Linking vitamin C with immune support, and thinking of immune-support during cold/flu season is a start, but consumers should consider integrative supplement tools to bolster immune function all year long.
As we know, the immune system and the various biochemicals comprised within work tirelessly to achieve and maintain homeostasis, but can be vulnerable at any time and in any environment. All types of stressors—physical, mental and emotional—can demand the immune system to work harder, which at times leaves the body more vulnerable to developing acute or chronic issues.
“Immune challenges can hit at any time, not just during cold and flu season,” said John Holladay, product management director at North Carolina-based Gaia Herbs. “The one thing we can count on is that we can never plan or expect a weakened immune system. Therefore, it’s always wise to ensure your customers have a rapid relief immune product on hand—especially when travelling for summer vacation or during back-to-school.”
In agreement is David Winston RH(AHG), founder and president, Herbalist & Alchemist in New Jersey, who pointed out simply that one’s immune system works all year long, every second. Your customers, he asserted, should be reminded to “not wait for allergy season or cold and flu season to get the immune system in balance, because it’s less effective that way. Immune health should be an ongoing consideration.”
In addition, consumers should also remember that the immune system is not isolated; it affects and may be affected by other parts of the body. Christopher Hobbs PhD, LAc, director of herbal science at California-based Rainbow Light, explained, “The immune system is closely connected to all systems of the body; weakened immune health affects vitality, energy, sleep, digestion and mental function. Conversely, our mood, emotions, and sleep have a significant effect on immune readiness to fight infections. So although many of us focus on immunity primarily during cold and flu season, it’s a good idea to care for immune health year round.”
While it is a good practice for your customers to support immune response during allergy and cold/flu seasons, Gina Rivers Contla, national science educator, Host Defense Organic Mushrooms in Washington, elaborated that “the human immune system is complex and multifaceted, and there are several different mechanisms working together to create a healthy immune response.”
Ramona Billingslea, marketing manager with Betsy’s Health Foods in Texas, noted that because the store serves an area where people tend to be in cold and flu season or allergy season almost year round, her customers usually are thinking about immune support. “The challenge for us is to make them understand how supplements like probiotics and mushrooms may play a role in their overall health and not just a seasonal concern,” she related.
That said, Billingslea has seen an increased consumer interest for mushroom products, and probiotics tend to be strong sellers for immune support, “in part because the media has made them so popular for the general public. When customers come into the store asking for a probiotic, we love the opportunity to educate them on how to read the probiotic label, like what CFU stands for and how a supplemental probiotic can be more beneficial than a serving of yogurt packed with sugar.”
Supplement manufacturers continue to improve and expand upon their immune-support products, creating a healthy dose for stores shelves.
Rainbow Light offers Certified Immuno-Build Mushrooms that Hobbs noted provides the combined strength of the five most-studied mushrooms—trametes, shiitake, maitake, reishi and cordyceps—to aid in boosting immunity at the cellular level. As part of the Rainbow Light Certified line, Immuno-Build Mushrooms is made with USA-sourced, certified organic mushrooms that the company said have been uniquely steam-processed to alter the indigestible cell wall of the mushrooms, said to be the most effective way to release the immune-supporting beta-glucans contained within.
Rainbow Light’s Counter Attack is described as a potent, stimulant-free formula for what Hobbs called “seasonal distress.” Counter Attack reportedly does not cause drowsiness, anxiety, jitters, stomach upset or over-drying side effects, and is intended for use at the first sign of discomfort. The company said its Counter Attack provides potent support to mobilize the body’s acute response with clinically proven nutrients and botanicals, including vitamin C and zinc, berberine, andrographis and oregano oil, plus a Clear Relief Complex of botanicals to ease sinus and respiratory discomfort. Counter Attack is said to be safe for children 10 years and older.
Rainbow Light, Hobbs pointed out, is a distributor line, which means there is no minimum order when retailers order from their favorite distributors.
Host Defense, said Cantla, grows and processes certified organic mushroom supplements that support a wide variety of body systems and healthy functioning. The company offers a complex mushroom blend, Stamets 7, as a maintenance formula “much like other core regimen supplements,” she described. “Stamets 7 is a synergistic blend of seven mushrooms that support nearly every system of the body, and can be included in a daily wellness plan with other supplements like multivitamins, EFAs, and probiotics to support overall long-term health, providing Immunity for Life,” Cantla added.
Host Defense offers free shipping on orders valued at $125 or greater. The company also provides a wide range of supportive materials, including a consumer product guide, various brochures detailing its products and processes, posters and decorative items for end-cap displays.
