An immune modulator is a substance that modulates and balances the activity of the immune system.
The immune system is tasked to recognize dangers to the body's overall health and to respond in such a way that the body is able to maintain itself in a positive way. Part of this process is distinguishing between nontoxic and toxic materials; responding to bacteria, which have the potential to be harmful; and protecting against cells in the body which are not functioning properly.
Many conventional nutrients are absolutely essential for healthy immune function, and these include vitamins A, C, and E, the minerals selenium and zinc, essential fatty acids, and ample, well-balanced protein intake. No special supplement can make up for the lack of these basic nutrients, but several deserve special mention for their excellent track record in boosting immune function.
How Immune Modulators Work
Immune modulating herbs and supplements enhance immune function. They may also be known as immune enhancing or immunostimulants (some texts separate immune modulators and immune stimulators into two categories).
Immune modulators can be used in a variety of situations: as preventatives, to treat acute infection, for convalescence and for immune depletion (note: some immune modulating herbs are contraindicated in acute infections e.g. Astragalus).
Many immune herbs are thought to work through their antimicrobial action, although there is evidence that a number of herbs stimulate immune function directly through non-specific enhancement of the phagocytic abilities of macrophages.
A further area of discussion is whether immunostimulators should be used in states where there is over-activity of the immune system such as rheumatoid arthritis.
- Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs. St. Louis, MO: Churchill Livingstone
- Porth, C. (2002). Pathophysiology: Concepts of altered health states. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins
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