Lesser-Known Immune Boosters

Written By: Sofia Layarda, MPH

Title: Master of Public Health

Alumni: University of California, Berkeley

Last Updated on:

Many of us know the feeling of an impending cold or flu too well – a stuffy nose, itchy, watery eyes, fever or chills, and the dreaded general feeling of “yuck.” As winter approaches, you may already be stocking up on immune-boosting foods such as citrus fruits, yogurt, and seafood. If you are wanting to expand your choices for nature’s immune boosters, check out the list below.

Lesser-Known Immune Boosters

1. Surprising Vitamin C Sources

While most of us automatically think of oranges as our main source of Vitamin C, there are some lesser-known plant sources of Vitamin C.

  • Hibiscus tea (infusion): Also known as flor de jamaica, this is a drink made from the infusion of dried hibiscus flowers. It has a deep, dark red hue. On its own, the beverage is very tart, so it is often mixed with fruit juice or other sweeteners to make it more palatable. A cup of hibiscus tea contains about 70% of the daily value (DV) for Vitamin C. The bonus? Studies have also documented the cholesterol- and blood pressure-lowering effects of this tea.
  • Rose hip: Fresh rose hip contains more than double the DV for Vitamin C in just a quarter of a cup. However, drying and processing rose hip actually destroys a significant amount of the Vitamin C, so there is no way to tell how much Vitamin C you are actually getting. Rose hip can be found as tea or cooked into jam.
  • Wasabi root: A quarter-cup of grated wasabi contains approximately 20% of the DV for Vitamin C. While that seems like a lot of wasabi to consume, small amounts can also make a difference because wasabi has been shown to have antifungal and antibacterial properties as well.
  • Parsley: Parsley is often taken for granted, showing up as the garnish on your restaurant entree. But there’s a good reason to make parsley a regular food to eat: Just two tablespoons of parsley contain over 15% of the DV for Vitamin C.
  • Broccoli: A half-cup serving of chopped raw broccoli contains about 2/3 of the DV for Vitamin C.
  • Brussels sprouts: A half-cup of cooked Brussels sprouts contains about 80% of the DV for Vitamin C.

2. Cayenne Pepper

The spicy red cayenne pepper is high in Vitamin A, which is needed in the maintenance of healthy mucous membranes such as those that line your respiratory system and digestive tract and act as the first line of defense against invading bugs. When used as an ingredient in tea, the heat it gives off helps stimulate the mucus membranes and drain congested passages.

3. Oregano Oil

Studies have documented the antifungal and antimicrobial properties of oregano oil. However, the oil has a very strong, distinct flavor, so use only a few drops when adding to foods. This also means the oil would not work with certain types of dishes.

The Bottom Line

Up your chances of staying healthy this cold and flu season by making sure your body is well nourished: Eat a diverse range of fresh foods, try out some new ones from the list above, stay hydrated, and get enough rest.


cayenne, grocery aisle, immune booster, oregano, vitamin c


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