protecting against infection. In particular, they have been found to increase activity of natural killer (NK) cells, a type of immune cell that quickly acts to destroy virus-infected cells and stop viruses from spreading. In two similar studies on 25 men and women, 13 participants took ate 250 grams blueberries or took the equivalent in blueberry powder every day for six weeks, and 12 acted as the control group. Those taking the blueberry showed a significant increase in their natural killer cell counts after the six weeks [16, 17].
The nutrients provided by raspberry include vitamin C and manganese. Vitamin C is, of course, vital for the immune system, and it also has direct antioxidant activity. Manganese also plays a role in the body’s antioxidant defences, including production of an antioxidant enzyme called superoxide dismutase.
Like blueberry and pomegranate, raspberry also contains a wealth of potentially active phytonutrients (plant compounds). These include anthocyanins, quercetin, flavanols (including catechins, like those found in green tea), tannins, ellagic acid and resveratrol . These substances are often said to have antioxidant activity; although, as mentioned above in the section on blueberry, they may not actually have direct antioxidant activity, but instead stimulate the body’s own antioxidant defences.
These substances can also have anti-inflammatory activity and may help in the case of inflammatory diseases. For example, anthocyanins, ellagic acid and quercetin are among the compounds that seem to help reduce inflammation and have a protective effect in inflammatory bowel disease  (which includes Crohn’s disease and colitis).
Ellagic acid found in raspberries is just one of these phytonutrients that has been found to have anti-cancer activity too. In some of the most recent studies, it has shown anti-tumour properties against bladder cancer , cervical cancer , glioblastoma (a type of brain tumour)  and colon cancer . However, most of the research so far – including these examples – has used in vitro methods (testing the direct effects on cells in a lab) rather than human trials.
Immune Power contains four types of ‘medicinal’ mushrooms. Cordyceps is the first on our list. Like the others, it is used in traditional Chinese medicine, and has been found to have benefits for the immune system.
Cordyceps may have a direct beneficial effect on several types of immune cells. In vitro studies have found that extracts of Cordyceps can increase the activity of T-cells, a type of immune cell associated with ‘learned’ immune responses; and macrophages, cells that engulf and destroy microbes and other harmful substances [24,25]. Cordyceps was also found to activate natural killer (NK) cells , a type of immune cell that quickly acts to destroy virus-infected cells and stop viruses from spreading. In animal studies too, cordyceps extracts have been found to activate macrophages in mice .
Cordyceps may have specific anti-viral effects against influenza (flu) viruses. Researchers in Japan found that an extract from a type of Cordyceps was able to inhibit the influenza A virus in mice, and improve their survival rate . And a later Korean study found that Cordyceps extract had anti-influenza activity against the H1N1 virus (the ‘swine flu’ virus) in mice, increasing their survival too .
There have been little in the way of human studies so far to verify the immune-supporting or anti-viral effects of Cordyceps. However, one study on 79 men did find benefits of Cordyceps supplements for the immune system. In this study, men taking Cordyceps capsules for four weeks showed increased natural killer cell activity, increased numbers of lymphocytes and improved production of immune chemicals that increase cell-mediated immunity (the ability to tackle infections inside cells, such as viruses) .
And Cordyceps has also been shown to have anti-bacterial effects, including against two species of Clostridium bacteria that can cause disease in humans . The same study showed that the Cordyceps extract did not have an adverse effect on beneficial bacteria that colonise the gut, including four species of Bifidobacteria and two of Lactobacilli. This indicates Cordyceps could be helpful for fighting or preventing bacteria-related illness without reducing the populations of ‘friendly’ bacteria in the gut as antibiotics can.
Lastly, cordyceps is also said to act as an ‘adaptogen’ – a substance that protects against the effects of stress on the body. This in itself can be beneficial for the immune system, as effects of long-term stress can suppress immunity and lead to greater susceptibility to illness and infection.
Maitake is particularly well-known ‘medicinal’ mushroom that has a long tradition of use in Japanese and Chinese herbal medicine and cooking. It grows wild in Japan and North America, and is sometimes known as ‘King of Mushrooms’ because it grows to such a large size. Its name can also be translated as ‘dancing mushroom’!
Research suggests that maitake too can support immunity by activating various types of immune cells. A study on mice found that maitake extract – and especially a maitake-shiitake combination – activated natural killer (NK) cell activity (immune cells that can destroy virus-infected cells, as well as tumour cells) and phagocytosis (engulfing and destroying microbes and other harmful substances). It also increased production of cytokines – immune chemicals that help to stimulate and ramp up the immune response .