“We offer stores promotions for line drives, as well as monthly savings on featured products to reward existing customers and create a new customer base,” Cantla pointed out. “Stores that want to create displays can order mycelium blocks that create a visual dimension of the mycelium and fruiting body of the mushroom with additional descriptive lifecycle placards.”
Gaia Herbs offers a broad spectrum of immune support products with a range of delivery methods, from liquid extracts and syrups to its patented Liquid Phyto-Caps. The company’s formulations include Quick Defense and Oil of Oregano, as well as Black Elderberry Syrup in daytime and nighttime formulas, and as part of the GaiaKids line. Gaia Herbs’ Turmeric Supreme: Immune A.S.A.P, is a synergistic rapid-response immune support supplement delivering broad immune support, according to Holladay.
Gaia Herbs has no minimums for orders, and Holladay said the company provides a wide range of collateral for retailers, including posters, brochures, online training modules for staff, in-store support, and merchandising kits.
Herbalist & Alchemist’s immune-support formulas include Immune Adapt Capsules which contain extracts of Astragalus root, Eleuthero root, Red Reishi fungus, Schisandra berry, Licorice root, Ligustrum berry and maitake in a vegetable-based capsule; Immune Adapt Liquid contains codonopsis root, Eleuthero root, Reishi, Schisandra berry, Astragalus root, Bai-Zhu Atractylodes root, Licorice root, and Ligustrum berry.
“These two products are based on Chinese Fu Zheng Pei Ben therapy—they contain herbs that are immune amphoterics which normalize immune function,” Winston said. “They can be used for support in immune depletion, immune excess and immune depletion/immune excess. VX Compound, also from Herbalist & Alchemist, contains Elderberry fruit, Hyssop, Isatis root, Japanese Honeysuckle flowers, Lemon Balm flowering tops, Lomatium root, and St. John’s wort flowers. These herbs, Winston said, enhance immune response and inhibit viral replication.
Herbalist & Alchemist wholesale minimum orders are $50 with free shipping on orders exceeding $150. Product support is available in both educational form and for merchandising/promotional purposes. Winston’s book, Herbal Therapeutics Specific Indications for Herbs and Herbal Formulas, is offered to retailers as a reference guide, and free monthly “Herbal Salon” webinars by David Winston are also available to store staff. The company’s sales reps are available for product training and demos. Merchandising opportunities include counter top displays and an all-inclusive Immune Support Kit for customers just learning about herbal supplements.
Upselling: Tandem Supplements
Because immunity is often intertwined with other health aspects, when encountering a customer who is seeking immune support, there may be other relevant supplements that can boost his or her whole-body health and vitality.
Winston pointed out that there is emerging evidence of the importance of adequate vitamin D levels for immune support, particularly during the winter when people’s vitamin D levels are their lowest. “Many Americans are vitamin D deficient,” he asserted.
“We are learning that the composition of the microflora in and on the body is essential for health and contributes to a healthy immune response,” said Hobbs. “Although nature sets our probiotic profile that is best for us individually early in our life, so many internal and external influences can create imbalances in this finely-tuned community. Regular use of traditionally fermented foods, avoiding drinks and foods with added simple sugars which literally starves gut probiotic bacteria, and taking a high-quality probiotic supplement at least once or twice daily can provide amazing health benefits.”
Furthermore, the digestive, hormonal and immune systems are closely linked, Hobbs explained. “Therefore, consumers who are interested in supporting their immune health should place an emphasis on digestive health,” he recommended. “In addition to probiotics, a good plant-source enzyme supplement that also supplies digestive-supporting herbs and foods such as Rainbow Light’s Advanced Enzyme System or Advanced Enzyme Optima with added probiotics would be wise recommendations,” Hobbs said.
Host Defense’s MycoBotanicals, explained Cantla, blend herbs with mushrooms for targeted systemic support. The result is one complete formula that contains research-based serving sizes of both mushrooms and herbs in a two capsule daily serving size. If the customer desires additional support, a single mushroom species or blend can be added to the MycoBotanicals formula.
“If additional immune or systemic support is desired, including one of our formulas such as MycoShield, Stamets 7 or MyCommunity is an effective and reliable option,” she stated. “The wonderful thing about adding mushrooms to a wellness regimen is that they have very few contraindications, and they pair nicely with herbs and other nutrients with similar and varying compounds.”
From a retailer’s point of view, “There are so many supplements that we can turn to when it comes to supporting our immune systems,” Billingslea expressed. “From antioxidants and probiotics to superfoods and mushrooms, the health food industry’s shelves are full of supplements that can appeal to a variety of needs.” VR