A specific extract called D-fraction from maitake is thought to be primarily responsible for the immune benefits of this mushroom. This extract, a type of beta glucan, has been found to activate macrophages, NK cells and T cells  – different types of immune cells. D-fraction also been reported to have anti-tumour/anti-cancer activity in several studies [33,34,35]. One notable human study found that giving cancer patients maitake D-fraction increased their NK cell activity and reduced expression of tumour markers (a measure of tumour progression) . More research is obviously needed to confirm these properties and how useful they could be.
Like other mushrooms included in Immune Power, shiitake mushroom (Lentinula edodes) is said to have been used for thousands of years in China and Japan for its health-promoting benefits . Shiitake is reported to be the second most popular edible mushroom worldwide – which may be due to these health benefits as well as its nutritional value . Shiitake’s traditional ‘medicinal’ uses include generally supporting immune function, helping with colds and flu, and for allergies . One of shiitake’s main active components is lentinan, a type of beta-glucan.
Studies have suggested that shiitake (or extracts such as lentinan) can have significant immune-supporting activity. For example, it’s been found to boost the activity of natural killer (NK) cells (immune cells that can destroy virus-infected cells, as well as tumour cells) and phagocytosis (the process of engulfing and destroying microbes and other harmful substances) – especially in combination with maitake .
To study shiitake’s immune-enhancing effect in humans, a trial was carried out by US researchers on 52 healthy adults. Participants consumed just 5 or 10 grams of dried shiitake mushrooms every day for four weeks. After the four weeks, it was found that certain types of T cells (immune cells) in their blood multiplied more quickly, and were more easily activated. They also showed increased production of secretory IgA, a type of antibody that’s produced in the gut and helps prevent microbes and harmful substances entering the body. This indicates that the shiitake improved their immunity and resistance to infection. What’s more, they had reduced markers of inflammation in their blood, suggesting anti-inflammatory properties too. 
Another placebo-controlled trial on 42 elderly people found that taking a lentinan extract supplement for six weeks increased their levels of B cells – a type of immune cell that makes antibodies to infections .
The potential of shiitake extracts to boost intestinal immunity specifically was also found in a study on mice. When mice were given beta glucans from shiitake (less than 0.75 mg per day), it was found that the number of lymphocytes (immune cells) produced by the intestine increased by up to 40% . This is important because a high percentage of the immune system resides in and around the gut, and what happens in the gut has an impact on body-wide immunity.
In addition, shiitake extracts have been widely studied for their potential anti-tumour activity and their ability to support immunity or improve treatment outcomes in those undergoing cancer treatment. Research suggests, for example, that shiitake can have anti-cancer activity against bladder cancer  and breast cancer  (in vitro studies). In human studies, giving shiitake extracts alongside chemotherapy has improved survival in gastric cancer patients ; and improved signs and symptoms, quality of life, and immunity in patients with oesophageal cancer .
Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) is said to have been used for its health benefits in China and other Asian countries for more than 2,000 years . Its Chinese name – lingzhi – is most often translated as ‘Mushroom of Immortality’ and it is said to promote longevity.
There are thought to be hundreds of active compounds in reishi, which may have several benefits, including supporting immunity and helping to regulate inflammation, as well as having anti-tumour, antibacterial, antiviral and antioxidant activity .
Extracts from reishi may affect many types of immune cells to help support the body’s immune defences. These include B and T lymphocytes (which are involved with our ‘learned’ immune response), natural killer cells, macrophages and dendritic cells . In a human study on advanced-stage cancer patients (where the immune system is weakened), reishi extracts were found to increase production of certain interleukins (chemicals that regulate the immune response) and increase activity of natural killer cells, which act to destroy virus-infected cells and tumour cells.
In a study on mice, reishi extracts were found to help prevent immune suppression induced by exercise. After four weeks, mice that were not given reishi while exercising intensively had reduced immune cells counts and reduced phagocytosis (ability of the immune cells to engulf and destroy harmful microbes); but those that were given the reishi had much higher levels of immune cells and improved phagocytosis . This indicates that reishi (and potentially other mushrooms included in Immune Power) could help to prevent the negative effects of intensive exercise on immunity in humans too.
Reishi has shown anti-viral effects, including against herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 (which cause cold sores and genital herpes, respectively). It may work by helping to prevent the virus entering its target cells. [48,49]
And reishi has also been researched for its potential anti-tumour activity. In vitro studies have reported that reishi extracts have activity against liver cancer and leukaemia cells , breast cancer cells [51,52] and prostate cancer cells  amongst others. However, as with much of this research, human studies to prove these benefits are lacking as yet.
Like many ‘medicinal’ mushrooms, reishi is also reported to have anti-inflammatory activity. Many studies have examined this potential, including one lab study that compared 20 extracts from five commercially available medicinal mushrooms, finding a specific Reishi extract to have the strongest anti-inflammatory activity .
Lastly, reishi also has potential to help those with hay fever and allergies. Although there is little research on this as yet, two case studies found that taking reishi mushroom seemed to significantly reduce hay fever symptoms in the affected individuals after one week and 10 days, respectively . It is thought that Reishi helps to reduce histamine release from immune cells – the chemical that causes allergic symptoms .
AHCC stands for active hexose correlated compound. This is a natural extract from a phylum (family) of mushrooms that includes shiitake. AHCC was first extracted and developed in the 1980s and has since been the subject of a considerable amount of research for its effect on the immune system.
Studies have found that AHCC supplementation could enhance our immune system response to the flu virus in particular. A study on the influenza A virus in mice found that the animals given AHCC supplements more easily cleared the virus from their system and were more likely to survive the infection . An earlier study also on mice found a similar result with AHCC, including reducing severity of the infection and shortening recovery time .
These results have been supported in a human study too. A clinical trial on 30 healthy adults tested the individuals’ immune response after having a flu vaccine. It was found that the people who took AHCC supplement at 3 grams per day for three weeks after the vaccine showed increased production of antibodies to the virus, whereas antibody production was much lower in the group not taking the AHCC .
Another recent study looked at AHCC’s effects on immune protection in adults at the start of the winter. One group was given 1 gram of AHCC per day, the other group took a placebo. After four weeks, the levels of natural killer cells (a type of immune cell that destroy virus-infected cells) in the group not taking the AHCC had decreased significantly, whereas the NK cells in the group taking AHCC had stayed the same. This indicates that the AHCC supplements helped to maintain immune protection at a time when it tends to decline, potentially increasing resistance to infections. 
Inulin is a type of non-digestible carbohydrate that is found naturally in vegetables and fruits, in varying amounts. It can act as a prebiotic – helping to ‘feed’ the beneficial bacteria in the gut. It may be primarily for this reason that inulin – or foods that contain it – could benefit our immunity. A high percentage (70–80%) of the body’s immune tissue is found in and around the gut, and so what happens in the gut itself – including the bacteria that live there – can directly affect the immune system.
Research has found that inulin can stimulate growth and activity of the lactic acid bacteria  and bifidobacteria  in the gut (the ‘friendly’ bacteria). This, in turn, can help to increase short-chain fatty acids produced by the bacteria that help to regulate the immune system [60,62].
Inulin may also activate immune cells in the gut, including natural killer cells  and dendritic cells , and increase the concentration of secretory IgA in the colon  – a type of antibody that helps prevent harmful substances being absorbed into the body. And although it’s not absorbed into the body, consuming inulin has been reported to activate cells in the spleen too , where some of our white blood cells are produced and matured.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin which has a role in immune health. It is commonly considered to be beneficial for reducing symptoms and duration of the common cold. A 2013 meta-analysis of vitamin C for this purpose showed mixed results from supplementation with the vitamin and found it may be useful for people exposed to brief periods of severe physical exercise[i]. And an earlier review and meta-analysis (45 studies, 1603 subjects) of the effects of exercise on the immune system found vitamin C may prevent upper respiratory tract infections[ii] .
The importance of vitamin C for collagen health is evidenced by scurvy, a vitamin C deficiency disease which has caused millions of deaths, preliminary symptoms of which were bruising, spotty skin, bleeding into joints, hair loss and loss of teeth. Collagen is needed for skin, hair, joint and blood vessel health and so effect of vitamin C may be widespread. And the role of vitamin C in wound healing has been known for more than 75 years[iii].
How we look may impact how we feel. Vitamin C, by stabilising collagen and increasing collagen protein synthesis [iv] may help combat skin wrinkling and sun damage. Two studies found higher vitamin C intake to associate with better skin appearance, particularly regarding skin wrinkling[v] [vi].
The distribution of ascorbic acid in human tissue has been determined to be highest in adrenal tissue[vii]. By association to adrenal tissue, vitamin C may have effect on stress hormones and feelings of fatigue. For references for vitamin C please look up the Amber Aminos write up on the www.aminoman.com website.
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